Big engine, little car; it's a formula that's worked wonders over multiple generations dating back to the earliest hot rod days. It doesn't get much simpler than taking a much larger and/or more powerful engine from one vehicle, and dropping it between the shoulder blades of a vehicle that wasn't given a fair shake in the power-production department. It's something that Jack Fu, owner of this V6 Miata or, "Mionda" if you will, is quite familiar with - the benefits of which he's been exploiting every track day he can possibly get his hands on.
It didn't start this way, smashing corners in Mazda's bite-sized convertible, but in fact it was domestic grunt that kept Jack smiling on the weekends. A move from Boston to Atlanta in 2013 was capped off with a brand new Dodge Challenger SRT8 purchase, and not long after the discovery of HPDE's rather addictive track days. Jack adds, "After two years, I traded in the SRT8 for a 2016 model and although not a light car, after a few suspension upgrades, it surprised a lot of naysayers." He was happy behind the wheel of the SRT8, visiting the track an average of 15 events per year over a four-year stint. There was someone close by however, who wasn't too happy about just how much money these adventures were costing, and that person was his better half. Happy wife, happy ... well, some of you know the drill. Bye, bye SRT8, hello practical family hauler in the form of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Jack credits his father as a major influence in his affinity for motorsports and performance driving, having spent much of his childhood involved in karting and moto-x, along with a some time on the drag strip. That early karting aspect leads right into the MX-5 you see pictured. He adds, "There is nothing quite like Karting, an inch off the ground and no cockpit, the perception of speed is quite exhilarating, so to replace my track day tool with a convertible Miata made for a good choice." Easy and fun to fling around the track, a healthy aftermarket, and most importantly far cheaper to buy, build, and maintain than his previous track option.
After purchasing this 2000 Miata, jack first had its heart checked by Rspeed before adding some safety measures, suspension, wheels and tires, and that was it. The idea was to get familiar with the car on track for a full year before performing any engine upgrades. A noble plan and one that makes perfect sense, and things were going perfectly...for about 8 months. "Last August I learned of a company that was big on swapping Honda J-series motors into Minis, and that they crossed over to the Miata." That shop, Mini Tec, also known by the their website link branches superfastmiatas.com and superfastminis.com, is knee deep in swaps and conversions. In fact, back in 2013, Honda Tuning did a story on their turbocharged J35-powered, mid-engine, rear-wheel drive Honda Insight.
When Jack paid Super Tec a visit, he laid eyes on a supercharged J35 Miata and that was it, he was already daydreaming about that potential. "I was in favor of a stock, normally aspirated motor versus the many options out there to make a 1.8 Miata motor produce upwards of 150 HP. Reliability would keep me in the good books with the wife."
The Miata's chest cavity isn't the biggest in the industry but from a packaging standpoint, Honda's J-series power plants are quite compact. Super Tec's JV6 swap kits have options and in Jack's case, he chose their front subframe, which allows you to also retain the Miata's native front sway bar, an adapter plate to mate the Honda engine to Mazda's manual transmission, custom aluminum oil pan, polyurethane engine mounts, starter, flywheel adapter, oil pickup and thermostat housing. You supply the J32 or -35 engine and ECU (preferably aftermarket and programmable) and the intake manifold will need to be modified to properly clear the hood. Another area to address is the exhaust manifold and "downpipe." The fit, as seen in the photos, is excellent and before you mentally throw out a "yeah, well good luck ever getting A/C in there," you're too late - this Miata still has it, along with power steering.
Jack's engine of choice is a 2003 Acura CL Type S (J32A2) and he's only opted for a few aftermarket parts thus far, like a Borla race exhaust that eliminates catalytic converters and mufflers, Walter Motorsports Stage 1 5-speed Miata transmission, and a 3.9 Torsen LSD that backs up an ACT H250X clutch kit. With the only performance addition being that free flowing exhaust, the Miata belted out 239hp with over 200 lbs.-ft. of torque - more than enough to motivate the lightweight roadster. Next on the list of parts to add (please, don't mention it to his wife) is an AEM Series 2 EMS with some fine-tuning by EBTEC along with a Chillout Systems cooling shirt and helmet system.
To support the bionic heart transplant, Jack relies on Megan Racing EZ II coilovers and Racing Beat sway bars along with his Jongbloed Racing Series 500 wheels wrapped in Maxxis VR-1 or his Advanti Storm S1 covered in Hankook RS4 to stay between the lines, while Wilwood's 4-piston big brake kit provides the slowing/stopping power. Just behind the Schroth-laced Kirkey 71 series containment seats sits a Hard Dog M2 roll bar enhanced with a Saito center overhead bar.
Long gone is that familiar Dodge Challenger grumble, now replaced by a clever mishmash of iconic roadster energy with a nod to Jack's childhood karting adventures powered by a bargain of a V6 with plenty of room for performance-minded growth. Jack's happy, the wifey is happy and, perhaps most importantly, Jack's young son is happy as the two have spent plenty of time in the garage together wrenching on the race car. With any luck, that father/son bonding is happening every weekend around the world and will help to spark the next generation of enthusiasts.