pjbgravely Reader
Feb. 19, 2016 7:45 p.m.

I decided to buy a Miata as my next vehicle. I was dismayed at the high prices, from $4K to $8K, and the mods done to them. Yesterday one popped up on Craigslist, for $2700, then another one for a little more. Both are '90's which I thought had the dreaded crank problem. Is this something to worry about or is the problem over rated.

If this is a problem how much would it drop the price? Both cars are not perfect so the year is not the reason for the low price. One is plastic dipped, and the second has mismatched color body panels.

RedGT Reader
Feb. 19, 2016 9:16 p.m.

That sounds high regardless, but the short answer is theres nothing automatically wrong with a 90, just an increased possibility of failure. 91-93 can have the same problem if someone butchers a timing belt job. Read up on how to make sure the crank keyway did not already fail, buy it, do a timing belt job with a new crank bolt and the updated torque spec and go on your way.

I have two 90s, both are actually original with no issues. I'm doing a new bolt on the super nice low mileage one this winter just because, but am not worried about either car blowing up.

plance1 SuperDork
Feb. 19, 2016 9:20 p.m.
pjbgravely wrote: I decided to buy a Miata as my next vehicle. I was dismayed at the high prices, from $4K to $8K, and the mods done to them. Yesterday one popped up on Craigslist, for $2700, then another one for a little more. Both are '90's which I thought had the dreaded crank problem. Is this something to worry about or is the problem over rated. If this is a problem how much would it drop the price? Both cars are not perfect so the year is not the reason for the low price. One is plastic dipped, and the second has mismatched color body panels.

U can get mine for $1,800.

Keith Tanner MegaDork
Feb. 19, 2016 10:07 p.m.
RedGT wrote: That sounds high regardless, but the short answer is theres nothing automatically wrong with a 90, just an increased possibility of failure. 91-05 can have the same problem if someone butchers a timing belt job. Read up on how to make sure the crank keyway did not already fail, buy it, do a timing belt job with a new crank bolt and the updated torque spec and go on your way.

Fixed that for you.

New torque spec? It's 84 lbs on a short nose crank. There was either a misprint or widely spread misinformation (I'm voting for the latter, the Miata club magazine was good at this) about using a 100+ lb number, but that's the number for the big nose crank bolt. You cannot put the big bolt in the early crank. You can swap out the crank, oil pump, front pulley and bolt if you want.

Use blue Loctite. It's my belief that this is the primary cause, people don't put Loctite on the bolt and it backs out. Regardless of the year of your NA or NB, you'll get rapid damage if this happens.

If the car's one you want, buy it. Do a timing belt change and check the condition of the keyway. Change the front seal at the same time. If the keyway is damaged, use the Loctite fix (see your copy of Mazda Miata Performance Projects ) and you're good for the lifespan of the car.

There are more 1990 Miatas than any other model year. Heck, there are about as many 1990 Miatas as there are 2001-05 Miatas in the US.

pjbgravely Reader
Feb. 19, 2016 11:14 p.m.
plance1 wrote: U can get mine for $1,800.

Sure, but I don't see your location. I think the prices are high here because all other cars that age are rusted away and these have never seen a winter.

RedGT Reader
Feb. 20, 2016 7:23 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner:

Yes, i had read in a few places that a newly installed short nose crank bolt was supposed to be torqued to something higher than the original 84 ft lbs. Thanks for the correction.

chiodos Dork
Feb. 20, 2016 7:58 a.m.

My only bit of advice I can share with buying a Miata. If your looking to spend that much, hold out and get a 1.8 with a hardtop. Both mine were 1.6 soft top and most the mods I did to the second one were just adding 1.8 stuff so it makes sense to just get the one with the bigger brakes, more bracing and best of all bigger motor and possible torsen diff. 2700 sounds entirely too high for either a mix match body color OR plastidipped 90 unless they were in very good condition. Maybe Miatas are just cheap where I am, that said if you live up north it might not be a bad idea to fly and drive and get yourself a nice cheaper RUST FREE southern or western car.

NickD HalfDork
Feb. 20, 2016 9:01 a.m.

As a 1.6L owner, I also agree with Chiodos. Hold out on getting a 1.8L car. Bigger brakes, bigger more powerful engine, added chassis bracing, tougher rear differential with available Torson (Instead of the '90-'93's viscous LSD)

But for the whole crank thing, I wouldn't sweat it. Mine has 125,000+ miles on it, some of them pretty hard, and has had a timing belt done at least twice and the engine hasn't spontaneously exploded like people make it sound like they will do.

car39 HalfDork
Feb. 20, 2016 9:39 a.m.

Had 2 95's and currently drive a 90. They really are different cars. The 95's felt more solid because of the chassis bracing and the 1800 cc motor has a different power curve. I like both the 90 and the 95, but for modifications, 1800 cc cars are better. Like has been stated before, you're working with an upgraded package to start.

Keith Tanner MegaDork
Feb. 20, 2016 11:56 a.m.

The only differences in chassis bracing are the front subframe brace (which showed up in 91, I think) and the design of the rear subframe brace (92 got one) - which isn't actually present on all the 1.8 cars anyhow. Plus the thing behind the seats, I'm not sure much effect that has - Mazda says it's for side impact protection. The 1.8 cars aren't that much stiffer, they're just (on average) 3-4 years newer.

