QotW: What’s your greatest Mazda MX-5 story?

156-BH7519_Mazda MX5 Miata NA

This week at the New York International Auto Show, Mazda will officially celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Mazda Miata, thus inducting it into the “25 Year Old” club of Japanese nostalgic cars. The great thing about the MX-5 is that it makes the joy of driving attainable by nearly everyone. Like the Datsun 510 of old, everyone either owned one or knew someone who did. So tell us:

What’s your greatest Mazda MX-5 story?

We have two NA Miatas in the JNC family. Justin’s is a daily driven example that’s been to MazFest, JCCS and other events all over California while Ricky’s is an original owner car yet still cleaner than most new cars after over two decades of ownership. Both are red, both are brilliantly fun to drive, and both have always known these cars would achieve nostalgic status one day.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a toy. Click through to see the winner of the last QotW, “What’s your best high mileage JNC story?” 

A60 Celica

This week’s winner is Bob, who tells the sad, sad tale of a much-abused A60 Celica. It’s a long read, so you might want to settle in with a drink and snacks to get you through the journey.

Back in, oh, 2005ish, my friend Arvin was looking for his first car. I had registered as a bidder at a local car donation lot that, for awhile, used to get lots of really interesting cars running through it. I had thrown bids on a non-running ’73 Grand Marquis that was completely immaculate with every maintenance record and the window sticker and sales receipt in the glove box, and a few SA/FB RX-7s. Arvin scoured the auction website for awhile and one day spotted a gold ’84 Celica GT hatch, and decided he wanted to bid on it. So we went on the bidding day, got a quick look over (day of auction, couldn’t actually touch the cars), and he ended up winning it for the second highest bid, $150. Turned out to be an automatic, but it was incredibly clean and reasonably straight. He gave his deposit, and we ran back to his house to get money for it. Which is when he told his Indian father that he’d just bought a car.

I don’t understand the language, but pure rage needs no translation. There was a lot of frantic screaming and finger pointing, but bedgrudgingly his father went to the bank with him, let Arvin take out some money, and we drove to the donation lot. Not a comfortable ride. A lot of obviously sarcastic/snarky angry comments were fielded his way.

Once back at the auction lot, he paid the remainder of the car, tax/title/fees, and was handed the keys. And there we were, getting our first real view of the car.

During the bidding, the car was started up, revved a bunch, and allowed to idle for the remainder of the bidding. It sounded healthy, smooth, quiet. Looked inside, odometer read something near 150,000 miles. As we poked around, Arvin started the car and let it idle… which it did for a whopping 30-40 seconds before it stalled. And then it wouldn’t start again, just cranked and cranked. Fuel gauge showed it had half a tank, but we tried to open the gas door regardless… and the tab holding it in wouldn’t budge.

One of the lot workers wandered up and was watching us, and tried to help by grabbing a screwdriver, shoving it in the fuel door, and prying it back, breaking off the tab. Lovely. And that was when we realized that we had no way to figure out whether it had gas or not, rendering the exercise useless.

While we stood around wondering what was wrong, another lot worker wandered over and began talking with the first one, who mentioned that the car wouldn’t start.

Second lot worker: “Isn’t this the one with the hole in the oil pan?”

And that’s when we looked underneath. Sure enough, there was a lovely 2 inch long gash in the oil pan. Now we knew why it had been donated. And that’s when it hit us: During the two day inspection period prior, people had been coming over to this car and revving the piss out of it, most likely. Without a drop of oil in it. And the auction people were doing the same.

Arvin’s father, who had been standing by, fuming in silence, finally had a big smile across his face for the first time all afternoon, as Arvin stood there in speechless horror. His father began gleefully chiding him in broken English. “OH, LOOK WHAT GOOD CAR YOU BUY! SUCH GOOD CAR, WITH NO OIL IN IT!”

