Happy Wheels - 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long Term Road Test

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1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Happy Wheels

February 08, 2011

 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Happy Wheels

Wow. Those small pulleys generate tons of fun. I'm not sure you could get any better response to throttle input unless you were riding atop the engine, pulling on the butterfly. It wasn't until driving back to the office this morning that I put two and two together. Several years ago, Oscar Jackson said he was working on a new project with Rotrex superchargers. I remember that his original company, Jackson Racing, not only excelled at Honda supercharging, but also in force-feeding Miatas. Then the light went on, and I was happy to hear Editor JayKav confirm my hunch.

Oscar was one of the first heavy technical minds I met in the Honda world, and always gracious with his time. He indulged our magazine staff's notions of building a Super GT-spec NSX for the street. A raised glass to him and JayKav for this ridiculously fun car in its present state.

Even after a loud and bumpy 100-mile commute, no muscloskeletal complaints. It's stiff, but not stone.

Momo wheel and shift stalk feel perfect. The Miata is like a perfect bookend to the Z06; they appeal to different senses, but both get to the matter: thrilling acceleration and satisfying speed.

But Project Miata is loud. All that tire, road, and bypass valve noise sounds like an old faucet left to run wide open. There's a radio in there -- a nice Sony and some good speakers -- but it's a losing battle. It's more fun to listen to the blower whine, anyway.

That slight, rising whistle is the only thing I can figure attracted a pair of clownballs in separate Mazda3's to buzz by at different points in the commute, one in a 5-door, one in a sedan. Both were either just showing some oddball Mazda love or asserting some misplaced authority.

Then later, a Miata came up quick in the rearview mirror, hung on the bumper for a couple of seconds, then made a clean jerk to the left and eased up alongside. Don't think he was prepared for Project Miata to put three car lengths on him in seconds. Good laugh watching him scramble to catch up, then hammer off to whichever Kookville he came from.

Still not sure what inspired all the attention. To a nearby motorist, Project Miata looks like a quiet, docile two-seater. No aftermarket exhaust grumble. Maybe it's the stance? The hardtop? The molting trunklid? Come on, Jay - straightpipe and racing stripe next!

-Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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