Enter the Exocet
Since the moment that I watched Matt Farah drive an Exocet for the first time on his YouTube channel, I knew that I had to have one. It's not an exceptionally cheap proposition to build a car yourself but in this case, it's not expensive either. A base kit starts at $7K and on top of that you just need an old Mazda Miata, some basic tools, and 100-200 hours on nights and weekends. You also have to be really good at watching, pausing, and rewinding YouTube (unless you're already familiar with working on cars (I wasn't).
Last May, I found my Miata. The ideal car for a project like this is a 1.8 liter car with a limited slip differential. What I found was 1.6 with an open differential for an exceptionally low price but a long list of issues. The car spent months in the garage as I went through nearly everything in and around the suspension. I replaced the sway bars, sway bar end links, suspension bushings, control arms, tie rods, brakes (upgraded to brakes from a later car), wheels, and a few seals. The car had a slipping clutch so I also replaced the clutch and flywheel - which proved to be a monumental job. I celebrated by taking a pretty dirty selfie.
Early this year, I joined the Exocet Owner's group on Facebook. I did my best to get up to speed on what I would need to turn this little white car into a proper racer. I was down to deciding on what color I wanted when something very interesting happened - a member of the group from the South Bay decided to give up on his project. Typically, it takes 6+ weeks (sometimes up to 4 months) to receive your kit after ordering it. This presented an opportunity to skip that wait, but also to skip the process of having to remove the body since he had already done that with a 1.8 liter car!
Late in the evening on March 26th of this year, I rolled this little monster into the garage. It hasn't actually left since. I've been fairly stuck on the electrical work but to give myself a break, I started on the paint this week. The previous owner had given the frame a layer of primer so I went over that with a Rustoleum Hammered Copper. It looks pretty snazzy and will match the black body panels quite well. Hammered Copper is a self-leveling (if you can call something that intentionally unlevels itself "self leveling") paint that dries with a unique texture. It's glossy but you can also feel the bumps. I also went about coating the floors with pickup bed liner. That's a spray-on solution that creates a tough rubberized seal. The underside still needs to be done but I'll need a couple more cans and the desire to lay on my back with a respirator on my face for 3 hours to do it.
So when is it going to be done?
I get this question constantly. Frankly, this is the one thing in my life with no deadline. It's done when it's done. When I get frustrated, I walk away and do something else. This is never a project that should have any negative emotion associated with it.
What about the Miata that you bought?
As it turns out, finding the partial Exocet project was quite the blessing. The Miata has actually taken over commuting duties since it gets my roommate and I in the carpool lane to SF without having to pick anyone else up. It shaved out commute to under 35 minutes on most days (down from 55+).