First off, let’s review:

Left, back, bottom, top, right, all pretty much done (or hand-waved over).

That just leaves the front, which is…all the accessories (power steering, alternator, water pump/cooling/radiator), and some of the nitty-gritty on what an engine even does (how it’s able to explode at a certain TIMING that turns said explosions into movement instead of expensive holes (see: week 1).

So I rush-ordered a full front-component replacement kit from a local Miata specialist, and as soon as it arrived, burned the midnight oil to get it all torn down and reinstalled.

Timing belt/water pump, exposed (naughty, naughty):

At which point it’s just a matter of “replace/upgrade everything you took apart with the new bits, and for the love of all that’s holy don’t mess up the timing.

Luckily, there are tools for this, and guides, and YouTube, and very patient friends. And they’re very exact and specific, so after much measuring twice, it DID all get put back together.

Reinstall the radiator, hook up all the piping, call a friend over and finish up installing all the mismatched 1.6L->1.8L conversion parts, and within 24 hours we were able to go from the “front” looking like the above picture, to looking like the following.

If your thought is “that escalated quickly” - you’d be right! Not shown is installing the exhaust (bit annoying but again, been there, done that, got the t-shirt) and airbox (same) on the “right” side. Comparative to installing a whole new freakin engine, easy-mode.

Some more experimentation, tweaking, wailing and gnashing of teeth, and we DID successfully get it to fire up, complete with a concrete list of “this still needs fixing”.

Today, less than one month later, I drove it out for a pleasure drive and gas-up.