Not the Usual Valet Parking Report - 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long Term Road Test

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1997 Mazda Miata: Not the Usual Valet Parking Report

May 02, 2011

1997 Mazda Miata: Not the Usual Valet Parking Report 

It depends on who you want to impress.

The valet guys in front of the restaurant are one thing. You know, the place with the flash cars and the flash people, the place where the pure power of money is always on display.

But impressing the guys at Auto Airport Parking is another.

1997 Mazda Miata: Not the Usual Valet Parking Report 

What everybody has come to call the AutoAirporter over the last 35 years is just another parking place near the Los Angeles airport. It's not the best nor the worst. What it is, really, is indoors, and there are not so many of these, and someone drives your car up into the structure and then brings it down to you when you return.  

There are no flash people at the AutoAirporter. Well, they might be flash people, but it’s hard to tell, because they are either flustered and in a panic to park and get into the Auto Airport tram that takes you to the flight terminal, or they’re frazzled and worn by the whole soul-destroying experience of flying these days, which has the same charm as taking the third-class bus on market day somewhere in rural Peru.

People come to the AutoAirporter with their real cars and their real selves. What they’re really interested in is parking inside a structure so their cars won’t get etched by jet fuel precipitated out of the air when it rains or gets foggy, transportation to the terminal, and a manageable bill afterward.

So the AutoAirporter guys are not easily impressed. Or they are not often impressed, anyway. Or maybe they are impressed in a different way.

Anyway, I am impressed when the guys bring down our 1997 Mazda Miata and tell me, “Nice car.”

Now if there is one thing that our Miata is not is “nice.” The paint is faded and etched. The interior is a disaster of worn, cracked upholstery. The steering wheel belongs on go-kart. The windshield-wiper arms look like they have been through an atomic test. The headlights have cataracts.

But as the AutoAirporter guys explain, this Miata looks tough. It looks like someone drives it. It looks like someone drives it in a way that it’s supposed to be driven.

I am totally impressed that the AutoAirporter guys like our car. By a miracle we have rescued this Miata from the land of wimpy runabouts and given it a new life as a serious car. It might look like a mess, but the hoarse intake roar of the supercharged engine and the wide semi-slick tires tell another story.

Maybe that’s why the AutoAirporter guys like this car – it’s too tough to die. After all the flash has been peeled away over the 20 years, this is still a car that valet guys want to drive.

The AutoAirporter guys told me so.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 130,876 miles

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