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!

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