How no power steering and no A/C made me love driving again

By Katie Suddard
Sep 2, 2023 | Mazda, Miata, NA, NA Miata | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

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A week ago, I took a leap: I started driving my “new” 1993 Mazda Miata.

You know how you say something has “the works”? The Miata is the opposite: no options at all. No a/c, no power steering, hand-crank windows–but, God, is it fun to drive.

After three years of driving an old CR-V with a broken IMRC valve, just being able to shift and accelerate again feels amazing.

On my first day with the Miata, I got a sunburn from having the top down for about an hour. I’d forgotten how fast you’ll get burned driving a convertible here in Florida.

But the amazing thing was that I didn’t even care. I was sweaty at every stoplight, and by the end of the day, my arms started aching from the lack of power steering, but I was enjoying driving again for the first time since my Fiat Abarth bit the dust.

The lack of power steering IS worth noting, though. I had surgery last summer for a broken arm that left me with a metal plate and 13 screws, and while I’m mostly back to full strength, the Miata is certainly testing that.

You wouldn’t think something with a curb weight just over 2000 pounds is that hard to steer manually, but it feels like a beast when you’re used to power steering your whole life.

Day three with the Miata, I drove to our new office. I got to the tiny parking lot and realized I couldn’t back in–not because the car was too large (obviously) but because I wasn’t strong enough to pull the wheel in such tight quarters.

I got to the gym on day four and told my trainer that we needed to work on arms if I wanted to keep driving my car.

Late March/early April sounds like the perfect time to own a convertible with no a/c, but not in Florida. While we’re not yet in the full swing of summer, the highs my first week with the Miata were in the 80s and 90s.

I learned very quickly that I would be installing a/c as soon as possible.

I’m adjusting, but my parking habits have immediately changed. I now seek out any bit of shade in a parking lot; it can be the difference between the car being livable for a drive home or not.

Of course, on day seven, the slave cylinder started acting up. It wasn’t something we had the bandwidth to fix ourselves in the middle of a work week, so we dropped it off at a local shop. It wouldn’t be a first week with a 1993 car if it didn’t include a shop visit, right?

While it might not technically be as comfortable or easy to drive as a modern SUV, I love my new car. I just picked it up from the shop yesterday and managed to fit a full grocery run in the tiny trunk. I’m sweatier, stronger and much happier with it as my daily.

My Miata turns 30 this year, and even at 30 years old, it’s still definitely the answer.

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RyanGreener (Forum Supporter)
RyanGreener (Forum Supporter) Reader
4/12/23 8:47 a.m.

My 99 NB Miata has AC/Power Steering but it also made me love driving again.

calteg SuperDork
4/12/23 9:07 a.m.

I felt like the r-package miatas I've owned had better steering feel than my Elise. Absolutely perfect for backroads driving in the real world, but for a track toy, power steering equipped units are a bit better

ChrisTropea Associate Editor
4/12/23 9:13 a.m.

Every time I drive a Miata I get the urge to buy one. Congrats on the new car Katie! 

L5wolvesf Dork
4/12/23 9:28 a.m.


Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
4/12/23 12:01 p.m.
ChrisTropea said:

Every time I drive a Miata I get the urge to buy one. Congrats on the new car Katie! 

Driving the one we had at the FIRM for our AI versus human comparison made me itching for a Miata, too.

Luckily, I can't afford any car right now so the temptation isn't too bad.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UberDork
4/12/23 12:06 p.m.

It's actually very simple.  Pick a day with decent weather.  Locate a Miata.  Put the top down.  Find roads with less traffic.  Go for a drive.  Have fun!

If you hated it, congratulations, you hate cars.  Buy an appliance type car.  

fidelity101 UberDork
4/12/23 12:37 p.m.


Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/12/23 1:43 p.m.

My first car was a massive 1960 Plymouth wagon with no power steering. I did have the advantage of a large steering wheel, so I had more torque to rotate the wheel with.
One of the tricks I remember for low speed maneuvers in parking lots was to slip the clutch just enough to move the car, barely an inch or two, when having to turn the wheel hard. Even the littlest bit of forward or backwards movement will make the steering wheel much easier to turn.

Edit: sorry for forgetting to compliment you on your writing. Well done!

thatsnowinnebago GRM+ Memberand UberDork
4/12/23 4:07 p.m.

My 91 was specced the same way. I remember my friend teasing me once when I told him parking is a bit of a pain without PS. So I tossed him the keys and said "ok you try" and he immediately was "how do you live with this every day?!" My 99 has PS and I was shocked how easy it was to steer when I test drive it.

The same car also had a clutch slave issue visiting the same friend so I ended up being stuck at his place over the weekend waiting for parts to show up to replace it. 

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/12/23 4:11 p.m.
L5wolvesf said:


An MGB that starts up every time and goes without having the warm up first. 

I'm still not sure about driving a car in Florida without functioning A/C.  I know it was common for decades, but these days we have options.

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