Project Tina, August 6th: Fan Controller, Brakes, Suspension and Interior

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However take a look at it from the passenger side. See how flat everything is? Notice how the rear seat mounts disappear? Because they were not molded the carpet had to be bunched and folded to lay flat. This pulled some areas very tight, and left others very loose. The end result is that it is just plainly a bad fit. I think ACC is far to used to molding carpets for flat muscle car floors. A floor with contours like ours is out of their league.

After a lot of fitting and trimming, I was able to get the fit into the "acceptable" category. Still nowhere near OEM, but it's much better then the stained and faded carpet I removed.

Here are a few other issues I noticed with this carpet set:

  1. Rear speaker/wheel well areas did not have enough extra material. They fell several inches short at the end and needed a lot of stretching.
  2. The colour was several shades too light. The OEM carpet matches the trim perfectly. It looks like ACC just pulled the colour out of their existing stock instead of bothering to match it. However I do actually like the brighter shade. It brightens up the interior and bit and brings in a little contrast.
  3. Several blemishes were on the carpet right out of the box. Not a huge deal, but a new carpet should not have missing tufts.
  4. Did I mention it doesn't bloody fit?

To protect my new carpet and deal with all the shifter air leaks I installed new rubber boots around the shifter. This is a worthwhile fix for probably 90% of 2nd gens out there as I have never seen one with the boots in tact that this point. A new set of boots stops all the hot air pushed up from the transmission tunnel from baking your hands, hugely cuts down on road noise, and quiets the transmission greatly. Awesome way to spend $30. If you have an exhaust leak, these boots also prevent you from stepping out of the car wearing that "rotary perfume" that the ladies love so much.

I then trimmed the rear of the carpet and secured it to the rear bulkhead using the stock fir trees. It looks a bit wrinkled in the picture but actually lays fairly flat. Some of the wrinkles will disappear as the carpet molds itself to the contour of the car over time. Once the carpet was in place, the rear fiberglass deck was reinstalled.

The rear main carpet was put into position and it actually fit quite well. Much better then all the other pieces of this carpet set. It included pre-cut holes for the storage bins and required only a little trimming around the storage bin hinges and screws. The stitching around the edges is of acceptable quality. My car didn't come with storage bins originally. Years ago I added a single bin, but this time I needed both (the battery sits under the passenger lid).

Here's another view of the rear carpet. See that little hint of silver in the top right corner? That's an area of exposed Dynamat caused by not enough carpet. It was cut this way from the factory. I'll glue a piece of scrap carpet down underneath to camouflage the spot, but I find it annoying and odd that ACC did not include any extra material in the two pieces they shipped to cover the shock towers.

I transferred the rear carpet retaining trim from the old carpet to the new. It actually is fairly simple to do. The teeth were folded up, which allowed the plastic backing to be removed. Then the trim simply slid out of the old carpet. I laid the old carpet over the new and then traced for the slots, cutting them with a razor blade. The trim then just slides into the slots and at that point, installation is reverse of the removal (don't you love it when they say that?). I'm still undecided about the square vents. Without them the rear of the hatch area looks clean and sterile. But having them is more authentic. I can install them at any time, but once the carpet is cut to fit them I can't uninstall...

The kit includes two small pieces that fit between the rear carpet and the shock tower carpet. They fit miserably. Again, not enough material was left for a decent overlap so you can see the gaps that have formed. I'm going to glue a backing board in place to tie them together and add a bit of structure.

Sometime long before I purchased this car, a previous owner had installed a low end AM/FM/Cass stereo in place of the AM radio the car came with. This install was a real hack job, amounting to nothing more then cutting the factory harness to pieces, poorly crimping on the new harness, and then jamming the unit into the center console, grinding until it fit. The result was as expected. The first mod I did after I took delivery of the car was to replace the awful unit with a less awful unit and then correct the wiring nightmare. As the stock stereo bracket had disappeared previous to my ownership I also mounted my slightly less crappy Pyramid tape deck to the center console. We all know that the S4 center console is not really a very strong piece of plastic. 20 years of sun exposure turns into a brittle mess. The result is that at least once a year the weight of the stereo would crack the console, and I was off to the wreckers to replace it.

