Still not a playa
But you still a hater, elevator to the top, HA, see you later. The Bang and Olufsen bass notes of the Big Pun/Fat Joe/Terror Squad classic cover reverberates my spine, probably just a touch too loud. It’s soothing, as I’m seething and it’s all because of a little car, albeit not the car’s own fault.
It’s Saturday during Fool’s Fall in Pennsylvania. Two of my closest friends (@Scary was otherwise indisposed or would certainly have been in accompaniment) and I are about 1.25 Hours from my humble abode along with the Great Silver Ark Audi Q7. We’d just examined, test drove and put an unaccepted offer in on a to-be-completely-honest-pretty-ratty 2001 Mazda Miata. I was mad at the world, but mostly at the fantastically shady dealer who I had been conversing with.
Typically, I took no actual pictures of anything. So, all photos are representative only and stolen from google searches. My bad.
The car was fucked, to be frank. The quarter panels were one good sneeze away from completely lost to rust, the soft top was missing, and the mileage had been misrepresented so violently that I (ME!) was speechless when I glanced at the odometer. But it had a mismatched color hardtop and I made an offer, which he promptly refused being 2,000 less than he thought it was worth.
But the car drove really well and I was upset by the fact that I’d not be enjoying all 115 hp of it ever again. Most Miatas drive well. C’est la vie.
Chris (former owner of a daily driven 500 hp Evo and current owner of an un-inspected 92 Civic coupe) is trying to raise my spirits. “Well, I can check riding in a Miata with another man off the bucket list.” It’s kind of working. Also, Chris, is relating to me that he knows of another Miata. “10 minutes from your house, newer though.” So, we pilot the Silbervogel to the bar, as almost 40 males do regularly do for lunch.
While at lunch, Chris manages to find this car online. Arguably, we’re already in a better spot as far as trustworthiness of seller is concerned, but this car is fairly ugly as well. It’s a 2006 Mazda Miata 3rd Generation Limited. For the uninitiated- the limited package includes…chrome. Chrome like….everything. Windshield surround, fog lamp surrounds, grille surround, a luggage rack, and door handle appliques. On this particular vehicle, all that set against Velocity red metallic, special only for limited trim (lesser red NC1 Miatas came bathed in “True Red” instead). Oh, and it’s got EVEN MORE mileage than the 2001 Silver NB2, clocking in at an astonishing 241,000 miles covered.
Still, after our second beer sans food ordering, I’m willing to give it a look, so we marched over to the dealership. It’s a small operation, pretty obviously not a full-time gig for the owner. About 15 cars all told, fluorescent yellow stickers on the windshields proclaiming “Gas-Saver!” and “Low Miles!”. The doors are locked and the lights are off, so we have free reign to nit-pick without abuse from anyone in a tie. The price? $5000 for the little baby boomer edition NC.
“You have to drive it” That’s Jason (known locally as Jap for being a Navy kid, and as such born in Japan and a staunch, staunch supporter of Subarus) “You’ve never driven an NC and this one can at least give you an idea, even if it’s worn out.” I know he’s right. The NC (1, especially) is universally panned as the worst Miata, given the weight increase from the NB2 and subsequently left on the island alone by the ND model. NC1’s also did NOT get the forged internals that NC2 got, and this one is heavy on mileage. Most folks, myself included, didn’t “get” the styling of NC1, although the improvements made during NC2 and 3 are a bit more palpable. Mercifully, this car is a soft top and armed with my knowledge that “Limited” models were mainly Grand Touring models converted (LSD, 6 Speed) I decided to ring the dealer up. He’s out of town, but I can come drive the car on Monday. “Deal” I say, and hung up the phone.
I’m not nervous in the hours leading up to the test drive like I normally am because I’m almost certainly not buying this car. The love of my life and I are prepping to head to the beach next week, so we’re mainly trying to straighten the house up and get a little bit ahead on chores, just to make up the time. I do perform my cursory research however, by securing the VIN from the dealer’s website and pulling a CARFAX… just in case. This is more out of morbid fascination for a vehicle to look semi-clean be so high-mileage, and I’m a car nerd after all.
What I found sort of surprised me, dear reader. I could track maintenance (and a tiny little accident) up to about 200,000 miles. This car was dealer maintained long after the warranty period would have expired, indicating a few things to me. It was also definitely un-modified, and had some slight scratches under the driver’s side door handle. So… 80% sure, woman-owned. Tricks of the trade, haters.
