How to Install a Flyin’ Miata Header, Midpipe, and Exhaust, a Mostly Serious Guide

If you want your Miata to sound better and have a little bit more power, drop a few bucks on a system from Flyin’ Miata. It took me a couple of days to get the whole system in my 1999 1.8L, but it would have been lots faster if I’d known then what I know now, which is: Sasquatch is real, and he’s one hell of a mechanic. Kidding. He’s just okay.

Here’s the new exhaust, ready to go in. Ooh, fancy!

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Unencumbered by training, experience, or the proper tools, I managed to get the system installed in my car. It’s a nice upgrade. Like one of those guns with a trumpet on the end of it, the Flyin’ Miata exhaust both sounds great and looks cool.

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The biggest stumbling block I encountered during the process was the removal of the EGR (Exhaust Gas Return) tube. Here’s a video on how EGR systems work, if you’re interested.

On my car, the EGR tube is a metal pipe that, when off the car, looks somewhat like a bicycle handlebar. It runs from the rear of the exhaust manifold behind the engine block to the intake where it does, uh, science. Whatever that science is, the tube has to come off to get the stock exhaust header off your car, and to do that you’re going to need one of these things: a 22mm flare nut, or “line,” wrench.

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Now you might be thinking, hey, Jimmyjams, couldn’t I just use a regular 22mm box wrench? And the answer is, well, maybe. And also it’s “James” because I don’t know you. There are two heater core hoses directly in the way, though. And your fitting is most likely rustier than Ringo’s drumming. And it’s been getting hot, then cold again for the life of your car, also like Ringo’s drumming.

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There’s a danger as well that you might snap off your dipstick, which is a weekend ruiner in anyone’s book. If you use a regular wrench and even one of the EGR fitting’s corners is a teensey bit rounded, you’re gonna be left standing in your driveway with a shiny new exhaust still not installed, and maybe worse, your dipstick in your hand. So get the right tool.

f425dd0b-872e-43cd-aa90-4a8d5637331f_400Secondly, use a liberal amount of PB blaster or other bolt loosening agent. Users on the Miata forums I frequent recommended mixing up a concoction of 1/2 acetone and 1/2 automatic trans fluid, but I elected not to do that because I didn’t want to accidentally make methamphetamine, which would force me into a life of crime as Albuquerque’s drug kingpin. Sounds like a hassle.

I did spray pretty much everything in the vicinity of my car with enough PB Blaster to let a semi trailer back up a cat’s butt. You’re going to want to do this in a well-ventilated area unless you have brain cells to spare, or you want one of the neighbor kids to asphyxiate. Turn on a fan and save everyone’s health, I say.

Even with all that penetrating agent, I still couldn’t get the EGR tube off, though, because I was using one of these.

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“But Jimothy, that’s a regular wrench, you complete teat. It ain’t a line wrench!” Yes, I know. But no one sells a 22mm line wrench even in a booming top 10 US Metropolis like Atlanta. You have to order it. Who has that kind of time? And it’s “James,” damn your hide.

It turned out that I needed a regular 22mm wrench anyway because the two O2 sensors, one pre-cat and one post cat, need a 22mm wrench to come off. Okay, fine, a line wrench would have worked there too. If I’d had one. Which I didn’t.

I got around the EGR problem by doing what the experts do: I Dremeled it off and bought another one from a Miata guy down the street. Cost me $30. Pretty sure the experts do that. Well, Sasquatch does. He told me.

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The Dremeling didn’t end with the EGR tube, though. I also used it on the bolts on what Miata calls the “front” pipe (haha, front pipe). The fire extinguisher is for if Sasquatch gets mouthy with me. One clonk on the melon and he settles down real nice.

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The stock exhaust has four pieces: Header, front pipe, mid pipe, and exhaust, whereas the FM system only has three. In the FM system, the front pipe is part of the header. The bolts between my stock header and my front pipe were beyond even the magical powers of PB Blaster, so I cut them off, being sure to shoot a generous amount of hot sparks directly into my eyeballs.

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Once that was out and the EGR tube was sliced, getting the rest of the stock system out wasn’t too bad. The exhaust hangers are no match for a strong squirt of PB Blaster and a large pair of channel locks. I have a pair of these and they’re pretty fancy.