Knowing we couldn’t leave it where it was, we pushed the Celica to the parking lot, locked it up and left. There was a 24 hour grace period to come pick it up, and I managed to find him someone who’d tow it. Of course, when he returned to get the car, trailer in hand, he realized he’d left the keys at home, 20 miles away. And so we had to pry the window back, break into the car, and with it in neutral, roll it straight onto the trailer.

It sat for about a month before I’d managed to secure him a free parts car, a rotted out ’85 GT with a 5-speed.

In the effort of shortening this story, Arvin managed to swap the oil pan off the rotted car onto the gold ’84 and, once full of oil, it started right back up again. And drove perfectly fine. However, Arvin had gotten it in his mind that he absolutely wanted an LS400 and nothing else would be good enough, and though he loved the Celica he felt it wouldn’t be perceived as cool by his peers. So, he gave it away to Emo Mike, a mutual friend who helped him with the oil pan swap and liked the Celica a bunch.

Mike immediately decided he would swap the manual out of the parts car, and despite not really having any previous mechanical experience, bought a new clutch/flywheel/throwout bearing/slave cylinder, and within an afternoon, had a 5-speed in the gold car. The rusty ’85 was unceremoniously scrapped with the remainder of it’s parts, much to the frustration of both me and the person who had given it to him (who, himself, bought it for the 22RE in it).

Mike needs a bit of explanation. Mike is a very quiet guy. He barely talks, but when he did, what came out was gold. He has a dry and wicked sense of humor, if you can actually hear him. He was always immensely depressed, sullen, and quiet.

But he loved the Celica. He became immensely proud of it very quickly. He did some minor maintenance, cut the springs one afternoon, threw on the part’s car’s pizza cutters, hacked off the exhaust and welded a cherry bomb to it, and went to town.

Unfortunately, despite his love for the car, he was always treated it… roughly. He decided one day while sitting in a parking lot that he should gut the perfect interior… and began ripping everything out with his hands and threw it all in a dumpster. He took the air filter off… and never reinstalled it. Never meaning since, oh, 2006, to current, it’s been driven constantly without an air filter or airbox, just a MAF dangling in the engine bay unprotected. One of the incredibly dry rotted tires on the Pizza Cutters let go at speed, and the tread HAMMERED the quarter panel before coming off completely.

And then, somehow, the car became an accident magnet. Three times he was sitting at lights or stop signs and was rear ended. Once, during a drunken fight with his violent ex-wife (He himself has lead a very interesting and sad life), he tried to drive away and ran into a tree 2-3 doors down in a snowstorm.

The last time it was rear ended several years ago, the hatch was mangled and the glass blew out. The seats were bent so badly from his body hitting it in an accident that he drove it with a twisted gangster lean. A friend was restoring a P-type Supra and decided the grimy seats weren’t for him, so I drove them to Mike’s house and he installed them. One day we were driving in a caravan to another friend’s house, when the Celica sputtered and died on the freeway. Pulling over, there wasn’t a drop of oil on the dipstick. Mike didn’t remember the last time he’d checked, or changed, the oil. It started again, and just barely made it off into a gas station, where we bought some oil. It started, and made it another 2 miles before it conked out again. I eventually just pushed it off the road with my Impala, and drove him away. We came back with a truck and trailer, hauled it, and Mike spent two whole days figiting with it in our friend’s barn before someone knocked on the gas tank and discovered it was bone dry. I drove him with a can to the gas station 6 miles away, he filled it up, spilled half of it in my car, and we made it back. That night driving home, I swerved to avoid a deer, and of course, the only car coming in the other direction was the local police, who pulled me over, began asking why I was swerving, and then wanted to know why the car stunk of gasoline. I was let go an hour later.

We fixed the broken hatch with the only one we could find from a rusty P-type, and took the taillights from it too. Chained the Celica to a tree, and made about 20 hard pulls to get the back end out as much as we could, tin snipped the holes big enough for Supra tails, and slapped it all together.

Just this past year, the spool he installed when he first got the car blew up in spectacular fashion. We tried for awhile to find any differential for it, but the yards here have barely any Toyotas besides rotted trucks and X7s. In the end,he found the open diff… which had been sitting outside in his yard since he put it there 6-7 years prior, coated in surface rust, and threw it in. And that’s how it drives right now.

