1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: So, This Happened.

September 20, 2010

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Yeah.

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: In Good Company

September 10, 2010

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That is all.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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1994 Mazda Miata: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

September 03, 2010

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It's a half-day for us today before the holiday. So, let's try something different. Instead of the caption contest, we offer this photo.

Make up a story about this picture in 50 words or less. Be creative. Tell me a story.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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1994 Mazda Miata: Dealing With the Hard Top

August 25, 2010

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Are sunny days sweeping the clouds away? Even if they are, I couldn't really enjoy them now that our 1994 Mazda Miata has a bolted-down hard top. Pout. Project Miata editor Jason Kavanagh definitely has a different idea of what makes a fun drive. He of the Angeles-Crest-blasting, canyon-carving, Lemons-racing variety while I like leisurely drives around town on my Vespa...OK, I lie, I like taking corners fast, too (though not on my Vespa).

But I do have to say, now that I don't have to worry about the soft top flying off of our crapwagon, I can kind of see JayKav's point. Sure, the enclosed quarters of our Miata feel especially claustrophobic on a beautiful day, but this car is now so focused I can almost forgive him for taking away its top-down spontaneity.

On another note, I FINALLY got the hang of that 2nd gear. The trick is to place the gearshifter in 2nd, not shove it. This has made my time in the Miata even more fun and stress-free. Oh, and bonus? It's perhaps the only long-term car I can park in my new garage without fear of scraping the sides. I want to drive it again!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 179,510 miles

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Coupe > Roadster

August 19, 2010

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As Erin indicated, last week I picked up a Craigslist hardtop for Project Miata and ditched the blown-apart softtop. It's now a step closer to a true coupe, which is a variant of the Miata that Mazda should have made in the first place. I'm no fan of ragtops for reasons I've mentioned previously -- in my opinion, Miatas are good despite their folding roofs, not because of them. But you know what they say about opinions.

Two protruding studs at the rear deck ("Frankenstein bolts," as they're known) align the hardtop's rear seal, while two latches at the windshield header and two more at the base of the b-pillar do the heavy lifiting in securing the hardtop to the car. That is, if your Miata has side striker plates which this one does not. No matter. For additional security I picked up some Spec Miata brackets and bolted that sucker down.

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1994 Mazda Miata: Back in the Saddle

August 10, 2010

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Last night was my first time behind the wheel of our project Mazda Miata. I owned a white 1992 Miata, but it's been years since I've driven the little convertible. I sold my car in 1997, and can't remember the last time I had the opportunity to drive a more recent version.

Our '94, beat to hell with its ripped top and shredded seats, filled me with immense joy. I was happy to use a real key to lock its fobless doors, to watch its pop-up headlights illuminate the night sky.

I love this car. I can't believe I forgot how much I love this car.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

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1994 Mazda Miata: Table Scraps

August 09, 2010

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You know why I got our Project Miata this weekend? Simple. Nobody else wanted it.

But for a select few, most of the staff doesn't want to spend a weekend driving around in a quivering, mildly busted up project car. Me? Well, I kinda like it. As fun as the finished project will be, it makes it so much more interesting to watch and drive the car as it makes its progression from beater to track star. You get to see how each new part and upgrade affects the performance and the character of the car - assuming you don't drop a suitcase full of money and have it all done at once. Part by part and piece by piece, you see the car change and develop.

I'm getting to know the car pretty well at this stage and I'm sure that will only help me enjoy the car more throughly after it's done - assuming everyone will pass it up and let me drive it again.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 179,051 miles

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Old Car, Old Key

August 05, 2010

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It turns out that cars with a lot of miles often have keys with a lot of miles.

See that fatigue crack in Project Miata's key? Yeah. There's one in the same spot on the other side, too. The key's also got a twist in it along its length (you can see it if you look closely) and you can easily bend it using your fingers. It's now so easily tweaked that it wouldn't work in the ignition yesterday without some finessing.

