Miata ownership means bargain hunting. There’s no avoiding it. If you’re like us, then searching for deals on parts is the norm. As luck would have it, a local ad for coilovers meant the Montego Madness was getting a suspension upgrade.
Since our project Miata was modified by the previous owner, we’ve been trying to pinpoint what exactly had been changed on the car. The obvious additions being the supercharger and roll bar, but we’ve been discovering new things after every project.
While the original for sale ad stated the car had lowering springs, I was skeptical because the car sat rather high. The only thing I could confirm was the set of KYB shocks due to their bright red paint. For what they were, the KYB’s rode acceptably, but Milton wanted a lower ride height, so these weren’t going to be up to the task.
Thanks to a guy named Craig Newmark and small website he started, a set of Tein Super Street coilovers were in our future. After handing over some cash to the guy selling them, they were in the trunk of the e36 on the way home (not before eating a meal of tacos and fajitas though). The cool thing about the Teins is that not only are they ride height adjustable, but also dampening adjustable. This is great for us because we can tweak the shocks to give a sporty ride on the street without being bone jarring. Tein rates the front springs at 392 lbs, and 336 lbs for the rear end. The coilovers we purchased were also intended for a 2nd generation NB Miata, so the top mounts are the updated style that allow for more shock travel. Once again, a win for us.
By the time Friday rolled around, it was time to get the ball rolling on the install. The angry mechanic was left to his own devices to figure out how to install the suspension. Having never worked on a Miata’s suspension, it took me a solid hour to figure out how to remove the front shocks. I ultimately used the “long bolt” method, which allows you to move the upper control arm out of the way by undoing its mounting bolt, in turn allowing enough room to remove the shock. Once I got my technique down to a science, removal and replacement of the other side was only a 20 minute operation.
The rear coilover install was far less troublesome. Undo the lower shock bolt, undo the sway bar end link, and the only thing holding the rear shock into place are two nuts on each side of the trunk. As a side note, the driver’s side top mount nuts are fiddly to get to because the fuel filler hose is in the way, but nothing careful maneuvering of the ratchet won’t solve.
Before getting everything buttoned up, I double checked the ride height adjusters to make sure they were even. These were previously mounted on an NB Miata, so in a sense they were set pretty close to our needs already. Lowering the car off the jack stands was both exciting and frustrating. The rear came down without a hitch. The front end was another story. Being optimistic, I placed the jack on the front subframe. Once the car was being dropped on the ground, it was too late as I had pinched the jack under the new front lip spoiler. After a bit (ok…a lot) of struggling and name calling, the jack was freed from under the car. The ride height was about an inch lower than before and things were looking good.
The Tame Racing Driver
The next day I had to repair the wiring to the 3rd brake light. I swung by Willum’s where the tools of destruction are kept. Once we sorted the wiring, we putted around in the car to judge the new suspension. We both enjoyed it, but didn’t push the car too hard because of the cold weather and R-compound tires. Then Uncle George wanted to have a go.
As the expert of obscure lightweight automobiles (or most anything for that matter), George-i-pedia took a profound interest in the Miata. After giving the car a once-over, George wanted to confirm that the supercharger was in fact legal for that year of Miata. A thorough check of the CARB website informed us that we were “officially” ok to keep driving the car that had already been smogged and tagged.
For the longest time, George was convinced he couldn’t drive a Miata because he was too tall. The NA Miata disproved that theory once he slipped behind the new Momo steering wheel.
A brief warm up lap around the block was all George needed before whipping the little car around some tight backstreets. I had never really pushed the Miata too hard for fear of the 195 tires calling it quits in the middle of a corner. Boy was I wrong. The tiny roadster handled with go-kart precision. I’m glad I didn’t slam the car or crank up the dampening knobs too high, because the car utilized every bit of its suspension travel by the time the Ferris Bueller joyride was over. Funny enough, Milton also commented that the gas tank was reading a little low by the time he got the car back…
Overall I think the suspension made a nice improvement over the previously installed shocks. Without a doubt there are better suspensions, but $400 for a bolt in setup is hard to argue with. What takes the cake is that I was able to sell the KYB shocks for $150 on Craigslist the next morning. So the net cost was really $250 for the coils and a few hours’ time. A week later Miltyman ordered new S.Drive tires and got the car aligned. For a street setup, the car is nicely balanced. The ride is simultaneously firm and compliant. I’m starting to see the appeal of the Miata as an everyday fun car (Shhh, don’t tell Will!). With a few more modifications, it may be time to pit the little-roadster-that-could against one of the Bavarian shoe boxes in a head to head match. This also means it may be time for Angry Joe to get “Little Red” ready for action.
Tein no longer produces the Super Street coilovers. The comparable setup currently available seems to be the Street Advance line as seen HERE.