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Author Topic: Donor car with high miles?
Philip P.
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Howdy all,

You will have to forgive me for being new, so I might ask some dumb questions but I'm currently looking at picking up a donor car for pretty cheap with the only issue being high miles. How high? It's a 1995 model but it has 240,000+ miles. I saw the car, it drove great through every gear, pulled hard, and the engine looked clean and well kept. The owners said it had only started burning oil a few hundred miles ago, and it was the wife's daily driver. If I rebuilt the engine, eventually, could this make a half decent SM car? I'm not looking for a super top end car because I'm on a serous budget, I just don't want something that is going to throw a rod and waste even more money.

I'm really not trying to advertise, but Flyin Miata offered a rebuild kit that looked attractive.

If not, do you think it could hold up to being a street car and weekend autocross warrior?

I appreciate people lending advice, and drive safe.

Pat Newton Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
Enduro addict

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Year : 90
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1) The engine is not the issue. Used Miata engines are cheap and common via the specmiata.com classifieds [Big Grin] or Craigslist [duck] . You can probably drive the car as-is for schools and whatnot, but you'll likely want to go through the engine, transmission, rearend, suspension bushings, all four hubs, etc. etc. before racing it too hard.

2) Any "rebuild kit" offered through FM or any other vendor besides Mazda may not be legal for SM- check the rules.

If the car is cheap enough, it still might be a good guy, but IMO it would have to be down in the "$2000 or less, with hardtop" range.

--------------------
Crew Chief, 3D Racing #64, aka Team Scrappy 2.0
3rd place E2, 2009 25 Hours of Thunderhill

Crew Chief, EGR/Miller Motorsports #64, aka Team Scrappy
E2 Champions, 2008 25 Hours of Thunderhill

Philip P.
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Thanks Pat,

The guy wants $2,500 for the car, here is a link to the Craigslist. (http://cincinnati.craigslist.org/car/527546315.html)

I looked at the classifieds on this site, all the cars look great but none of the donor cars are close to me and the ready to race cars are all a little bit expensive. I've been checking Craigslist everyday and looking on other sites but so far no luck except for that hit. There was a hardtop car I was looking at but the guy wanted me to pay through a financing site which seemed like a scam to me so I refused to.

I didn't know that a rebuild kit could be illegal, I'd post it here but I don't want to seem like advertising for them but as far as I know it just replaces parts with OEM stuff but I could be mistaken.

I really appreciate the advice guys, I can't thank you enough.

Cheers, Philip

Brian Benthin Verified Driver
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Region: Northwest
Car #: ICSCC #322
Year : 1990
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If you could talk him down a bit and it had the LSD, it might be a decent buy. Otherwise, I'm with Pat. Miatai with that kind of mileage can be had all day long for under $2k, especially this time of year.

--------------------
Brian

Bad Al Bell Verified Driver Made Donation to Website Series Champ
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quote:
Originally posted by bbenthin:
If you could talk him down a bit and it had the LSD, it might be a decent buy. Otherwise, I'm with Pat. Miatai with that kind of mileage can be had all day long for under $2k, especially this time of year.

Really? For 1.8 cars?
OK, you have all day (Sunday even)
Find 5 cars on line that are 1.8's and look this good.

Phillip-buy the craigslist car

--------------------
"Bad"Al Bell
SM/SSM #3 "JD"
SM #09 "Nadine"
2006 MARRS SM Champion
DC Region SM Driver's Co-Rep
SM cars for sale and rent, and rent-to-own
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Pat Newton Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
Enduro addict

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Point taken Al, but it seems to me that someone who is looking at a 240K-mile donor car probably is more concerned about cost than about running up front. If cost is the top priority, a 1.6 probably is the ticket.

--------------------
Crew Chief, 3D Racing #64, aka Team Scrappy 2.0
3rd place E2, 2009 25 Hours of Thunderhill

Crew Chief, EGR/Miller Motorsports #64, aka Team Scrappy
E2 Champions, 2008 25 Hours of Thunderhill

Brian Benthin Verified Driver
Professional ballast

Region: Northwest
Car #: ICSCC #322
Year : 1990
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Pat's right, I wasn't making a distinction between 1.8 and 1.6 with that comment. Just that donors with that many miles can be had for less, especially if cosmetics aren't an issue...which they shouldn't be for a SM.

If it's not equipped with an LSD or hard top, I don't think it's the deal of the century with that kind of mileage..but it's not a rip off either. Seems like the going rate for one with half as many miles, around here anyway...YMMV.

--------------------
Brian

David de Regt Verified Driver
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Year : 1992
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Hey, I like my 200k+ mile donor car for 2k w/hardtop. I've only had to replace, like, every single wear item on the car. ;-)

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Jim Boemler Verified Driver
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Region: NWR, OR
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That's not a bad way to go, aside from the work involved. You'll hit the track with a more dependable car, which is a Good Thing.

jim

--------------------
Just a clown

davew Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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If the car is local to Ohio, you will have rust issues. Both in the body and in the suspension components.

