The truth about antiques: My Miata is one | Column

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Oct 31, 2022 | Miata, Column, Classic Car | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Earlier this year, I hung an Antique tag on the back of my ’92 Miata, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that. How could a car that I bought nearly new now qualify for reduced fare?

[Our Miata is officially an antique | Garage Rescue Miata]

Back when I first met my Miata–Christmas Eve of 1998–it was a fresh …

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 9:50 a.m.

When I got the Antique tag for the Miata, the woman behind the DMV counter goes, "30-year-old car? That should be something from the '70s."

Exactly, I told her. 

ZOO (Forum Supporter)
ZOO (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/31/22 10:02 a.m.

My Miata doesn't feel "old car" in the way I understand "old car".  It starts as well as it always has, and there is nothing finicky like setting the choke to be "just right".  I wouldn't hesitate to drive it across the country, today, with only a cursory check of fluids and tires.

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/31/22 11:57 a.m.

"Earlier this year, I hung an Antique tag on the back of my ’92 Miata, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that. How could a car that I bought nearly new now qualify for reduced fare?'

I suspect that you feel the same way about that as I did when someone invited me to enter my motorcycle in a vintage bike show.  What do you mean vintage?!  I bought it new!

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
10/31/22 12:09 p.m.
APEowner said:

"Earlier this year, I hung an Antique tag on the back of my ’92 Miata, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that. How could a car that I bought nearly new now qualify for reduced fare?'

I suspect that you feel the same way about that as I did when someone invited me to enter my motorcycle in a vintage bike show.  What do you mean vintage?!  I bought it new!

That isn't new, but it isn't a Triumph Bonneville either.

An MG TC is more vintage than a Miata, but it's also 75 years old. From a totally different era. There is a huge difference between old cars and older cars.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 12:23 p.m.
APEowner said:

"Earlier this year, I hung an Antique tag on the back of my ’92 Miata, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that. How could a car that I bought nearly new now qualify for reduced fare?'

I suspect that you feel the same way about that as I did when someone invited me to enter my motorcycle in a vintage bike show.  What do you mean vintage?!  I bought it new!

Sorta related, but this weekend I'm showing a bike in a vintage BMX show–and it's a bike that I bought new. 

Warlock
Warlock New Reader
10/31/22 2:59 p.m.

In reply to ZOO (Forum Supporter) :

True, but someone the same age as that Miata understands "old car" differently than you and I.  No ABS?  You have to check tire pressures and fluid levels manually?  Only one airbag?  The dash lights don't change colors?  NO BLUETOOTH?  What an old hulk!

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/31/22 3:35 p.m.
ZOO (Forum Supporter) said:

My Miata doesn't feel "old car" in the way I understand "old car".  It starts as well as it always has, and there is nothing finicky like setting the choke to be "just right".  I wouldn't hesitate to drive it across the country, today, with only a cursory check of fluids and tires.

I did exactly that a couple of years ago. Car was fine, it never occurred to me it should be any different.
https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/the-life-and-times-of-miata-338/160276/page1/ 

Okay, three years.

A few more years back, Tim was in town and we took my '85 CRX on a run out to Moab. He was surprised that I didn't bring a tool kit. Why would I? It's a Honda from the 80s going a couple of hundred miles. It's not a freshly restored Elan :) It might be as old now as an Elan would have been in 2000, but it's not as old as an unrestored Elan would have been at that age if you get my drift.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
10/31/22 3:40 p.m.

I was 29 years old when the Miata hit the showroom floor.  Once you get to around 50 cars form your late teens & early twenties start to become classics.

My badass BMX bike that I just got from a friend is now 43 years old; I remember when it was brand new.

Time moves quickly.

 

 

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 3:42 p.m.

I wonder, is "old" a sliding scale?

Hear me out.

In 1985, a 40-year-old song was old–like from the end of World War II with a big band and lots of horns.

Today, a 40-year-old song is early R.E.M.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
10/31/22 4:14 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

I wonder, is "old" a sliding scale?

Hear me out.

In 1985, a 40-year-old song was old–like from the end of World War II with a big band and lots of horns.

Today, a 40-year-old song is early R.E.M.

Old is a sliding scale but that scale is different for each generation.