Okay, I admit that this isn't at all exciting. But that's kind of the idea -- it could have ended up exciting in a real crummy way. A couple bucks at a local locksmith got us a duplicate key and avoided potential breakage in the ignition cylinder, which would have sucked big time. If you wheel an old hoopty, take a moment to check your keys.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 178,xxx miles.

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Crapwagon

July 30, 2010

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We all warn one another about driving the Miata. After all, it is, as Champ Car driver Paul Tracy so eloquently once described the cars of his rivals in the Indy Racing League, a crapwagon.

It crashes, rattles and shakes. It gasps, squeaks and moans. The seats are torn and so is the top, and the only good thing about the top occasionally losing its grip on the windshield header and flying open at exactly 54 mph is that it smells so bad that the fresh air is a relief. There's even the 24 Hours of LeMons sticker on the driver side window to remind you just how close this car is to scrap.

But as a guy who drove a car like this back when they were new and has experience in plenty of used examples, both street cars and race cars, let me tell you that every one of these first-generation MX-5 Miatas is like that.

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1994 Mazda Miata: World's Tallest Pop-Up Lights

July 27, 2010

This morning I shot this video of our Miata's ginormous old-school pop-up headlamps. They're so tall that when you flip them up you can feel the car's aerodynamics change. The Miata's wind noise levels with the top up and its wind management with top down are completely different when the headlamps are up.

They're so tall I decided that the above video didn't cut it. I decided you needed something in the frame for scale if you were to completely understand just how stupid big those headlight doors are. So I shot another video and used my shoe (Size 10 1/2). You can watch it after the jump.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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1994 Mazda Miata: Not a Lockbox

July 23, 2010

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Maybe if our long term 1994 Mazda Miata were a 1990 Mazda Miata, maybe I could have taken it directly home last night instead of having to come back to our offices after I met some friends for dinner.

See, the rub is that I have my laptop with me virtually all the time. And the Miata doesn't have a roof. And even if it did, who cares, that wouldn't keep anyone out who really wanted a slick new (not so much) computer. So what, right? Dump it in the trunk. Right?

Not so fast. See, for 1992, Mazda added a trunk release button to the center-console of the Miata. While that little bin does, in fact, lock, saying it's safe is like saying your sister's diary with its lock was safe. Pretty much, if you have fingers you could pry that box open. That's assuming the one you're dealing with isn't broken. Ours is broken. The slot the metal tab fits into is sort of jacked up and doesn't hold tight.

So the options were: Take my own car. Risk it. Come back to the office and pick up my stuff once I was done street parking.

None were ideal as I really do enjoy driving this Miata and wanted to take a drive up the coast later that night-- Top-down, heat on-- I'm rallying against Jay's desire to ruin the open-air feel with a hardtop. It's not a racecar, I vote to keep it a roadster.

Maybe I'm getting soft, but it seems to me that if you're going to have a soft-top, access to the fixed and locked part of the vehicle should not be a box-cutter away.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com

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1994 Mazda Miata: Holey Soft Top, Batman!

July 22, 2010

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OK, sadly this post has nothing to do with Batman but does have to do with our 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata's soft top. Since we lucked out with a couple of sunny days last week, I gladly took our Miata for a spin. But since our beat-down soft top is getting rattier and more delicate by the second, it turns out the stress of simply putting the top down and then back up has torn the holes wide open. Check out that gaping beauty over the rear window. Suffice it to say that taking it to a car wash would result in a very damp butt.

Fortunately Project Miata editor Jay Kavanagh will be shopping for a hardtop this weekend. Fingers crossed. By the way, anyone (preferably in SoCal) have a hardtop they wanna sell?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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1994 Mazda Miata: Small and Boxed In

July 20, 2010

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Yep, the first-generation Miata is pretty small. And it feels really small when you're boxed in on the freeway by a brace of trucks. It can seem like you're one truck driver's sneeze away from being in your own personal trash compactor.

