New car

Well, new to me at least. This past week I took delivery of a black 2003 Mazda Protege5 5-speed to replace my poor Focus. My original plan was to have my Shelby replace my Focus, but it’s taking me much longer to get it on the road than anticipated, because it needs a lot more work than I initially thought, and I’m the only person working on it. Unfortunately I couldn’t soldier on with my Focus any longer and really needed a decent, reliable car to replace it immediately.

It’s sad to see my Focus go; it’s been my eager and willing driver and autocross whip for almost 13 years (I only raced it the first three years I had it, though). It’s definitely one of my favorite cars that I’ve owned over the years, and I would recommend one to someone looking for an inexpensive, sporty and rather stylish car. I’ve donated my Focus to the Humane Society of the United States, and they’ll be picking it up from my home next week.

The Mazda doesn’t have a name yet, and I have no plans on modifying it, aside from possibly replacing stock parts with more performance-oriented parts as they wear out (struts, springs, exhaust, etc.), like I did with my Focus. Once the Shelby is on the road, I’ll decide whether I want to keep the Mazda as my winter beater or sell it. It did come with winter tires and wheels, so that’s a plus. I’ll post pictures of it once I have summer tires and wheels on it.

 directionlessdrive said: haha true. adding a different airbox setup might help since you have that new exhaust on it. its always good to let an engine breathe a little bit easier. i like where your heads at. im going to buy one in the next few months what year is yours?

It’s a 2000, first year. I actually had to order it from the dealer since they weren’t stocking the hatchbacks just yet. The upside of that though is that I got it just as I wanted it. I wouldn’t normally recommend getting a first year car, though it did end up being a wise decision for me at the time. It’s been a pretty reliable and fun car and I’ve been able to do most repairs on it myself.

Regarding the intake, I have been running a K&N in the airbox, but you are right that the COI would be a good match for the exhaust (which sounds wonderful, by the way…no regrets buying that).

I plan on hanging onto this car until the wheels fall off or it finally succumbs to the New England Tinworm, which has been nibbling away at the rear wheel arches =(

If you’re looking for a used one, I highly recommend checking out the SVT and ST models.

directionlessdrive said: ive heard alot of good things about the vf-engineering mounts. i think this car wants some mods its obviously trying to tell you something. “make me more sporty!” what who said that?

Heh, well I do tend to replace parts with more performance-oriented parts as they wear out. The car has the SVT suspension, for example. I already replaced the other two mounts with the VF parts, but kept the main mount stock to try to keep the vibration under control. Obviously, that wasn’t the best idea in the world =(

I may end up replacing the airbox with a cold air intake too because parts of the stock airbox keep breaking and I can only repair it so many times. There aren’t new replacement ones available, oddly enough…just used ones and they go for quite a bit of money. I’m sure they are just as brittle by now as the one in my car. I doubt I would see much of a performance advantage from installing a COI, but it would make checking the air filter a simple task at least.

Flipper!! What have you done now?? Bad car! Bad car!

broken motor mount

Look at what I discovered today…motor mount #3 has left the building, after only 6 months. Seriously, how the hell does this even happen? The top is totally missing! I just had the hood open two days ago and it was all in one piece. Obviously, it’s been on its way out for a while as indicated by all that rust in there.

Needless to say, I’m done replacing the stock motor mount in this car. It’s getting a VF-Engineering billet aluminum poly mount this time. After replacing it three times, I’ve learned my lesson.

Fancy photo of my car’s old spark plugs. I just replaced them yesterday. They looked great, if a bit worn. Black and white makes them look dirty.

Fancy photo of my car’s old spark plugs. I just replaced them yesterday. They looked great, if a bit worn. Black and white makes them look dirty.

Special Stage

One cool thing about the horrendously crap winter weather we’ve been having is that I got to do a couple of sweet handbrake turns on the way to work this morning ;-)

directionlessdrive said: Thats awesome. Good to hear. Is that your daily im totally considering buying one for my DD. I do like the sound of that exhaust they did a good job.

Yup, my Focus is my daily driver. I’ve had her since new. They are good cars, and I’ll bet you can pick them up cheaply now. They remind me a lot of VW Golfs, as far as its mannerisms go. It’s a fun car and I plan on hanging onto it as long as I can.

Yesterday I finally got around to replacing the exhaust on my car with the FSWerks stainless steel “stealth” exhaust. The stock exhaust lasted 130,000 miles, so I can’t really complain about that too much. The new exhaust is really nice, and the fit and finish are excellent. Actually, I think this is the easiest car exhaust I’ve ever installed. The exhaust tone from it is pretty mellow and only marginally louder than stock. I think it sounds better than stock, actually.

The most tedious part of this job was repairing one of the heat large shields. Just about all of the mounting points on it were corroded-out holes, so the heat shield was mostly resting on top of the exhaust and making quite a racket. I repaired it with aluminum flashing and pop rivets. I also backed up each mounting point with a big fender washer, so it should hold up pretty well now.

Did Work

Today I finished up what I was working on yesterday; the rear transmission mount on my car. As I mentioned yesterday, there’s only two bolts holding it on, and one bolt wouldn’t loosen. Well, I got that bolt to loosen…or so I thought. What actually happened was the welded-on nut attached to the subframe broke loose, and the bolt had welded itself to the aluminum shaft inside the rubber of the mount. Long story short, I had to basically destroy the old transmission mount in order to remove it. This took quite some time, effort, and many tools, but eventually it gave:

Destroyed rear transmission mount

Here’s the new, improved VF Engineering rear transmission mount attached to the mounting bracket:

VF Engineering rear transmission mount + bracket

And here it is finally installed on the car:

VF Engineering rear transmission mount installed

The car now feels great, though the stiffer mounts do let in much more vibration at idle. I’ll either get used to it, or I can adjust the position of the mounts slightly to try to reduce the vibration. For now it’s fine though, and it’ll probably feel a little better after driving it for a bit anyway. I’m really tired and sore from working under the car for the past two days, so I’m not sure if I’ll be up to changing the exhaust tomorrow. We’ll see.

Did Work

I have the week off from work, so I’m taking the opportunity to get some things on my car done. Today I replaced the water pump, serpentine belt, driver’s side motor mount, passenger side motor mount, and did some repairs to the airbox and the lower belt guard using my plastic welder (now one of my new favorite tools). Here’s the new water pump and driver’s side engine mount (by VF Engineering):

New water pump

VF Engineering driver's side motor mount

I was supposed to replace the rear transmission mount too (also with a VF Engineering piece), and it’s only held on by two bolts, but I couldn’t get one bolt loose. This was the last thing I worked on and I was really tired, so I’m just going to try again tomorrow. I might also take care of the exhaust tomorrow if things go well.