Dec. 4, 2014 5:56 p.m.

I have recently sold my project cars (66 VW Bug, 67 VW Bug and 66 Pontiac GTO Convertible) and, while I thought I was done with car hobbies, I am itching to look into competitive driving again. I raced karts for several years but gave it up when we started our family.

I have always been drawn to smaller cars and some research brought me to autocross and a Miata. I like the idea that my wife could drive the car for her weekly shopping sprees in the summer and I could play at the track or at SCCA events in the area.

I am seeing a lot of these little cars for sale and Im wondering... 1)What is the best year to look for? 2)Any special options are a must? 3)What type of things should I be on the look out for? (problems) 4)Is there a particular engine that is better? (more potential)

I am located near Pittsburgh, PA and am hoping to find something relatively close. If any of you know of any un-molested units for sale.

Thanks for your help.

Scott-Indiana, PA

Swank Force One MegaDork
Dec. 4, 2014 5:58 p.m.

Buy the nicest one you can find.

Special options that are a must: Torsen

1.8 cars are better. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Problems.... watch for rust. Most of the other problems are typically specific to 90-93 1.6 cars.

Lof8 Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 6:07 p.m.

94+ NA models are my faves. I believe the NB 99 models have a more desireable engine?

singledownloop
singledownloop New Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 6:17 p.m.

I bought a brand new 1999 sport in a November 98 snow storm.I really loved it.

kazoospec Dork
Dec. 4, 2014 6:38 p.m.

Its a good plan, and now is a good time to be shopping. Good luck and good hunting.

Swank Force One MegaDork
Dec. 4, 2014 6:40 p.m.

Mine is for sale.

But it's heavily molested.

calteg HalfDork
Dec. 4, 2014 8:39 p.m.
scottshaffer wrote: I am seeing a lot of these little cars for sale and Im wondering... 1)What is the best year to look for? 2)Any special options are a must? 3)What type of things should I be on the look out for? (problems) 4)Is there a particular engine that is better? (more potential)

You're going to open pandora's box with those questions, so I'll try to stay as fact based as possible.

'94 and '95 (NA) are OBDI, lower compression, and benefit from the 1.8L motor and larger brakes. The '94 was the last year with a real OEM oil pressure gauge.

The '99 and '00 (NB1) cars benefit from a much better flowing head and a slight compression bump. They are slightly heavier, but also more rigid.

'01+ (NB2) cars feature VVT on the intake side, and get a nice torque bump. I believe these cars are even higher compression. The VVTuner is ~$200 and will allow you to play with the VVT system.

The miata got heavier pretty much every year, but it was generally from things you want (bigger brakes, more torsional rigidity, etc). Depending on what you want to do with it, the answer is typically: 94R package, 99 sport package, or '01 with a 5 speed. I would avoid the 6 speed like the plague.

turboswede UltimaDork
Dec. 4, 2014 8:41 p.m.
Swank Force One wrote: Mine is for sale. But it's heavily molested.

Yeah, I think I've seen it on an episode of Law & Order: SVU.

Swank Force One MegaDork
Dec. 4, 2014 8:45 p.m.

6spd is awesome, though! Great ratios.

gl21133 New Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 9:11 p.m.

No 6 speed if autocrossing, you'll top out 2nd too often. I've got a pair of 97's in the garage, I love em. Both have open diffs, but I have a Torsen on the way for one. Torsen will also bump you to STR if you start modding, which means S2K territory. Open = STS = more competitive. Either can run in ES with no mods but shocks, one sway bar, air filter, cat back exhaust, stock width wheels (+/- 1" diameter is OK), and 200+ TW tires. I ran in ES last year with 99 Sport wheels (15x6) on 205/50/15 Rivals with a front sway bar and did pretty well, always in the top half in PAX.

Swank Force One MegaDork
Dec. 4, 2014 10:46 p.m.

Depends on the rear end.

