Towing your 124 Spider behind a motorhome

towing behind motorhome1

ND being towed on a Futura 13′ single-axle lowering trailer

A blog reader asked me to provide some answers to the title question, and not knowing if this subject has ever been covered before, I decided to start my search at various ND Miata forums, and write an article for discussion.   Since our platform is RWD, towing with the front wheels on a dolly, or with a tow bar and all four wheels on the ground (aka flat towed, or 4-down), is generally forbidden.

Manual Transmission

Since the 6-speed manual transmission in the ND has no synchronizer on the countershaft, unlike the previous generation 6-speed manual transmission (NC) which does have one, there is nothing on the rotating output shaft to slosh oil about, so there will not be sufficient lubrication of the internals, as the vehicle is being towed with the rear wheels on the ground, and premature failure would be inevitable.

I have however, seen some discussion that there is evidence that the NC 6-speed manual transmission did indeed, lubricate the internals while being flat-towed (or, alternatively, with the front wheels on a dolly), because of a synchronizer on the countershaft that is continuously rotating in the gear oil residing in the bottom of the transmission, throwing oil on the main shaft and tail bushing.  As an example, healeyman discusses his flat tow setup here.  He also has instructions for removing the steering wheel lock on a NC, as well as instructions for fitting a Roadmaster baseplate and brackets on a NC, and my guess is that the ND is very similar (at least regarding the steering wheel lock).

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healeyman has “flat towed a 2012 NC Retractable over 30,000 miles”

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That is good news, since although the housings differ slightly to accommodate the respective engines, Fiat made the wise decision to use the tougher NC-era manual transmission internals in our 124 Spiders, so there is a good possibility (requires further research) that we might be able to “flat tow” the car with a tow bar, even though officially, Fiat maintains that this is NOT an accepted practice.

Automatic Transmission

There is no chance of towing these vehicles with the rear wheels on the ground, if they have an automatic transmission, which leads to the next question:

How can these cars be towed?

One possibility is to pull the vehicle on a dolly, with the rear wheels on deck, and the steering wheel lock disabled.

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Another option is an open or enclosed car-hauler trailer, which tend to be quite large, heavy and involve cumbersome ramps.

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aha4aiconI was pleasantly surprised to discover that Futura makes a single-axle version of their lowering trailer, which seems to be custom-made for our light vehicles, since it has a 2,620 pound load capacity (see the first photo at the beginning of the article).  The trailer can be operated (lowered/raised) via remote control, which is probably necessitated by the fact that you can’t open the car door while the trailer is in the lowered ramp position.  A video on their website implies that, most RV parks will agree that, since no ramps are required, this particular trailer will usually fit in the allocated parking spot, and not be considered a third on-site vehicle, as long as you agree to park your car on it, when returning to your site.

Since it is less than 18′ long, you should be able to park the trailered car in your garage, and yet, retain the ability to drive on and off of it in-place!

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Futura single-axle trailer shown lowered with optional tire rack and stone guard

 

 

Addition of a screen to the HVAC inlet

HVAC inlet grille

What is labelled as a side cowl grille, is in reality, a bezel desperately in need of a metal screen mesh to keep critters, leaves, twigs, etc. from finding their way into the cabin air blower fan, unless you are quite confident that your car is kept in a clean, critter-free garage, when not being driven.  I doubt that the one integral strip of plastic serves as a beneficial barrier against anything other than perhaps your fingers.

Goaterguy was probably quite surprised to find a mouse nest in his, and added a metal mesh screen to prevent that from ever happening again (they chew through plastic, so don’t go through all the work of adding a screen made of plastic).  I know from experience in a camping trailer, that the urine smell never goes away, but hopefully his mice that spent the winter left the nest (and vehicle) for that activity.

HVAC inlet no-grille

photo courtesy of Goaterguy

And since the air-flow needs to be unrestricted, I would suggest also avoiding the installation of any “filter” meshes, like window screen,  as it will clog with dirt just like the air filters for your engine and furnace, and become another maintenance task (will need to be checked and cleaned periodically – not ideal).

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The convertible I had prior to my 124 Spider

dune_buggy_crop

In case anybody might be interested in another fun car that I had prior to my 124 Spider (from 2004 to 2014), I’ve duplicated a somewhat hidden page that I’ve had on my blog for some time (4 years; based on an article I wrote 16 years ago, back when I owned the domain hunterdunebuggy.com), but apparently because it is now a stand-alone wordpress.com web page, rather than a blog post, I’ve never been able to add the tags that Google needs for it’s search engines, so although the vehicle is pretty obscure, this article may outperform that page (get a few more hits).

