GBXM has always been about gearheads like us; people who get it. We love shiny new cars and car parts. But while the cars might bring us together, it’s the things we do — together — that keeps us coming back.
I know some people might cringe at yet another Miata feature on GBXM, but these guys have been particularly inspiring lately. I’m big on work life parallel and these guys deliver in spades.
Robert does high end, possibly classified aerospace engineering by day, which improves his skills at motorsport fabrication by night. Martin and friends saved a beat-up Miata from the crusher, creating Lazarus, the basket-case, charity experiment turned track weapon from used parts.
Curly is one of those friends. He’s the guy who everyone knows. The one with who shares his knowledge, tools — and often, driveway — with the local crew, helping everyone get more out of their machines.
That’s what we’re all about here at GBXM|united.
[bd] Ever since a local guy, Robert Fuge (humming), pointed me to Lazarus, I’ve been strangely attracted to beat up, early Miatas. Not that I could ever fit in one, but the appeal is there.
You guys have a solid community up there in the Pacific Northwest and I’d like to know why you’re so involved. Which came first for you, the cars or the community?
[jc] Definitely the car came first. My dad bought a ’93 in near mint condition, and we (me) hit the rev limiter one (20) too many times, crushing a rod bearing a year or so later. Rather than throw a junkyard motor at it, we rebuilt it. We made a few mistakes along the way, but three months later we had a bone stock, zero-mile 1.6.
Typical Teenager Mistakes
I eventually bought the car from him, and it became my first car. I made typical teenager mistakes, curbing a wheel and adding a hot air intake. I was smart enough to sign up at MiataTurbo.net. I’ve picked up a lot of my Miata knowledge from that community, along with projects on my own car. It’s currently stripped, turbocharged, MegaSquirted, big-braked, and fairly fast around a number of local tracks (despite Martin’s mocking).
Perhaps it was these five years of Miata ownership that helped me become the chief mechanic in the area, who knows.
The local community seems to of fallen in my lap over the years. I think it started with a friend Casey, who I originally met on MiataTurbo. I went and checked out his car, met up with him a couple times at the track, and even bought some parts off him.
Casey introduced me to Nial at a car meet, who introduced me to Martin and Laz, who introduced me to Richard at a track day, who introduced me to Ryan while at a ORP track day, and then Martin also introduced me to Mitch most recently.
Mitch’s car, wired and tuned by me, won an 8-hour enduro earlier this summer. I was crew chief and it was driven by Mitch, Martin, and Mitch’s friend Phil.
Now it’s just a huge gang of us, talking on Facebook, text messages, Club Roadster, MiataTurbo, emails, bars, restaurants, track days, endurance races, and anything else related to food, beer, or Miatas.
Birth of Curly’s Shade Tree Garage
Since I’ve met everyone, I’ve done lots of work to Laz, installing MegaSquirt and tuning his 1.6, selling, swapping, wiring, tuning, breaking, and rebuild his MSM [MazdaSpeed Miata] 1.8, I’ve rebuilt Richard and Ryan’s VVT motors, installed MegaSquirts on both of them, installed a MegaSquirt on Nial’s car, and resealed a VVT motor for Mitch’s race car, which also got a MegaSquirt.
Did I mention the wiring? Mitch’s car is a 1993 with the entire chassis, charge, and engine harness out of a 2001+ Miata.
Martin was key in spreading the word through of Curly’s Shade Tree Garage (CSTG) through his plethora of contacts, along with my fairly vast influence all over the net, as you noticed. I’ve wired up a VVT swap in a 94, which ended up making 350hp on snow tires, as it arrived in January from Seattle.
I’ve rebuilt a disaster of a MazdaSpeed Miata I picked up in Medford, which originally baked in the Houston sun. That may be my favorite car to date. It only made 215hp and 230ft-lbs, but it was essentially a copy of Laz’s drive train, could pass emissions, and had AC. Some pictures of it are here.
Again, it was a joint effort of the community. I was being paid, but Martin did what he could to get me sweet deals on parts through his work, Adrenaline Racing, and I threw Ryan a few bucks to polish up the car and take some pictures.
Eddie Nakato, owner of Adrenaline Racing, has kept my head on straight in terms of track modifications, as that world can be a very “he said—she said something completely different” community. I’ve also installed and tuned a MegaSquirt on his Miata — and a few of his customers. I think my current project folder has 16 different Miatas, not counting the duplicates as people have upgraded from earlier MegaSquirts to the latest and greatest.
I’ve officially typed too much, apparently I’m very nostalgic.
[bd] Not at all! We love the back stories! This is good stuff!
So you do the Miata thing for a living, then? It sounds like you probably have enough potential customers up there. Have you had any professional training or is this all self-taught?
