Original Miatas have a problem. They are generally inexpensive, at least as of this writing. Mazda made a crapload of them – 431,544 worldwide to be exact, between 1988 and 1997. Because they are plentiful still, people don’t usually put much money into restoring them yet, so many are quite ratty. When you find a good one, at a premium, you snatch it up right away. This was the case with my 1995 Miata – Named, The RallyWays Miata.
My interest in the Mazda Miata actually started back when I first saw one in 1990 – The first year of US production. This was 6 years before I got my driver’s license. I even built a Tamiya model car 1990 Miata during a stint home from school due to chicken pox – circa 1992. Then life got in the way and I pretty much ignored the car until the time I founded RallyWays in 2011.
I got my feet wet with a brand new 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata NC as my first roadster experience. At the time, the NC’s allure and modern appeal got to me and I immediately chose it over the 2 older generations. However, that car brought back the love for the little Roadster and I was almost immediately searching for another one – an original NA Miata which brought me to the 1995 Miata you see here.
This is a ’95 Mazda Miata, or MX-5 or Eunos Roadster or whatever it’s called in your country. Being a 1.8 liter car makes it an NA8. These were made between 1994 and 1997 as opposed to the NA6 which is the 1.6L version made between 1989 and 1993. Note I mention 1988 in the heading. That’s when Mazda made the first few pre-production cars.
In my opinion the best year for the Miata was 1994 as it has the 1.8 engine, but also has an OBD-1 ECU and the functional oil pressure gauge. The 1995 comes in close second as it has all those same ’94 features minus the real oil pressure gauge. The OPG in the 1995 Miata is like it is in any other Miata barring the ’94 – a dummy unit. The 1996 and 1997 NA8’s were great cars too, but having OBD-2 ECUs makes them a little harder to mod and still pass smog in California. I’m not discrediting the 1.6L cars however. They are great cars and some enthusiasts prefer the revvy nature of that engine over the follow up.
I’m a bit of a sucker for good-looking cars. Yes, I like performance too and I love driving. But, I like my cars to look as good as possible. For that reason, l was leaning towards finding a pristine example of the car even if I had to pay a premium for it. And that I did.
The RallyWays Miata after leaving Cars & Coffee Irvine. Photo by Ted 7 Photography
Most of my friends consider it the cleanest Miata they have every seen. As the owner, I am of course much more judgmental and I see things they don’t. I see the faults. Because my search for a clean Miata was so extensive (nearly a year) I did see other slightly cleaner, more new-looking Miatas during my search. Of course, they cost more than mine did. Worse however, some were really far and the logistics of getting it over to SoCal didn’t allow me to acquire any of them in time before they were sold.
So this one. Well, I paid $7,000 for this example. I’m happy to say, I’m very happy with with what I got for my money. It’s not for sale, but as it slowly and steadily moves into classic car status, I don’t intend to ever sell it for less than this.
When I tell friends how much I paid for my Miata, some agree. However, some people give me a strange look as if I had paid too much. Sometimes, other Miata owners laugh at me and say, “Ha, I paid $3,500 for mine.” To which I reply, “Hahaha. Yeah, but look at it. And how much have you put into repairs so far to get it up to speed? Yeah, do the math.”
While not all cream-puffs pan out, a pampered car at a premium is usually less expensive in the long run than a cheaper one that needs to be fixed.
While not all cream-puffs pan out, a pampered car at a premium is usually less expensive in the long run than a cheaper one that needs to be fixed. Jot that down. And pampered this car was. I really can’t take the credit for the way the car looks. That was totally the previous owner. The gentleman, a Porsche enthusiast who used to own a show-ready 356, bought the car brand new in 1995. He drove the car daily for a few years and eventually retired. The mileage logging tapered off after that.
The original owner took care of the Miata fastidiously. Every single thing the car needed was done immediately and using the best parts. The services were either done at one of the top Mazda dealerships in LA, Galpin Mazda or by renown Mazda tuning shop, Tri-Point Engineering.
The radiator went green – a brand new one was put in its place. The exhaust heat shield and valve cover discolored over time – cleaning or polishing was not enough… brand new parts went in. Religious oil changes, inspections and tune ups were done generously. The car spent a lot of time covered and usually spotless clean.
The previous owner took it as a hobby to detail the car like he would his old Porsche 356 – This, even though his Porsche was a show car and this little Miata never was. However, pride went into all the work even when it was just to show the car off to himself. Engine parts were always cleaned and polished and a toothbrush was not a stranger to both the engine bay and the under carriage.
I received the car with a huge stack of maintenance records. They were not very well organized mind you, but they were there. After acquiring the car I took the time to archive them all into a nice binder in chronological order.
