First things first: this is shameless self-promotion. I own this car, for the time being. You see, I have an addiction to buying and selling cars. There should be a support group for this, but I fear it would turn into one big swap meet. In any case, my wandering eye has me contemplating something entirely different, which puts this little sweetheart of a car on the market. I love Miatas, and they remain some of the most automotive fun you can have for the low prices they command. This particular example is a nice, clean honest one that has not been thrashed, torn, ridden hard and put away wet, or been adorned with bits and baubles like body kits and wing spoilers. In fact, it looks pretty much the way it did when it rolled off the dealer’s lot 19 years ago. Find it here on eBay in Fairfax, VA with a buy it now price of just $4295.
The fact of the matter is that I am back and forth on even selling it. It really has been such a good little car that the next time I get the inexpensive 2-seater bug I will kick myself for selling a perfectly good one. I like the first generation Miatas for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their relative simplicity of design and engineering. In reading about the design team behind the original Miata, it becomes apparent that simplicity was one of their chief missives, and although the car – particularly the interior – was described by many reviewers as spartan or uninspired from a design perspective, when you get behind the wheel everything is clear, legible, and right where it should be. Uncomplicated? Certainly, but I disagree that it was uninspired. If anything, it was inspired by multiple generations of British and Italian sports cars.
One of my key considerations in selecting a Mk I 1st generation Miata is that they have only a driver airbag, which is a strong consideration when you have small children – front airbags, according to numerous safety organizations, are not kid-friendly until they reach about 5 feet in height. Smaller than that and the force of the bag can hit them at the wrong angle and cause neck injuries and other such badness. My kids love riding in this car, and I love that they do. I do like that Miatas do have some modern safety features like shoulder belts, rigid chassis bracing, and door reinforcements compared with cars like my old Alfa, Fiat, and even Mercedes 280SL Pagoda that had lap belts and, well, not a whole lot of anything else.
The fact that the kids love this car is one of my chief problems about selling it. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about kids and the car hobby, elder daughter told me I should wait until the weather improves so I can get more money for the car, but there’s more to it than that even for her. I have been teaching her stick shift in this car, and she really gets a charge out of rowing the gears (safely from the passenger seat, I might add for those who may think I’ve completely lost my brain and put a 10 year-old at the wheel of a car..!) and even just riding with the top down. Further, with two seats it is an excuse to spend quality time with the kids individually. I’ve had good daddy-daughter chats with both girls at length in this car, partly because it’s just the two of us riding together in close quarters. Those are times I will cherish all the more as they become teenage girls with all that implies.
If I were to keep this car (and writing this I may just talk myself into it) I would consider new alloys and tires, although I would keep the originals to hand-off to the next owner down the road. The reasoning is that 1) better tires are available in larger sizes, and 2) I like the look of some of the classic style aftermarket wheels available for this car, like the Chaparral minilite replicas or the Enkei Classic J-speeds, that give the car a very mild custom look. It also may need tires since the current ones feel a little flat-spotted, although the price has been adjusted for that. Otherwise, there is very little I would consider doing to it besides driving and enjoying. The only other modification it has is the Racing Beat air intake for which I detailed the installation here and gives the car a little more grunt and growl than the average Miata. Still, for the purist I saved the original airbox and no permanent modifications were made. It also has a glass window top which is a huge improvement over the plastic window original both from a visibility perspective as well as durability.
While not particularly fast, Miatas offer a direct connection among driver, car, and road that you don’t find in very many cars. In many ways the gearshift, motor, and steering wheel almost literally come through as extensions of the driver rather than tools for him (or her). They can be challenging if pushed, but are utterly predictable. This car, with up-to-date maintenance, current safety inspection, and no nagging issues will make somebody a great toy or daily driver for a relatively small entrance fee. It also doesn’t suffer from the terminal rot, tweaked body, or battered and torn interior that you see in so many early Miatas. It’s a nice clean, honest little car and I hate to let it go, except that I want to buy something else. Or do I? Where else can I get the fun and ease of ownership this car offers for this money – or twice this much? Hmm.. Maybe I should just end the auction and keep it. Or maybe I can have this AND another car – but then there is the space issue. Decisions, decisions!