Written by Tom Suddard
From the Aug. 2016 issue
Posted in Features
The Miata is one of “those” cars: models with such a huge enthusiast following that every single variation has been built by now. Fast Miatas. Slow Miatas. Track Miatas. Low Miatas. Like the BMW M3, Ford Mustang and Chevy pickup, Mazda’s Miata is a blank canvas for wrench wielders to customize.
Never like this, though. This Miata, built by Paco Motorsports of Georgetown, Kentucky, sports an 8-inch long-arm suspension lift. That’s the same sort of hardware usually reserved for desert racing buggies.
No, this isn’t another tiny car butchered onto a pickup truck frame. This is still a Miata, albeit with thoroughly chopped fenders and some very special control arms.
The Paco Motorsports kit moves each wheel hub out and down to create a vehicle that’s 13.5 inches wider and 8 inches taller than a stock Miata. And this isn’t just a spring spacer job: With the kit installed, total suspension travel jumps to 14 inches in the rear and 12 inches in the front. It uses stock Miata parts wherever possible, though anybody who sees the doubled-up coil-overs and 31-inch tires will know that something is very, very different.
What started all of this? The burning desire for a lifted truck? Childhood trauma?
Actually, it was a snowy day. Company owner Mark Rivera loved commuting in his turbocharged, track-prepped 1994 Miata, but he had to park it during Kentucky’s white winters. One day he had an idea: Build a simple 3-inch spacer lift, fit some larger snow tires, and tackle the winter commute. He followed through, and what happened next led to the creation of this monster. “I put a few photos of the car up on Facebook, and everybody kind of freaked out,” Mark remembers. Paco Motorsports’s Facebook followers were screaming “Take my money!” and begging to order kits.
That’s when Mark realized he’d stumbled across an untapped market for Miata lifting parts. Putting the 3-inch lift kits into production wasn’t hard–Flyin’ Miata is currently selling them for $149.95.
Of course, Mark wasn’t finished. As he puts it, “I’d already been thinking about a full long-arm suspension package.” Building a Miata with a trophy truck suspension had been just a daydream, but after he saw the demand for 3-inch kits, he decided to go all out.
Mark sketched his idea in a CAD program, and the concept received even more interest from the Miata community–as well as from Flyin’ Miata and Exomotive, which builds the Exocet. They joined forces with Paco Motorsports, and the three companies decided to build three prototypes, gauge public reaction, and go from there.
This Miata is prototype number one.
Unlike the 3-inch kit, this one would be more than just a few cleverly engineered spacers. “I really, really enjoy playing with suspension design,” Mark explains. “I spent more than a month just playing with the geometry in the computer before I ever touched a piece of steel.”
He started with a target tire size. His friends with Jeeps were always talking about 31x10.50R15 tires, so he started there. Then he went on the hunt for springs and shocks. After a lot of searching, he found tall, skinny coil-overs. Mark figured that they would provide the right stiffness if he doubled them up on every corner.
Next up: fitting the massive tires. Mark fearlessly cut away as much of the Miata’s fenders as he could while still avoiding any vital structural areas. He ended up moving the front wheels forward 2.5 inches, while the rears were set back 1 inch to clear the car’s chassis. After some computer wizardry, a few laser-cut prototypes and some welding, Mark had a functional long-arm suspension kit. He dubbed his creation the Offroadster.
Although it looks fairly extreme, this isn’t a radical conversion. The bulk of the kit centers around eight new control arms plus coil-overs, all of which bolt right onto the factory mounts.
The rear axles are cut and sleeved to be 6.75 inches longer on each side, while the differential features a new ring and pinion to bring the final drive ratio to 5.38:1. The kit includes tie-rod spacers to reconnect the steering rack, and longer brake lines make up the larger distance between the hard lines and brake calipers. A pair of brackets relocate the steering rack to preserve the Ackerman geometry. To round out the package, Mark threw in some sheet-metal fender flares and a nausea-inducing set of fender-cutting templates.
Once everything is installed, the result is a Miata with 14 inches of ground clearance in the rear and 13 inches up front. Articulation is impressive, too, giving us the confidence to run the Offroadster through terrain better suited to our jacked-up Isuzu Trooper.
This Miata also sports air helper springs to add a bit more static ride height, though Mark says they aren’t necessary– he was just messing around when he installed them.
On the road, the Offroadster drives like a marshmallow– though not in a bad way. Mark even returned this Miata to daily driver duty. “It’s super comfortable,” he adds. “My wife wouldn’t ride in it before, but now she says it’s more comfortable than her car.”
We ended our look at the car with one question: “Ever take it off any sweet jumps?” Mark smiles, then says he only just finished the build and hasn’t had the chance to really beat on it. “But I did do the math: It should jump quite well.”
Want to find out for yourself? Paco, Flyin’ Miata and Exomotive plan to sell these kits as soon as they’re ready for production, and they’ll fit both first- and second-gen cars.
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I really like it. Even with the BFTs...
It was certainly a sight to see on the skidpad.
"Long Travel Miata" is something I never thought I would say.
That much awesomeness in one vehicle.
Thanks for the reminder, Paco needs to bring that beast out for our next autocross. Have to put it the same class with stadium trucks.......
Tom Suddard wrote: The Miata is one of “those” cars: models with such a huge enthusiast following that every single variation has been built by now. Fast Miatas. Slow Miatas. Track Miatas. Low Miatas. Like the BMW M3, Ford Mustang and Chevy pickup, Mazda’s Miata is a blank canvas for wrench wielders to customize. Never like this, though. This Miata, built by Paco Motorsports of Georgetown, Kentucky, sports an 8-inch long-arm suspension lift. That’s the same sort of hardware usually reserved for desert racing buggies.
Wait. I live in Kentucky. And I have a miata. Hmmmmmmmm
You can pre-order the kit by calling Mark, or order some of the other products he offers on his website.
Watching that video makes it hard not believe that Miata is really an R/C car. For all the world it looks like a Tamiya truck that someone swapped a Mazda shell on.
The way those air bags are mounted and the angle on the tie rods are both scary. Are those doubled-up coil springs rubbing together?
This kit looks, at best, unfinished.
Air bags and doubled shocks are gone, in favor of AFCO custom coilovers. Car has been airborne multiple times with hard landings and no difference in alignment or damage to the tie rods. People will SURELY break stuff however, and this kit is NOT for the faint of heart, or for the careless.
In reply to mxseven:
There should be a warning/disclaimer in the instructions: "If at any point after the completion of the kit you feel the need to say 'Hold my beer & watch THIS!' please park the car, get out, and turn off the camera."
In reply to Alan Cesar:
To be fair on the tie rods, it looks to be at or near full droop in the shot.
Curious what the price will be. I mean it's cool having an off road Miata, but is it better or cheaper than a used XJ Cherokee, a Wrangler, or K5 Blazer?
The simple 3 inch lift kit makes a lot more sense.
Pricing is on the website. www.pacomotorsports.com
The Offroadster is not trying to be a Jeep of any kind, and will likely never be 4 wheel drive. You don't build an offroad Miata because it's the most capable or economical offroad vehicle. If you have to justify it in those terms, it's probably just not the vehicle for you.
IF, however, you want to have a ton of hooligan fun and never go unnoticed on the street, it's pretty hard to beat for that!
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