1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: A Tight Squeeze
May 10, 2010
Here's 6-foot 2-inch-tall me behind the wheel of our 1994 Mazda Miata long-termer. Yes, the seat is all the way back. My right foot is on the gas pedal and my left foot is on the dead pedal, just as it would be after releasing the clutch.
With my feet so placed, my right knee makes friends with the parking brake handle while my left knee sits wedged between the door pull and the steering wheel. At least my knee makes a convenient place to rest my hand while cruising. But during spirited driving I'm forced to shuffle-steer the damn thing.
You would think I would hate this car, but in fact I own two of them. One is a bone-stock 1990 I used to race between 1991 and 1994 with stock seats (mandated by the rules), an identical stock steering wheel (ditto), an added roll cage and, of course, a crash helmet.
How did I ever fit well enough to race one of these?
I was able to manage it by removing the seat fabric, cutting about half the seat cushion and seat back foam away, then reinstalling the seat cover. This minor transgression of the SCCA Showroom Stock rules allowed me to fit because I was able to sit an inch further back and almost two inches lower down. As an extra added bonus, the unmodified seat side bolsters ended up taller by a like amount and I had better thigh support.
Even with this mod, space was tight. The roll cage had side impact bars that didn't (couldn't, per the rules) penetrate into the doors and the factory hard top had to be bolted in place. I had to practically fold myself in half to get behind the wheel. At first I got laughed-at by my track buddies, but I didn't care because the Miata was the car to have back then if you wanted to win.
But the comical picture of a small car and a tall Dan nevertheless led to my race team's name, Actual Size Sports, which later got shortened to be my customary internet handle, actualsize. Mini didn't make it up, and it's not meant as a double entendre.
As for the seat trick, Jay's got something else in mind for the long-term car.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 175,612 miles