I prefer the 1.6 interior myself. The 1.6 engine is more fun in stock form but not as fast. I agree that a lot of people will start swapping in 1.8 drivetrain and brake parts - but it depends on your goal. If you're driving a fun street car, you'll do just fine with 1.6 brakes and rear end.

My daily driver? A 1990 with a 2005 engine, 1.8 rear end and 1.8 brakes.

Feb. 20, 2016 1:08 p.m.

If you can find one, I believe the 1.8 6-speed cars all came with the torsen rear as standard, while most of the 5-speed cars were open diffs.

Keith Tanner MegaDork
Feb. 20, 2016 1:13 p.m.

All 6-speeds came with Torsens, but there are a LOT of 5-speed Torsens as well. Almost every 1994, most 1995s came with LSDs. Fewer in the down-contented 1996-97 models. Most of the NBs have them as well. Autos don't, but that's not really important here.

Tyler H SuperDork
Feb. 20, 2016 3:23 p.m.

I bought a 90 Miata with the short nose crank issue. Did the Loctite fix. Bought the FM crank seal installer tool after I put it all together and it leaked (you really need this.) Easy peasy. Car is still fine 5 years later.

Harvey Dork
Feb. 20, 2016 4:39 p.m.

I had a 1.6 car that I bought with 185k, changed the timing belt properly, put turbo on it, autocrossed and generally drove the pants off it. After about ten years I sold it to a guy and it had over 200k miles on it, still going fine.

pjbgravely Reader
Feb. 20, 2016 10:36 p.m.

Thanks all, I will not be scared of buying '90, this was the first 2 that popped up on Craigslist. The rest have been newer. There is no way I am going to pay to fly out to a dust state to get a cheap one and then try to figure out how to get it back. It would cost more than buying one here in the end. Here are some of the prices I am seeing.

'91 $5K restored

'95 $6500 racing mods but never raced

'94 $8500 A package 27K miles

'97 $5900 M edition 41 K miles

'92 $5900 restored

'02 $8500 29K miles dents and scratches

All of these are hours away and way over priced. I will see if the $2700 one is still there next weekend, it is a short 40 mile dolly tow home. I have been looking for poor condition but the only one so far was 4 hours away for $900, that one went fast.

Keith Tanner MegaDork
Feb. 20, 2016 11:00 p.m.

The $1000 Miata is more of a myth than reality in much of the US. Atlanta and Florida are the exceptions. NA prices are climbing.

Tom Suddard Associate Editor
Feb. 21, 2016 7:18 a.m.

Heh. We've bought three of them for $500 now.

pjbgravely Reader
Feb. 21, 2016 1:09 p.m.

It is sold. I bet he got the asking price of $2600. I will be increasing my savings and start looking for $3000 examples. I do know someone who goes to auctions so that might be the best thing.

cmcgregor Reader
Feb. 21, 2016 1:23 p.m.

I'll be selling my '90 in the spring, or as soon as I find a replacement daily driver. It's far from perfect and has over 200k on it but it's very reliable and runs well. And I won't be asking 3k.

RedGT Reader
Feb. 21, 2016 1:44 p.m.

If you could make it to Allentown/Reading/Philadelphia area of PA you can have your pick of a dozen with an asking price of $3k or less.

cmcgregor Reader
Feb. 21, 2016 2:05 p.m.

Also-as much of a pain as it may be, going south is worth it. I bought a sunburst yellow 92 with a hardtop and a torsen (and a ton of miles) for 3k from North Carolina by way of this very message board. Totally worth it, at the very least just to have a rust-free car to work with.

pjbgravely Reader
Feb. 21, 2016 4:55 p.m.
cmcgregor wrote: Also-as much of a pain as it may be, going south is worth it. I bought a sunburst yellow 92 with a hardtop and a torsen (and a ton of miles) for 3k from North Carolina by way of this very message board. Totally worth it, at the very least just to have a rust-free car to work with.

All these cars are rust free, most never see the rain, and never went out in the snow. In NY state know one knows you can drive a rear wheel drive in the snow. I am pretty sure all the ones kept outside and ran in the rain are now in the junkyards. I will see if I can get a $2K auction car from PA and plan to put $1K of parts in it if necessary. Hopefully I can still get stock springs if I got a lowered one. It took me a year to find stock height springs for my Mustang and they were used.

I don't know how people buy a car a long way from home and drive it home. I would need plates registration, and insurance to drive it. Then because I did all that I will need to get an inspection in 10 days. Kind of hard to do while working overtime to make up for loss time buying the car. Especially if the car needs work.

Titus New Reader
Feb. 22, 2016 10:23 a.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: The 1.6 engine is more fun in stock form but not as fast.

This. I drove my '92 with stock engine for 5 years before boosting it, and have a stock 93 now that I drive regularly. I love the feel of the 1.6. Every time I drive a friend's 1.8 car, I immediately think "this car feels slow". I know it has more power, but for some reason it just doesn't feel like it to me.

amg_rx7 SuperDork
Feb. 22, 2016 11:47 a.m.

Finding a decent example in the north-east can be pricey. My friend in NY is looking as well.

They are still pretty cheap out here in CA though. I'd be happy to ship one to you if you see something interesting on CL. Shipping cost for the last car I shipped NY to me in CA was somewhere around $1-1.2. The car before that was only $850.

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