There was a huge technology gap from say 1985 to 1975 and 1965 when it comes to cars. Same for music; the style hasn't radically changed in the last 20 years.  In a 20 year period we went from 4 wheel drum brakes & carbs to 4 wheel discs and fuel injection on most cars. Musically we went from the Beatles to Black Sabbath to the Dead Milkman.

Cars from 20 years cars and cars from 10 years ago aren't radically different; other than the nannies cars haven't radically changed in the last 20 years.

 

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
10/31/22 4:24 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I definitely feel like there's a sort of "changing of the guard" vibe when it comes to what's new and what's old.

How did I know I wasn't part of youngins anymore? The first time I saw clothes from the early 2000s described as "vintage."

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 4:34 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

See also: Some friends dressed for 1996 at the latest Radwood that we all attended. To me, they looked normal....

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 4:41 p.m.

In reply to Tom1200 :

I think cars have changed more in the last 20 years than we might realize: direct injection, EV, lane assistance, self-driving, touch screens, lightweight materials, CVTs, twin-clutch transmission, LED lighting, connectivity, hot spots, etc. Our 2014 Civic Si sports a CD player. Might as well have a cassette deck. 

More importantly, though, Dead Milkmen rule. Insider tip: Check out Rodney Anonymous' side project, 7th Victim. 

 

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
10/31/22 4:50 p.m.

 

Compared to what an unrestored MGB looked like when it hit 30 years old

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 5:23 p.m.

In reply to NOHOME :

Ow.

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
10/31/22 5:37 p.m.

How many features from a post 2000 car do you want? Other than a USB port, I want none of them.

I have to laugh when ever someone a work referrs to a 2003 car as "old".

My DD's are a 2000 and a 1998!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 5:40 p.m.

I got my first car, a 1982 Accord, in 1989. 

It seemed kinda old: carburetor, 13-inch steel wheels, standard square headlamps. Looking back, I'm surprised that it was only seven years old. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/31/22 5:48 p.m.

In reply to Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) :

Radar cruise control is a pretty easy answer to that question. Dumb cruise is really pretty dumb because it will happily drive over the car in front of you. Not driving over the car in front of you is a very useful improvement without a lot of downside :) Safety is also up, emissions are down, lots of incremental improvements have been made.

Otherwise, there's a whole category of drivetrain that has become viable since 2000. While you might not want one, sales figures would indicate that lots of people do.

RaabTheSaab
RaabTheSaab New Reader
10/31/22 6:03 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

1982 saw the release of "Thriller", "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Too-Rye-Aye". 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 6:05 p.m.
RaabTheSaab said:

In reply to David S. Wallens :

1982 saw the release of "Thriller", "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Too-Rye-Aye". 

All hip, modern songs. :) 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 6:07 p.m.

But, really, an '82 Accord is now 40 years old. And a '92 Miata seems so much more advanced. 

parker
parker HalfDork
10/31/22 8:28 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Gonna have to disagree with you here.  I don't want to be held hostage to the speed of the car in front of me.  Putting on cruise control doesn't mean stop paying attention.  If you're closing on a slower car take appropriate action, slow down or pass.  All of these "assists" are just dumbing down an already pretty dumb driving public.

 

As for the original post, I remember driving a Miata in 1990 when they were the hot new thing.  SO much better than my 1976 Midget.  In fact the Midget felt vintage when I got it in 1986.  It was only ten years old!

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/31/22 9:19 p.m.

In reply to parker :

You can still change lanes, you're not being held hostage. Heck, you can do all the things you can do with dumb cruise control other than drive into the back of another car. Unless that is your plan, there is no downside. If the speed of traffic is changing, your car will change with it. If not, then it acts like dumb cruise. 

It's not dumbing down, it's taking away a really stupid design flaw. Being against radar cruise is like being against self-canceling turn indicators.

parker
parker HalfDork
10/31/22 9:42 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

To be honest I've never driven a car with it.  I was under the impression that radar cruise would reduce your speed to match the car in front of you.  All of this lane assist, self-braking, self-driving (that's really not) just make me feel like the average driver is abdicating all responsibility.  Now get off my lawn!!

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/31/22 10:14 p.m.

In reply to parker :

It will slow down if there's slower traffic in front of you. Same thing you would do if you were driving - and if you don't want that speed, you just change lanes.

