When the ridiculously long-awaited 2020 Toyota Supra was finally unveiled last week, I found myself among the enthusiast masses calling for the beheading of whoever green-lighted that project. Rebadging a BMW Z4 as a Supra and not offering a manual transmission seemed like a massive trolling effort from Toyota — but after a few days bruting over a car I was probably never going to buy anyway, I calmed down after an obvious realization: the world really doesn’t need another Japanese sports car. There’s plenty of nice used Honda S2000s and Toyota MR2s, and there’s an infinite number of new or used Mazda Miatas that can be bought affordably. Then I remembered that I had actually bought a Miata back in October.
I would like to say that I planned this purchase of a 1990 MX-5 to help celebrate 30 years of this amazing little sports car, but it was just another silly impulsive purchase that defined my 2018. Thankfully, I got an incredible deal on this Miata at $5,600, which certainly isn’t the cheapest Miata for sale in the U.S., but it’s in fantastic condition, with only 30,000 original miles. For only $5,600, I was able to buy a time capsule dating back to the birth of an iconic sports car, which is pretty amazing, considering how crazy prices have gotten for similar Japanese sports cars of the era.
Of course, the main reason why these are so incredibly cheap is because Mazda sold literally over a million of them — a feat they achieved in 2016. Unlike the 1990s Toyota Supra, which didn’t sell well, these were actually affordable, with a starting price at just under $14,000. My car has the "Option A" package, which, at $1,300, included power steering with a leather wrapped steering wheel, alloy wheels and a cassette. It also optioned with AC ($795) and a limited slip differential ($250). Mine even came with the hardtop ($1,400) which is sadly gone, bringing the original sticker price to $17,800. Even when you adjust for inflation, this Miata was a fantastic deal when it was new.
I’ve always loved these cars, and my car history is full of them, including a 1995 M-edition with BBS wheels from the factory, a Nardi shifter and an aftermarket supercharger. I’ve had a few of the second-generation Miatas as well, including a factory turbo MazdaSpeed model for a brief time, but it’s been over five years since an MX-5 has been in the fleet, and I forgot how good they are. Even in this earliest, purest, and slowest form, it’s still easily one of greatest car ever built.
For people who aren’t Miata fans, it’s easy to look at the factory specs on a sheet, and laugh at the 116 horsepower, a 0-to-60 mile per hour time that’s pushing 10 seconds, and the goofy smiling face on the nose, but, like so many have said, from a pure driver’s car standpoint, there’s nothing better than a Miata. The term "momentum car" is thrown around to more jeering from the Miata unwashed, but it really is the best way to describe it. This is why you’ll see a 116-hp Miata with a good driver catching a 350 hp C5 Chevrolet Corvette in the corners. Most of this impressive handling is the result of a curb weight of only 2,100 pounds, but behind the wheel, it feels like magic.
Driving these cars hard also comes without any worries, as they really don’t break much, and when they do, parts are dirt cheap. This makes racing them on a track, without fear of a really expensive failure, way more fun than it should be. As a result, the Spec Miata racing series is a hoot to watch, as drivers can rub, scrape, even crash their cars into each other and still finish the race. Unlike most modern race cars with fragile aerodynamics, just a few minutes with a hammer and some junkyard parts can get an MX-5 ready for the next race. The only thing to really worry about with Miata ownership is all the distracted drivers in bro-dozers that could recreate a monster truck rally if they collide with this itty-bitty sports car. Unfortunately, the itty-bitty horn won’t get their attention either before getting pancaked.
Being small does make it invisible to other drivers at times, but being a Miata, it’s also easier to avoid a crash. It’s still safer than a motorcycle, obviously, and I don’t plan on driving this car around traffic very much. I also don’t think I will ever track it, since that would require me to install a roll-bar, and ruin the car’s originality.
So I really don’t know what I’m going to do with this Miata, other than replace the original 30-year-old timing belt. Since I know it will always start, and never break, unlike most of the cars in my fleet, I’m sure it will be nice to have one reliable car for once. And since it’s likely to be an appreciating classic, I guess I can call it an investment, and justify it (among with several other cars in my hoard) as an alternative to an actual retirement fund. This probably means I’ll have to take a job as WalMart greeter when I actually retire, but at least I’ll show up to work with interesting cars!