1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: New Lid Changes Its Character a Little

August 18, 2010

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You can't see it well in this photo, but our long-term 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata has a new top. It's black, and yes, it's a hardtop. Jay will tell you the particulars about the acquisition and installation of the hardtop in a subsequent blog entry.

For now, I'll just offer a few impressions from my 50-mile overnight visit with the car. To start, our MX-5 absolutely needed a new top. The soft top had begun to self-destruct, as you know, and it leaked water and sometimes came unlatched on the freeway.

In contrast, the new hardtop fits snugly. Top-up visibility is vastly improved. And we now have an extra storage area where the old soft-top mechanism used to be. On the flip side, that new "open hatch" area creates a booming resonance on the freeway as sound bounces off the sides of the hardtop. Oh well. It's still quieter in here than it was under the old soft top; we'll take some decibel readings for you at a later date.

I didn't really miss being able to put the top down while blasting down the freeway at night. But this morning when I walked outside and saw this sky, it bummed me out a little. I took a drive down the coast from Big Sur to Cambria, California, last weekend in a Z4, and the setting sun and salt air are still fresh in mind.

Obviously, the Miata's hardtop can be removed -- we just can't do it on the spur of the moment anymore. I crave that spontaneity, so if I bought a personal Miata, it would have to have a soft top.

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: First Impressions of Our Well-Worn Friend

August 03, 2010

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Finally got around to getting in our Miata project car. It's been in and out of Jay's hands most of its time here, so I figured I would just wait until it had a good chunk of its work done before trying it out.

What surprised me? It's a roomy little sucker. I'm 6'2" and I fit in this Miata just fine. It has a good driving position and the seats are decent given their age. Drives pretty solid too. Good clutch take up and a easy to row gearbox. Yeah, there's not much power, but the engine is willing to rev without threatening to throw a rod.

Jay's suspension mods feel fine to me too. Yeah, it rides pretty firm and all, but there's enough give to make it bearable. Looking forward to getting it on a real road and sampling the stick of the big Hankooks. No doubt they look tough on the new wheels. All in all, a pretty solid ride given what we paid. Can't imagine finding something more enjoyable for the money.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com @ 178,231 miles

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Seat Pickle And Suspension Impressions

May 17, 2010

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What's going on here? I removed the seats from Project Miata over the weekend to gain some headroom.

No, here the cabin is drying after I made another attempt at removing the smell that Jacquot mentioned the other day. Out came the seats (easy, five bolts each) and at the suggestion of a commenter, I carefully poured detergent-y water in and went to work with a brush, then shop-vac'ed it up.

It's better. Not 100% gone, but better.

While I was in there, I started daydreaming about having a driver's seat that's not blown to pieces like the stock one. More thoughts after the jump.

Having actual lateral support would be great. Same with a lower seating position. We'll want something that can accept a five- or six-point harness, too, for track work. And sliders are a must, since so many people drive it. Bonus: a single-piece shell seat will be much lighter (not to mention safer) than the floppy stock seat.

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: A Tight Squeeze

May 10, 2010

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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?

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Makes My Day

April 26, 2010

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You've seen the dyno and track numbers for our 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata, so you know it's slow and, um, slow. But even in its current tired, wornout state, this car makes me happy whenever I drive it. (And basically, I've been driving the car whenever JayKav isn't busy with it.)

This is the first time I've driven a first-generation MX-5. And though I'd hoped that first drive would come in a newer car, the fundamental goodness of the original Miata is evident in our project car. The engine doesn't do much in the acceleration department, but it sounds good, grunting obediently as you full-throttle it down the road.

Changing gears takes a deliberate, unhurried hand and smooth footwork (yes, especially going into 2nd), just as it did in our Ferrari 308 GTSi, but done right, it's still very satisfying. Even heel-and-toe downshifts are fun, though with the unadjustable steering wheel restricting movement of my leg, I really do have to get the throttle with my heel (rather than a lazy blip with the side of my foot). I guess I'd like it if I could tilt the steering wheel up a bit, but aside from that, at 5-foot-10, I fit perfectly in the car.

Steering response isn't exactly crisp, but there's a directness here that our 2006 MX-5 never had. Worn suspension bits keep the car from changing directions with much immediacy, but there's still a trustworthiness to the way the car behaves. Right now, a lot of it has to do with the nice new Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 tires, I'm sure. But every time I drive this car, I get the feeling that with some new stuff to hold it up, it would really be great. And I'm now giving serious thought to buying my own Miata project car.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 175,090 miles

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