Despite this ridiculous level of abuse, it’s gone another 120,000 miles in his ownership. The car never ceases to amaze me. At times it’s been his only possession, and other than running out of gas and the shattered spool, it’s never left him stranded, and that poor 22R, while it’s certainly not as healthy as it was in 2005, still starts every day, no matter what, and takes him where he needs to go. Even if he goes 10,000 miles before he remembers it needs an oil change, or any oil at all.

Maybe it doesn’t have the highest mileage, but I doubt that million mile Mark II had endured as much abuse.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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15 Responses to QotW: What’s your greatest Mazda MX-5 story?

  1. Kira says:

    great story, thanks made my Monday morning!

  2. cesariojpn says:

    And this is another reason why we can’t have nice things.

  3. cesariojpn says:

    Stupid enter button….

    As for today’s question:

    On a forum that I don’t go to anymore (and I think changed names and dumped their data, like two or more times), a user that claimed to be female once regaled a story that even today would make some people cringe. So one night long time ago, she and this guy went out for the night. Well, somehow it turned into a pull over to the side and they began to “do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” Let your mind go wild here folks.

    Well, in the middle of the whole coitus thingy, she slipped (either during the actual act, or repositioning herself, I forgot which one it was) and……….impaled herself on the stick shifter. With her…….”orifice.” She surprisingly claims that it was all done in a Miata.

    Now I don’t know if the story is true, or how one could have sex in a Miata (Jalopnik thinks it’s a deathtrap to have sex in one: http://jalopnik.com/5356456/ten-worst-cars-to-have-sex-in/ , while this one says you can, if you know how: http://www.miata.net/askbob/0104.html), but if it was true, I have to wonder why I can’t meet women that like such small Japanese cars.

  4. Juan Mendez says:

    Wow great story it had its great moments and it’s bad moments but it was always positive really did enjoy the movie and makes me shan’t to have the car even more know

  5. bert says:

    “I don’t understand the language, but pure rage needs no translation!” Best line ever!

  6. daruma3gakoronda says:

    Pics please!

    • Bob says:

      I’m guessing you’re asking of the Celica? I inquired for a current picture today:


      IMO, look at it this way: Had it not been saved at auction, the first bid was a scrap dealer. It would have been crushed years ago. This is the car that really made me fall in love with old Japanese cars, and it’s a testament to how tough these Celicas are. Look at it like you would the Top Gear Hilux- every day since 2005 has been borrowed time anyways. The damage in the first picture was there at the auction lot- I blame most of it on the auction lot itself, they stacked cars in the holding area like sardines and dented the hell out of most of them. It was a dented up, 20 year old automatic hatchback with no value at the time. Mike is bummed about what’s happened, but he’s learned a bunch from the experience, he’s made friends because of it, I’ve made friends because of it, and sadly not every one can be saved. It’s still on the road and it’s still kicking, and as long as it is, you can’t be mad at it.

      That’s my .02.

  7. TougeJunkie says:

    My manager has a A60 just like that, same color and everything. Its also rusting away from Colorado winters, owned since new in 83. 22REs are impossibly indestructible 🙂

  8. I bought my NA8 Miata in the summer of 2000. It was… like coming home. Like finding an arm or leg I never knew was missing. The car became the automotive extension of myself. I modified it over the next few years, learned how to drive and race behind the wheel of the car, and generally loved life. I even gave the car a name.

    But the first 8 years isn’t really where our story gets interesting. In the fall of 2008, Sharka was destroyed in a freeway accident. I was at the end of a long line during rush hour and the lady behind us wasn’t paying attention to the road in front of her. She took out several cars, including mine. Thankfully, I walked away with a minor concussion. I don’t remember a whole lot about the day that Sharka was crushed. I just remember laying on the hospital bed scheming on how to rebuild my beloved car.

