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The Miata at Chimney Rock Winery, Napa

A Big Hurdle – Buying Panza – Changing the timing belt

A major hurdle lay on our road to the ends of the world. Neither of us had even changed oil in a car! Chris (the racer) suggested that we buy a Miata and get our hands greasy. A Miata would be easier to work on than a big truck; used ones are easily available; there’s major help in the form of Miata.net and besides, they are cute!.

So off we trotted to Concord to buy meet Larry, who sold us our black Miata. We named it Panza, after Sancho Panza, Quixote’s loyal squire. (Our FJ Cruiser is called Quixote).

Timing Belt Change

There was a slight problem. Our Miata, with 115,000 miles, was in immaculate condition. The only thing that needed to be done was to change the timing belt. Not for the faint hearted. Maybe for the foolish(?)So, armed with City College of San Francisco’s excellent (and FREE) Basic Auto Maintenance program, a toolkit from Sears and a space in a do-it-yourself-car repairs garage in Hunter’s Point, we tackled our first job. We learned things like ratchet wrenches and breaker bars, 12 point and 6 point sockets, English and metric tools. Poor Miata was up on jacks for 3 weekends. Three and a half full days of work later, we fired Panza up. Lo and behold, up it started after an initial clickety clack of cams. Timing Belt has been running great since.

While we were at it – we changed the accessory belts, water pump, thermostat, idler and tensioner pulleys, cam shaft and crank shaft seals and radiator. Panza and Quixote got regular showers and details. We learned how to operate lifts. We found a wonderful Southern place for lunch. Potrero Hill and Chez Papa’s was 5 mins away. And finally, sadly, the car garage closed as the owner got tired of losing money. We’ve been looking for an alternative space ever since.

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