The First Stormtrooper Mods

Goodbye Altezza lights.

Goodbye Altezza lights.

I wasted no time tearing into The Stormtrooper. This was literally the 2nd day of ownership.

A few words about the NC1 tail lights – I hate them. I think they’re a horrible design. I’m appalled that the designers could go from the NA tail lights (which hang in MoMA for god sake!) to these late 90s trendy clear things. I mean, by 2006, automotive OEMs had moved on from the clear plastic Altezza look almost completely… except Mazda had to grace the ass of the NC with them.

Sorry to those who actually like these tail lights. I’m not trying to make enemies. I just dislike the design very very very much.

Something had to be done.

The Stormtrooper trunk.

The Stormtrooper trunk.

Back panel removed.

Back panel removed.

The NC trunk is completely wrapped in hard plastic. All the walls have the stuff. Gone are the NA and NB days of lightweight fluffy stuff over the metal panels.

But at least it’s easy to remove.

There’s roughly 870 little plastic retainer pins to remove. My finger nails were up to the task.

Arrow pointing to the keeper.

Arrow pointing to the keeper.

Keeper carefully hammered out.

Keeper carefully hammered out.

The tail lights are held in by only 3 bolts once the plastic is all removed – and you do have to remove all four walls worth of plastic to get this far. There’s also a plastic keeper thing on the far outside of each tail light. I put an arrow by it.

Gentle tapping with a hammer is all you need to get that keeper to pop free. A few gentle taps from the inside of the trunk. I removed my lights with no breakage.

All of the panels out. Sharka is not amused.

All of the panels out. Sharka is not amused.

Look at all that plastic. Dang.

And don’t worry. Sharka will be blogged about soon.

VHT Nite-Shades and 2 part clear.

VHT Nite-Shades and 2 part clear.

There’s many ways to take care of the NC clear tail lights. A lot of folks use Lamin-X red film. I’m very very good at applying vinyl, but this seems like a job for paint. Plus, I wanted to leave the reverse light hole clear.

Paint lets you mask off stuff more easily than cutting a hole in some vinyl does.

75mm roundels applied.

75mm roundels applied.

All black masked off.

All black masked off.

I measured the reverse light area by holding a caliper up to the lens and kinda guessing. I programmed my vinyl plotter to cut some 70mm roundels.

They weren’t big enough. They looked a bit strange. So I went back and cut some 75mm circles. PERFECT!

The lights are curved enough that you can’t just pop the vinyl in place. You’ll have a wrinkle. But putting a little bit of slightly soapy water on the lens to let you smooth out the wrinkles works great.

Once the circles were in the right spots and the wrinkles on the edges were smoothed, I cleaned them with 90% rubbing alcohol and masked off the edges.

1 coat of red.

1 coat of red.

4 coats of red.

4 coats of red.

3 coats of clear.

3 coats of clear.

Nothing to the painting really. The VHT stuff worked great. I just applied fairly thin layers until I couldn’t tell that the red reflectors were red anymore. That was 4 coats.

A few words about masking off the reverse light area – I thought it might look a bit off at first. A bit odd. But the inner red reflector around the outside of the reverse light takes all of that away. It gives the optical illusion that the reverse light is just right up at the surface of the light.

You’ll see in a second.

SO MUCH BETTER!

SO MUCH BETTER!

I can live with this.

I can live with this.

It looks so much better red!!! Seriously. The ass end now actually looks like a Miata! At least it does to me. It looks very familiar to me now. Like tail lights I’ve lived with for the past couple decades.

But that’s not all.

Tired old factory 6 speed knob.

Tired old factory 6 speed knob.

This 6 speed knob is pretty yucky. Tons of cracks and scratches on the top. And the leather grip part below that is all worn away and suede feeling. Not good.

It kinda smells too.

NB wood Nardi knob and grip.

NB wood Nardi knob and grip.

Many moons ago, I restored a bunch of wood stuff. I did a Momo wheel and a handful (heh) of brake and shift knobs. And then I never used them. I didn’t really like them in either Sharka or Bucky.

But the Stormtrooper? That basketball interior just begs for some wood.

It was wood time.

A few notes about these pieces – any shift knob from a Miata fits any other Miata. They’re all M10x1.25 threaded. That’s a common shift knob size. So any special edition shift knob (that ND baseball one is awesome) can fit on any Miata shifter.

But the brake grips are not compatible. The shaft on the NC is a lot thicker than the NA/NB, so an NA/NB brake grip will not fit. If you try to force it on, you’ll get stuck halfway or you’ll break your wood knob.

Unless you have a Dremel.

I dremeled a lot of wood out of the inside of my Nardi brake grip. And now it fits.

And a 6 speed shift plate!

And a 6 speed shift plate!

I’m not gonna lie – this is blatant product placement. But putting my little 6 speed shift plate in the Stormtrooper was SO satisfying.

When I was designing them, I really liked how the 6 speed pattern looked. The design is slightly smaller than the 5 speed. I wanted to use one so badly, but I didn’t own a car with a 6 speed.

Now I own a car with a 6 speed.

Looking good, Stormy. Looking real good.

Looking good, Stormy. Looking real good.

Yeah. This is a big improvement already.

Seriously, is there anything better than a blank canvas? A project with TONS of low hanging fruit ripe for the picking?

The Stormtrooper is ALL low hanging fruit at this point. So many ways I can go. So many mod possibilities.

It’s really refreshing.

I’ve owned the car for 3 days and I’ve blogged about it twice.

So refreshing!

More soon.

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  • Tobias Linder says:

    I’m not hating on the Altezza-style taillights, but I admit that on that white car, those red ones look sooo much better.

    I have clear LEDs on mine, but my car is green mica, so it looks better than on a white.

    You can see them here: http://imgur.com/Lc0oE1F

  • Brad says:

    Tails now look fantastic, good job. Glad to learn that VHT makes a red tint as well, the center section on Supra tails tends to be a shade darker than the tails themselves, so this should even that out nicely.

  • Max Persian says:

    The leather wheel and shift knob on my NB are wearing pretty badly now, so I ordered the whole set of wooden bits from a 00 Special Edition to fit on my car. My interior is black and tan, and the darker wood will look nice with it all. Plus, I can re-coat if it gets worn, something I can’t do with leather. I have long preferred the dynamics of wood to that of leather or vinyl; it both heats and cools faster than the standard plastic wheels, and it holds up better than leather. That it looks nicer is an added bonus. The wooden bits you installed on Stormy look great, as do those red lenses. I wonder how that paint will hold up in the New Mexico sun. My own car has lived most of its life in Florida, and I learned long ago to hunt the lot for shade.

    • revlimiter says:

      This is actually the first time I’ve ever had a wood grip in a car. I’m digging it! I’m used to holding metal, but this wood shifter is okay.

      And thanks!

      I’m hoping the paint holds up okay. Stormtrooper will park outside while I’m its caretaker. I hope the paint just doesn’t go away…

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  • Mike says:

    Are the vinyl roundels stickers? Or are they just laid against the lens?

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