I say, spend a little on travel and get a southern car. You will save time, money, knuckles, bandaids etc. with a southern car.

Dave

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David de Regt Verified Driver
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Yeah, that's a useful caveat. I got my cheapshit donor from LA, and the only rust on the car is on the 3 covers from under the soft top. OTOH, looking around Ohio, it's called the "Rust Belt" for a reason...

--------------------
My Spec Miata Build Sheet - Hope people find it useful
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trackwhore Verified Driver
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Car #: 02
Year : 1990
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For what it is worth I am building a 1990 1.6L with 181,000 miles. Drives great for a 18 year old car! the no brainer for me was that I bought it 2 years ago with 179k miles for $500 with a hardtop. yes, i know that is crazy cheap. Did a compression test (not leak down), took it to a dyno, and everything checks out. I think that even if i break a lot of stuff at the track, a $500 car is somewhat "disposable". I am sure a few visits to the track will show its weak points, but this car is cheaper to fix than most other choices.

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A crackwhore will do anything for more rock, I'll do almost anything for more seat time.

Jim Boemler Verified Driver
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That's just flat amazing, Mr. (Ms?) Whore. Even better news is that it's unlikely you'll ever need to think of the money as lost, since it's really hard to crash a Miata hard enough to ruin the hard top -- which alone is worth more than you paid for the car.

jim

--------------------
Just a clown

Lance Snyder Made Donation to Website
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Jim, have you been trying to crash your Miata hard enough to ruin the hard top?

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All this has happened before, and will happen again

Jim Boemler Verified Driver
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No. But others have tried and failed.

jim

--------------------
Just a clown

Philip P.
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quote:
Originally posted by bbenthin:
If you could talk him down a bit and it had the LSD, it might be a decent buy. Otherwise, I'm with Pat. Miatai with that kind of mileage can be had all day long for under $2k, especially this time of year.

What do you guys think would be a reasonable offer for this car? I'm not trying to shortchange anybody but I'd love a good deal. I don't think it has a LSD but if you guys could tell me what to look for I'm sure I could check.

quote:
Find 5 cars on line that are 1.8's and look this good.

Phillip-buy the craigslist car

Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it. If I am in the $2,000 to $3,500 range do you think it's worth to get a 1.8 with this mileage or would it be better just to find a 1.6?

quote:
Originally posted by Pat Newton:
Point taken Al, but it seems to me that someone who is looking at a 240K-mile donor car probably is more concerned about cost than about running up front. If cost is the top priority, a 1.6 probably is the ticket.

The only think that I am worried about is putting money into a car that's going to throw a rod on me and waste my investment until I can save up for another engine. I figure (hope?) I have enough skill to be somewhat competitive without a front running car (but we'll find out, haha!)

quote:
Originally posted by bbenthin:
Pat's right, I wasn't making a distinction between 1.8 and 1.6 with that comment. Just that donors with that many miles can be had for less, especially if cosmetics aren't an issue...which they shouldn't be for a SM.

If it's not equipped with an LSD or hard top, I don't think it's the deal of the century with that kind of mileage..but it's not a rip off either. Seems like the going rate for one with half as many miles, around here anyway...YMMV.

Thanks for the advice, Miatas are scarce around here and this is the best I've found so far. I'd buy anything in Ohio or Virginia, or in surrounding areas pretty much regardless of interior and exterior condition. I figure until I get the thing up to racing spec, I would just autocross it, so a hardtop in not needed initially but it would be great. Thanks for the advice!

quote:
Originally posted by David de Regt:
Hey, I like my 200k+ mile donor car for 2k w/hardtop. I've only had to replace, like, every single wear item on the car. ;-)

I'd love to hear more about what it took to get your car up to shape if you've got the time! I like working on cars, it's relaxing for me, and I prefer to drive something that I've been over every inch with then just hope the previous owners kept good maintenance.

quote:
Originally posted by Jim Boemler:
That's not a bad way to go, aside from the work involved. You'll hit the track with a more dependable car, which is a Good Thing.

jim

Thanks for the advice Jim, I figure working from the ground up would be fun but I'd rather ask the guys who have done it before so I don't make a huge mistake!

quote:
Originally posted by davew:
If the car is local to Ohio, you will have rust issues. Both in the body and in the suspension components.

I say, spend a little on travel and get a southern car. You will save time, money, knuckles, bandaids etc. with a southern car.

Dave

Well, I also have a place around Danville, Virginia so I'm looking there too but no luck so far. Thanks for the advice.


quote:
Originally posted by David de Regt:
Yeah, that's a useful caveat. I got my cheapshit donor from LA, and the only rust on the car is on the 3 covers from under the soft top. OTOH, looking around Ohio, it's called the "Rust Belt" for a reason...