While I'm on the topic, I might as well mention the sense of limited crash protection I get while driving the Miata. I was on the freeway recently when traffic suddenly slowed down. I was able to slow the Miata down properly. Then, you know the drill -- you watch the rearview mirror as it turns into your own personal suspense movie. Is that car behind me going to stop?

Fortunately, the Toyota RAV4 behind also slowed down. Traffic ahead of me relaxed a little, so I put a bit of space between the RAV4 and me. But then I heard screeching tires and watched in the mirror as a blue Ford Mustang didn't stop in time and slammed hard into the back of the RAV4. I hope both drivers were OK. But I'm really glad that RAV4 was there. If the Mustang had rear-ended our Miata, it would have been dire.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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1994 Mazda Miata: Certainly No Lack of Character

July 01, 2010

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The Miata and I spent some quality time together yesterday -- an hour of pokey movement on clogged Los Angeles streets and then another 250 miles of highway travel. How was it? Oh, allow me to fill you in, dear reader.

If you haven't ever been in a well-used Miata like this, the best I can equate it to would be flying in a commuter prop plane. You've got a cramped interior, a bumpy ride, a flexible chassis, a lot of noise and near non-existent crash protection. Did I mention noise yet? First, there's the Miata's engine, which at highway speed sounds like this: Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Actually, the interior noise has more to do with the two holes in the Miata's top that are big enough to see daylight through. Talk about a wind leak.

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Timeless Detail

June 18, 2010

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I usually don't have a lot of patience for gimmicky door handles, but the dainty handles on first-generation MX-5s get my approval. Opening the door with one finger is just cool, and I like how the mechanism is damped. The door feels just right when you open it and sets the stage for driving this entertaining little car.

Any other door handles out there that you're smitten with... either for their cool design or ergonomic awesomeness?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 177,150 miles

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: The Ritual

May 26, 2010

It's not like I've never owned an old car before, but I find the startup "procedure" for our 1994 Mazda MX-5 satisfying on both a tactile and an auditory level. So I made a little video, completely with key fumbling because the "dome" light is in the passenger foot well. However, in retrospect, I realize I left out a key step that I always do: lower the top. Sorry.

Last night was my first night in MX-5 since it got its new suspension parts, and let me tell you, having some actual damping was really nice on the way to the ramen house. I can't wait to get this car for a whole weekend.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

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1994 Mazda Miata: Ice Cold

May 14, 2010

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I spent two days in our old-school Miata this week and was pleasantly surprised to discover that its air conditioning works as well as its new suspension. This is somewhat surprising given that the car appears to have spent its entire life thus far in a state of constant neglect. Its cruise control also works perfectly.

But, holy crap, does it ever stink in there when the top is up.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 175,xxxx

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Our Favorite Caption

May 07, 2010

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Thanks to ergsum for this week's favorite caption.

Here are the others that put us in a lather:

Another Edmunds.com soap opera... (technetium99)
Preparing for the soap box derby. (technetium99)
Soapy and the Bandit (ergsum)
The Fast and the Filthiest (ergsum)
Almost daylight. Gotta get rid of the evidence! (zoomzoomn)
Dirt track? What dirt track!?! (zoomzoomn)
Help me, Soapy Wan Kenobi! You're my only hope! (technetium99)
Zoom, Zoom . . . now with scrubbing bubbles! (wshuff)
An afternoon with The Mechanic just cannot be washed of. (snipenet)
The Miata has always been such a bubbly little car! (powell_jr)
I thought you guys said you were going to "soup up" the Miata, not 'soap up!?!" (technetium99)
Out, damn'd spot! out, I say! (johnmarco)
Lifestyles of the Riches and famous (stpawyfrmdonut)
Hey! Who's scruffy looking?! (sherief)
99 44/100% pure fun. (greenpiece)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: You Write the Caption

May 07, 2010

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Senior Editor Erin Riches shot this photo when she hand-washed our 1994 Mazda Miata.

