Tag Archives: Mazdaspeed 3

It’s the little things

19 May

A while back, I installed Corksport’s short shift plate and shifter base bushing combo to improve our Mazdaspeed 3’s vague factory shifter feel.  At the same time, I got a lightweight countersunk delrin knob from Carbing and while the trio of parts made for a fantastic feeling shifter, I didn’t like the way the Carbing knob looked.  While the Carbing knob came with several shift pattern stickers, I thought it would look ricey so I really wanted a knob with an engraved shift pattern for more of an OEM look.

I ended up having a custom stainless knob made a with the shift pattern engraving and wrapped in black leather.  Although the stainless knob would be much heavier, I still had Corksports super-light counterweight that I wasn’t using so I was confident I could get the same feel I had from the combination of a light knob and heavy counterweight.

Unfortunately, it was all for naught because I ended up not liking the stainless knob at all.  The flat top was awkward to shift and the leather section was smaller than I was expecting.  In fact, by comparison I really liked the Carbing delrin knob but I was still adamant about an OEM style shift pattern on the knob itself.  Thankfully, I was able to return the stainless piece in favor of a custom delrin knob with a similar the same dimensions and a similar knurled grip to the Carbing but with a shift pattern engraved in red.  Now I’m happy with the result as it looks and feels great.

It may seem silly to spend so much time and effort on something as trivial as a shift knob but considering how much contact the driver has with it, I should be happy with every flick of the wrist.

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Ooooh, that feels better!

22 Feb

Our 2011 Mazdaspeed 3 is an impressive car to drive, even in stock form.  That said, there are areas that could be improved… The stock shifter action is smooth and comfortable, albeit vague.  Interestingly, this is at odds with the lovely chassis/suspension which offer lots of good feedback.  The shift throws could be a bit shorter and more precise.  If I could set the bar for comparison, the Honda S2000 has probably the best shifter I’ve ever…ummm…shifted?

Thankfully, there are a number of products on the market that can help improve the situation.  I chose Corksport’s adjustable short shift plate and solid shifter base bushings.  Together, they should shorten the gap between gear engagements and limit the side-to-side movement of the shifter.

Installation is pretty simple, even for someone like me with no mechanical ability and fat, stubby fingers.  Still, I managed to get my hands cut up a bit!  The Corksport shift plate mounts on TOP of the factory piece so installation is simply a matter of popping off the shift cable under the hood and unbolting the stock shift-counterweight.  Corksport also supplies a lighter counterweight with their short shift plate, which should give the shift action a more mechanical feel.  The plate and counterweight fit perfectly and are made from sturdy CNC’d steel with a black powder coating.  The plate is adjustable from a 20%-40% reduction in throw.  I started at 20%…

Corksport short shift plate packaging, with free candy.  Cool.

Corksport short shift plate packaging, with free candy. Cool.

The Corksport shift plate and counterweight installed.  Easy!

The Corksport shift plate and counterweight installed. Easy!

Those with mechanical ability will come out unscathed...

Those with mechanical ability will come out unscathed…

The next step was to move on to the interior to install the shifter base bushings.  One look at the stock bushings will show you how the shifter base can rock from side to side.  The Corksport bushings and washers are made from solid billet aluminum with an anodized finish, so they should help tighten things up and eliminate some free play.  This installation is still simple, but there is the potential for aggravation if you aren’t careful.  The stock rubber bushings go through the shifter base while the Corksport bushings go UNDER the base.  Once the shift knob is removed and the shifter/ebrake console pulled up, you will see the shifter base.  The base is bolted in four locations so removal of the factory bushings is a simple matter of unbolting with a deep 10mm socket and a long extension, then pulling the bushings out with some needle nose pliers (it can take some effort).  The tricky part is sliding the bushings under the base, lining them up and bolting them in without having them slide down the underside of the carpet (which would be a chore to retrieve).  I put each bushing in one-by-one, carefully lining them up and lightly threading them by hand . This way, the base has some wiggle room without worrying about losing one bushing while aligning another one.  Once they are all in place, they get snugged down and the interior panels are popped back in.  Good to go!

Nice embossed tin case for the solid shifter base bushings.

Nice embossed tin case for the solid shifter base bushings.

Stock Squishy bushings out!

Stock Squishy bushings out!

New solid billet bushings ready to go!

New solid billet bushings ready to go!

So, all done right?  Nope.  I took the car out for a quick spin and things weren’t perfect.  The shift action was defintely shorter and more defined, but a bit too notchy for my taste.  Even worse, gears 1, 3 and 5 didn’t shift the same way as 4 and 6…as if they were just barely engaging.  Fortunately, the gear-select cable is adjustable (yay Mazdaspeedforums!)  You can unlock the factory position by pulling the set spring toward you while lifting the orange lock.  Once unlocked, you can move the select-cable up or down the shaft (hehe shaft)  and lock in a new position.  This changes the neutral position of the shifter a bit and how the gears engage.  After a little trial and error, I found the perfect position and locked it in.  So, now that all of the gears shift accurately, things are feeling pretty good…but not perfect.

The gear select cable adjuster.

The gear select cable adjuster.