I'm getting the feeling that I should be looking somewhere else, thanks for the advice!

quote:
Originally posted by trackwhore:
For what it is worth I am building a 1990 1.6L with 181,000 miles. Drives great for a 18 year old car! the no brainer for me was that I bought it 2 years ago with 179k miles for $500 with a hardtop. yes, i know that is crazy cheap. Did a compression test (not leak down), took it to a dyno, and everything checks out. I think that even if i break a lot of stuff at the track, a $500 car is somewhat "disposable". I am sure a few visits to the track will show its weak points, but this car is cheaper to fix than most other choices.

I wish I could find a deal like that! The car I drove was also very impressive!

Thanks everyone for the advice, I'm grateful to anything anyone has to say to point me in the right direction. I'm using to building small block Chevy engines that, with a trip to a machine shop, can be built to better then new no matter what the mileage. I didn't know if the same could be said for Miata engines but I know they are very solid. I hope to join you guys soon, and I'd love to do track days at VIR/Mid Ohio when not doing SM stuff.

-Philip

Derek Luney Verified Driver
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http://charlotte.craigslist.org/car/539746908.html

Similar price... 1/2 the miles.

Didn't check Greensboro but Charlotte's not too far from Danville.

David de Regt Verified Driver
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Yeah keep in mind how area-specific miatas are. After watching the Seattle, portland, spokane, etc., (all PNW) area craigslists and autotrader for weeks, I finally started branching out, and places like socal have dozens of decent candidates at any time on craigslist, while I found only a single possible candidate in the NW in that time period, and it was gone by the time I called. This is why I flew 1500 miles to LA to pick mine up, because it was the only place to get a decent one. Someone living down there has a much better pick of the litter and can afford to wait and pay the least possible.

--------------------
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jigou Verified Driver
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There are stories of high-mileage Miatas racing with the engines that they had as street cars all over this site. You probably won't have the strongest engine on the track, but you'll be amazed at how much abuse a high-mile Miata engine can take.

And if you do manage to blow one up, a junkyard spare will get you back on the track for a few hundred bucks.

The rust issue IS one to take into account - my first car came from South Carolina and had no rust. The current one came from Ohio and has some, but it was cheap enough that I dealt with it.

Oh, and if I'm building from scratch I'm building a 94, 95, 99 or 2000. But that's just me. Or is it? [Big Grin]

Jarrod

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http://www.plainoldgas.com

Philip P.
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quote:
Originally posted by Derek Luney:
Similar price... 1/2 the miles.

Didn't check Greensboro but Charlotte's not too far from Danville.

Thanks for the listing, I emailed the seller, it looks like a great car but unfortunately I'm not down in Virginia that often. It's still on the list though, and if nothing checks out here I'll check it out.

quote:
Originally posted by David de Regt:
Yeah keep in mind how area-specific miatas are. After watching the Seattle, portland, spokane, etc., (all PNW) area craigslists and autotrader for weeks, I finally started branching out, and places like socal have dozens of decent candidates at any time on craigslist, while I found only a single possible candidate in the NW in that time period, and it was gone by the time I called. This is why I flew 1500 miles to LA to pick mine up, because it was the only place to get a decent one. Someone living down there has a much better pick of the litter and can afford to wait and pay the least possible.

Thanks for the advice, this may have to end up being my best course of action.

quote:
Originally posted by jigou:
There are stories of high-mileage Miatas racing with the engines that they had as street cars all over this site. You probably won't have the strongest engine on the track, but you'll be amazed at how much abuse a high-mile Miata engine can take.

And if you do manage to blow one up, a junkyard spare will get you back on the track for a few hundred bucks.

The rust issue IS one to take into account - my first car came from South Carolina and had no rust. The current one came from Ohio and has some, but it was cheap enough that I dealt with it.

Oh, and if I'm building from scratch I'm building a 94, 95, 99 or 2000. But that's just me. Or is it? [Big Grin]

Jarrod

Sounds good, I feel more confident about being able to build up a higher mileage car and if this other vehicle does not pan out I think I will go back and offer the first seller eighteen hundred dollars for the higher mileage car. Sounds like you really like the 1.8L cars, do these make better starting points?

Thanks for the replies everybody.

I also found this car, it's even got a hardtop and although it's not a 1.8L it still looks like it's a good starting point.

http://cincinnati.craigslist.org/car/545773999.html

Thanks everyone.

Neil O Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Phillip,
For what it's worth.... I built my 91 with 230,000 miles last year and ran the whole season including a bunch of test days with the original motor. It was down a couple of hp but, I learned a lot and had a blast. I replaced it with a crate motor this winter.

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SM #06
http://www.columbiatile.com

jigou Verified Driver
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Region: Des Moines Valley
Car #: 59
Year : 1991
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quote:
Originally posted by Philip:
Sounds like you really like the 1.8L cars, do these make better starting points?

"They" say that the 1.8 cars are faster than the 1.6 cars, though that's also somewhat track-dependent. I can tell you from looking at the classifieds that, with a few notable exceptions, comlpeted 1.8 cars sell for a higher price than the 1.6 cars.

If I didn't have 5 years of 1.6 time and parts laying around and were to start over fresh today, I'd go 1.8 for those reasons.

Jarrod

--------------------
http://www.plainoldgas.com

   

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