We suggest: Mr. Bubble leaves no bathtub ring.

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Hand Wash

April 28, 2010

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Here's a little slice of our 1994 Mazda MX-5 project car's life. There are a couple tears in its vinyl soft top that keep it from being perfectly watertight, so it can't go on the tracks at our normal car wash. But a $50 detail isn't really my speed when I'm driving this car. So instead it's $2.50 in quarters at the self-serve wash. Actually, it was $5 this time, because I got timed out when I paused from scrubbing to take a photo.

The tears in the top really aren't as big a deal as you might think. With the top up, the noise level is still bearable on the freeway -- even with the wind leaks. I guess it's because there's not a huge amount of motor making a racket, nor do you have gargantuan tires pounding against the pavement.

More importantly, on this occasion, I successfully washed the car without water leaking into the cockpit. It did get a bit musty smelling, but I think that was from my wet shoes on the old carpet. And within a couple hours, the cockpit reverted to its usual old library stacks odor.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 175,144 miles

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1994 Mazda Miata: Touching My Feminine Side

April 13, 2010

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Since "Build a Cool Miata Fever" infected the Edmunds.com offices last summer I've been saying we better get a hardtop. Can't do the car without a hardtop. First things first, lets get a hardtop.

Now I'm not so sure.

I just spent two top-down days in our project 1994 Mazda Miata and I loved it. Sure it was girly. Top down in our little white Miata is the automotive equivalent of a French mani-pedi with a yoga chaser. But I loved it anyway. And Jay Kav says my sudden urge to take a Pilates class will dissipate over the next week or two.

What do you think? Hardtop or no hardtop?

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1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Underway

April 12, 2010

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You might be wondering the status of Project Miata. After all, it's been weeks since we introduced it.

The good news is we've got several areas brewing. The bad news is they'll take some time to come to fruition. And like any project, I expect some surprises along the way, so I'm reluctant to "tease." Suffice it to say that things are happening.

In the meantime we've simply been doing minor maintenance stuff. Yesterday I replaced the wipers (perfect timing, too, as some weird wet stuff fell from the sky right afterwards. Scary!), fixed the windshield squirter and tried replacing the broken side mirror glass only to find out that the replacement piece I bought doesn't fit. Apparently power mirror glass is shaped differently than manual mirror glass, and you can only buy replacement glass for manual mirror'd Miatas. Would have been nice to know that when I bought the glass...

Exciting, yeah? No, the opposite of that. But it will be soon.

Oh, and I'm thinking it'd be instructive / hilarious to do baseline performance testing of the car as-is. Sort of a "before" to compare to the changes we make along the way. What do you think?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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1994 Mazda Miata: Some Video Inspiration

April 12, 2010

Scott Oldham, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief

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1994 Mazda Miata: Beater? That's Our Project Miata.

March 10, 2010

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My neighbor Dave walked across the street the other day, pointed to our slightly used Miata, which was sitting in my driveway at the time, and said, "Scott, what's with the beater?"

"Beater?" I said with manufacturered shock. "That's our new Miata project car. We just bought it for the website."

"Why?"

"What do you mean?" I snapped back.

"Don't you guys at Edmunds.com have a bunch of new cars you can drive?"

"Yes," I said. "Dozens of them."

"Than why bother with this thing? First of all, it's a girl's car. Second of all, look at it, it's all worn out." Then he opened the door. "And it smells inside."

"We thought it would be fun," I countered. "It was dirt cheap, and these first gen Miatas can be cool if you fix them up. Manly too. Do it right and this thing is like a little Shelby Cobra. 289 of course. You'll see when we're done with it."

"Well, I don't get it," he says walking away. "Let me know when you get one of those Aston Martins, you know like James Bond. I always liked those."

By the way Dave drives a beige Toyota Avalon. And no, he doesn't get it.

Scott Oldham, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief

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