Thursday, December 14, 2017
DriveWerks

[Project Miata] Roadster Wrap-Up

It was only a matter of time before we officially ran out of things to do to our little Mazda. While it’s been a short ride with the Miata, we’ve learned a great deal about living with one.

Up until recently, I had never really driven a Miata, nor had I worked on one. It had always been a curiosity that I never crossed paths with until Milton bought one out of impulse. To be fair, the supercharger made life a lot easier as no engine work was really required on our part. That being said, there were still a handful of upgrades we were able to make to the little roadster.

Well Rounded

Working on the Mazda was by far one of the more pleasant experiences I’ve had. Everything is easy to access, and the 12mm and 14mm sockets can tackle a lot of jobs on their own. A lot of this can be attributed to the less-is-more philosophy of the car, but the engineers must have done something extra special to create such a cult following. Not once did I have trouble finding an aftermarket solution to anything we felt the need to change. From suspension, to interior trim, to engine conversions, somebody somewhere has Miata owners covered.

Whether you’re into modifying cars or not, the Miata claims to be one of the most fun cars to drive. With our particular example, we were able to test the handling in both stock and modified form. For daily driving, a good set of shocks are more than adequate, as long as you’re ok with the stock ride height. Installing the bracing, coilovers, and wider wheels were fun projects, but the majority of their benefit was only utilized during seriously aggressive driving. On a day to day basis, our chassis tweaks were probably overkill. That just goes to show how well these cars handle in stock form.

Revitalizing the interior seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was an expensive affair that yielded minimal results the more I look at it. To be fair, the Miata interior is pretty basic, so there’s only so much you can do without redesigning the dash. Oh well, I suppose it’s all in the name of saving weight.

Reflection Time

As Milton and I went back and forth about whether this Miata was a smart decision, we came to a few conclusions. The NA generation car is the best at being a Miata, because it’s the original design intention, whereas later cars either gained a bit of weight (NB, more so the NC), or lost some of its raw feeling (AKA electric power steering in the ND). A key point we discussed was how the supercharger may have spoiled driving future Miatas. It reasonably makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 160-175 horsepower, and still felt like the car could have used a bit more oomph. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of small cars that you have to rev the snot out of, but the power of a stock NA Miata is about as menacing as a pet goldfish.

The other issue with the Miata we both agreed on is the car might be too small for today’s traffic. If the lady in her 5600lb suburban decides she wants to take a selfie and post it on YOLO-gram while swerving into your lane, the 2200lb roadster is going to be squashed like a bug.

I think if we were to do another Miata, I’d cast my vote for a 2004-05 Mazdaspeed MX-5 with the factory turbo, whereas Milton is gung-ho for the NC Club edition. Then again one guy likes tinkering with things, while the other guy likes his car to fire up every morning so he can start his day off right with Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu…

Fun but What’s Next?

Does that mean buying and modding the Miata was a waste of time? No way, Jose. For an amateur club racer, the Mi-azda still has to be the best bang for buck because consumables are so cheap and reliability is strong. This correlates to more seat time to hone your skills as a driver. I also feel the Miata is a great platform to learn about automobile mechanics in general since the car is so simple and user friendly. Whoever gets this car next will have a crackin’ package right out of the box. However, that’s also why the love affair with the Miata has dwindled.

It’s a sweet little car with strong reliability, but it simply doesn’t have the it factor we were hoping for. It’s too predictable, and you know it will work the first time. The only real flaw we could find is getting in and out of the car should you happen to be on the tall side of life. Where’s the fun if there’s no possibility of the train derailing at any moment into a blazing inferno? Time for something a little more exciting.

The urge for some serious power can’t be ignored. There’s been talk of an e46 M3 (yawn), or possibly a 240sx with some sort of swap, yet I’m still hopeful for a lopey cam and four angry tail lights. Some say it could be quite Z-OH-SIK. Whatever the Miltyman chooses to buy next, rest assured it’ll be questionable and break some hearts along the way. Did I mention our Premier AAA membership allows up to 200 miles of free towing?

-JC

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