    I bought the wreck back from insurance and stripped all the good parts. A few months of scouring the intartoobz found me a pristine 95 chassis in the same color as the previous body (Montego Blue.) Only 31,000 miles on the clock, like it was just waiting for me.

    It didn’t matter to me that it was winter and the car was deep in snow territory. Sharka was waiting and I needed the car back. NEEDED. I booked a plane ticket, packed a lunch-box with cash, flew out, and bought my Miata. Again. I then took a 2000 mile drive home in an unknown car.

    It was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

    Side note: if you’ve never flown to an unknown city to buy a car you intend to road-trip back home, I highly suggest considering it. Take a camera and document your experience. I guarantee you will not want to forget any part of your trip.

    Over the next year, I slowly rebuilt Sharka. Getting the chance to do everything over again was wonderful. I re-installed the best modifications I had made in the eight years prior and I took my time with it. I did everything right. I obsessed over each detail. I documented everything on my blog. Well, on Sharka’s blog. It’s not really mine.

    I finished the rebuild and just kept building the car. Changing out pieces for different ones. Trying new things. And when I couldn’t find the parts I wanted, I made my own. And I spammed every Miata message board with my rebuild, documenting everything.

    When I really think about it, losing my NA actually brought my whole life into focus. It might sound lame or cliche, but it’s what answered the question for me. You know, the big one. The meaning of life question.

    Sharka and I have had quite a journey in the past 14 years. And it’s far from over. I don’t plan on moving on from Miatas any time soon and will certainly not be getting rid of Sharka. There will always be a white-striped NA Roadster in my life. Even if that car is somehow destroyed again. I’ll just rebuild it again. And again. As many times as it takes.

  9. Geakin2 says:

    You ever dream about a better life? i did…
    I also dreamed of the day when life would place me in the position to fly down the road, feeling the wind flow past. I drove a small suv, so only opening the windows or the sunroof was an option, but I still dreamed. The question I could not settle on though was whether it would be a convertible, or perhaps maybe a motorcycle? Who knew? Thats why they are called “dreams”, right? No concern for “the details”.
    Luck had it that a colleague of mine needed his dog to be cared for while he traveled. The fact that he owned a sweet Harley 883 sportster that just sat in his garage that I could ride in lieu of payment for the dog walking was a serious plus. After a few excursions though, I quickly came to terms that this would be my demise, simply due to the lack of driver attention on the road these days. Not mine, the other folks on the road:)
    So life goes on… After all, I’m no young chicken hawk anymore. Back when I was still a teen and underage, I had my parents “sign me up” and so I left my family, home, and state to join the U.S. military and never looked back. Figured since I’ve survived life this far, I wasn’t about to be a statistic now.
    Soon after resigning the thought of purchasing and riding a motorcycle, I received an invitation to attend my 25th year high school reunion and I was super excited since I’d never attended a reunion before. Due to the wonderment of social media, in the process of gathering more information about the reunion, I also reconnected with people from my past. One of those was my high school sweetheart. We didn’t have any bad history. I just entered the Air Force and she went off to college. Marriages, children, divorces, etc. for us both. Living separately different lives in separately different states didn’t stop us from living almost identical lives.
    Another common ground? We both had also given up hope of ever finding True Love. Or had we thought wrong???
    Writing led to speaking led to visiting led to us getting married within three, Yes, 3 months of our initial rekindling:)
    How happy do you think I was when I find out she had just purchased a 2008 MX-5? Not as happy as I was when she said, “You drive honey”. 😀 YES!!!
    Life REALLY does move on. Two years later and we still have never been happier in our entire lives. We are so blessed to have each other and because we both loved driving the Miata soooo much, I soon realized there was only one solution. Clone it… 🙂
    Now we are pretty much recognized wherever we go locally as the “his and hers” couple:)
    Both are stock 08 GT; soft tops; galaxy grey; hermx5 is auto; hismx5 is manual.
    So the next time you wonder if dreams will ever come true, just remember HIS AND HER, MX5 that is 😀

  10. Brandon says:

    My great miata story is that I just bought one a month ago. Put a new radiator in it as the old one was cracked along with some new spark plugs and wires, and an oil change. Have been having a blast ever since.