So, the shift throw is shorter (20% position feels nice) and more precise but with perhaps a bit too much mechanical feeling which means “notchiness” requiring excessing shifting effort.  The MS3 is my daily driver so I’m not banging gears on the way to the grocery store…things still have to be comfortable!  I re-installed the heavy shift counterweight and everything was smooth…too smooth.  Oy.  So, it seems to me that the key is the amount of weight in the system and where the weight is.  I have Corksport’s light counterweight and a heavy OEM counterweight and neither feel perfect with the OEM shift knob.  See where I’m going with this?  So, I ordered a couple of shift knobs.  The first one I tried is the Carbing high grip knob made out of “duracon” (like delrin).  It’s super, super light and has a nice grippy, knurled center section which is cool.  With the heavy OEM counterweight, the shift-feel is just about perfect.  Shifting is quick, crisp and fun!  Unfortunately, the Carbing knob isn’t very pretty.  So, I also have a knob being custom-made from brushed stainless steel with a leather wrapped center section and an engraved shift pattern.  It will be a bit thicker than the Carbing knob, but height is the same and the threads of each one are countersunk.  I plan to try the new heavy knob with the lightweight Corksport counterweight to see which setup I prefer.  Hopefully I can achieve the same feel that I have now and retain an OEM quality look inside the car.

I will report back when the custom heavy knob arrives!  For now, I’ll live with the way it looks and concentrate on how it feels…crisp and tight!

The super-light duracon knob made by Carbing.

The super-light duracon knob made by Carbing.

The Carbing knob includes a few shift patterns if you can deal with a sticker inside your car.

The Carbing knob includes a few shift patterns if you can deal with a sticker inside your car.

Shift feel = great!  Shift look = eh.

Shift feel = great! Shift look = eh.

Project Mazdaspeed 3 Continues: The Proof is in the Pudding

14 Sep

Back in the day, it was hard to really quantify the benefit of a your run-of-the-mill bolt-on modification. Sure, most mass-produced intakes and exhausts were shiny and and likely made some better noises compared to the stock components. However, local dynos were hard to come by and most people couldn’t afford fancy programmable ECU’s. So, we had to rely on manufacturer claims and the woefully divergent reviews on various web forums…most of which came down to the infamous “butt dyno.” One guy felt a huge power increase, another says the car is slower. Sigh.

Jon recently installed a newly revised Corksport Turbo Inlet Pipe on the Mazdaspeed 3. It’s design certainly looks much better than the stock piece. Thankfully, with a few simple datalogs (and some knowledge of Excel) it’s easy to see how it compares to the stock inlet. Over the course of a few logs pre-and-post installation over the same road, we can see that the Corksport inlet spools faster and holds a bit more boost from about 4500 rpm up on our setup. Target boost is 21 psi, so there is slight post-spool spike to tune-out.

While the butt dyno is happy as well, I’m glad there is some actual data to support the investment. The new inlet also fit nicely and the ricer in me loves the slightly louder spool compared to the Cobb silicone SRI alone (which has been installed for some time now).

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Cobb Front Mount Intercooler 2010+ Mazdaspeed 3

28 Jun

Brand new from the folks at Cobb. Contact us at z1sales@z1auto.com to get yours on its way! Free shipping now through June 30 only!!!

Powergrid Endlinks for your Porsche, BMW, Corvette, and More!

12 Jan

We’ve been offering the Powergrid endlinks for the 350Z and G35 for years. Google it, you’ll find out what everyone else already knows. That if you want the best endlink on the market, you found ’em. Well, we’re now carrying them for your Porsche as well.

This is why they are important, what they do, and why you want ’em:

The endlinks connect your swaybar to your the rest of your suspension. As the swaybar moves during a turn (or technically, resists moving), the endlinks job is to keep the bar parallel to the ground. Whether you have stock swaybars or aftermarket, the harder you push your car, the more prone your stock links are towards snapping, or breaking. Many modern day cars use links that are made of cheap stamped steel, and many are even plastic! They are designed to be used with softer stock spring rates, and less grippy tires than true enthusiasts tend to use. As you increase the grip of the car, the endlink is placed under greater strain to control that swaybar. The same holds true when you’re fitting larger diameter, and adjustable swaybars. These stiffer bars place greater load on the endlink and those stock endlinks were never designed with that force in mind. The second thing to consider is when fitting lowering springs or aftermarket coilovers. As you adjust the height of your car, you can often cause your swaybar to change position. That means during the compression stroke of the suspension, the stock swaybar can be limited in its movement (aka binding), which vastly reduces the ability of the bar to do it’s job. For those with coilovers, this becomes even more important if you’re looking to cornerweight your car. Having an adjustable endlink such as this allows you to adjust swaybar preload, and that translates into more effective cornerbalancing results and more effective swaybar tuning.

Applications – tons! If you’ve got a performance car, we probably have an application for you.

Porsche:

BMW: E30 (M3), E24, E28, E34, E39, E46 M3, E90, E60
Acura TSX
Audi TT
Cadillac CTS
Cadillac XLR
Corvette
Cobalt
Dodge Charger
Infiniti G35
Mini Cooper
Mazda 3, 6, Miata
Mazdaspeed 3 and 6
Mazda RX8
Nissan 350Z
Porsche 911, Boxster and Cayman
Scion TC
Toyota Supra
Toyota Celica
Toyota Corolla
VW GTI
VW Eos
VW Jetta

And we’re always looking to add more! These endlinks aren’t cheap to buy because they aren’t cheap to make. They use genuine THK components (THK is an OEM automotive supplier to tons of manufacturers). They don’t use hardware store heim joints like so many others out there. Those start out great and in short order tend to get very noisy as they are exposed to the elements, and accumulate dirt, sand, moisture, salt, etc. These endinks are different. They offer the articulation (ability for the endlink head to rotate, thus keeping the swaybar in the correct position), but are fully sealed. Never will require any maintenance – no grease, no cleaning, nothing!