I didn't think it was a big thing until I went back to my dumb truck after a long time with the radar cruise and it was just so crude. Never quite right, and if the car in front changes speed your car doesn't respond. With the radar cruise, you almost set it to your max speed and then let the car pace off traffic. Just like you do when you're controlling speed, only the cruise doesn't get distracted. It's not dumbing things down, it comes across as fully realized cruise instead of incomplete. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/31/22 10:33 p.m.

The point of the column, as I remember it, wasn't about whether or not technology like radar cruise control is bad. We can argue that somewhere else another day.  

The point is just that, for all these years, the Miata has represented an entry point into our hobby. Today, that entry point can involve restoration work and the celebration of days gone by in addition to autocross, track days, road racing and the like. 

Thank you, Miata, for always being there for us. 

alfadriver
alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/31/22 11:09 p.m.

30 years is a long time.  Back when I started working in 1992, there were quite a few people who met The Duce, some even had managed to meet Henry himself.  One of those guys was pushing 50 years at Ford.  No idea why, but he loved working there.

A few years later, I bought a '73 car that was 22 years old.  And it was easily a antique.

And now I'm done working- a whole career later.

So in terms of changing....  The Alfa had really, really basic crash structure.  You had to order seat belts.

In 1992, it was barely after all cars got fuel injection.  I remember visiting a dealer with my dad, and the dealer told us a guy just wanted a simple carburetted car.

But here's the funny thing- thanks to advancements in computers, the 1992 Miata was much closer to the 1973 Alfa I had when you then look into the really weird emissions solutions that showed up in between.  Powerful computers really simplified the engines.

Between then and now, for the most part, computers got cheaper- which meant a lot of features got to be added pretty easily- like electronic throttle and WB O2 sensors.  DI was a real massive change, though- which took some much more powerful computers to even design, let alone to control.  And thanks to DI and powerful computers, the massive step in emissions between '92 and now has mostly been dealt with with simple control and design- catalysts are way cheaper now than they were in 2000 for equivalent emissions.

Hard to really judge between the lack of emissions in a 1962 vs 1992 vs 2022, though.  The first 30 years was a massive change, but the last 30 years were really significant, too.

Safety has taken similar steps- pretty much nothing in 1962, some decent rules (including airbags) in 1992, and pretty stringent rules and standards in 2022.   In '92, traction control wasn't really a thing yet, but now we have full drive control- almost.  

And it can easily be said that drivers are very forward compatible, but not really backward.  Even though a huge amount of US cars in '62 had automatic transmissions, there were still a really significant manuals.  Now there are hardly any of those left.

I really love what new cars bring- love the back up camera, love the infotainment system that gives me really good navigation that I can just say- go here on non highways- and we get it.  If we had it, I do enjoy smart cruise- the only "bad" thing is if you are not paying attention when you come up to slower cars, and all of a sudden you are doing 65 in 70 zone for a half hour.  Traction and stability control keeps winter driving moving very nicely.  And remembering what it smelled like to go on a road trip in the '70s, emissions controls are a major blessing.

But yea- compare a 1962 Giula Spider to a 1992 Miata to a 2022 Miata= there are a lot of steps there.  And a lot that is carried down.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
10/31/22 11:37 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

So to your point about PDK and direct injection; for enthusiasts driving manuals, such as myself you can't really notice the difference. Much like you I end up driving a lot of different cars and while I know that engine management has advanced enormously the actual in car feel isn't that different to 15-20 year old cars.

maschinenbau
maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand UberDork
11/1/22 8:47 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I got a downside for your radar cruise and other ADAS features. All those little radar modules under the bumper covers - they make cars more expensive to build, increase the threshold of difficulty for a DIY repair, and make normal body shop work even more costly. Look at the cost of replacement for a ND vs NC Miata windshield thanks to those features bonded up under the glass.

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/adas-and-the-car-enthusiast/182698/page1/

And that's besides the implications of allowing our brains to turn closer to the 'off' switch so we can consume more distractions when we're supposed to be piloting a 2+ ton ballistic weapon.

docwyte
docwyte PowerDork
11/1/22 9:28 a.m.

