Balto's origin story as I remember it:
I'd been thinking about a snowgo-powered Lemons car for a while, so I sent my brother $1000 and a request for triple that didn't suck. A few weeks later I get back $1000 and a built-and-running-but-otherwise-a-mystery Polaris 600 mill complete with clutches, triple pipes, jack-shaft, chain-case (which we didn't use), and other hyphenated items.
He'd bought a complete sled locally (Idaho) and parted the thing out. He apparently made pretty good money on it. My folks brought everything back in the bins under their RV during one of their retired-persons' road trips. Unfortunately Chris didn't come through completely on the "doesn't suck" part. The engine has a reputation for twisted cranks and is only rated at 92hp. Shrug.
I mentioned to John that I had this pink engine laying around. He expressed interest.
I was thinking Le Car or something, but a few months later, at the Lemons HQ party I think, John re-expressed interest and said that he had this body-wrecked Miata that he'd already written down beyond zero. Now, I was really sick and he was totally hammered, so you wouldn't think the plan would stick, but somehow my father and I wound up in West Sacramento at the end of January for four days of stupid engine swappage, the first of quite a few.
We ended up playing the "how light can we make a Miata" game, which is kind of fun. It is sort of weird how heavily the cars are built, actually. None of it is in the body, either. Stupid convertibles. The de-weightification was helped immensely by the replacement of 550 pounds of Mazda drivetrain, exhaust, plumbing, and wiring by 88 pounds of Poo. I mean, you can pick the entire engine and "transmission" up by yourself and walk it around.
It was a pretty easy swap, really. The drivetrain is very simple. The motor mount brackets and stuff are hacked together out of scrap steel and we built a simple tool to ensure the clutch center-to-center distance was right.
The black body parts are takeoffs that came out of my junk pile, and we got the Polaris bits to talk to the Miata bits by cutting down the jack-shaft and a ruined Miata output shaft and welding the suckers together. The front bearing is the stock Poo clutch-end jack-shaft bearing, the intermediate bearing came on the output shaft, and I bought a big sucker to support the Miata driveshaft snout. Sorta worked. We did burn up the intermediate bearing. It sort of welded itself to the shaft, but it turns out stuff works just fine without it. I think we will be adding some compliance to the rear bearing mount in the future.
Anyway, after two months of long weekends, the car made a couple of passes up and down Rice Avenue and into the trailer bound for Sears Point, and the rest is just a miracle.
I'm ecstatic that the car ran at all, much less finished. It is also a joy to drive. A bit strange, but in a good way. All the drivers got at least one stint in the wet and at least one in the dry.
Regular Miatas make drivers into heroes. What we have built is a machine that turns men into gods. Any line, any time. The outside passes in turns one and six are the stuff that giggles are made of. We were running around 600rpm shy of the supposed torque peak, so we were a bit down on power. Our top-end speed is also a bit limited, but it is race-able. It would have been nice to have windshield wipers on Saturday, but I guess you can't have it all.
We couldn't have done it without help from Dave, Fish, Wayne, Lisa, Clint, and my aforementioned father, all of whom contributed labor, fab skillz, and blood to the build. Turns out that Balto bites. John's guys Hank, Darren, and Crawford did a wicked job on the cage. It is a work of art. They also put up with random idiots wandering around their workplace asking to borrow the tools they use to make a living, which is pretty cool of them.
There are more details if people want to know them, including insight into the black mysteries of centrifugal clutch tuning, but right now I'm headed for the pub.