It had been 10 long months since I’d watched my last love pull away on the back of a trailer, heading off to parts unknown. I’d come to grips with the knowledge that never again would I settle into those buttery leather sport seats, breathing in gentle whiffs of not entirely burnt high-test and fresh oil. I spent more than 4 years building that beautiful, wide hipped, topless seductress, but time marches on and everything in life has a tenancy to come and go.
What I needed was a pallet cleanser, something to fill that missing garage space and get me back in the game. Anyone who has more than a passing interest in sporting cars has heard the [well worn] “Miata is always the answer” quip. Being one that has much MUCH deeper than a passing interest since before I could walk I felt it was a moral imperative that I own one.
I have had the opportunity to drive a few over the years. I test drove and considered a new one back in ‘03 when instead I bought a brand new [magical] AP1 S2000 that I’d been lusting after for 4 years (as a then dedicated Honda Fanboi). I even auto-x’d one once while weekend warrior campaigning my daily driver EJ Civic coupe, damn wasn’t that a wholly different driving dynamic! Well, the most recent of those experiences were a decade and a half in the rear view mirror, set in long term storage well before having a whole series of new enlightenment.
found myself with scrounged up a couple grand to spend on my next toy car. 1) a couple grand doesn’t get you a whole lot of “fun” car. 2) I preferred one that was currently running so I could “rolling restore” it (I’m not one that is ok with my project just consuming garage space for more than weeks or in some cases a few months at a time. I get as much pleasure out of the driving as the tinkering) 3) my last several project cars had all left the factory before 1975, I decided to begin crossing off the newer of the list of cars to own before I croak.
I poured over semi-local ads and quickly narrowed down to a few promising candidates consisting of some generally thrashed and abused little NAs. I set off after work on one mid-week afternoon to drive one of them that was about an hour away....
......Now here is where we must pause, and I try to explain to those that don’t already understand how a “car guy mind” works. You see, reasonable people (like the lady of the house) gaze upon a dented, multi-colored 24 year old car, with more than 200,000 (that’s two-hundred thousand) miles having passed underneath it’s filthy carcass. They see that its interior is a disaster of ripped seats, missing pieces and cracked 24 year old plastic (and it smells “icky”). That person hears you want to spend $x (the sum is variable but the idea is always the same) to drag this piece of shit home and proceed to spend more money playing with it.... “wouldn’t you rather redo the master bathroom?”
“Fuck no I don’t want to redo the master bathroom!” What you are looking at (dear) is a classic car, of course it’s got patina, it’s seen the world! I’d want to paint it another color anyway. And the aftermarket has every replacement part you could want. And I could take it racing so it doesn’t need to be perfect! (I haven’t raced in 16 years).
So the car guy, with his special completed project glasses firmly affixed to his head, drags home the next project AND he redoes the master bathroom. Now that you understand (or you can cut/paste this so you can make the reasonable person understand) I digress....
Now if I’m being honest, I didn’t have the instant, insatiable gotta have it desire for it that would come to be known as “Fred” that I’ve had with many other new toy conquests. But, the little Miata hit all the right buttons, it ran & stopped beautifully, it had been aesthetically neglected but well maintained. All it needed was easily within my little wheelhouse and it’s asking price was less than I had to spend (woohoo, upgrade $ to start out with). I came back a couple of days later and drove my next project the hour back home.
Miata faithful I respect thee and I “get it” but prepare to start smoldering at your screens and begin writing your seething replies.......I quickly realized that compared to a series of 60's & 70's VW’s and several 90's Honda Civics (even respectably modified ones) a Miata is a BRILLIANT bit of machinery. It’s light-weight and tossable, that light weight makes it faster than the aforementioned so that’s a ball! It’s simple in it’s purposeful way and has nothing you don’t need in it’s tiny cockpit. But in the last dozen years I’ve had the privilege of owning a string of FAR MORE competent machines. What once was fast now felt like it was screaming at me keeping up with interstate traffic on the way to and from work. What felt tossable now felt like I was piloting a Lincoln Towncar down the Tail of the Dragon. What once was simple and purposeful now felt like, well simple and purposeful, I was ok w/ the sparse interior once I upgraded & restored it a little (so there’s that).
I spent 6 months with Fred, I’d improved the little ugly duckling enough that he now looked far nicer than the car I started with. I never did more to the engine than a good detailing. I’d replaced the doors, a headlight assembly, the driver’s seat upholstery & the rear trim panel with good ones from a wrecked parts car I bought for $100. I added bits and baubles that I thought made it look cooler inside and out. I applied 3 different plasti-tip paint jobs, But in the end, while I enjoyed the car, I didn’t LOVE the car.
This may have been the first car I’ve owned (out of more than 30 at this point) that I made money on when I sold it. I put it on Craigslist and he was zoom zooming off to his new home within a couple of days. Cars are my best therapy, my Miata was a bright point from this aspect in several ways but just wasn’t a long termer for me. I went on to cross off another from the list.
Everyone else has a quip here so why not..... Travis is a normal guy, with a normal home in a normal place and not nearly enough car budgets to go around. He has been automotively obsessed since he could push a matchbox car on the floor and say pbpbpbpbpbp. He’s currently driving cars no. 30 and 31 and doesn’t plan on limiting that figure any time soon. He has no idea why he’s using 3rd person....