Garage Corner: Helping the 1993 Mazda MX-5 Miata Breathe
Fifteen years ago my wife and I were newlyweds and our first joint car purchase was a 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Not long after buying the car, I joined the Miata club and started immediately receiving all kinds of catalogs from parts vendors like Moss Motors, MMMiata, and Performance Buyers Club (which is local to me at the time and also has a great Miata-oriented service and repair business). I immediately started circling things in catalogs that I wanted to enhance my Miata, and ended-up buying chrome vent rings, a cupholder to go in the place of the ashtray, stainless steel door sills, and a Racing Beat high-flow intake. We ended-up selling the car before I got any further, and I wasn’t really in a cash position to take the car to the next level anyway.
One of the things that attracted me to the new Miata was that it is bone stock original. So many of these cars – especially the Mk1s – have been tweaked, twisted, gutted, changed, altered, or mutilated. If I want a car that’s been modified, I want to do it myself. I admit: as soon as I got the 1993, I started surfing the internet and checking out the current state of the Miata parts and accessories market, and I was pleased to find it really hasn’t changed since I was last in the game, except maybe that it’s gotten even better. The upgrade/modification potential for these cars is nearly limited only by your imagination and your wallet.
As I surfed the various catalogs, I stumbled across the same style Racing Beat intake I’d bought for the 1994, but for the 1990-93 1.6 liter motor like mine. While it doesn’t really do much in terms of power – maybe a few horsepower at the most – paired with a K&N cone filter it improves airflow and gives the Miata an intake growl that I really enjoy the sound of. It sounds especially good on hard acceleration through a tunnel or under an overpass.
Installation of the intake takes about 45 minutes, and basically requires removal of the airbox, unbolting the air flow meter from the airbox, assembling the intake brackets, and bolting it all back together. It’s a well-made kit with a high quality alloy intake pipe and cadmium-plated bolts and brackets, and I think it looks good in the engine bay. The only concern I had during installation was that the air filter comes within tenths of millimeters of the headlight motor, but it does clear it. The instructions also tell you to make sure that nothing comes in contact with the brake hardware. Just like when I did the job 15 years ago, everything went together like clockwork and there were no clearance issues with the hood closed. Score!
On the road I was pleased to hear that same growl that our old ’94 1.8 liter made with the same system installed, and I spent the better part of an hour finding places to make the most of the motor’s new voice. Many owners install systems like this or some of the more expensive cold air intake kits (like that from Jackson Racing) in concert with free-flow exhaust systems. I like the Miata’s exhaust note, so am not in a hurry to make a change there, but there are a lot of options if I change my mind there…
The other upgrade I decided was a priority on my new Miata was a set of door sill guards. While these were well-designed cars from a mechanical standpoint, Mazda did chintz-out on some of the details like the bare door sills that welcome scrapes and scratches that will, in turn, ultimately turn to rust. I was lucky that the sills on this car were in pretty good shape. While scratched, the scratches didn’t seem to cut all the way to bare metal except in a couple of spots that had been touched-up by the previous owner.
I mentioned above that I’d put stainless steel sill covers on the 1994 Miata, but have read that those tend to collect dirt, promote corrosion, and are not a simple screw on/off proposition, requiring that they be more permanently adhered to the sills with double-sided tape. Sure you can remove them to clean them, but it’s a hassle. I also thought that black would better complement my car’s red finish than stainless, so I bought a set of black plastic covers from MMMiata.
Installation was as simple as cleaning the sills, unscrewing the four screws on the existing door lip covers, removing those, sliding the full sill covers on, and then screwing it all back down using the original lip covers to hold down the sill covers. I was dubious about whether they would really stay in place without any sort of adhesive, but they do, and I’ve already tested them in a few outings and found them just as solid and tight as can be. Hopefully they’ll stay that way.
So what next? I am looking at chassis-bracing options. I don’t ave any plans to track the car, but I can see that a little bit of bracing would tighten things up nicely, and eliminate some of the scuttle shake and flexibility in the chassis. coming out of an old Alfa Spider it feels terrifically solid as it is, but I know there is room for improvement. I’m also trying to decide if I should go with 15″ wheels/tires. I like the look of the stock minilite-style wheels, but could really go for a set of polished-lip Panasports, knockoffs, or I saw a set of Enkei Classics that would look sharp too. I just love having options.
Looks great! I installed a similar K&N kit on my 1989 Jag and while the horsepower did not significantly increase, the engine tone was an exciting improvement! Keep the details coming!
Reed, check out the 949 Racing 6UL’s for 15″ wheels. i’m planning to get a set for my MSM next year. http://www.949racing.com.
BTW, the MMMiata website is totally screwed. Just go there. A box pops up that you have to login in like you are webmaster or something. You don’t have permission to view it and you can’t get permission either.