The car runs like clockwork. In the year I’ve owned it, the mechanicals have yet to complain. It feels solid and happy.
Of course, the car is not perfect. But most of the time, only I can see that. At some point in the car’s life, someone back into it and damaged the front bumper and driver’s side front quarter panel. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Reason being, the front bumper and left fender were replaced with brand new units and the front end was repainted. For this reason, I ended up acquiring a car with no rock chips, something that is a staple for a 20 year old car. Furthermore, NA Miatas didn’t come with clear coat paint. The repainting of the front end yielded a more durable finish than factory. Yay for that. The hood is the original however, simply repainted. The shop that did the work actually masked around the original sticker under the hood. Nice touch.
It was a good thing seeing the original hood on the car and only having a new bumper and front left fender. It means the damage was very minimal – the story that someone backed into the car checks out. Close inspection under the car shows absolutely no damage either. The only thing I could find on the underside was 2 dents in the frame rails from somebody attempting to use them as jack points. Miata frame rails are made out of sardine can tin, so bent frame rails are very common. Eventually I intend to pull out the dents and reinforce each rail with either Boss Frog Rails frame rail reinforcements or a Flyin’ Miata FM frame rail reinforcement kit. Maybe even their butterfly brace if I want even more stiffening.
At home at the Mazda North America Headquarters in Irvine, California.
Apart from that, there were a couple of small door dings on the rear passenger side quarter panel, a bit of weather-stripping that can use replacement, a slightly bigger panel gap between the hood and fender due to the new fender and a bit of scuffing on the bolster of the driver’s leather seat. Nice thing is, all these are easily corrected and I have either corrected all the little issues already or I’m in the process of correcting them.
This is what a perfectly straight body Miata looks like.
All those little niggles are offset tenfold by the good in this Miata. The original tan pile carpet is in beautiful shape. The dashboard is also in perfect shape with no cracks. The door panels also look perfect. Everything in the interior works like it should down to the smallest light bulb and even the original cable operated cruise control works brilliantly.
The car came with a color-matched hard top and a bunch of other goodies. The original owner gave me an extra set of wheels, two car covers and a bunch of little parts and extras. He even gave me a pair of the awesome ESCO 3 Ton Flat Top jack stands Rev-Limiter reviewed in the article here.
The only modifications the car ever saw were suspension and wheels. I acquired the car with a set of Koni Yellow shocks with Ground Control coil over conversions installed. While the ride-height is in my opinion, perfect, and the dynamics of the car quite nice, it’s a goal of mine to upgrade this setup. My intention has been to upgrade the Koni yellows to Koni race shocks as they are a much better match to the Ground Control units. Either that, or jump all the way up to set of Fat Cat Motorsports coil overs or Ohlins coilovers.
The car also arrived with a very nice set of 14 inch Enkei RPF-1 wheels. These are the rare 14s that only fit NA Miatas or early NBs with the smaller brakes. They look properly good on the car and a bit classic with the meaty Dunlop Direzza Z1 Star Specs tires. This particular set of 14×7 4×100 Enkei RPF-1 is the +28mm offset variation as seen here. These offer a slightly less aggressive stance than the +19mm offset RPF-1 variation that Rev-Limiter runs on his car. The 28mm offset wheels don’t require fender rolling or pulling like the 19mm offset RPF1s do, plus they look perfectly fine on the little classic-looking body. That’s not to say the lower offset option on an even lower car won’t look awesome.
Perfect interior makes it a joy to spend time in.
Like I said earlier in the story, I don’t take credit for the awesome condition of the car – at least not at first. But, after a year of ownership, I’m proud to say the little Miata still looks just as good. She lives in my garage. She’s always under a thick coat of Meguiar’s carnauba wax and doesn’t like the rain. Over time, as I continue to improve and fix things here and there, I will feel more and more like she’s mine.
My intentions for the RallyWays Miata is to keep her looking great. I don’t drive the car every day but do drive it on weekends, for club drives, to many of the car events RallyWays attends and sometimes even to the office. I intend to do a few mods, but nothing that’s irreversible. Here are some things I have planned for her:
Nardi Deep Corn 330mm steering wheel on a MOMO Hub – Let’s face it, the stock steering wheel is as big as a boat’s. Yes it’s classic and looks good with an 80’s mindset, but I’m looking for more improved driving characteristics. The Nardi wheel is not only beautiful, but smaller. Like I said earlier, this is a simple modification and I’m saving the stock steering wheel for posterity. I selected the MOMO hub due to a combination of quality and security. The MOMO steering wheel hub is a quality-made product. Additionally, it offers the added safety feature of being the only crushable (collapsible) hub on the market. That means that under impact, it will crush in order to reduce impact force. Nice thing to have if you remove the airbag.
