Race Car Build: SSM Miata

Eric Anderson’s Super Street Modified car didn’t follow the usual formula; now his Miata is an SCCA national championship-winning car

The FD RX-7 has been the Mazda king of the Super Street Modified class in SCCA Solo competition for years. So when Eric Anderson brought his Miata prepared for the class to its first national SCCA event, he was told it didn’t have a chance – but that only made him more determined. Now, with his co-driver Randall Wilcox winning the 2017 national championship in the class and Anderson finishing with a trophy in sixth, the promise of the car has been fulfilled.

This Miata has come a long way from its humble beginnings as Anderson’s daily road car 17 years ago to a national champion autocrosser. “The car had been my daily driver for years and I did the usual street modifications to it,” Anderson, a lifelong Mazda enthusiast who drives a CX-9 on the street, explains. “I put a supercharger on it, one of the Jackson Racing superchargers, a little Eaton M45. I’d never heard of autocross, showed up to an event and the first time I did it – you hear people talk about getting addicted to something the first time you do it, that was how it was for me.”

But it was what happened a few events later that started the car’s transformation. “It was my third or fourth event, it was raining and the throttle stuck on the car. This is when Randall and I met, ironically. He was co-driving with me, I was a novice, and the throttle stuck and I drove head on into a light pole at Nashville Super Speedway. It just destroyed the car. At that point the options were to wad it up and throw it away, or turn it into a real race car. So I took it into the garage and started the work I needed to do to put the 275mm Hoosiers on it.”

Anderson is a banker from Knoxville, Tenn., but he gained much of his technical skill as a jet engine mechanic in the Air Force. His father is a gear-head who imparted much of his enthusiasm and knowledge, and lent a hand with this project as it went through many different configurations.

Currently, the car has the 1.8-liter BP4W non-vvt engine with a 1.6-liter supercharger. It’s a high-boost, high compression engine with very aggressive aftermarket camshafts, Anderson says, and a liberal amount of headwork.

“There’s been an extensive amount of tuning from the folks at DIYAutoTune that make the MegaSquirt ECUs. They’ve done all the tuning on the car and really helped tie the whole thing together. The car makes north of 400hp at the tires. Because of the high compression and the positive displacement supercharger, it’s very linear power delivery, which makes it easy to drive. We use a Quaife gearbox and we’re still using a stock Mazda Torsen differential. The control arms are from the folks at V8 Roadsters, Keisler Automation spindles, and the folks at Inertia Labs in Texas built us a set of custom AST shocks that made the car really come alive.”

Throw in carbon fiber goodness to bring the weight down, those big 275 Hoosiers, and the package has come together nicely.

“It’s ridiculous,” says Wilcox of the driving experience. “It is the fastest car that I have ever driven. It does everything so well. It’s really very difficult to put into words. The car transitions amazingly. I still find myself five years, almost six years into driving with Eric, under-driving the car. It’s hard to have the faith that the car is going to stick or do the things that you’re asking it to do based on your previous knowledge of physics.”

Anderson still has a few tricks to improve the Miata, though, such as working with Hoosier to put a wider, 23-inch-tall tire under the car. Beyond that, he’s looking at improving the balance.

“We’ve got some weight distribution projects we’re working on,” he reveals. “We’ve already done things like convert the car to electric power steering and put the power steering pump in the trunk. We’ve moved the ABS brick down low and toward the rear of the car. We’ve got some more things we’re doing to get more weight on the rear axle. We’re considering some different gearboxes on the car, going to something a little more robust that would allow us to bump the power to take advantage of the extra tire.”

If Anderson can make those improvements, it doesn’t bode well for the SSM competition. Not bad for a car that some said would never be competitive.