Presenting my 1965 Hunter Dune Buggy, a limited-production clone of Steve McQueen’s customized version of a Meyers Manx vehicle he’d purchased from Bruce Meyers, for some of  his driving scenes in the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair.

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written by Dan Adkins

Bruce Meyers started the dune buggy industry in 1964 when he designed a fiberglass dune buggy and started producing the Meyers Manx in his tiny shed on the Balboa Peninsula outside Newport Beach.  It was a monocoque body with a Beetle engine, transmission and suspension bolted to it and Meyers hoped to sell 20 or 30 (then priced at $985) just to cover the cost of the project.  Instead, he would receive more orders than he could fill.  Soon thereafter, in order to make the buggies easier to manufacture and more affordable, he redesigned the Manx bodies to bolt onto shortened VW floor pans (with front seats, suspension, beam, wheels, transmission and engine already attached beforehand, if so desired) and when magazines like Hot Rod and Car & Driver featured the fiberglass buggies on their covers, they took the country by storm.

In 1967, after Steve McQueen won his favorite lead role as Thomas Crown in the original production of the United Artists film The Thomas Crown Affair, for which he earned $750,000, and apparently aware of how well the Manx dune buggy performed on the beach, decided he wanted to use a souped-up Manx buggy in the beach racing scenes with co-star Faye Dunaway (who bravely remained seated at his side), rather than a Jeep as the script called for.  The film was released on June 18, 1968 and it helped further boost the dune buggy industry, as all of the driving scenes and stunts were done by McQueen himself in the buggy he had customized, known as the Queen Manx (which indeed started out as a Meyers Manx kit purchased from B.F. Meyers & Co.).

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Adding reverse camera to 124 Spider Abarths (U.K.)

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I don’t know why Fiat chose not to include the reverse camera in 124 Spider Abarths sold in the U.K., but since the Infotainment System is designed to accommodate the camera, it is only a matter of adding the wiring and the camera itself, should you wish to have the popular option that Fiat fortunately included for most of the other 124 Spiders sold around the world (I’m sure the US requirement for including the cameras in all 2019+ automobiles was a major factor).

Stuart has started a blog promoting his reverse camera retrofit kit, along with instructions, which is at https://124spider.uk/reversing-camera, and asked that I share this with my readers.

Seat Lowering Rails

seat lowered

photo courtesy of james.today

Happy New Year!

The photo above in the “Seat Lowering Rails” thread on the 124Spider.org forum caught my attention, in that it appears that a good 2″ drop was accomplished on this driver’s  seat, by substituting the factory seat slider rails with new brackets from Paco Motorsports, created expressly for taller drivers needing a little more headroom (or auto-crossers needing to wear helmets 😉 ).   Although Recaro seat bottoms are said to sit a little taller than the stock seats, this could be a substantial improvement – regardless of which seats you have!  You can get a good idea of what is involved in installing these brackets, by reviewing Paco’s installation instructions here.

I remember writing an article back in 2017, that involved lowering the seat height by “meshectomy”– unfastening one side of the load-bearing seat-bottom mesh, which essentially transfers all of the seat support to the outer covering only, allowing the occupant to sit only a ½” lower.  By giving up the ability to readily adjust the position of the seat, these brackets provide a significant gain in headroom (along with a 6½ pound weight savings per seat), and seems to be a much more practical solution.  You will need your wrench to alter the position of the seat with these brackets, but it can be done.

seat rails

these photos courtesy of murix

seat with new brackets

Murix’s comments:

The good,
Feels really good, i need to test fit with my helmet but i’m sure i can fit with the top closed and pass the broomstick test. your butt is lower with your thighs higher, its alot like a fixed back racing seat, you feel “in” the car. no wiggles or rattles. feels like a sports car seat now. reminds me of the BRZ i test drove when i cross shopped these two. these rails and the 2in steering spacer makes the car feel so right. you are in the car and have a touch of recline.

The meh,
I had to remove the plastic guard to the right of the recline lever. exposes this shiny tube thing, i think it has to do with the airbags from what the plug looks like. might need to trim the plastic or paint the “tube thing” black. aesthetically unpleasing.
The second meh has to do with adjustment. all the bolts that need to be loosened and tightened are in hard to reach area where you have to use and open box wrench to twist 1/32 of a turn at a time. not impossible but if you can stay focused i’d figure at least 5 min per bolt to loosen and then 5 min minimum to tighten. not alot of room to work.

The ugly,
the bolts on the rear of the rails that bolt to the car. i would love if Paco can reply with the exact tool he recommends to tighten these. mine are half-arsed tight at the moment. you will need some sort of 14mm stubby open end wrench and alot of blue collar language. they are very hard to get started and you cannot see a darn thing.

