1 2 3 ... 7

My Special Lady Friend and I have been fortunate enough to maintain our jobs/pay during this Pandemic, so we decided to pool our Stimulus checks for something fun.

For a long time now, I've been jealous of everyone else's belly buttons. Now we have one.

Yep, another Miata thread. 

This is a 97 M Edition. 5 speed, 1.8, 265K miles. Got it for a cool 2300 bucks. 1 mile from home.

It runs well, no smoke, but the rear main is leaking on a fairly new clutch. the wheels on it are crap aftermarket, but have decent Hankook tires. 

It came with 3/4 set of extra wheels, a manual, and extra lug nuts.

Clear coat is peeling on the rear bumper,

there is a crack low on the windshield, the top has about had it, and the passenger door is bondoed and ripply from a car rolling into it in a parking lot. Dings, shallow dents and scratches all around, but it looks really nice from 10+ feet.

Nice trunk.

and fairly clean engine.

The seats are thrashed, but still comfy.

This won't be much of a build thread. Maybe more of a rolling restoration. 

This is the second Miata I have ever driven.


Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/15/20 6:51 p.m.

Congrats! That wasn't a terribly common model, if that matters.

Before you tear into the rear main, check underneath the cam angle sensor on teh back of the exhaust cam. The O ring on that sensor is notorious for leaking and imitating a bad rear main, but it's 100x easier to fix.

Assuming the maintenance schedule is being maintained, it's due for a timing belt at 240k. Might be a good excuse to refresh all the seals on the front and top of the engine.

In reply to Keith Tanner :


Sounds about right. I think timing belt simply as cheap insurance is a good idea, and the coolant reroute kits seem like a wise move as well. I'll definitely see about the CAS. I'm off to order one of your books, and there will be some FM purchases in the future. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/15/20 7:33 p.m.

"Performance Projects" is the one that tells you what wrench to use where. "How to build..." is the one that tells you all the theory and how stuff works. "Find It, Fix It..." was more of a contractual obligation but it does have a good year-by-year reference for NA and NB options and performance.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/15/20 10:22 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I pull your Performance Projects book off the shelf whenever I work on mine. Then I go to the shop manual if I still have questions. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/16/20 12:21 a.m.

The kid who wrote that book was wrenching every day and knew a bunch of stuff I've forgotten!

I ordered "find it, Fix it...", but that may be a good choice anyway. I'm toying with keeping this as factory as I can, small bolt ons aside. That decision is heavily influenced by my need to avoid throwing the kitchen sink at it. I'm sure the other books will find their way into the library eventually.

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
6/16/20 8:52 a.m.

I've probably said this elsewhere but I resisted Miatas in my teens, started to fall for them in college, completely fell head over heels when I finally drove one (see: raced) and already miss the rusty one I had last fall. I wish I had an excuse / space for another right now.


I haven't had much of a chance to mess around with the car yet. I put the top down, and moved it to "the carport" (ie, under the deck).

Here's some pictures.

It was difficult to really get the bad spots of body work on film, but I tried. 


And two of the passenger's door:

The plan is just to live with the body for now, maybe some clay barring and wax to be followed by neglect.

On to the questions:

I need a new soft top. I'd like to stay with the factory color. Does anyone have a manuracturer/supplier they would recommend? I plan to DIY the installation. 

Same question but with seat covers. I'd like Leather replicas of the factory seats. The kind that replace factory covers, not go over them.

What about stock autocrossing in this thing? KYB gas-a-just still the hot ticket? Can I run earlier stock springs for just a little bit more low? The stock wheels are 15X6, and long gone. Can I run 15X7s? If I find another of these 14X6s, can I run them?

Budget is, of course, paramount. 

All input appreciated.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/18/20 6:15 p.m.

I'm a fan of Robbins tops myself. If you find one, a full NB top (including frame) is a bolt-in upgrade.

I know that Katzkin sells new leather that's better than OE. You could check with Moss Miata as well.

1996-97 cars are like 4x4s. You can 100% use earlier springs to drop the car down a bit. I'd run Koni STR.T shocks for a stock replacement style. 

The car will handle 15x7 with an offset between +45 and +30 with no worries- thanks to Spec Miata, there are a bunch of 13 lb wheels with that offset range for about $100/corner. I have 15x8 with +36 offset and 225/45-15 tires that juuuust clear unmodified fenders. If you run a 205/50-15 on a 15x8, you could get away with a +25 offset. 15x7 with a 205, you could probably hit the teens.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Thank You, sir! I'm thinking we're at the point it isn't really silly that I want to keep this as original as possible, and start treating it as a collectible. I'd love to find stock M wheels, but Panasport style really call me. Probably max of 15X7. 

So, any earlier car springs will be the same rate, or are NA 1s lower rate?

Anybody got some stock NA springs laying around?

In other news, as my Special Lady Friend tooled up and down the driveway, I did see a hint of smoke, and there appears to be some lifter rattle on start up. I trust the PO, and he said the timing belt was done in 2013 at approximately 210K miles. 

I'm wondering if a stock (leaning towards "blueprinted" rebuild isn't in the fairly near future.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/18/20 6:49 p.m.

Lifter rattle is not unknown, especially on cars that are getting close to an oil change and/or have recently seen a lot of very short run times like moving in and out and in of the garage. Sometimes a good italian tune-up and new oil solves it.

Smoke could be dealt with as easily as some new valve stem seals. Or you just find a decent NA 1.8 engine to drop in - if you avoid the "need" to upgrade to an NB engine, they're not too expensive.

I should probably know if the rates changed, but I don't. Not dramatically if they did. BTW, I don't think I've ever seen "NA1" or "NA2" terminology. NA6 vs NA8, sometimes.

