katch22
katch22 None
11/26/08 12:23 p.m.

Hi there everyone. This is an introductory post, and it is motorsports/car-related in a way, so I'm pretty sure this should go here. I've been getting GRM for a while after I signed up with NASA to do their HPDE course two years ago, and I've loved every issue I've received. I also have been noticing how involved the online community is, as well as how tied it is to the magazine, and so I figured I'd test the waters here. I like what I see thus far.

In any case, to the point of the topic: I'm a 20-year-old, utter computer geek who loves, absolutely LOVES driving and racing, but I am sadly without a car. I have some practical experience with cars, but due to (more or less) how I was raised, I've never really had the opportunity to truely work on one (though I imagine I could pick it up quickly if given the chance). The greatest practical experience I have with working with vehicles (especially race cars) comes from a friend's father who 4 or 5 times a year (probably for the last decade, since I was 10) would race his 81' (more or less) RX-7 in the old P7 class that NASA had up at Thunderhill and Infineon in NorCal. My knowledge and experience is strange: all I can really tell you is -what- to adjust on the suspension and tires of a given car given tire temperatures and handling characteristics, but I can't tell you -how- to adjust those settings. Actual mechanical work I've never done.

In an effort to get me on the track, that same friend's father wanted to get me on the racetrack to really find out what it's like. He let me take his 1999 Mazda Miata up to Infineon for HPDE...andI must say, I am -beyond- hooked. I've been driving my dad's car for a while when I'm at home, or when he doesn't need the car (a 2005 Honda Civic Si, I'm pretty sure it has the HPE kit, too) and that's no slouch, but the Miata put a whole new perspective in the concept of what a sports car feels like. I. Am. Hooked. I've been a die-hard Honda guy my entire life, given my personal and my family's experience with how well they've held up for us, but in the last month, trawling the market for potential vehicles, I can't get the beautifuly simple feeling of the Mazda Miata out of my head. It's all I can think about.

So, in a roundabout, way way roundabout, way of asking, let me pose this question: Is an early-to-mid 1990s Miata, 1st gen, a good car for a student without a lot of money to burn on maintenance, but one that will still allow me a track day every 6 months or so, or the periodic red-line shift? I realize that all cars have their maintenance costs, but I don't want to get a car that's going to need $500 in parts every 6 months. And, if the Miata isn't a good car for this, what other options do I have? My budget is at most $3500.

Thank you for your thoughts!

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/26/08 12:27 p.m.

Miata? Yes.

ClemSparks
ClemSparks SuperDork
11/26/08 12:38 p.m.

I don't think you'll find a better candidate, given your needs...

If you don't need 4 seats, the Miata is a very good car for a daily driver. I've not tracked one, but it's reputation is top notch.

Clem

jrw1621
jrw1621 Reader
11/26/08 12:40 p.m.
katch22 wrote: I can't get the beautifuly simple feeling of the Mazda Miata out of my head. It's all I can think about.

You will be safe here. Around here you will be refered to as 'normal"

A Miata should fit your need very well. My number one advise though is, "do not take an under-maintained car out onto a high speed track." If your maintainance budget is limited look into autocrossing the Miata instead. Either way, get a Miata

Aside from here as a resource be sure to check out www.Miata.net. I think you will find that there is nothing on a Miata that might need repair or servicing that is not very well documented somewhere on the internet or in print.

bludroptop
bludroptop Dork
11/26/08 12:43 p.m.

Yeah, asking this group if they would recommend a Miata is like asking Hugh Hefner if he likes boobies.

Still, a good choice.

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/26/08 12:48 p.m.
bludroptop wrote: Yeah, asking this group if they would recommend a Miata is like asking Hugh Hefner if he likes boobies. Still, a good choice.

Yeah...but Heff can't buy boobies for a mere $3500.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
11/26/08 12:54 p.m.

An early Miata is a perfect car to start with. Just be sure to allocate enough money to get a proper rollbar. You'll need a real 4-point rollbar, not a 2-point style bar.

If you're into Hondas, a similar year Civic is also a good candidate.

Go with whichever makes you smile more.

Hey, I think I met you. Were you at Infineon on Nov 8th? Driving a black Miata with the double-loop bars? If so, I was the guy with the white '94 who came up to chat with you and give you a hard time about watching your mirrors when you're trying to keep the car from spinning on a wet track.

This is the perfect season to hunt for a Miata too. Check this one out (near Sac): http://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/934628124.html

I'd be sure to bring someone to check if the frame is bent. But it looks like you could get away with just a new bumper cover and hood.

