The car in question: 1993 Mazda Miata(NA) C-package (leather seats, LSD, extra speakers) It was Black on tan (tan top)
I bought this little gem in August of 2008 for the princely sum of $2700. I thought I needed a more reliable pizza delivery vehicle than the MkII Supra as it kept blowing coolant hoses* and a better Auto-x car. What could be better than one that had been treated, as the previous owner put it, as a track slut? I was tentative about purchasing a car with its “history” and its high mileage (168k), but the preventative maintenance (timing belt/water pump) had been recently done and more importantly to 20 year old me, it already had Ground Control coilovers and (tired) Koni Yellows and HP+ Hawk brake pads. I couldn’t get the money from my parents to get the RPF1’s that it was sitting on, but it came with the stock daisys, I’d be ok. After about a month I got new tires for it (~$200) and lifted it about a half inch to stop scraping on everything. Stupid racecar.
*The Supra kept blowing a coolant hose under the intake manifold, behind the power steering pump and above the steering shaft, mixed with a fair share of 1982 emissions equipment/ wiring and vacuum hoses, making it a REAL pain in the ass to see, much less replace. After sourcing the last factory replacement hose the Toyota North America it too quickly burst (likely installer error) then replaced with generic 1/2” coolant hose, which then burst. Fixed it again after the getting the Miata and it never burst again. *sigh*
The body got a solid...2/10. It had rocker panel rust, a large dent behind the driver door and washing the car meant washing the paint off. The top had small holes at the base, which contributed to the rocker rust. The hood had a couple dents and the driver side door required a certain...technique. After the new tires I went ahead and rattle canned the stock daisies flat black. I thought it would help hide the prodigious brake dust, but the fronts eventually just turned a dark brown. However, common tire rotations due to my roommate being a wheel hoarder and frequent “test fits” helped even them out. In October or so the remnants of a hurricane blew through during my shift and the wind had blown a panel of insulation from an apartment the median. I began to slow down knowing that the wind would blow it in front of the only traffic on the road (me). Lo and behold I was correct and I burst through that foam panel like a boss at ~20 mph. Lost my yellow (+5hp) hat though. Tragic. It damaged the left front corner a bit (as seen in top pic), not that it was pretty anyways. It was at this point that I decided that the aesthetics weren’t worth worrying about. Later in my ownership I would take my eyes off the road to change the CD and smack a mailbox (it was fine) putting a huge dent in the right fender, but only cosmetic damage(I was still embarrassed and sad for my poor car) But considering I had already removed the badges (badly) and stripped the paint off the aluminum hood, this wasn’t it’s only indignity.
Interior included a generic Kenwood aftermarket CD player to play through crappy speakers and slightly torn leather seat on the drivers seat and missing a boot for the E-brake. Also missing were the sunvisors. It receives a stellar 3/10. The passenger seat is easy to remove for hauling tires/parts and the rear parcel shelf is able to carry a free 38” CRT TV as well. People who claim that Miata’s are impractical have no imagination and/or care too much about their Miatas.
Mechanically? Let my buddy Billy Bob answer that. Aside from assorted oil changes (and a small leak “hmm valves are loud this morning, let me add a bit of oil”) I had 0 issues until about ~185k. At that point I had to change the clutch/ rear main seal (biggest oil leak) and replaced the shifter bushings while I was at it. A simple job done over a weekend. A couple of months later it developed a rather serious miss so I changed the plugs and the coil pack when it wasn’t that easy. Again, the job was stupidly simple. While I did that I went ahead and changed the valve cover gasket and the CAS seal since that is the other notorious oil leak. The CAS is a slight pain as it faces the firewall making the needed socket a tight fit. Throughout my ownership there was noplace I didn’t think that Miata could take me.
Speaking of places, the Miata is the best car for taking you to places. There was a Miata meet at the Tail of the Dragon, creatively called Miatas at the Gap. I went knowing I had to work 4 hours away on Sunday morning. The group drives were fun if a bit busy although the bikes had generally left as it was fall. The Miatas and people were great, however, the return leg made the whole trip. I had to get up at 5:30am to get to work on time and I hit passed the Crossroads of time at exactly 6:00am. There was no traffic, bike or otherwise, so I pushed just a bit. That...that was it.
It’s a common refrain that Deals Gap isn’t what it used to be thanks to it’s popularity, the policing and RV traffic etc... but I will tell you that it is the same as it ever was or it ever could have been. You just need to be EXTREMELY lucky and catch it at the right time. I had the whole road to myself the whole way. I didn’t assume that obviously and I didn’t drive beyond spirited. When the road straightened out my clock read 6:18. I guess I must have pleased the Driving Gods because as I drove north of Knoxville on I-75, I was treated to a sunrise over valleys of fog with the mountain crests dotting the landscape like islands. I doubt Top Gear could caught the awe-inspiring majesty of that view. Oh, I made it to work on time...I think.
Possibly the greatest thing about a cheap Miata is being able to experiment. Did you know at 95mph you can stay mostly dry in a moderate rain with the top down? I don’t because that would be highly irresponsible to do on public roads, but I’ve heard rumors that it’s possible (It’s so possible). Did you know that going top down in the snow gets more attention than the most gold plated Lamborghini? It’s true. The Miata can also turn any scrubby 21 year old pizza delivery driver into a drift God in the snow. I have professional data to substantiate this!
Green cars are stuck in snow and the red line is my general path of drift going right to left (I was not nearly that close but I lack MS paint skills) Soon after my shift started came a snowstorm putting ~4in on the streets. No problem for a Miata on all-seasons! A bit of opposite steer and I believe I actually impressed the cute girl stuck in the car to the left. Needless to say this is the pinnacle of my driving career, unlikely to surpassed.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end and with about 205k on the clock I sold it to my former roommate who traded it to the 3rd roommate who moved to Florida. I asked him about it last week and he has sold it last year with about 240k miles on it and mismatched body panels (maybe he finished it)
TL;DR- I was an objectively shitty owner. I ragged on it, neglected it in most ways, and the Miata took every little bit of it and asked for more. It would be one thing if I just got lucky and got a particularly good one, but I don’t think I did. Too many people take these and do all I did and worse for mine to be the exception. These are just GREAT cars. It’s cars like this Miata that make me laugh at German car owners who brag about reaching 110k without catastrophic failures thanks to their rigid maintenance. This story is nearly impossible with a clapped out $2700 BMW or 944. But this Miata, beaten at the track and auto-x pad for years then handed over to an idiot for a few more years was just getting started on it’s life. Who knows where it will end up, I’d guess it’ll end up rotting in the everglades or turned into a meth lab (Florida) but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again with 400k miles.