What is small, fun and topless? We find ourselves back on the roof at Carros Centre, with yet another answer to the question. With the Toyota MR-S already axed from production, the Mazda MX-5 continues to be the longest lasting and most successful modern roadster.
We’ve driven all the MX-5 generations, and despite all of the refinement improvements that the latest ND has, the first-generation NA is still, arguably, the MX-5 to drive. That however, has not stopped people from trying to tame the wildchild inside the NA with plush comfy additions.
The previous owner had tried to “soften” the NA, with the addition of plenty of sound damping materials under the floor. This however muted the natural nimble nature of this roadster with additional weight – the main reason why we still prefer having the NA over the ND.
But reprieve for this example came under a new owner. A very familiar face in the autocross/gymkhana events in a Toyota Starlet, this car caught his attention in his quest to “upgrade” to a rear-wheel drive machine.
So, why rear wheel drive when he proves that a classic Starlet can kick serious butt? “I have always wanted to drive a rear wheel drive machine, for the sake of improving my skills and also experience the drifter’s life.”
In many ways, moving from a classic carby Starlet to a classic Miata was (literally) a jump from the 80’s to the 90’s. Not only was there a whole lot to learn from a drive train switch, the jump in power also meant he kept spinning his way around the track.
In stock form, the Miata had a suspension that makes slow drifts fun, not something that a hardcore autocross driver wants to shave seconds. Without sacrificing a daily drive comfort, a set of coilovers with dual flow valve (DFV) was picked, with 8kg springs for the front and 6kg springs in the rear for rear wiggle control.
The whole point of the Miata was to combine barely enough power with a nice drive. A faster Miata would be a more scary car if not for upgraded coilovers, as well as brakes with pads with much more bite. Power upgrades will come eventually, with a custom air intake already installed. There is a unichip in the car, but it hasn’t been tuned yet..
Instead, most of the work that has been done to the car isn’t the American way, instead, restoring it to the original state with rust restoration works. The entire car was stripped to bare metal and the rusted areas cut out. Fortunately, other than some superficial body rust, the car chassis was in immaculate condition despite having over 20 years of Singapore’s road conditions.
The finish was completed with a German paint and lacquer. He also took the opportunity to slap on a very distinct Rocket Bunny duck tail rear spoiler. Other niggles when dealing with a 90’s car? Major mechanical components, such as the drive shaft, steering rack, ball joints and bushings had to be changed.
While many think that it is relatively easy to modify given all of the parts that are available for it, a surprise discovery is that most of the parts are more readily available from countries outside Japan.
The engine is helped with a nicer throttle response is much improved after the installation of an intake and larger diameter inlet tube, as well as the unmistakable intake “roar” under WOT. Despite the naggings from horsepower freaks that the MX-5 is stockly underpowered, sticky tyres ensure that almost every horse from the engine goes to the tarmac.
The 50/50 weight distribution helps in making the Miata turn sweetly and with the addition of a 1.5 way rear differential, the car absolutely enjoys hanging the rear end out in the corners. This car has two sets of wheels, seven-inch wide Watanabes with offset +35 for motorsport events and seven-inch Rotas with +20 offset for days when he just wants to cruise to work.
Finally, we had to ask, why not keep the soft top?
“I took it off because I don’t want to carry excess weights during events, since I can completely remove the hard top for my runs. And for daily drives, I like a cold air conditioner!”
Mazda Miata MX-5
Custom Air Intake
Ohlins DFV 8kg (F) 6kg ®
Acre dripa brake pads
Watanabes 15×7 +35
Rota Grid 15×7 +20
Pivot Super temp controller
Bride Full bucket seat (driver)
Bride Semi Bucket seat (passenger)
Super low rails
Rocket bunny duck tail
Mazda MX-5 Hardtop