Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
3/21/18 2:45 p.m.

Story and Photos By Carl Heideman

Late summer and early fall may be beautiful, but for sports car enthusiasts it’s a sad time, too. The shortening days remind us that it will soon be time to put away our fair-weather roadsters and take out our winter appliances. What if we told you that you don’t have to give up your toys? Instead, now is the time to start building yourself a more suitable winter vehicle–and, no, we’re not talking about a Jeep, some kind of 4x4 or even a Subaru. The correct answer, as usual, is simple: a Miata.

Our inspiration for this build can be found on the cover of our August 2016 issue: Paco Motorsports’s lifted Miata. That build featured their radical, all-inclusive Offroadster package, which goes for $5429 plus the monster truck tires and wheels.

However, Paco also offers a simpler 3-inch Miata lift kit for less than $200. We thought that setup looked like just the ticket for snowy winters.

First, we needed a donor car. Easy: We had recently picked up a rusty 1994 Miata for $1200. Our original plan was to grab its hardtop and Torsen differential before parting out the carcass, but now that chassis would get a second lease on life.

We figured that if we could get three or four winters out of the jacked-up Miata before it folded in half, we’d be happy. After that, we can still part it out. (We’re keeping the hardtop and limited slip, so please don’t ask.)

The installation took about 4 hours on a lift, although using jack stands probably wouldn’t have added any time to the project. One thing that sure would’ve made things go more quickly? Starting with a rust-free car. We spent 2½ hours fighting the rusty fasteners on our in-Michigan-since-new Miata.

We drove our lifted Miata through the 2016-’17 winter and found it to be a dream. It can easily handle 12 inches of fresh snow, while the raised ride height makes entry and egress much easier. Ironically, the Torsen diff makes the car a little more squirmy on snow-covered corners as the inside wheel will often break traction, but when the car is in the deep stuff, the uprated differential keeps things moving.

Want to build your own? Here’s how.

Read the rest of the story

te72 New Reader
3/21/18 10:52 p.m.

Did this to my 99 over the same period you guys did. Fortunately this winter has been a lot less of the deep stuff than usual, so I drove the 02 on a set of slightly taller-than-stock studded snows.


Never would have thought of dropping the subframe like you guys did, that's pretty clever. I had a rather difficult time installing mine, on both ends, if I'm honest. What really should have been a two hour job turned into about 12 hours or so. When you have to grab the BFH and your long pry bar, something clearly wasn't tested on stock suspended cars. So, if you're gonna go play in the deep stuff or off road in your Miata, just be prepared for a rough day installing this if you don't have a coilover setup to begin with.


Now... that said, this kit does make a Miata rather capable. Not only was dealing with foot deep snow relatively easy, it was borderline fun, being able to drive in stuff that was giving trucks a bit of a hard time haha. Even on stock tires, I had about as much clearance as a 90's era Jeep Wrangler, so that's kinda a baseline for capability and limitations, if one were to leave the Jeep in 2wd.


Best part was climbing the face of the closest mountain, up a fairly steep trail that switchbacks about 2000 (maybe 3000?) feet in elevation over the course of a couple miles. Should have saw the look on the face of the guy coming down in the Polaris!

TreDeuce New Reader
3/22/18 12:01 p.m.

While my Miata isn't lifted, nor has the limited slip dif,  in the many years of driving it in all conditions including 5"-6" of snow and plowed roads and up into the mountains for a day of skiing. It has never had an issue with slick surfaces.  Even drove it nearly 200 miles in a blizzard from Ballard/Seattle to Portland at freeway speeds passing many 4-wd's off in the ditch.  In the NW winter I run performance AW tires to good effect.  

Everyone thinks that MX-5's must be dangerous in the winter conditions when actually they are quite capable and a lot of fun.    

noddaz SuperDork
3/22/18 2:42 p.m.

Do not read...  Do not read...  Do not read...

Jethro66 New Reader
3/22/18 2:45 p.m.

Up here in Canada on the east coast we rally cross our NB with BAC. We didn't lift our but wish we would have at this event 

MadScientistMatt PowerDork
3/22/18 2:47 p.m.
Jethro66 said:

Up here in Canada on the east coast we rally cross our NB with BAC. We didn't lift our but wish we would have at this event 

I'm pretty sure the cone does, too.

te72 New Reader
3/22/18 5:30 p.m.
TreDeuce said:

Everyone thinks that MX-5's must be dangerous in the winter conditions when actually they are quite capable and a lot of fun.    

Have daily driven rwd cars for more than 10 years in winter conditions in Wyoming. Tires make all the difference. Supras do great, the LS400's are like tanks if you have snow tires, and the Miatas are a LOT of fun. Everything that makes them good on road makes them good on the snow too. Clearance is the only thing that's ever given me an issue, when the snow starts getting deep enough to start coming up the hood when you're driving in it...

te72 New Reader
3/22/18 5:32 p.m.
noddaz said:

Do not read...  Do not read...  Do not read...

If it makes you feel any better, the handling is a bit odd. I'd say if it's your only car, and you need the clearance, go for it, especially if you have coilovers and it's an easy swap. If you can swing a second, taller car? Just get good snow tires and call it a day.

AWSX1686 SuperDork
11/7/19 10:51 a.m.

I installed the 3" lift one of my previous miatas for a little while. Installation wasn't too hard, but with the changes the alignment wasn't able to be great, and that cause the handling to be quite squirly. I didn't keep it on for long. 

That said, I believe with the extended lower ball joints, and the adjustable upper control arms in the back, it would probably be much better. In fact I would like to try it again actually.

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