Now, if any assigned-at-birth-genetically-as a-female’s are reading, this isn’t a diss on you. In fact, completely the opposite. Women, typically, are far less violent to vehicles then males except in terms of scheduled maintenance, which I could verify via the report. If anything, this indicated to me that this car was likely used as either:
A. A daily commuter in a nice weather locale (originally titled in Virginia) or
B. Towed behind a retirement camper for Snow Birds, engine off, in neutral, for many miles.
Further investigation of online pictures (my interest now firmly piqued) showed no missing tow point covers, but that isn’t real science. It also revealed a tiny bit of rocker rust, some gooey “soft top” repair with rubber cement, and the wheels had curb damage. Every. Single. One Of Them.
But it didn’t matter because I wasn’t buying the car. Just a cute little foray into the history of this particular Miata (Actually, the name changed to “MX5” for the 2006 model year). So, I put it out of my mind and headed into work on Monday morning.
I performed my job and as I was firing up the Affalterbach Raketenbomber , recalled that today of all days I was going to head over and pop my NC cherry. “Doesn’t matter, I’m not buying it” I relay to my beautiful girlfriend as I drive towards the dealership. I meet the man, and he throws me the keys. Perfect catch.
It’s often hysterical how small a Miata is when you climb into the cockpit, but this doesn’t feel nearly as pinched as most. It’s factually not as pinched, but you can definitely comprehend the space between the wheel and your knees, and additionally to the pedals. I’m about 5’8 and not terribly overweight, and I fit fine. Miles of hard plastic everywhere, but this isn’t an ND, and it’s long before Mazda made the move upmarket, so I’ll allow it. NC2’s have one or two more padded rests, but you won’t be needing them anyway, not if you’re driving a Miata like a go-kart as intended.
I turn the key and am greeted by a mild grumble from the factory dual exhaust tips (in chrome, of course). As the 170 (crank) horsepower 2.0L settles into an idle, I don’t get any of the very expected ticks, raps, or pulley noise. The Oil pressure gauge, known within Miata circles to be fantastically inaccurate, indicates good pressure. Good start, I think.
Every Miata (and now MX5, I guess) has a sort of electricity-like vibe going on. It’s difficult to explain, but these cars feel very alive, very bristling. My personal opinion is the inclusion of the “PPF” or powerplant frame on the Miata, translating all those wonderful little extra vibrations from the powertrain into the chassis, but that’s just a guess. Mazda does a fantastic job in the theater of the little roadster, and this is maintained into the current generation.
The other thing you notice initially, especially in comparison to the NB and ND is the width. Those bulging fenders don’t do it any favors to negate this and you get to see them in the mirrors quite a bit. Still, it’s not offensive. If anything, I get serious RX8 sickness from it. The NC was built around a modified RX8 chassis after all, although thankfully that did NOT include the Renesis engine, that terrible lump of shit. If we can use the RX8 as a baseline for this in the handling department, this is going to be sharp on turn in, fantastic in ride quality, and wonderfully playful at the rear end.
And it is all of those things. Probably a little more, thanks to the shortened wheelbase. Heavy in Miata-Land, but still hundreds of pounds lighter than most cars you’ve driven, the NC1 dances delightfully through turns. This one has the factory Bilstein shocks and springs combined with the Limited Slip Differential and the 6-speed Transmission… everything you could ever want from Mazda in 2006 although they’ve also travelled nearly a quarter of a million miles. Down on power as expected, but a certified rocket compared to anything with a Miata badge that came before… this car can move. The 6 speed lends it self to shorter gear ratios and you’ll spend quite a bit of time moving the stick, but in classic fashion it’s such a nice selector that you won’t mind.
Plowing into a bowled left-hander probably 10 mph higher than I ought to, knocking the car into 3rd gear from speed elicits a bark from the rear tires. Punishment from the car for not rev-matching as God intended, I assume. The chassis leans over hard, giving ample time to ride that lean through the curve via the throttle.
Steering is precise, adjustable, and the feedback is tremendous compared to my usual over-boosted German swill. The Audi is not a performance vehicle, but compared to this car I’d liken it to pushing a fireproof safe down a ski slope and sitting on top. Going fast competently, can’t feel a thing, hardly any control… plan your moves accordingly and as usual, update your will.
