The top mount intercooler (TMIC) setup on the Mazdaspeed 3 is a good compromise between price and function. TMIC’s are usually cheaper in price than their front mount intercooler cousins (FMIC), and with only two coupler connections chances for leaks are diminished with benefit of the cooler air has a shorter path to the intake. It also gives a reason for manufacturers to install functional scoops on the hood, because race car. At stock power levels, the TMIC is up to the task, however crank up the boost and that is not so.
Heat Soak And Front Mount Intercoolers
At levels higher than stock boost (>16lbs.) and the TMIC struggles to keep up. It’s placement is both a gift and a curse, sitting on the top of the engine with a scoop directing air to it allows it access to cooler air coming over the hood. Also, sitting what is basically an aluminum heat sink on top of a hot running engine will eventually lead to what is known as heat soak. Hot air rises, guess what is directly in its path? Sit in traffic for any length of time with an Accessport and log your IAT (Intake Air Temperature). While in motion, IAT should be a couple of degrees above ambient. When the TMIC gets heat soaked, it requires a bit of time for the incoming to begin to cool off the now heated intercooler, which means that your engine is ingesting hot air, which can’t be saturated with fuel like cooler, more dense air. The ECU begins to cut timing, resulting in your turbo working harder, and a loss in performance. Enter the FMIC. Since the cooler itself is located in the front of the car, it is less susceptible to the heat soak that plagues the TMIC in higher output scenarios. Even if the FMIC experiences some form of heat soak, once the car is in motion, it allows the unit to cool faster, since it is not sitting directly over the engine. Also, let’s be honest, nothing screams race car like a big ol’ intercooler stuffed into the lower grille opening!
Upgrades for the Mazdaspeed 3
Adding a front mount intercooler to your Mazdaspeed 3 is a process (matter of fact, I even made a video about it, shameless plug) requiring removal of the front bumper. Adding the intercooler down in front also presents a new problem. Airflow restrictions. The stock Mazdaspeed 3 smile grille does have openings, but when you place an intercooler down in front, you want as much open area as possible. With the intercooler now occupying space, airflow over the AC condenser as well as the radiator is reduced. The openings in the stock smile grille are not adequate, but there is a solution.
The Bayson R Motorsports Solution
After searching around for options, I settled on the GV style grille from Bayson R Motorsports. For $259.99 you receive a new black grille frame, a sheet of wireframe mesh, and a bag of screws and washers. The grille requires a bit of construction before it is ready to be installed. There are no instructions, but what needs to be done is fairly straightforward, and can be accomplished with hand tools. Since I was adding a front mount intercooler, I decided to add one of these to my own car. I decided to document the process here instead of in video form, as I can add more context this way. So follow along!
Getting started, removing the items from the box you are going to notice that the wire mesh is not large enough to cover the open areas of the grille. Don’t panic, it just means that there is a bit of creative engineering that is required. Flip the grille over onto a surface with the interior facing up towards you. Lay the mesh over middle grille opening, centering it.
The interior of the grille frame has pilot holes (or what looks like pilot holes) where you are to place the screws and washers that hold the mesh to the frame. With the grille centered, place one screw in the exact middle of the frame, and the other directly opposite of it to hold the mesh in place while you trim it to fit. You can use hand tools to trim the mesh, tin snips work fine, a Dremel does as well (I actually used that later on). When you cut the wire mesh, try to stick close to the edges of the opening, if done properly you should have two almost triangular pieces that will be more than enough material to cover the smaller openings.
Once the main grille opening has been cut out, it is time to start securing it to the frame. Included in the kit is a bag of self tapping screws and washers, use those to attach the mesh to the frame. I began the process by alternating attach points, if I attached one on the top, the next screw was placed directly opposite of the one I just finished, in a criss cross pattern until all the mounting points are secured. I found it was easier to keep the mesh centered this way and everything stayed lined up just the way I had trimmed it.
Continue the process all the way around until the mesh is secured. There will be excess mesh on the top and bottom that will have to be trimmed. I used a Dremel with a cutoff wheel for this step (the Dremel makes it so much easier than using the tin snips), make sure to not cut through your washer or the grille itself! Once that is done, repeat the same steps for the two smaller grille openings using the triangular pieces left over from trimming the main opening. Secure the mesh with the rest of the screws/washers and then trim off the excess mesh. Once that is done, the construction phase is over!
Mazdaspeed 3 Grille Removal
Now that the replacement is constructed, it is time to remove the stock grille from the bumper. There are 6 plastic clips that you need to remove from the top and side of the bumper before you get started. Have something nearby that you can place the clips and screws in, there is going to be a lot of them.
There are 2 grey plastic clips that are holding on the foam support to the back of the grille, remove those and the foam can be lifted straight off. With the new configuration, this foam will not be reused, set it off to the side. Once that is done, grab a phillips head screwdriver, because every screw you see is going to have to come out. I used my drill to save time and my wrist.
As the screws come out, you can begin removing the various sections of plastic from the grille. As you get up near where the Mazda badge is located, there is a screw with a plastic tab that is wrapped around the grille. It is body colored, you will need to remove that screw to remove the grille from the bumper. Double check that you have removed all screws and plastic push pins from the grille and then you can begin gently pushing the tabs so that the grille comes free. Work your way around slowly, you do not want to snap any of those grille retaining tabs. It will eventually pop free.
There are going to be 3 pieces of the stock grille plastic you will retain to use with the new grille. The upper piece that is directly behind the Mazda badge (and what plastic push pins goes into), the piece that connects to that, and the smaller lower “lip” that sits the bottom of the bumper, in the center. Once you have these pieces ready you can begin to install the Bayson R grille.
Bayson R Grille Installation
With the stock grille removed, installation of the new one is easy. Line up the tabs on the grille with the slots on the Bayson R grille and press them into place until they “click”. On the top of the grille, there will be two small locator tabs on the bumper you will need to remove, they can be easy trimmed with a set of snips, and that will allow the grille to sit properly in the bumper.
Now that the grille is in place it is time to reinstall the plastic support pieces. The upper piece directly behind the Mazda badge will screw back into place. Make sure to pop the pushtabs back into their holes on the top of the bumper. Add the second piece, it will screw into the first piece with two screws. On the bottom, there are two holes that originally attached to the stock grille. Zip-tie these together to prevent any rattles later on. Double check and make sure to secure any loose panels with screws or zip-ties. The bottom center piece is secured by two clips and two screws on the end. Do one final check to make sure all clips are secure and everything is tightened down and zip-tied and you are done!
The End Result
Follow the steps and you should end up with something resembling the picture above! The project itself is not too hard. I was able to do everything needed with simple hand tools, the key to the process is to take your time. When it comes to trimming the mesh, measure thrice and cut once (I know it is measure twice and cut once, but it never hurts to be thourough. Especially since you have one shot to get it right). If you have access to a Dremel, I highly recommend that for the trimming phase (it makes cutting a straight line much easier), remember to wear your safety goggles.
With the new grille, the crash bar is going to be exposed from the front. My car is Celestial Blue (the best color btw) so my crash bar is the same color, but I didn’t want that to show, so I painted it with VHT Chassis Black epoxy paint.
I recommend painting the crash bar to give a more uniform look to the front of the car. I can’t wait to finish my FMIC installation so I can see how it all looks together!
Bayson R Motorsports GV Style Mazdaspeed 3 Grille https://baysonr.com/collections/mazda/products/10-13-mazdaspeed-3-gv-style-front-grill-polyurethane
VHT Epoxy Paint https://www.vhtpaint.com/specialty/vht-epoxy-all-weather-paint