In reply to Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) :

I really like Apple CarPlay.  I added it to my 2003 996tt as well as my 2018 Land Cruiser, which should've had it from the damn factory.  Agree with Keith, radar cruise control is nice but I don't do enough road trips to really feel like it's a must have.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/1/22 10:25 a.m.
maschinenbau said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I got a downside for your radar cruise and other ADAS features. All those little radar modules under the bumper covers - they make cars more expensive to build, increase the threshold of difficulty for a DIY repair, and make normal body shop work even more costly. Look at the cost of replacement for a ND vs NC Miata windshield thanks to those features bonded up under the glass.

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/adas-and-the-car-enthusiast/182698/page1/

And that's besides the implications of allowing our brains to turn closer to the 'off' switch so we can consume more distractions when we're supposed to be piloting a 2+ ton ballistic weapon.

So don't use cruise.

Dumb cruise is fundamentally flawed. It takes away a little bit of cognitive load but leaves some big gotchas. It either should be fully implemented or not at all. And yes, tech is expensive. Note that I'm not necessarily campaigning for all ADAS, I specifically mentioned radar cruise. It's what cruise always should have been. Otherwise, you're back at the level of the hand throttle for my 1966 Land Rover.

It's clear that the perfect era for cars was 15-20 years ago, and it's a sliding date. 10 years ago we were talking about how the perfect car was just before the scourge of OBD-II. 10 years from now, we'll have 2010 pegged as "nothing good has happened since". In my fleet, I have a bunch of cars from 1990, a 2000, a 2011 and a 2019. Nice decade slices, plus a bonus half decade with a couple of 1985s. The progression is pretty clear, even if they are quite different vehicles overall. I also get to drive multiple variations of the same car over a 30+ year span quite regularly. The progress is there, and none of them have leaps that are bigger in one decade than another.

alfadriver
alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/1/22 11:13 a.m.

IMHO, the one thing that really separates 60, 30, and new cars is reliability. 

And there should be a special note for 26 year old cars in that.  

But cars up to the early 80s were not all that reliable.  Some better than others.  But they also really needed maintenance to keep running well.  For most performance cars, it was even more work including keeping head gaskets happy.  At a bare minimum, you HAD to maintain the ignition system, otherwise it would fail due to wear.

The 1992 Miata has coil packs, which removed the worst of the worst in terms of maintenance- no more points and condenser to worry about.  And even better, thanks to the increase in spark power AND fuel control, you could realistically get 100,000 miles without any ignition work.  Sure, there were failures- but those same failures happened with old systems.

And for most of us, that means you can get in your '92 Miata, turn the key, and it will just go.

The other major step to the late 80's and early 90's is metallurgy and tribology- which means that the internal wear is much less, and that turn the key and go is just that- no requirement to be gentle with the car at the first start.   Let alone the better fuel control that cut oil dilution by a huge amount.

To me, the OBDII start added a lot of reliabilty just so that cars survived the required thresholds w/o required warrantee coverage.

For the most part, from a customer perception, the fact that just getting in and driving the car hasn't changed much in 30 years makes us think that 30 year old cars are not really vintage because they don't take the special care to keep them running.  As much as people complain about new features, modern cars are still much more reliable and have less repairs than cars even 40 years ago- adding smart cruise is way more reliable than the old cable/vacuum systems, adding infotainment is more reliable than old radios, etc.  I understand the fear of complexity- but modern cars are so much just get in and go, it's not even funny.  And it's kind of shocking to me how much better fuel economy I get with a 2 ton turbo SUV than my 1.1 ton Miata- but it's real.  It's a lot faster, too.  Can tow my camper, too.  etc.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
11/1/22 11:55 a.m.
alfadriver said:

For the most part, from a customer perception, the fact that just getting in and driving the car hasn't changed much in 30 years makes us think that 30 year old cars are not really vintage because they don't take the special care to keep them running.  As much as people complain about new features, modern cars are still much more reliable and have less repairs than cars even 40 years ago- adding smart cruise is way more reliable than the old cable/vacuum systems, adding infotainment is more reliable than old radios, etc.  I understand the fear of complexity- but modern cars are so much just get in and go, it's not even funny.  And it's kind of shocking to me how much better fuel economy I get with a 2 ton turbo SUV than my 1.1 ton Miata- but it's real.  It's a lot faster, too.  Can tow my camper, too.  etc.

I think this sums it up best.

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