So I drove my Miata yesterday. Or my former, now my wife’s Miata. I have owned Miatas since 1996 (a 94M edition), and put very nearly 400k (386k and counting still) on 3 different ones. during that time. In that run, I had about 2200 dollars of unscheduled maintenance, a record that I never hope to repeat. We had some flirtations with the local Miata club, but most of my Miatamania was acted out on Miata.net, the destination for Miatiacs everywhere. I found out how to wash the Miata, how to clean out the drain holes, what the best cover for the rear window was, best tires, etc.
I covered a lot of ground in the Miata. I used it in my business, and went to California in it once, and the East coast twice. I meant to do the 66 run, but never did, and now probably never will (at least in a Miata). The Miata taught me how to go on a trip lightly, instead of packing my whole closet in the car.
I owned 3. A 94M Edition, a 2002 Crystal Blue Metallic with Hard S suspension, and a 2004 Mazdaspeed Turbo. The Turbo is the one we still have, and is in many ways the finest Miata I ever owned. The 94 I bought used with about 9k on it, the 2002 I bought new in Sante Fe and the 2004 I bought used in about 2009 with 3400 miles on it. Each had their own quirks. The 94 was the “cleanest” Miata as far as lines went, resembling the Lotus that the Miata had, in part, been based on. I loved the car, and the wooden M edition gear shift, so much so, that I kept that gear knob through all of my cars.
The 2002, I bought new. That was unusual for me, I rarely buy cars new, although I will buy trucks new (as you never know how hard they may have been used (don’t ask me how I know that)). When I went looking for the 02, I knew exactly what I wanted. The local Mazda dealer in NWA didn’t want to talk to me since I had an EAA membership and got Ford pricing on the car, so I went looking for the one I wanted. There were 3 in the US that matched my wants (Crystal Blue Metalic, Hard S suspension, Hard Top and Anti-Lock brakes), one each in Chicago, Houston and Sante Fe. I had to buy the car before the end of the year to get a special financing deal, and as it was already Christmas I needed to move fast. The Houston Miata had dealer installed pinstriping that they wanted 150.00 bucks for, and since I didn’t want pinstriping and they wouldn’t take it off, that was out. That left Chicago and Sante Fe, and as it was the middle of winter, Chicago didn’t seem like a good plan. One call to Sante Fe and the deal was done. I jumped on a train (first, and so far only train trip) in KC, and road out to Sante Fe where my saleswoman picked me up at the station. Hilarity then ensued when the key wouldn’t fit the highly polished CBM that they had on the ramp for me. While they tried to figure out where the key was, I popped the hood and pointed out that this car didn’t have Anti-Locks (the module was obvious if you knew what to look for) and after a mechanic confirmed this, they figured out that the actual one I was buying was still buried in the snow in the back of the lot. They were kind enough to take me to lunch while the prep’d’ the right car, and I drove back from Sante Fe over the next 2 days. I always wondered what would have happened had I left with the wrong car…
The 2004 demonstrated to me that buying a 6 year old car with 3400 miles on it was not the same as buying a new car. The tires almost got me killed (when the Fast and Furious actor was killed in a car with old tires, I was not in the least surprised by the cause) and the 17″ wheels on that model were very nearly worthless. I went back to the old 15″ wheels, and was much happier. A few other quirks reared their head (the dreaded turbo bog, which turned out to be a bad valve), but the extra horsepower was enough to make the car my favorite.
Because of my tribology experience I became somewhat of the oil expert on the Miata.net forums for a few years. That and my search for the proper oil for the 6 speed gearbox, which digested regular gearbox oil with grinding and balking.
In 2013, with way too few miles having rolled up on the Mazdaspeed, I had an aircraft refueling hose wrap around my ankle during retraction that caused a dreadful knee injury which ended up with me getting a partial knee replacement. The year between the injury and the surgery was enough to make the Miata unusable with the knee, so it went to my wife, and I got a BMW M6 (which is not nearly as fun to drive). About the time I was ready to try the Miata again, I tore the Achilles Tendon on the same leg and had surgery to repair that as well.
Yesterday was the first time I drove the Miata in over a year. Getting in and settling down into the seat was a breeze. Everything came exactly to hand, I knew exactly how much force to use to feather the clutch on the way out, and the x-acto knife steering was the same as I remembered. The car is still the funnest car I know of to drive, and as I have said several times, some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I missed that feel of horse and rider (although in truth, I never was that comfortable riding horses), of it responding to my every thought. Feeling the texture of the road through the wheel, noticing that one tire was probably about 2 lbs low from the feel of braking. Felt like I was 30 again.
But, with the top up, getting in for me is very nearly impossible, I just don’t bend my head that way anymore (top down is fine). The knees aren’t a problem anymore, but the car feels “tight” on me, like it never used to. Probably if I stopped wearing cargo pants, that would help. But it just isn’t my car anymore. We are getting ready to sell the Miata, my wife’s knees after a few crashes on her horses, aren’t Miata friendly anymore, and I have just become too used to other things to compromise to get back into the Miata (plus the whole getting in with the top up thing). It’s sad. I will probably never own another car that I know as intimately as the Miata. I will never own a car as reliable or as fun as the Miata. In a way, I would prefer not to get rid of it, just to keep it for those sunny days that the top can stay down. It wouldn’t be a financial trial at all, but that isn’t my way. My cars have to work for a living, not be hangar queens ready for the third coat of wax. Sadly, it’s time to move on.
But oh, the memories….