What would you do with a nearly perfect NA Miata? | Column

By Tim Suddard
Feb 25, 2022 | Mazda, Miata, NA, Column, GRM+ | Posted in Columns | From the Feb. 2022 issue | Never miss an article

In our world, the answer to almost every question is Miata.

Looking for a great sports car for date night? Miata. 

Looking for an easy-to-drive, inexpensive car to autocross? Miata.

Looking for a terrific entry-level road racing car with parts support and lots of competition? Miata.

The Miata came into my life in February of 1989. We were doing a lot of work with Mazda, and they flew me to Hawaii to look at an important new car. This was before the internet, and spy photos were limited, so I really had no idea what they wanted to show us.

Upon first glimpse, I was smitten–both with Hawaii and the all-new Miata. I shook my head in disbelief: Mazda had recreated and perfected the classic British roadster.

At that time, some 33 years ago, we didn’t know how much Miata involvement awaited us. We didn’t know that the magazine staff would soon offer public demo drives through a program that we developed with Mazda. We didn’t know we would take a factory-backed 1994 Miata R to the SCCA Solo National Championships. We didn’t know we would build one of the first NC-chassis Miatas for a new pro spec racing class. We didn’t know that we’d help unveil the current model to the SCCA autocross community.

And we didn’t know that the Miata would become the number-one car of our readers for some 20 years in a row–or such a cornerstone of motorsports. 

Along the way, so many Miata project cars have passed through our shops–all four generations to date. We still own a zebra-striped, off-road Miata as well as a road racer powered by a Camaro V6. I’ve personally restored a few early cars, but sadly I didn’t keep them. 

As early Miata prices have been rising, I’ve been thinking that I should get another one. Personally, I’d love one wearing Sunburst Yellow, Smurf Blue or British Racing Green. And instead of starting with a worn-out rat, perhaps this time I should pony up and just buy the nicest, lowest-mileage, most original example I can find.

Sadly, though, that’s now a $10,000 to $15,000 car. I find it tough to swallow that news when they sold for just $5000 a few years back. Still, the Miata is so important in our world that prices will only go up more, right? 

But then a stock Miata fell into my lap this past summer. It’s pictured above.

I was up visiting family, although the reason was sad: We were remembering my first cousin, who had passed away in a kiteboarding accident. (Still, I have to respect a 67-year-old man who decides to go kiteboarding on Christmas Eve in Massachusetts while the weather is barely above the freezing mark.)

During our conversation, my cousin’s son said that the family had decided the fate of his dad’s Miata: Instead of selling it, they wanted me to have it. 

I was surprised and humbled. “Yes,” I said, “I would be honored to be the car’s next caretaker.”

For some reason, I thought that I was getting a well-optioned, low-mileage, original-paint 1993 Miata in perfect condition. While the car is nice, it has no options other than the hardtop. And while still in nearly perfect condition, the car has been repainted and shows about 120,000 miles.

So I’m left with a bit of a dilemma. My original intent was to leave the Miata perfectly stock, as I expected a collector-grade car. While I still wish to honor my cousin, I think he’d agree that this one makes a perfect blank canvas. 

Do I just improve its performance a tad to make it faster or more comfortable–or both? Or do I go hog wild with a supercharger atop a later, larger engine? Is this a restoration project for our sister magazine, Classic Motorsports, or the start of another autocrosser for the pages of GRM

What would you do here?

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CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
12/29/21 9:11 a.m.

Sorry for your loss-your cousin sounds like a impressive guy.

Feels like a Classic Motorsports project. I always get a kick out of projects that incorporate period-correct aftermarket parts. 

Appleseed MegaDork
12/29/21 9:29 a.m.

Period correct aftermarket is the answer answer here. Let everyone see what performance looked like in 1995.

Noddaz GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/29/21 9:51 a.m.
Appleseed said:

Period correct aftermarket is the answer answer here. Let everyone see what performance looked like in 1995.

this !   Simple bolt on parts only.  And drive and conserve it as much as possible.


Berck New Reader
12/29/21 10:11 a.m.

It's actually perfect--unmolested, pretty, but not collector-grade so you can drive it.  As someone that daily drives the crap out of a clean 1991 BRG, it's a good place to be.  They need shocks; swaybars and exhaust is nice.  And then drive it.  Actually, given the ride height in that photo, I'm guessing the suspension is already aftermarket.  Clean, driveable, mostly-stock NA Miatas are becoming rarer than both collectors cars and hacked up crapcans. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
12/29/21 10:15 a.m.

Yes period correct mild mods and take it to every Radwood show you can find.  

GRM has the white Miata to go hog wild with.  

And remember high mileage 944s in good shape bring big dollars today.  Keep this one nice, clean, and make all mods reversible and it'll gain value fast no matter the mileage.  Clean NAs are rare now.

TGMF HalfDork
12/29/21 2:20 p.m.

Immediately sell it for way more than rational to some Miata fan who fits in such a car. 

Powar GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
12/29/21 2:47 p.m.

I'd probably refresh anything it needed, add some simple bolt-ons that are easily reversible, and park it in the garage next to the other cars that I don't drive often enough (including another red early 90s Mazda).

Captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/29/21 2:57 p.m.

I'd pull and store the stock engine, suspension bits and ECU. 

Then I'd call Keith and a crew, build a BP, go with mild boost in the 240hp range, fox suspension and megasquirt. 


Everything would be reverseable within 2 weekends worth of effort. 

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
12/29/21 6:30 p.m.

if it were me...id upgrade when replacement is necessary, but overall keep it close to factory intent.

now granted Ive never owned & at current prices...probably never be able to own an na/nb miata.  

You very well know what they CAN be like.  to someone like me...id want to know and feel what the original fuss is all about ;)

rodknock Reader
12/29/21 7:04 p.m.

Sell it for a million dollars 

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