Project Miata Lives - 1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long-Term Road Test

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata Long Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

1997 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Project Miata Lives

November 24, 2010


In 1994, Mazda introduced that nadir of Miata-ness, the special edition M-Edition, which persisted like a lingering sore through the '97 model year at which point Mazda mercifully euthanised the concept.

Essentially loaded Miatas with different paint, trim and hideous chrome wheels, the M-Edition was that shameless money-grab by automakers -- the badge and sticker job. M-Editions were the poodle chariots of Miatas. The wine-and-cheese version. They were given names like Fifi by the kind of people that name their cars.

They're also a goldmine for hardcore Miata enthusiasts.

Say what?

If you're befuddled, good. And I swear I'll tie this in to Project Miata, but you'll have to hit the jump first.

Being loaded, all M-Editions packing a manual gearbox also came equipped with a Torsen limited-slip differential. Meaning that unlike other trim levels, there are no questions or guesswork when you find one for sale in the classifieds or craigslist -- stick equals Torsen.

And being the range-topping frilly-frill version, M-Editions tended to be bought by affluent (read: older) buyers that maintained their cars well and drove them only as hard as they needed to get to bingo night on time.


It turns out being asspacked by a Blazer was a blessing in disguise for Project Miata. The insurance settlement worked out very nicely, especially once I located a one-owner 1997 Miata M-Edition to replace the totaled white '94. This froggie had the optional ABS, a clean title, no damage of any significance and an integrated poodle harness. I might be lying about that last bit.

The fact that the owner was asking just $2000 made it an easy decision -- we bought it on the spot several weeks ago and swapped over the bits from the white car when time allowed. So far that includes the suspension (FatCat Motorsports coilovers, Racing Beat stabilizer bar, 949Racing endlinks) and nearly-new service items including upper wishbones, ART hubs, R/LE tie rod ends, plus Stoptech 309 brake pads.


With 125k miles on the clock, this bass-boat green Miata has 50k fewer miles than the white car and was obviously treated better. Still, it's a used car, and it turns out some older drivers can't hear, and the butt-dyno of their inner ear ain't what it used to be. During my test drive this one pinged at part throttle and pulled hard to the right at speed on throttle and hard to the left off-throttle.

Fortunately, those are easy fixes. A compression check showed that the pinging was benign, and one rear tire was responsible for the pull since the differential can't tell the difference between turning and when its simply dealing with mismatched tire diameters. Once I put on the 14" Dunlops Star Specs we had lying around, it tracked straight and true. The 949Racing 6ULs will go on once I get the fenders rolled.

What's that? STFU and tell you why it's on the dyno in the lead image? Right, then. The gentleman behind the wheel is one Oscar Jackson, proprietor of Kraftwerks Performance Group, and it's being baseline dyno tested as part of its Kraftwerks supercharger kit installation.

Lots more to come. Enjoy your holiday, you crazy kids.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 125,214 miles.

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests