Since I've last seen or driven the Miata. It's been sitting at a Mazda dealership for over 30 days and yet they can't seem to solve the car's crippling problem.
Dad purchased the car as a gift to me around the first week of January from a used car stealership in North Carolina called Cambria Cars (fuck you, dealer-guy). The NB is a 2002 LS with a 5-speed, tan interior and top, factory Bose sound system upgrade, 16" 5-spoke wheels, and 56-ish thousand miles for about 8.3k$. It had a few scratches in its silver paint, the wheels were showing signs of metal cancer, and the clutch had a small slip in it but otherwise it ran fine for the 30-minutes we drove it. It was involved in a front-end accident but wasn't written off and repaired (we couldn't tell to be honest, likely just a broken bumper). We figured we'd try buying a low-mile NB that was apparently in good condition instead of a cheap NA that needed work.
Around Spring-time, I drove myself and pops down to Savanna, GA to pick up a rare emerald green mica hardtop for 1k$. We drove about 3.5-4 hours each way but during the last 30 minutes on the way back, the Miata began acting up. It began to hesitate when I tried to accelerate it but it could hold a constant speed so we limped it back home. A few hours later we fired it up and it drove fine. My dad replaced the MAF with an OEM part to see if it solved the problem, along with a routine maintenance done at the local Mazda dealership that changed the fluids and installed a new fuel filter. Dad and I ground the wheels down to the surface and repainted them black, along with a Miata windshield sticker.
In late-spring/early Summer, I was at an autocross in Charleston with the NB. During the autocross I was driving it with about 1/4 gas left in the tank when the car seemingly "died" after going through a long and twist sweeping turn but after a second the engine caught itself and continued on. It happened three more times at the same turn so dad filled the tank and the Miata ran okay once more. It happened again early Summer during my "Autocrossing with Ender" story, the problem appeared under the same scenario and was temporarily fixed after refilling the tank.
After that pops and I agreed to take the Miata to a well-known and trusted Miata shop in Columbia, Panic Motorsports (sorry if I shouldn't mention them but they did their job fine). They charged about 750$ to replace the pump with a test and approved used pump from a front-wrecked NB, install a new aftermarket clutch, install a new shift boot, replace the worn-out slave cylinder with a new one, and cleaned out the fuel tank and replaced the fuel filter. Dad got a quote of $770 from a local shop just to change the pump. Apparently the car sat so long at previous dealerships that a layer of muck had formed on the bottom of the tank and rusted the fuel pump. Why didn't the Mazda dealership notice the clogged fuel filter or tell us about it when they did the maintenance? We thought our worries were over.
During mid-Summer, the worst happened. After a hot day of autocrossing in Darlington, the Miata began to hesitate on the way back home right after the event. However, pops and I were further away from home so we endured what felt like the longest drive ever. Once we got off the highway and onto two-lane country roads, the Miata began to lose power until we were forced to limp it home in 2nd gear and the engine barely holding 2k rpm. After a few hours to let it cool off, it ran like normal.
We took it straight back to the shop that worked on it and they did everything but throw the kitchen sink at it when they successfully replicated the issue. They checked every relay, re-cleaned the tank, changed the fuel filter, changed every sensor in the engine, checked every sensor not related to the engine, cleaned the injectors, replaced the spark plug wires, changed the ECU with the shop-owner's own NB, and yet they were stumped. They didn't charge a dime since they couldn't fix the problem but I appreciated their effort. After that dad finally took it into the dealership early July to see if Mazda could fix it.
By the way, the car NEVER threw a CEL whenever it acted up.
A little under two months ago:
The dealership tried to fix it but couldn't replicate the problem, they replaced the fuel filter for free, and so they told us to bring it back the very second it acts up. I drove it home, sat in the house for few minutes to find directions to a hobby store in Columbia, and fired it back up. I drove it for half an hour on the highway to Columbia before it acted up, and this time it was worse. I was happily rowing through the gears after a stoplight when I went for fifth, I engaged the gear and released the clutch correctly only to have the gas pedal go limp and engine drop revs. I pumped the gas pedal but the engine just continued to lose momentum. I had to quickly pull over and get the car turned around back to the dealership. I fought it all the way, the gas pedal worked okay if I held it steady or accelerated but if I let off to shift, the pedal would go limp again. I had to push the clutch in again, rev the engine (with the pedal only responding at certain angles), and release it in hopes the engine would catch itself and accelerate again.
At the dealership, I kept the car running and told the service manager to get behind the wheel and drive it while I sat shotgun. Even he could tell that it was acting up badly after driving it for less than half a mile, quickly bringing it back to the dealership. At least they were able to give me a free ride home in an employee's car.
I come back a week later, the last week of July, to pick it after Mazda reprogramed the ECU for free and told my dad and me to bring it back again if it acted up. I fired it up the next morning, trying once again to reach that hobby store when I noticed something was up. The engine almost stalled while starting up, then rev'd to 2k for about half a second before settling into a normal warm-start idle. I drove it less than a quarter mile before the unresponsive pedal came back and b-line'd it for the dealership.
Since then I haven't seen the Miata and according to my dad, who stops by every week to check for any progress, the Mazda dealership is still stumped at what could be causing the problem. They won't try replacing and testing new parts since it means we'd have to pay for whatever's installed, even if it doesn't fix the car. They said they'd call for a Master Technician to come in and look at the car but my father called someone higher-up in the corporate Mazda structure to find out they haven't been contacted by the dealership for help. My pops gave them the vin and got them on the dealership's case. The last I've heard from my pops was that he talked to the dealer service manager who seemed slightly disappointed that the higher-ups had gotten involved now.
It's been a sunny August and September month and I haven't been able to enjoy a single day of it with the Miata. I feel sorry for my dad who's put so much effort, time, and love to give his son the chance to have fun driving a stick-shift car, only for the car to become a money and time-sucking lemon. I am grateful for every minute that car was around, whether it be at an autocross getting podiums, in the garage getting cleaned, or cruising the roads, because I was lucky to be allowed to enjoy a car as a gift from him.
TL;DR: Don't buy a used car from a stealership without giving it a very thorough drive and look-over. Don't buy a car that's been sitting for a long time and expect it to run trouble-free. It just might be better to buy a cheaper car that you know needs work rather than a pricey-er car with low-miles and hidden issues. Finally, if your car was a gift from your parents, then don't forget to think about them every time you see and get in it.