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That done, all I had to do was stick the new header in, hook up the EGR tube, and bolt up the midpipe and exhaust. All of that was straightforward, and I was glad to be using new hardware.

My install was helped a little bit by the fact that I’ve replaced my stock airbox with a cone filter, which gives me some extra room in my engine bay, not to mention an added .0001 horsepower at the flywheel. It also sounds real nice, and it lets other car enthusiasts know that you aren’t afraid to throw money at a problem that doesn’t really need fixing.

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Ain’t she shiny? This thing is going to look so good when people climb under my car, which is, well, probably never. But a neighbor cat might wander under there at some point and give it a gander. Or if I flip my car at the track, a corner marshall might be able to see himself as he runs over to laugh at me.

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The only stumbling block during the FM system install was I didn’t know what to do with this little piece of science.

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This is a gasket that comes with the Racing Beat header in addition to a couple of diamond shaped gaskets. The stock header has one in it too, so I didn’t know whether I needed both gaskets at the join between my new header and new midpipe, but I called Flyin’ Miata support on Monday morning, and they said that I did not need it. It’s just for putting the Racing Beat header into a car where you intend to retain the stock midpipe.

So that’s that! I took my car to the track for an event the very next weekend with this new stuff in it and I’m proud to say that I was last in my class just like I usually am. My car did sound better, though. No question about that.

Casa de mi Padre Film Report

cdmpJust watched Will Ferrell in this telenova style westernesque spoof movie thing called Casa de mi Padre. It has been fiercely defecated on by movie reviewers, and has a measly score on Rotten Tomatoes.

I think such a low score is a great injustice. This movie is hilarious. I love that it took some chances. I loved the writing. Just check out this line of dialog from Will Ferrell’s character, Armando:

Armando: Let him die. He’s missing a hand anyway.

I laughed, and I have a cold right now.

This movie might not be for you if you need a cast of a half dozen top grossing comedians or big ticket actors to crush your skull with the most obvious jokes possible. Mind you, I’m not taking anything away from those guys. I’d kill to be hired to be funny with any of them. This is just a different kind of film.

The sex scene alone is worth a watch, and not just because the female lead is good looking. I won’t spoil it for you.

Watch it, especially if you like Will Ferrell’s innocent/sincere style of comedy. I absolutely do.

How fat will we get when the waiters are gone forever?

776px-IPad1stGenWaitstaff are going away. Not just headed out to the alley for a smoke break this time, but totally going away. They will be replaced by tablets, as reported here by Forbes and here by Business Insider. As a fat man, I can’t help but wonder how much more ranch I would chug without having to order it from a twentysomething waitress.

Granted, I did lose over 100lbs. My fattest days were years ago. Some might question whether I can truly call myself a fat man anymore, but trust me, I still have fat thoughts. And love handles.

What Chili’s and Applebee’s fail to understand is that their waitstaff are an important safety measure against the unhinged consumption of their typical client. The fear of embarrassment is the only thing holding fatbags like myself back from ordering Ranch as a beverage.

I remember a number of times in my fat Applebees-going life when I would order and then glug down so many full-sugar Cokes that the exasperated waitress would eventually just bring a pitcher to the table.

Once I ordered the salad bar because I was having lunch with a girl I liked. She even commented on the pleasant way the croutons and bacon bits floated in the dressing. It was good, but I still snagged a Big Mac on the way home. For safety, you understand.

Much is made of how hard it is to quit injecting heroin. Hah! Junkies should try quitting the fat life. They aren’t forced to inject a tiny little bit of heroin three times a day, every day, for the rest of their lives.

If we’re going to install tablets to let people order a super double 2lb cheeseburger double fried in syrup butter with cheese-injected fries on the side, why not also put digital scales in the seats?

There’s nothing more American than freedom of choice, so I’ve heard. But maybe it wouldn’t be bad if I could also select to have a message pop up when the digital scale in my booth indicates that a cement truck has parked itself there.

Wrong again, computer. No trucks here. It’s just my ample buttocks. Now stop lecturing me and bring me my mug of ranch. Papa’s hungry.

A Grumpy Old Man’s Review of Gran Turismo 6 for PS3

GranTurismo6At 39 years of age, I am far too old to care about video games. I love cars, though, which I am much too poor to enjoy as much as I’d like.