This time around I did things correctly. According to Mazda, the stock FC stereo mounting brackets are no longer available. A quick trip to the wreckers and $20 later, I had what I needed. Since almost all OEM stereos are of a standard DIN width, the only thing required to fit the new JVC KD-BT1 (AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/Bluetooth) stereo into the FC stereo bracket was a bit of trimming to flatten out the inside of the bracket. After that it bolted right in with some M5 stainless screws. Finally I'll have a stereo that doesn't move around when buttons are pressed!

Some testing. Yeah, it still fits. I had actually wired the unit into the car at the beginning of the summer and zip tied it in place temporarily. Listening to the engine is great, but I got kind of tired of having no other options.

OK, here's the thing. I had originally intended to use the carbon fibre stereo surround produced by RX-7 forum member FIBREMAZ, but after two units he shipped me didn't fit, I bought a new surround from the dealer. I don't blame FIBREMAZ. For whatever reason, his consoles don't seem to fit my car. After sending back the original due to 1/4" gaps at the top, the replacement had a slightly smaller gap but still didn't fit. Others have used his consoles in the past and had no problems. Though for whatever reason, they don't fit my car at all. However the new console I purchased from the dealer fit perfectly.

Anyone battling with cracking stock consoles should consider just buying a new one at the dealer. The cost was $101 exactly and it arrived next day. Not only was it in perfect condition, but it is actually flexible! It's a sobering reminder that FC trim is not crappy, just old. I can bend and twist this console with no fear of cracks.

I temporarily installed it with a brand new set of vents and new shifter surround/boot to check the fit of the stereo, making sure it was level and at the correct height.

The ugly space underneath the stereo needs to be filled. Additionally I need somewhere to mount my switches (daytime running lights, windows, fog lights). Previously I had a black Lexan panel mount to the backside of the center console. It worked, though did have a tendency to crack the 20 year old console after about a years worth of use. This time the switch panel would be made of aluminum and mounted solidly to the stereo bracket. I simply cut a piece of 2MM aluminum to size, then bent each end to 90 degrees. Took two tries to get the correct distance between bends though.

Seems to fit well in the stereo surround. Notice that I also trimmed the two side pieces to allow a little more clearance to install the console over the stereo frame. I then found out that the frame detaches from the stereo. Doh.

Next I drilled the appropriate holes in the panel to actually mount the switches. Additionally I added a cutout for a DB9 serial port. The port connects to the serial cable coming from the Microtech LT8s and provides a convenient spot to connect without having to dig around in the carpet or have a tonne of cable tied up under the dash.

When painted with DupliColor black automotive trim paint the new switch plate is almost a perfect match to the OEM plastic. Prior to painting I aggressively attacked the aluminum with the wire wheel to give it a rough texture. After painting the texture shows through and looks like the OEM wrinkle finish. 4 light coats of this paint should stand up to years of wear.

Finally, the whole mess was permanently installed. Everything still fit and any gaps were small and even. New trim really is a joy. None of it is brittle, scratched, dirty or worn. All of it just fit and can be removed without concern over breakage. The colour between pieces is a bit uneven, probably due to manufacturing differences. A bit of Armor All will even things up.

You'll notice there are still a few bits of trim to be installed. I'm still trying to find my ash tray. It's in the shed somewhere...somewhere. If I can't find it or it's not in good shape I'll just order a new one. I have a new steering column surround waiting to be installed. The only question mark is the console between the seats. I'm trying to decide whether to go maroon or carry the black through. I've also got to send the door panels out for re-upholstering as soon as I decide on how I want it done.

I think that's enough for now. The car is getting very close to being done. As far as fabrication goes, I think that's the bulk of it. There are still a few nagging issues: the oil leak at the front hub is driving me crazy, I need to fix my metering oil pump lines and actuator cable, and some kind of LSD is required to actually have a hope of getting traction. Oh, and a boost controller so I can really have some fun.

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