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/18/20 6:52 p.m.

Lifter rattle on these isn't exactly unusual. I'd experiment with different viscidities first, sometimes going a bit thicker or thinner helps. Plus IIRC there is a set of Kia lifters that fit and are noticeably cheaper.

NA6 and NA8, got it. 

Honestly, it was just a tiny rattle on start up, I'm not too concerned. It is just that I'd like to save the #s matching engine before I run it too far into the ground. All this talk of originality is in light of this someday being a collectible, and in no way because I'm dying to throw the entire parts catalog at it. 

I have zero desire to leap down the NB 1.8 rabbit hole. KISS

Tim, thanks, that KIA tip is exactly the sort of gem I'm looking for.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/18/20 7:10 p.m.

Specifically, the engine was used in the 1995 Sephia GS if memory serves. Also the Escort GT. But the cheap lifters are pretty well advertised as fitting Miatas too.

FYI, there are no numbers on the engine itself. Just the oil pan, and even that's riveted on. 

In reply to Keith Tanner :

And That is why all 3 of your Miata books are on the way. 

Scopecreep New Reader
6/18/20 11:16 p.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) (Forum Supporter) :

I went a little cheaper since my Miata's aren't daily drivers and are stored under cover. I did both projects this spring and pricing was from April 2020.

I ordered a tan top for my 1995 Miata from Autotops Direct - vinyl top / plastic window with drip rail for $359 including shipping. Installed it myself and it fit well.

I ordered "pleather" seats from Amazon - look up "Sierra Auto Tops Mazda Miata Front Seat Cover Kit". $99 for the set. They were easier to install than leather (more stretch), fit well and look good.

Since I already had the hog rings and pliers, my total cost was less than $500.

The quality of the items Keith recommended is much higher than the above items but each one will likely cost more than both of these combined.

dherr (Forum Supporter)
dherr (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Dork
6/19/20 8:10 a.m.

Nice score on the M-Edition, has all the good stuff with the limited slip diff. Easiest top replacement is to find a decent one on another car and bolt it on as that is the simple solution. I have not done one on a NA but did replace the top on my old NC, was not too difficult. I also have a set of M-Edition seats I need to redo, so will be interested in seeing how you tackle that one. I have seen the inexpensive kits installed on the seats and they do look good, even not in leather. They are fun cars, I will be moving all the M-Edition parts from my running parts car including  the drivetrain to our automatic NA sometime in the near future.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/19/20 8:58 a.m.

The saving grace to cheap seat covers is that the factory leather is pretty cheap to start with :) I know my recommendations tend to be at the high end, that's because they're based on suppliers that I used for years before the low end of the market kicked in. I also tend to keep my cars for a long time. You can certainly save money by going with alternatives and they may very well do the job, but I know you'll never be disappointed with the ones I recommended. Robbins start at about $400, by the way.

I have the disease of building everything like it will be my forever car/bike/record player/etc. This ensures that it has nice parts once life with me turns whatever it is to junk.

I'm with Keith. Expensive top. I'll probably buy some purses at Goodwill to make patches for these seats until I can afford/justify buying the best seat covers I can find. Leather, embroidered, and with holes poked in them for speakers, which means new speakers before I tackle that problem. 

cmcgregor (Forum Supporter)
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
6/19/20 1:17 p.m.

Nice find! I like the color a lot.

As for stock autocross - if you're asking if you can autocross in the stock class, you'll need to stick to stock width wheels, which can be within 1" of the stock diameter. That means 14, 15, or 16x6, since I think the M edition cars came with a 15x6. Technically you're supposed to leave the springs alone as well but I doubt anyone would have a problem with using older stock springs.

I put a Sierra Auto Tops top on my car, and honestly, I wish I'd just bought a Robbins. It's a lot of work and I don't relish the thought of doing it again. Definitely keep an eye out on Craigslist and Facebook, there is a huge market for Miata parts, and stock stuff can often be picked up cheap.

Let me know if you need a CAS o-ring, I bought a pack of 25 from McMaster which is more than a lifetime supply!

cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) said:

Let me know if you need a CAS o-ring, I bought a pack of 25 from McMaster which is more than a lifetime supply!

Yes, please.

On the wheels, thanks, I thought you had to stay stock diameter, but could go up an inch in width. Sounds like stock Miata 15s might be my best bet.15X6 is, indeed the stock size.

Robbins top it is, then.

I'm laid up, and have been watching Youtube. I had no idea how rare the sunburst yellow cars were. From a collector standpoint, I'd put that ahead of the M editions.

Watching the tube, installing a top doesn't look so bad.



Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/19/20 5:11 p.m.

If you're looking for the collector car, 1993 Black and Red. Or a 1991 BBR Le Mans car still in the argyle, I think only 22 were sold that way. Two of the planned 24 got repainted before sale.

If you've got my books on the way, there's a how-to on a top install in Performance Projects. It isn't that bad really.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I'm just goofing, I like this car, and feel it found me.

Here's a story the PO told me. 

He was driving high speed in the rain, and spun. I imagine he hydroplaned. He said he went "around and around" in traffic, finally skidding into the break down lane sideways until he stopped. The one 14" wheel broke and lost its tire, but the car was otherwise unhurt. It just makes me think this car's got heart.

What do you guys think about this short video?



cmcgregor (Forum Supporter)
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
6/19/20 5:42 p.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) (Forum Supporter) :

Shoot me a PM with your address and I'll drop a few in the mail for you. Any other stock parts you need? I have a tote full of accumulated...well...some would call it junk...

1 2 3 ... 7
Our Preferred Partners