Luckily for me, it’s cheap to drive the most exotic cars on the world’s most incredible tracks in video games, which is why I have been playing Gran Turismo since the very first version came out way back in 1997. Racing simulators have come a long way in those years.

As soon as I found out the latest title, Gran Turismo 6, was coming out I pre-ordered it on Amazon. I have been anxiously awaiting its arrival, and it is finally here.

Unfortunately, Polyphony Digital have shipped, instead of a brand new iteration of the game, a shiny round piece of excrement indistinguishable from a game disc until it is played.

Gran Turismo 6 is realistic. So is doing taxes. Neither is fun.

Part of what has made the previous titles so fun is that the driving is so forgiving, read: unrealistic. Grab a hugely overpowered ridicumobile, slap some super soft race tires on it, and go flog it around a track. If you head into a corner too hot, no big deal, the magical tires will save you.

Or, if you’re feeling a bit roguish, just time your turn properly and carom off a hapless computer opponents car, completing your turn at breakneck speed and rocketing ahead for the win.

That’s what was such great fun about GT5: the craziness. In GT6, the developers have made a massive push for realism, insisting that the first car purchase in game is a Honda Fit RS. Wait. They made a RS version of the Fit? …but why? Well, no, they haven’t yet. But they might.

The Hodgson Racing #69 Miata

The Hodgson Racing #69 Miata

I don’t want a Honda Fit RS. I want to buy a Miata just like I have in real life and see how far I can get with it, just like I did in GT5. Too bad. You’re gettin’ a Fit.

Gone also are the super fun and unrealistic magical soft tires. I have raced through nearly half of the game at this point and I’ve yet to get to drive on a single racing tire. Realistic? Sure. Fun? Nope.

Even the special events and license tests are performed on road tires. Cars slide all over the place, hit barriers, spin. Any of these means you have to try again.

Again, this is absolutely what would happen in real life, but I don’t want real life from my video games. I want fun.

Gran Turismo 6′s multiplayer is terrible

I have played through the game as far as I have because I wanted to try out the multiplayer. I thought maybe the game could be salvaged with some crazy fun racing against other people. Nope.

Choosing a game is just awful. Many of the choices in the list are only for cars you don’t own, or only for friends of the game host, which you aren’t. You don’t find this out until you’ve already joined the game and sat through long loading screens.

On top of that, the default audio settings have other people’s microphones turned up way higher than the sound of your car, so you get to listen to some idiot teenager burping and talking on the phone. At least one idiot will have a hot mic on, meaning it is transmitting his every rustle and racial slur, but you might get lucky. There could be two idiots.

I managed to join a race and I hated it

I joined a game called “Clean Street Racing for Fun,” and waited, irritated but trying to enjoy myself, through all the loading screens. I selected a car that would work with the host’s game requirements, my trusty Miata, and got ready to race.

I did a few practice laps and got some decently fast lap times, so I started fifth on the grid. Everyone else had exotic supercars, but this race was in the wet, so most of them spent all their practice laps sliding off course. The timer counted down to the start.

Five… four… three… two… one… GO!

I hit the gas, changed up to second gear, and was immediately drilled at locomotive speed from behind by one of my fellow players. My car flew off course and the entire field of 13 other cars drove merrily by as I rebounded off guard rails. Mad as hell, I regained control of my car and headed off to catch the field.

I caught them again at the end of the straight, intending to slam into the same car that had hit me, but instead I zipped straight through his car as if he were a ghost. I guess the game decided I was going too fast to be realistic. I shot off the track into the runoff area and finished second to last.

It makes sense that there’d be a rule that you can’t be going too fast and slam into people, but where was it when I was trying to honestly race?

If you want a realistic racing sim, try iRacing

iRacing is a realistic racing simulator for the PC. The graphics aren’t good, but that’s not the point. The point is to have a hyper-realistic racing simulator that appeals to racing drivers.

A console game should have excellent graphics and should have just enough realism to make it fun. Gran Turismo 6 is made for the aging PS3, so the graphics are okay if you don’t mind some performance hiccups and long loading screens. Those used to be worth it for the fun gameplay, but they got rid of that.

Don’t buy Gran Turismo 6.