  11. Bob says:

    Surprisingly, I’ve known a lot of people with Miatas. Especially considering I live in Detroit, and this isn’t really Miata-friendly climate. I’ve heard surprisingly little negative about them around here, very few “girl’s car” comments, and I’d have likely owned one by now if they fit me better (downside of being really tall).

    Most memorable Miata moments:

    1. In high school, I rode a bus between schools for an autoshop class every day (I had biked between the schools for awhile until school guards noticed me biking away from school mid-day, and forced me to ride a cramped bus instead.) One day on a particularly empty ride back, I struck up a conversation with the bus driver, and we talked about cars for awhile. As it turned out, he was a Miata owner and loved it. It was his only car and he drove it year-round, and was proud of it. For some reason, I remember vividly to this day him talking about how great it was in winter with snow tires. Stuck with me. For some reason, I suddenly gained a bunch of respect for Miatas that day after that conversation: they were no longer just the car me and my father would force ourselves into at the Auto Show every year for pictures to me.

    2. The only person I remember ever strongly disliking Miatas was a girl I met from Ohio who came to Michigan for some fly-by-night film college, and lived with some random Korean guy she found on Craigslist. She was always very outspoken, and didn’t get along with the roommate at all. He drove a blue NA Miata with a red hardtop, stored in their tiny apartment, and the car had stickers placed all over it, placed in a manner like an 8 year old would if you handed them a stack of stickers and left them next to a car- haphazardly, and all over it with no rhyme or reason. It was an automatic to boot, and he was apparently trying to find someone to trade him an Explorer for it or something. She was merciless towards it, and had all sorts of strange comments about them. He moved out, she moved away a year later, and I eventually saw the car at the local junkyard. I sent her a picture of it, to which she asked if I pissed on it, and was disappointed I hadn’t. I do feel bad for the car, though it appeared to get stripped pretty well in the yard. Someone I know managed to get the hardtop for $50. Massive steal.

    3. I stored my ’78 Impala at a shop with a gentleman who raced Spec Miata and had began building spec cars for others. Shop was just filled with half-dismantled Miatas all over the place, Miatas on his Dyno, miatas being parted out back, etc. I helped do bodywork on a rolled-over shell for awhile, helped toss it back together. Never did get to see it race, and he and the cars mysteriously disappeared into the night not long after I got my Impala out of there. No explanation, though the building was strangely labelled “Darwin Industries”. Maybe some sort of sign?

    4. This is probably the best one. Friend of mine, Curt, had a black WRX he loved dearly. After an unfortunate run-in with a deer, he replaced it with a black NA Miata that had been boosted. He cleaned it up and made his own projector headlights, lightened it up some more, did all kinds of work… and then the trans ate itself. A normal person might decide, “well, I’ll just swap another trans into it,” but no. Not Curt. Suddenly, he was dismantling the whole car to put an LS in it. He drove to Cleveland to buy a motor and trans from a junkyard, and somehow in the course of a year, completely dismantled and rebuilt the Miata. It’s a very comprehensive build and it goes beyond just the drivetrain- nothing got away unscathed. Engine bay smoothed, anything unnecessary was professionally shitcanned, he learned to weld to make braces and strengthen the car, etc. I don’t remember everything he did; But I don’t have to, because it’s all documented on his little blog!


    Sincerely worth perusing. Curt is incredibly intelligent and talented, and I feel like a pussy for whining about how much work my cars need when I see what he’s accomplished in his free time. And in such a short time frame!

    I saw the Miata sometime in July in his garage with no drivetrain at all, being prepped for the cage and paint… and he was driving it the morning of the Woodward Dream Cruise (mid August). And it was glorious.

    Curt drove the piss out of the car for a few months, even driving it down south on a moment’s notice for a weekend music festival with a friend (a thousand miles with no heat and a loud small block? Fantastic!). However, I still never got a ride in the car.

