Miata of Smoke and Doom: Pistonhead Productions’ Cummins Miata


The Mazda Miata is a car almost universally loved among car enthusiasts. It’s light, it’s rear-wheel-drive, and it handles well. However, it is not exactly fast. That means it’s a common platform for engine swaps, but never before has there been one like this.

Pistonhead Productions dreamed up the idea of building a diesel-powered drift Miata. The build would be crowd funded, and drifted at events around North America, inlcuding by Team Turbosmart’s own Ryan Tuerck. After doing its rounds, the one-of-a-kind Miata would be raffled off, with the proceeds going towards a local high school’s shop class.

After raising $10,000 to fund the project, the team took on a round-the-clock build to get the car finished within 48 hours. It was debuted at Gridlife at Gingerman Raceway in Michigan, where it drew all the attention a Miata with a massive diesel engine hanging out of the hood would. Now known as the Sootsalon, this is one Miata that hairdressers wouldn’t touch – all that black soot pouring out of the hood-exit exhaust stack would sort the brave from the posers pretty quickly.

With a donated 1990 Miata forming the basis of the build, an suitable diesel engine was sourced. The Cummins 4BT is a 3.9-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel. It’s commonly found in applications definitely not designed for speed, such as construction and agricultural equipment. But thankfully, a little work (and a healthy helping of boost) turns the workhorse Cummins into a smoke pouring, tire shredding monster. Turbosmart lent a hand with one of our High Pressure wastegates to control all the boost needed to give the commercial diesel the power it needs to keep the Mazda sideways.

Of course, you can’t just stuff a big heavy diesel in the front of a Miata and expect it to still be able to handle. The engine threw out the Mazda’s famous 50-50 weight distribution, however its impact was minimized by sitting the engine as far back as possible, and adding heavy duty front suspension.

We can’t wait to see this thing out on the track, making smoke from both ends of the car. Follow Pistonhead Productions on Facebook to keep up to date!

86 Build Blog, part 2: Going Turbo


If you missed part one, read it here! 

A few weeks ago, we introduced you to our Toyota 86 long term development car. We set about transforming our bone stock 86 GTS into something a bit more special, beginning with the groundwork – a good suspension setup, bigger wheels, sticky tires, and an aftermarket ECU. The result was a good looking car that handled nicely, but there was still an elephant in the room.

The 86’s powerplant was still untouched. The FA20 boxer four remained completely stock, and this was concerning – because we’re not called Aspiratedsmart.  If there was any doubt to what was going to happen to the 86, we’re clarifying it now: this car will, of course, be turbocharged – like it should have been from the factory!

Well, if the factory did it, they’d be doing it a bit differently to this. Our build is a bit on the extreme side, and there will be some things on this car that you have never seen before. The reason for this is simple – this car is meant to be a development test bed. We’re not chasing outright power, but more a platform on which we can put our parts to work.

The customised kit was the work of Sydney Motorsport Engineering. These guys put in some serious hours to get the whole kit built just how we wanted it – complete with some requests that would make a lot of kit builders run for the hills. The result is a very unique design, with plumbing for multiple external wastegates and over 40 sensors that we use to keep an eye on everything the 86 is doing.

One of the more unique aspects of our setup is the vehicle’s three wastegates. Yep, there’s three of them. The turbo retains its internal wastegate, then there’s an external ‘gate mounted just before the turbine housing, and another external ‘gate on the headers.

So, how does it all work? Well, the internal wastegate and first external ‘gate are both fully functional, however only one can operate at a time. The third wastegate is independent of boost, instead operated by an air compressor in the boot of the car. It’s purely there for duty testing, to make sure our products are as durable as possible. We’ll look at this setup in more detail later.

All those wires hanging down are for the various sensors to talk to the ECU and log data. Getting the spaghetti of wiring running neatly will be a challenge, but not one beyond Chris, our engineer in charge of the build.

While the bulk of the work is done, there’s still a plethora of little jobs before the 86 is ready to get back on the road.

Stay tuned for part three, where we will see it all come together.