For every situation other than autox, i'll take a 6spd. I'll take it in autox too, with a 3.63.

calteg HalfDork
Dec. 4, 2014 11:23 p.m.
Swank Force One wrote: 6spd is awesome, though! Great ratios.

Swank Force One MegaDork
Dec. 5, 2014 9:21 a.m.

I am serious. Doesn't have the weird drops that the 5spd has. There's a reason why the 949 and Trackspeed cars run them, and it's not because of power in most of their cars.

I know some people don't like how they shift compared to the 5spds. Every 5spd i've driven feels awful after the 6spd we had in the MSM. I'm willing to accept that maybe we had the world's best 6spd and all of my 5spds have been garbage, though.

Rupert HalfDork
Dec. 5, 2014 9:41 a.m.

In reply to Swank Force One: I agree with gl21133 about the 6 sp. topping out too soon in 2nd for autocross. But I have also found the 6 sp. to have a much shorter shift pattern, allowing for faster & more accurate shifts. A rear end ratio change will easily put 2nd where it needs to be for autocross. That's where I went. And a lot of Miatas came from the factory stock with limited slip.

Of course running a MP-63 supercharger had already taken me out of stock class anyway.

gl21133 New Reader
Dec. 5, 2014 11:50 a.m.

The 6 speed with a 3.63 isn't a terrible choice, but will bump you notably in class and cost a good bit. So it really depends on what you want to do. As I said I ran in ES this season and had a couple events against a MSM and we were neck and neck most of the time. If the course had long enough straights for him to hit the rev limiter I'd have him, if not, he'd have me. Most of the time by a tenth or less either way.

All that said I'm building an Exocet in the near future (frame on order), I'll drive that when I want to have a hoot and get my ass kicked, and the ES prep Miata when I want to be competitive :).

chiodos New Reader
Dec. 5, 2014 12:28 p.m.

If I was to buy my third miata it would be a 94 with torsen and hard top. Preferably m edition or r package if im lucky but it would be modified quickly anyways so it doesnt matter really. Ive been daily driving a miata for about 6 years now and I honestly cant find a car that can replace it. It does everything but go fast haha, btw they are all terribly slow unless it's got some forced induction or ls1 powah

mtn UltimaDork
Dec. 5, 2014 12:43 p.m.

About the only "Must Have" option, if you aren't looking for a specific purpose (Win E-street nationals, or similar), is a manual transmission. Do not get an auto, which kills all the life.

Otherwise there are a lot of options that some like, some don't, some that are nice to have, but as long as it is in decent condition it is really hard to go wrong with any Miata. The NA's are getting long in the tooth though.

Swank Force One wrote: 6spd is awesome, though! Great ratios.

Could not disagree more (says the guy with a daily highway commute in a 10AE)

Swank Force One MegaDork
Dec. 5, 2014 1:47 p.m.
mtn wrote: About the only "Must Have" option, if you aren't looking for a specific purpose (Win E-street nationals, or similar), is a manual transmission. Do not get an auto, which kills all the life. Otherwise there are a lot of options that some like, some don't, some that are nice to have, but as long as it is in decent condition it is really hard to go wrong with any Miata. The NA's are getting long in the tooth though.
Swank Force One wrote: 6spd is awesome, though! Great ratios.

Could not disagree more (says the guy with a daily highway commute in a 10AE)

That's not a transmission issue. That's a rear end issue. My 5spd at highway speeds is close to 4000rpm as well. No better than the MSM we had.

BoxheadTim UltimaDork
Dec. 5, 2014 2:33 p.m.
calteg wrote: '94 and '95 (NA) are OBDI, lower compression, and benefit from the 1.8L motor and larger brakes. The '94 was the last year with a real OEM oil pressure gauge.

It's really easy to retrofit the real oil pressure gauge, though. I think that was the first mod I made to my last one (the one that bgkast owns now).

I keep coming back to NAs even though I swear I'm not going to buy another one every time I sell one. I think I could still be tempted by a '95 M Edition.

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