A Mildly Modified Miata –
What-the-hell…let’s begin at the beginning. Roughly thirty years ago, with a loving wife, two kids and a mortgage, I was working on a showroom – at that point I’m guessing McNatt Honda, but at this point it’s all a little unclear – when Mazda rolled out its all-new Miata. In Dallas, Freeman Mazda, then on Lemmon Avenue, was my go-to spot for kicking Mazda tires. And I made sure to stop in, kicking tires with all the enthusiasm this then-30-something could muster. My guide was most often Winston Gordon; I had known Winston when he was at Precision Motors in the ‘70s, which – if you had grown up with an import fixation as a teenager – was the must-see/must-be Dallas destination in the mid-70’s.
The Miata was as totally unexpected as VW’s air-cooled Beetle with a real heater, which – at that point – still didn’t exist. With sheetmetal obviously inspired by the Lotus Elan (although a full size bigger than the diminutive Lotus), and with a DOHC four under the hood capable of turning the head and heart of an Alfa enthusiast, the Miata was a modern sportscar paying tribute to the Brits and Italians in everything but reliability; the Mazda had it, while the Brits and Italians were either working on it (the Italians) or had given up (da’ Brits!).
Of course, with the surprise and delight offered by this new-to-Mazda platform, there were the waiting lists and dealer markups, all of them off-putting to the guy with the wife, two kids and mortgage. With the recent loss of a new demo, one of the first steps in the new car industry’s slippery slide downward, our garage consisted of two ’89 Civic hatchbacks. With upsized wheels and tires, along with aftermarket steering wheels, they implied a bit of ‘sport’, but the 70 horses under the hood brought a big dose of reality in the form of slow acceleration. The Miata wouldn’t overwhelm you with horsepower, but its balance of low weight, low center of gravity and just-right connectivity (to the road, not the Cloud!) suggested a just-right reason to buy one.
Regrettably, that desire took some 30 years to fulfill, but the deed – ladies and gentlemen – is done. In August I separated from an ’08 911 after some 30 months of caregiving, and with those proceeds headed to a Mazda showroom. There, among the RF (Retractable Fastback) coupes and Grand Touring trims was the Club spec in what Mazda calls Polymetal, a gray imbued with both a fine metallic feel and a hint of blue patina. I’ll guess.
Having driven a 2021 Grand Touring from the press fleet just a few weeks earlier, I knew what to expect – and also knew what I wanted. While the idea hadn’t been quietly percolating for 30 years, it had been gestating for at least 30 months. In early 2019 I had received permission from my financial manager (i.e., wife) to pursue a sportscar, and the new Miata was on my short list. But so was a pre-owned Boxster or Cayman. To make a long story less long, the Boxster/Cayman evolved into an ’08 911 Targa 4S, finished in – notably – Forest Green, with a saddle beige interior. It was to die for, and had both of us at ‘hello’.
Owning a 911, even for a short time, deserves its own article, but the short version is this: Despite being wonderful to drive and beautiful to look at, it supplied more isolation than I had hoped to have in my sportscar. The car was replacing a motorcycle, and I wanted more connection with the open road and the open air. And despite the Targa’s open panel, it wasn’t the same as dropping the top. With used car prices up this summer I sold it, and while not recovering all of my investment from March of ’19, I recovered enough of it to make the decision seem rational. Until, that is, I spot another one in that oh-so-seductive Forest Green.
At roughly the same time as I bought the Porsche, Dan Hurwitz, owner of a tuner/service shop 10 minutes from the house, had modified a ’19 Anniversary Edition Miata with lowered springs, Mazdaspeed wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport tires. And its stance was perfect. I wanted that, while knowing it was no longer the Miata’s 30th anniversary, and 32 years would probably not deserve an anniversary.
With help from an area Mazda exec I located a Club trim – which gives me the limited slip differential and a front shock tower support – in Polymetal metallic. And as a Miata statement it (I gotta’ admit) kinda’ rocks. In combination with a black cloth interior, clean instrumentation and the snick-snick of its short-throw 6-speed manual, the driving environment is just about perfect.
With Dan’s guidance and his shop’s labor I secured the lower sport springs from Good-Win Racing, a set of swaybars from Flyin’ Miata, the Global Cup alloy wheels from Mazdaspeed Racing and all-season Michelin Pilot Sports from Tire Rack. Upcoming is an aftermarket muffler, which will undercut the stock muffler by a few pounds and supply a more visceral vibe. As my good friend Ron Hector reminds me, you won’t have this kind of fun in the nursing home…
While but a few weeks into the ownership process, I’m delighted by what my Miata delivers for – in today’s money – relatively little money. At the end of the day I’m in for around $35K, roughly the same as I’d spend on VW’s midlevel GTI. The GTI, of course, will hold more people and their things – but it won’t hold my imagination. And it won’t build those memories I can take to that nursing home. I hope.