MAX Update No. 103: The Metro Miata “Cold Rod”

Reader Contribution by Jack Mccornack
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I’m driving a new car to the other Mother Earth News Fairs this year (the one in Seven Springs PA next weekend, September 20-22 and the one in Lawrence KS October 12-13). It’s not exactly a new car, but it’s new to me; it’s what my dad used to call a “cold rod”, and…

You’re familiar with hot rods, right? You take the engine out of an old car and put a bigger engine in its place; you get higher performance but lower mileage. A cold rod is where you take the engine out of an old car and put a smaller engine in it; you get higher mileage but lower performance. In both cases, and old car is chosen because A) old cars are lighter, simpler, and easier to modify than new cars, and B) you are more likely to find an old car which is economically suited to such a modification, as indicated by squirrels living in the air cleaner, or clues in the CraigsList ad, such as “engine needs work” or “ran when parked”.

This particular cold rod is a ’91 Miata with a ’96 Geo Metro three-banger under the bonnet. The builder, Jim Fujioko, has moved on to a more practical high-mileage Miata with a Ford Festiva engine. At 63 horsepower, the Festiva provides significantly more oomph than the 55 horse Metro, plus it was a much easier installation, so Jim gave me a deal on the Metro Miata, thus saving me a whole lot of work.

To quote my late dad again, You can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want. I want to make a Metro-powered MAX with Miata running gear (I’ll explain why in some other Update) and Jim’s car has the hard part of that job done for me already – all I’ll have to do is swap his work into a MAX chassis and cover it with a MAX body. Meanwhile, I’ll gain the experience of driving a civilized high-mileage car across the country, and I’ll have a direct Before/After comparison for when it gets MAXified. We’ll get to see how much of MAX’s 100 mpg comes from the driveline, and how much is thanks to light weight and streamlining.

Gosh, I wish I could drive two cars at once, but MAX is staying home this trip. I had hoped for a co-driver so we could drive MAX and MeMi (cars get names around here and this one was too easy, it’s pronounced Mimi) in formation to the Fairs, but it turns out that most folks have responsibilities and can’t just hit the road for five weeks.

I’ll be on stage from 2:30 to 3:30 Sunday at both Fairs, talking about MAX and MeMi and other high mileage projects, and I’ll open the floor to questions and comments from fairly early on. We have plenty to talk about.