ZOOM-ZOOM, Here It Cummins! The Diesel Drift Mazda Miata
Evil things come in small packages, and that’s why we love this Cummins-powered drift Mazda Miata by Pistonhead Productions. Hair dressers beware, the “Soot Salon” — as they cleverly nicknamed it — is guaranteed to leave soot in your hair for days and a sinister smile on your face for weeks.
Pistonhead Productions started as a YouTube channel for automotive DIYers founded by Clayton Mannerow, starring Jacob Gettins and Garret Mannerow. It has since turned into a crew of Canadian gearheads known for building awesome and wild rides out of their garage. They’ve built a 630-whp Toyota Supra and a 2JZ Nissan Skyline R34 that they drove across Canada — but this might be their craziest build yet!
The Mazda MX-5 Miata is beloved amongst many weekend warriors; it’s lightweight, rear-wheel-drive and has excellent handling. On the other hand, it’s got a reputation for being slower than maple syrup. Far from fast, at stock it barely pushes out 116 hp. To improve on that, the MX-5 chassis has seen its share of swaps from various Honda engines to V8 powerplants, but the crazy minds at Pistonhead Productions found a way to fit a diesel-powered, turbocharged Cummins 4BT engine into the MX-5’s dainty engine bay.
For this build, a ’96 3.9L Cummins 4BT was sourced, owing to its reliability and aftermarket support. Northern Upfitters, title sponsor of the build, was on hand to lead the engine build and assist in turning the power up to 400 hp. To make sure they got the most power out of their drift machine, they installed a Nitrous Express diesel stacker 175 dry shot for that extra boost.
Getting the massive engine to fit, hooked up and running wasn’t the only challenge; the crew still had to find a way to correct the Miata’s 50/50 weight distribution that they obliterated as soon as they chose the Cummins engine. To get an idea of what they had to deal with, the 3.9L Cummins 4BT weighs more than three times heavier than the standard 1.6L 16-valve DOHC B6 Miata engine.
To help with the balancing act, they mounted the engine as far back on the subframe as possible. They skillfully rerouted different components as far back to the rear as possible, such as the fuel cells and a trunk-mounted radiator system. After some trial, error and a few curse words, everything was all in place, but the added weight meant the need for stronger supports.
This is where they turned to Eibach Suspension racing springs with a spring rate of 12,000 lb-in and 700 lb-in in the front and rear, respectively. The final piece of the puzzle was sourcing a ’99 Ford F-250 Super Duty ZF5 transmission, EXEDY stage 2 Ford Mustang clutch, fabricated a custom driveshaft and finished with a Ford 8.8-inch rear differential to complete the mash-up build. All of these parts were carefully selected for their availability and compatibility to both the Cummins engine and the MX-5 chassis.
Throwing a Cummins engine into a Miata wasn’t merely a project to flex their automotive ingenuity; it’s motivated as a charity build. Pistonhead Productions wanted to inspire a new generation of automotive enthusiasts by raising money. The challenge? Finishing the build within 48 hours. Through crowdfunding, they were able to accomplish their goal, with more than $4,000 extra to donate to the automotive shop program at the local high school.
It’s not every day you can see a Miata going sideways, spewing out both tire smoke and diesel smoke at the same time. Catch the little tire-slayer with a giant engine as it tours North America competing at various drift events before getting raffled off to one lucky winner.
"This build is more than the sum of its parts," says Jacob Gettins. "It is the combination of team, community and a lifestyle coming together to build something that will help the next generation of car nuts."
1990 Mazda Miata
|3.9L Cummins 4BT by Northern Upfitters; Nitrous Express diesel stacker 175 hp
|Ford ZF5 transmission; Ford 8.8-inch rear differential; custom driveshaft; EXEDY stage 2 Ford Mustang clutch; V8 Roadsters drive axles; Vibrant Performance intercooler, couplers, custom expansion tank, fitting and hoses; Mishimoto Toyota MR2 radiator and 12-inch fan
|Eibach springs and sway bars; Ground Control sleeves; Koni struts; Drift Knuckle high-angle knuckle kit; Cobalt strut-tower brace; R Theory Motorsports adjustable endlinks; modified LS1 V8 Roadsters engine cradle kit
|EBC Green pads; DBA slotted rotors; custom caliper hubs
|Fast Wheels Royal 15x8.0 +0
|Corbeau Forza seats, seat sliders and five-point harness; Auto Meter gauges; Chrome 2 Envy six-point rollcage
(Photos: Nathan Vestal and Nicholas Delplavignano)