1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

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1997 Mazda Miata: Holding Cups

April 11, 2014

1997 Mazda Miata

Yeah, I'm blogging about the cupholders in a Miata.

While not as bad as the "cupholder" in a C5 Corvette, the two in our 1997 Mazda MX-5 are pretty sorry. Like Millenials, they lack depth and the ability to hold on to anything for long periods of time.

But I digress.

You can make the cupholders work, but you'll need a couple of other items. Follow me to see how it's done.

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1997 Mazda Miata: Fuel Economy Update March-ish

April 4, 2014

1997 Mazda Miata

Over the past few months, we've driven the Miata. As such, we've also put gas into its tank.

How far have we driven? How much fuel have we used? You're going to have to click through to find out.

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1997 Mazda Miata: Still

January 31, 2014

1997 Mazda Miata

It's still in the fleet.

It's still trucking.

I still love driving it.

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1997 Mazda Miata: Fuel Economy Update for October

November 6, 2013

1997 Mazda Miata

Since most editors treat this thing like a rusty razor blade, our 1997 Mazda Miata didn't cover a lot of ground in October. Still, we managed to run two tanks of gas through its tank. Click on through to see the numbers over the time of our ownership.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Close To You

October 31, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Since driving the 2014 Corvette Stingray across country, I'm fiending rear-drive manual gearbox love these days, and that combination is unfortunately rare in our fleet. But settling into the Miata the other night, I forgot just how freakishly compact its dimensions are. Without leaning forward in the seat, you can almost cradle the driver-side mirror in your arm like a football.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Problem. Solution.

October 29, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Monticello posted earlier about the passenger-side speaker vibrations in the Miata, the result of a blown speaker. The speaker's done, all right, flatulently flapping around between its magnet and surround. But I found a solution: balance hard left and some old mono recordings, like these solo funk-outs from James Brown's band.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Exiting the Roll Cage

October 25, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

See that fat metal bar just waiting for someone to stumble over it and break his neck? That's our 1997 project Miata's roll cage bar and while it's a useful addition on track days, it can make getting out of the car during everyday use a hassle.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Aftermarket Seat Is a Hug Machine

October 23, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Ever heard of Temple Grandin? She's a famous, very smart autistic person who's done a lot for autism awareness. During much of her life, she's worked with livestock, and one of her inventions in this area is the hug machine. I know this not because I'm well read, but because I watched the HBO movie about Grandin starring Claire Danes.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Hide-And-Seek With the Seatbelt Latch

October 21, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

I recently did a story on the best vehicles for obese drivers. One of the things I learned while researching the story is that obese drivers are more likely to drive without wearing seatbelts. The reason is that the seatbelts on many vehicles are too short to accommodate their girth, making it difficult for larger drivers to fasten their seatbelts and wear them in comfort. There are solutions for this, of course, such as seatbelt extenders, but many of these drivers simply throw their hands up in the air and choose to go forth without being properly strapped in.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Engine Update

October 14, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Look familiar? The engine shown in the back of our long-term Silverado belongs to Project Miata. After a hiatus, activity on Project Miata is chugging back to life. Rejoice! The Keegan Engineering-built long-rod engine has lain relatively dormant during this period, patiently awaiting several odds and ends and little fabrication jobs while I traveled the globe, worked on countless other projects and, hey, somebody's got to drink all this beer. In the meantime, the engine sat. And sat.

Hey, better slow progress than none at all. It could be worse. Just look at the House of Representatives.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Busted Air Conditioning

October 11, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Don't let that blue light fool you. Even though it's implying the air conditioning is turned on in our 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata project car, trust me, the system definitely isn't producing any cold air.

Which is a fine thing to find out as you're driving home ahead of a hot southern California weekend.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Speaker Distortion

October 8, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The passenger-side speaker on our 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata project car exhibits major distortion now when you use any real volume.

To be honest, I initially thought this distortion was related to the door bars we had installed by Blackbird Fabworx. My guess was that the speaker was touching the bar, thereby causing the rattle, but turns out that's not the case.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Fuel Economy Update for September

October 3, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

During the month of September we put 563 miles on our supercharged 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata project car. We averaged 23.8 mpg for the month on 91-octane fuel, and the car's lifetime fuel economy average rose just slightly to 22.5 mpg.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Fuel Economy Update for June

July 2, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

During the month of June we put 814 miles on our 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata. That's not overly surprising, as the Miata is more of a project car than one of our usual long-termers, and as such generally doesn't get a ton of miles put on it. Plus, it's small. And old. And what with the racing seat and stiff suspension, you make some compromises when you choose to drive this thing.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Power Restored

May 23, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Holy crap. Project Miata's new catalytic converter has really reawakened this ol' tic-tac. To recap, the car had been feeling gradually less peppy, and finally the check engine light illuminated. At that point the car was also more detonation-sensitive than before and drivability had degraded a bit, too. But none of these aspects were overly prominent, just a collection of incremental nuances that I apathetically chalked up to age and hard use.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Chassis Stiffness

May 21, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

I decided to rotate the tires on Project Miata recently, and in doing so was reminded just how much chassis stiffness is afforded by its 6-point GT3 roll bar by Blackbird Fabworx. See that? In the picture above, there's a scissor jack supporting the front jacking point, and that's it. Both the front and rear tires are dangling in space.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Fuel Economy Update for April

May 7, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

If you've been following our Project Miata lately, you know it's had some issues.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Replacement Cat From Moss Miata

May 3, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

If you, like us, reside in California, you'll quickly find that replacing your catalytic converter is a thorny issue. The replacement cat has to carry an exemption order from CARB to be allowed for sale in California (a so-called "50-state" cat), and not all catalytic converter manufacturers bother to certify their cats thusly. As a result, choices can sometimes be slim, especially if you drive a car that wasn't sold in great numbers in CA.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: The Catalytic Converter Is Dead

May 1, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Project Miata's check engine light is illuminated. This is why.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Pulling the Codes

April 30, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Project Miata's check engine light is on. This is the code that came up: P0420.

P0420 is a catalyst efficiency code. This could mean that our cat's not functioning properly, or an oxygen sensor is on the fritz or even something else.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Check Engine Light

April 29, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

While we've got a big upgrade in store for Project Miata. In the meantime, it continues to be driven. And, surprise, a check engine light.

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: BHJ Dynamics Crankshaft Damper

April 26, 2013

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata

That's not an underdrive pulley above, it's a crankshaft damper by BHJ Dynamics. I want to be clear about that, because friends don't let friends install a solid underdrive pulley on the crank of a production-based engine. It's one of the brain-deadest things you can do to an engine. Forget that the reduction in inertia will be essentially nil in light of the manhole cover (a.k.a. flywheel) bolted to the opposite end of the crank. The bigger deal with solid underdrive pulleys is the big gamble they place on the durability of your crank, bearings and oil pump.

Many Miata owners learned this the hard way when their engine's oil pump shattered to pieces shortly after installing an underdrive pulley on their turbo Miata. To understand why this happens, the nerds at BHJ Dynamics have written one heck of a .pdf technical whitepaper for you. If that reading's too dense this early in the morning, try this: imagine what it's like to be a crankshaft.

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