Racing seats – I admit, I do not like the stock seats. At 5’10” I fit in the car perfectly. However, it seems like Mazda designed these seats for midgets. The back is too low, the seating position is too high and the support is weird. I’m constantly shuffling about in the seat trying to find a comfortable position. I still don’t know what my seat selection will be. I’d love a pair of Bride seats, or those new Cusco Bride seats. Those are cool. I do want something that fits well and looks like they belong in the car. Some racing seats just look awful in a Miata because the seat backs are too dang big. I’m going to miss the speakers in the headrest though. The added support, lower seating position and reduced weight should make up for that.
New header – The stock header and cat rattle. I don’t know if it’s because of old age or whatever, but the rattles have to go. Not sure if I want to do a full exhaust, maybe I will eventually. But for now, a new header and catalytic converter should take care of the old cat rattles and would provide better flow.
Polyurethane bushings – The stock rubber bushings in the Miata look fine. However, it’s an 18 year old car. The rubber bushings might not look cracked or rotten but there’s no way the rubber is not worn out. One big project would be to replace all those stock bushings with top-of-the-lone polyurethane bushings from PowerFlex.
Suspension – Continuing with suspension upgrades after the bushings, I’m looking to upgrade the shocks like I said earlier in this piece. One thing I’m considering if I stick with Koni race shocks is to up the spring rate in the Ground Control units. If I go with a completely different set of coil overs, the spring rate will definitely be higher. A set of beefier sways is also in order. I’m very happy with the current ride height however.
Roll bar – NA Miatas are a bit of a wet noodle when compared to the newer Mazda MX-5. Yeah, they flex quite a bit. I’m not only looking to improve the rigidity of the car with a roll bar, but also to increase safety. I have a few roll bars in mind – Perhaps a Hard Dog M1 Hard Core Hardtop, a Boss Frog Single Hoop Clearview Maxx or possibly a custom bar by Moti at Blackbird Fabworx. Whichever way, I’m inclined to powder coat the roll bar white – ‘cause it just looks so classic.
Radio – The stock stereo works fine. In fact, I think it sounds as good or better than the stock kit in the NC MX-5. My problem with it is it doesn’t look right for the car. It’s an ugly looking thing actually. So, my quest would be to find something that will take CD’s and maybe even an iPod/iPhone, but look retro.
Shift knob – I’m a big fan of heavy, metal ball style shift knobs á la Mustang. During the past year of driving my Miata and comparing it to other cars I drive, I have to say I’m not a huge fan of the stock shifter. The shifting’s awesome, don’t get me wrong. It’s the cheap-feeling rubbery shifter coating and the odd cone shape that bother me. Not sure what I’m switching it out to, but from the looks of it, I’m going to end up with a collection of shift knobs, so likely expect the RallyWays Miata to wear different shift knobs at different times. I’m sure a steel ball will be there for a while at some point. To see how I modded the Mustang shift knob you see in the photo to work in the Miata go here.
That’s mostly it for mods. The time and money that will go into this car will be more for upkeep than for mods. I’m the type of car enthusiast that believes every car has its weaknesses and each requires a small set of mods in order to improve or correct those weaknesses. Other than that, I’m not a heavy modder that mods for the sake of it.
To boost or not to boost?
I’ve considered boosting the car, but it’s very unlikely I will end up doing that. At least that’s the case at the time of this writing. For boost, you’re looking at a good $5,000. In my opinion, after all is said and done, you can dump cash into an NA Miata all you want, but if what you’re looking for is performance, might as well start with a better car altogether than try and make a slower one as fast. I guess what I’m saying is, the NC Miata is already quite a bit faster than the NA. By the time you’re done making the NA as fast, you’re in used NC Miata money territory. Not to mention the ND Miata. I talk a bit about this in my NA Miata vs NC Miata comparison article.
After a while, who knows, I might end up boosting it. We shall see. I’m more inclined to use that money to find yet another Miata for track use instead of dumping 5Gs into boosting this one. Unless of course, the RallyWays Miata gets famous enough that someone like Kraftwerks or Fast Forward Superchargers wants to sponsor the car.
This is basically it. I honestly cannot think of any other car under $10,000 that is as fun or as cool. Of course, there are plenty of Miata-haters out there. But like the kids say, “haters gonna hate.” As far as I’m concerned, the answer is always Miata. For less than $10,000 you’re not going to do much better than this.
Keep an eye out for more write-ups around the RallyWays Miata. To make sure you don’t miss them, take a moment to subscribe to RallyWays for free and elect to receive the Miata specialty articles. As the suns sets… Until next time.