    I had much needed hernia surgery one fine morning in October and that same night there was a party at a mutual friend’s house. Curt had just driven the Miata back from Flint, and offered a ride to said party in Pontiac. I was mostly conscious by this point and the stabbing pains from my chest weren’t *THAT* bad. Why not?

    Mostly, I couldn’t pass up the chance to ride in the Miata FINALLY.

    And so, he arrived on a chilly October evening, in the heatless Miata, and I contorted myself, grabbing my stitches so they didn’t move, over the doorbars and settled in. Buckled up tight in the racing harness, and stared at the wiring and bars in front of me. And away we went.

    He took the back way out of my neighborhood and around a nearly blind two-lane, 15 mile an hour 90 degree curve. And romped on it, sliding effortlessly around the turn, tires squealing in agony. He mused how the car drove so much better now, no longer struggling with wheelhop. And then he got on the freeway.

    All was docile until we got onto the stretch of M-59 heading west into Pontiac… and then he laid into it. And I was thrown back into my tiny seat, LS screaming, as we blew past the crumbling Silverdome in the brisk night, top down, at something close to 140.

    I remember no other part of that evening besides the drive there and back, and how much fun the car was even to just ride in. Curt is immensely proud of his Miata, and he deserves to be. I know he sent the build thread around with his resume as he applied for engineering jobs and it likely helped him snag one too- wouldn’t you hire a guy who built an LS Miata in a year? I would.

  12. LM says:

    I was 25, driving lots of freeway miles for work, and despite having only street parking in a beachfront southern California neighborhood, I decided it was time to procure a quarter-life crisis car. I had (still have!) a perfectly serviceable Acura Legend coupe, but wanted something small, fun, and cheap. The answer is always Miata.

    Did I mention I didn’t know how to drive manual (I’ve since learned)? Thus I obtained one of the two auto NA Miatas available at the time. Owned by the seller’s deceased mother-in-law, with only 80k in its decade-plus of life, and with all interior plastics clawed by either a scrabbling Shi Tzu or a family of ferrets, it was mine for a pittance.

    I had a good nine months with it, despite regular trips to the Inland Empire in sweltering weather with non-working AC, arriving at at clients’ offices sweat-sodden, keeping my back to the walls so that my clients wouldn’t think their rather expensive IT girl a total mess.

    And then I had a very bad day. It started with great sex, followed by a broken condom. Ever-resourceful, I found a pack of old birth control pills that, luckily enough, could be used as emergency contraception if taken in multiples of 8 or so. But with unfortunate side effects — utterly incapacitating nausea and misery. My partner at the time suggested I beta-test something from the family business — medicinal marijuana tinctures.

    Allow me to digress – I don’t smoke pot. I’ve never really enjoyed it, but given the circumstances, I thought a few droppers of cannibis-laced alcohol would do me good. I started to feel better, and decided it would be a good idea to go to the gym.

    The Miata and I nearly made it to the destination, but someone pulled out into 50mph traffic some lengths ahead and everyone slammed on their brakes. The Miata, lacking ABS, didn;t appreciate my sudden stop, and I slid into the Civic ahead of me.

    A simple fender-bender? No. According to the 5 friendly CHP representatives at the scene, I caused a five-car pileup by rear-ending the Civic. Three of the four victims’ vehicles were rendered un-drivable and towed away, including 2 SUVs.

    Did I mention I was technically high?

    The damage to my Miata? Cracked paint on the bumper; nary a dent or dislocated panel. I attempted to school the officers in the laws of physics, arguing that a single-ton vehicle simply couldn’t have caused a debilitating chain-reacting wreck without significant body damage of its own and that someone ahead either hit first. They were unconvinced. My fault. Cited. Insurance payout over $30k, not a cent of it spent on my vehicle.

    I ended up getting a job out of state and sold the little battering ram that could, but not before treating its front bumper to the finest re-paint Maaco offered. Maaco couldn’t match the metallic paint and re-did the entire car for free, and I bid the car farewell….

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