The common tropes are true. You can’t help but smile at the little red roadster as you violate the yellow line at not-gonna-die speeds. The difference is… this car can actually get you to definitely-gonna-die speeds. The VVTI cracks open around 5000 rpm and zings you towards the redline with reckless abandon, you’re shifting up, not paying attention to the speedometer until you reach the next corner and dive for the brakes. Alarmingly, you’ve been sitting around 65-70 mph between turns in a 40 zone, and that’s very un-miata-like indeed.
Reminding myself that critics lambasted the ND1 in 2016 for having LESS power than the one that came before it, initially, I settle myself down. You won’t win any drag races for sure, but the little car has guts that are unnatural to the chassis.
Outside of abuse, the car drives wonderfully. I made sure to let the ragtop down on my way back to the dealership, purely out of enjoyment for the drive, and considered the facts. This is the worst Miata, and this is still, amazingly, a fantastic driver’s car. Surely, it can only get better from here.
So. I bought it. I proposed what I considered to be a fair offer for the car and I shook the fellow’s hand. Why? Because man, life is short and this car was SO cheap that I didn’t want to go another day without being able to experience that drive, if I so choose. I’m happy to report it burns or leaks exactly zero fluids, fires on the first rotation, and makes no undue noise in the weeks that have followed.
I set my goal on light track duty and mild modification and if it explodes next year, or next week, I’ll feel as though it was worth the experience.
Word from the wise? Don’t be a hater. I love AMG’s and M3’s. I’ll always lust after the 911. But this car is more than that. It’s easy to fall into the habit of numbers chasing and bench racing. My advice? Go drive some shit. Figure out what you like and hate, then adjust your spending accordingly. Someday, maybe someday soon, all these experiential cars will be rusting away in junkyards while we hum around in electric cars and that, my friends, will be a damned shame.
davesaddiction last edited by davesaddiction
Great post, and message to fellow enthusiasts.
Enjoy the new ride and all the "smiles per mile"!
women, typically, are far less violent to vehicles
I drive my cars hard (once they're properly warmed up) but I've found that I have far more mechanical sympathy on my cars than Mrs. Addiction, specifically when it comes to driving over rough roads, which we have a plethora of near our home.
@davesaddiction it's not a perfect formula, that's for sure. My own queen of love drives her Escape under the speed limit, but put her in the Q7 and suddenly she's a turnpike sniper... I understand completely haha.
So. I bought it. I proposed what I considered to be a fair offer for the car and I shook the fellow’s hand. Why? Because man, life is short and this car was SO cheap that I didn’t want to go another day without being able to experience that drive
YESSSS!!! I didn't want to predict the ending, but the more I read, the more I hoped. And that paid off. I'd love to drive as many cars as possible in my life, and a Miata was on the list before, but after your testimony, it's most certainly a priority...
Now... who do I know that owns a Miata...
this actually IS the car, and if you ever make it to central PA, you're welcome to attempt to speed up my engine swap timeline.
(also, this was the first weekend with the car and I laughed out loud at the theater sign, so I snapped a quick pic.)
@Finnish-Insider That's an excellent shot. Very fitting of the car and the mood.
What part of PA? I'll actually be passing through PA going to and from NY the weekend of Sept 30th to October 1st. And I promise I won't purposefully break your beautiful little car.
If @Scary can swing it, this is the makings of a mini Oppomeet
@Finnish-Insider Not even a 10 minute detour! Would likely be able to hang out sunday, hopefully in the early afternoon depending on when we pick up a VW shell. Might be dragging along company, but if you're game, I'm game! Will ping you in a more direct manner for planning purposes.
Scary last edited by
@Taylor-Martin I know I'm currently totally free that weekend. If I happen to still have the Corvair then I'll show up with that.
@Finnish-Insider welcome to the club! I love my NB. Its just such a wonderful car to spend time in. I can't stand the stock suspension in any Miata but the aftermarket is cheap and options are numerous. It became such a better car with coilovers, sway bars, and a lower seat. I'd still argue my STi is more precise and feels more performance oriented. But I don't get nearly the same stupid grin I get with the Miata. Plus getting 30+ mpgs isn't a bad deal!
This. This is not something I'm used to whatsoever. Unfortunately, the NC1 has a smaller, more focused aftermarket but it still seems endless coming from the German stuff, where you have a few highly specific suppliers.
Also, even the factory Bilsteins make it look like it has the ground clearance of a Tacoma, so yeah I'll be working on that shortly.
@Scary Then we have created a "plan..." Huzzah!