1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long Term Road Test

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Gimme Lightness

May 31, 2011

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Gimme Lightness 

Until this past weekend, it'd been weeks since I had last driven Project Miata, our longterm 1997 Mazda Miata. I'd almost forgotten how much I like it. Man this car is fun.

Yeah, it's got some rattles and the Oldham seat mod doesn't work for my posterior, either. But this car is just so danged sharp, predictable and light. Its combination of select aftermarket hardware and inherent goodness is formidable.

Take two theoretical cars of identical power-to-weight ratio. They may have the same potential on paper, but you simply cannot synthesize what lightness does for the driving experience. Unless something went horrifically wrong in the transition from theory to reality, the lighter car will be more rewarding to drive. Not to mention easier on tires, brakes, etc...

Speaking of light weight, I have one regret regarding our Flyin' Miata lightweight flywheel.

I should have opted for their even-lighter 10-pound one. See, the improvement in throttle-blippiness (you can quote me on that) during gearchanges provided by our 13.5-pound FM flywheel is addictive. Some lightness is good, so more lightness would provide even better blippiness, right? 

On the plus side, there's only a little bit of gear rattle (a benign side effect of lightweight flywheels) with this flywheel compared to stock, whereas an even-lighter one will result in more noise. But, yeah, if I were to do it over I'd trade a bit more gear rattle for more snappiness. You guys were right.

The Flyin' Miata Level 1 clutch, in the meantime, is so similar to stock effort that none of the other editors have even noticed that it's been changed. It really is impressive. Maybe someday we'll have to test its claim of holding 318 lb-ft.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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