Now Homer Simpson will fit 🙂 (art courtesy of Serge Maillet)

Serge Maillet and Bart Simpson

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) / Traction Control System (TCS)

Source: DSC MX-5

dsc

The Dynamic Stability Control system (DSC) automatically takes control of the vehicle when skidding is detected.  The system guards against skidding by optimally controlling engine output and the braking force applied to each wheel through the combined control of the 4-wheel antilock braking system (ABS) and the Traction Control System (TCS).  This helps the vehicle maintain stability even in situations such as when cornering on slippery roads or when steering suddenly to avoid hazards.

Sensors in the vehicle provide speed, steering angle, lateral-G and yaw rate data for both systems, and the performance parameters are effected by the Sport mode switch and the LSD in the Abarths.

For example, if the car understeers and tends towards the outside of a corner, engine output is controlled and braking is applied primarily to the inner front wheel according to the degree of the tendency.  As a result, a yaw moment is formed towards the inner side of the vehicle and the understeer tendency is suppressed.

Conversely, if the vehicle oversteers and tends toward the inside of a curve, braking is applied primarily to the outer front wheel according to the degree of the tendency.  As a result, a yaw moment is formed towards the outer side of the vehicle and the oversteer tendency is suppressed.

dsc can do


The two systems work in harmony, and can normally be controlled together with quick presses of the DSC button ⇓ :

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DSC operation is possible at speeds greater than 12 mph (20 km/h), and is normally ON each time the vehicle is started.  TCS is normally in standby mode, but it will activate if, for instance, you attempt to free the vehicle when it is stuck, or drive it out of freshly fallen snow.  Depressing the accelerator will not increase engine power and freeing the vehicle may be difficult.  When this happens, either deactivate both TCS/DSC (short press of the switch), or with a long press (10 seconds+), you can deactivate TCS independently of DSC.

Note that deactivation of DSC is a misnomer though, since the steering safety system remains in readiness mode, and will re-engage itself, although under more extreme parameters.

Reset DSC: Hold DSC/TCS  button 10 seconds+

 

 

Kid’s version of the 124 Spider

 

goaterguy pointed this out on the 124spider.org site, and I thought it was cool enough to do a promotional blurb on it myself.  These “toys” are available in red, white, black and blue and since MossMiata already carries the Bburago die-cast 1:24 scale versions of our cars (I’ve got the grey one), maybe they (or another of our great 124 Spider aftermarket parts vendors) could be convinced to carry this line as well 😉 😉 😉

  • I like that red accelerator pedal – I wonder if it has a hidden “sport” mode
  • There is some evidence of poor copy/paste on this site, but English probably isn’t their primary language.  (Audi listed as the brand name?  2.4G R/C with three speeds, etc.)
  • I guess they do copy everything in China, yet I think whoever designed this thing, did a pretty good job!

 

Fiat 124 Spider / Mazda MX-5 ~ Parts Compatibility Guide

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photos courtesy of Redline Auto Parts

Redline Auto Parts has recently published a very comprehensive guide covering the interchangeability of parts among our two roadster variants.  By looking at the photo above from their blog article, it becomes obvious that they actually disassembled one of each vehicle, in order to verify the cross-installation of parts for compatibility, and they they do a nice job of describing any noted issues.

Since they are keeping the document updated (as they wrap-up some verifications), rather than seeking permission to reprint, I’m sharing a link to their great ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  (5-star) article instead:

https://www.redlineautoparts.com/blog/fiat-124-spider-to-nd-miata-compatibility-interchange-guide/ 


They’ve also published a video featuring a side-by-side comparison of the two vehicles:

redline

click to watch

 

No, this Mole version is NOT the 2020 model

ORIGINAL ARTICLE TITLE: Is this what the 2020 model will look like?

2020 124 Spider

photo courtesy of Simone Bonino

Simone apparently caught a good glimpse of this Turin, Italy today, and the first thing that comes to mind – is this a sneak-peek at a 2020 model, or is it simply someone’s customized car?

Differences observed from photo:

  • Grille design with emblem mounted on it, rather than on the top fascia surface
  • no indent for emblem on fascia
  • ridge line up the middle, including hood (which also has no power bumps)
  • turn signals look different
  • white leather option, including steering wheel
  • white convertible top

What I like best, is that blue!

[UPDATE] Sorry everybody, apparently, UP Designs customized a vehicle for a client, naming it Fiat 124 Mole Costruzione Artigianale 001.   It debuted at the 2018 Turin Auto Show, and I think I can assuredly state that it will never be duplicated at the factory.  

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