I’m also kinda curious what you think about the concept of mentoring. Someone showed you the ropes back in the day, and I get the feeling your advice is probably affordable. What’s the value proposition for paying Curly to un-Stooge your Miata?
[jc] Oh boy, make me sound good!
[bd] In the two months since Josh and I last emailed and this story went live on the site, he changed jobs. It’s pretty cool. Originally, he’d mentioned being a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in an oncology unit. He’d move patients, check vitals, answer call lights, and so on. Aside from that, he was taking on small side jobs for beer, a little money, then a lot of money. In his words, “I’m giddy for a simple job around $300-$500 and consider it the jackpot hit when it’s near or over $1000.” He also traded parts to upgrade his non-turbo Miata.
Checking in with him today, he’s now working at AR Autoservice with Eddie full time. Way to go, dude!
Not Quite Ready
I’d love to make CSTG my main source of income, however it would mean taking away one steady paycheck, for another that’s not very steady, and I’d have to open a garage, because my single car garage just won’t cut it with much more business.
I worked as a machinist for four years. That’s about the only professional training I’ve gotten. And I had already rebuilt a Miata engine by then — and the job didn’t have anything to do with cars. It did help my fabrication skills considerably, which often comes in handy with race cars.
I do have a lot of customers up here — a dozen or so close friends that I do work for, and probably another 2-3 dozen that have contacted me for advice or coordination of their build, only some of which have chosen to put their keys and money in my hands. I figure it’s all about spreading the word.
Like I said it’s not my main job, so if 1 out of 10 emails generates business, I’m still happy. I spend sometimes hours a day in front of this laptop (I’m sure you know the feeling), answering forum questions, messages, emails, etc., all to help out fellow Miata drivers. I try not to let greed influence my answers. If I suggest something they desperately want but is out of their mechanical abilities, that’s where I bring up CSTG.
[bd] That MSM you cleaned up from Houston turned out super nice. Love your choice of rolling stock. That’s my kinda “stance.”
Having just spent the better part of a month uncovering and fixing all the little things which would have prevented the previous owner from registering the Montero I bought back in April (he yanked the CEL and SRS bulbs for starters), I can sort of empathize with what you started with, but not on that level. You really saved that car.
How common are basket case Miatas these days? How’s the global community doing overall? You guys still getting decent aftermarket support?
[jc] There are lots of basket case Miatas, probably more than not these days. They’re getting to be too damn cheap to restore if they need it, yet plenty old enough that they often haven’t stood the test of time on their own.
The ’05 MSM I did all that work on was a surprise. How the mechanics of the car could fail as quickly as they did in 10 years and only 98k was impressive. I’ve also started to mentally multiply MSM mileage by ~1.25ish in my head, as the turbo just cooks everything from engine seals to shifts boots so much faster.
I bought my current DD, an ’01 LS around a year ago, advertised for $6000. It has 185k on it. At the time, I test drove an ’04 MSM with 157k on it, advertised for $8500. My wife told me to buy whichever one I wanted, the money wasn’t a huge issue.
In the end, I saw the gas mileage, desire to modify, and potential for extra costs only adding to the already $2500 difference. Plus I love cruise control, and Mazda never put CC in MSMs. So I bought the nearly 200k ’01.
After a timing belt and water pump job, it’s had nothing but a $10 thermostat fail. That ’04 MSM however, is currently in my garage to have the turbo rebuilt, after it blew up on the dyno while I tuned it’s new megasquirt and larger injectors, after the owner had the engine resealed from top to bottom to fix it’s numerous leaks. See what I mean about turbos? I love them, but that heat!
Global community? I have no idea. No international customers at CSTG yet. Aftermarket support is wonderful, new companies are constantly entering the market, fabricating and making anything from brake ducts, to wheels, to ECU mounts, to hood vents.
Miata Insider Tips
If anyone’s interested in purchasing aftermarket parts for their Miata, have them check out the popular companies like Trackspeed Engineering, 949 Racing, Goodwin Racing, and Flyin’ Miata. Great newer companies include Singular Motorsports and Humming Aero. Have them buy all the parts their hearts desire, and bring them and their Miata to CSTG!
. . .
How do we end this story?
In 1998, I found a forum online where people who owned the same kind of car I did were sharing ideas, experiences, and information. They gave me the encouragement and support to become a proper gearhead. My vehicles have been improved because of my gearhead family. My life is improved because of my gearhead family. I suspect your experience is similar.
Josh “Curly” Castadli is a gearhead like us. Like us, he learned some tough lessons in the early years, but he’s picked up knowledge and experience along the way — and enjoys paying it forward. He’s not making a living “playing with cars,” but he’s investing in his gearhead family as much as — if not more than — he is his machines.
And, considering it’s our gearhead families that keep us coming back when the machines change, isn’t that what it’s all about?