Capt Slow
Capt Slow Reader
11/26/08 12:59 p.m.
jrw1621 said: If your maintainance budget is limited look into autocrossing the Miata instead.

Come to an autocross, They are lots of fun and perfectly suited to a miata.

We have a very active region here and there are no shortage of clubs to run with.

I would reccomend going to a nor cal UFO event

www.norcalufo.org

Or perhaps checking out the Golden Gate region lotus club. I have no experence with the lotus club but I have hear nothing but good things about them. (sorry I don't have a link but google will find it quickly for you)

I would not reccomend going to the SCCA for your first couple of events. But go to their website, it has a very nice calender of events that you can put to good use in finding other active clubs in the region. http://www.sfrscca.org/content/view/4555/32/

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
11/26/08 1:05 p.m.
Capt Slow wrote: Or perhaps checking out the Golden Gate region lotus club. I have no experence with the lotus club but I have hear nothing but good things about them. (sorry I don't have a link but google will find it quickly for you)

www.GGLotus.org

Great group. Best deal on open track time around here. But pretty much all their track days are during the week (hence the cheap prices).

If you get a Miata with LSD, you can also hit ThunderDrift at Thunderhill. Gratuitous fun. They're running a full-track drifting weekend Dec 20-21, with instruction. They open the skidpad every month. www.ThunderDrift.com

katch22
katch22 New Reader
11/26/08 1:14 p.m.
Salanis wrote: An early Miata is a perfect car to start with. Just be sure to allocate enough money to get a proper rollbar. You'll need a real 4-point rollbar, not a 2-point style bar. If you're into Hondas, a similar year Civic is also a good candidate. Go with whichever makes you smile more. Hey, I think I met you. Were you at Infineon on Nov 8th? Driving a black Miata with the double-loop bars? If so, I was the guy with the white '94 who came up to chat with you and give you a hard time about watching your mirrors when you're trying to keep the car from spinning on a wet track. This is the perfect season to hunt for a Miata too. Check this one out (near Sac): http://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/934628124.html I'd be sure to bring someone to check if the frame is bent. But it looks like you could get away with just a new bumper cover and hood.

Hey there! Yah, that was me in the Black Miata which managed to get sideways on turn two! Nice to see you here, and thanks for the advice.

I've been watching craigslist pretty regularly, and I'm keeping my eye out for a post-1994 model (1.8L engine and if I recally correctly, some reliability issues [which isn't saying much about the Miata] were fixed with the 1.8) with a roll bar. Even then, I'd gladly save up for a month or two then get a rollbar sometime later.

What's turning me off to Civics, well, two things: 1) weight bias (after driving a 2005 Si and then a 99 Miata right after, it makes an enormous difference, like a dogsled to a rocket ship), and 2) Civics are some of the most oft-stolen vehicles on the planet. I do love how reliable they are, and I've driven Civics all my life (first one was an '89 DX), but I don't know if I could fall in absolute love like I did with the Miata. Oh glorious Miata.

And everyone, thanks for your thoughts--they're much appreciated!

ClemSparks
ClemSparks SuperDork
11/26/08 1:18 p.m.
jrw1621 wrote: A Miata should fit your need very well. My number one advise though is, "do not take an under-maintained car out onto a high speed track." If your maintainance budget is limited look into autocrossing the Miata instead. Either way, get a Miata

I read the "limited maintenance budget" in a different way. If you get a reasonably well maintained car to start with, the maintenance costs on a Miata are NOT bad at all. Thus, I think it's a good choice.

Just looking at the other side of the coin! (and trying to be an enabler ;)).

Clem

TJ
TJ Reader
11/26/08 1:23 p.m.

This is sorta like asking a pack of wolves if they like red meat. Get a Miata. How long until someone says E30?

jrw1621
jrw1621 Reader
11/26/08 1:25 p.m.
katch22 wrote: ...but I don't know if I could fall in absolute love like I did with the Miata. Oh glorious Miata.

I bought a Miata over 15 years ago.

Since then I have aslo owned an '86 CRX, '88 MR2 Supercharged, '95 Civic EX Coupe, '97 240sx as well as some other more boring daily driving cars. I have sold them all, but, I still have the Miata.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
11/26/08 1:26 p.m.
katch22 wrote: Hey there! Yah, that was me in the Black Miata which managed to get sideways on turn two! Nice to see you here, and thanks for the advice. I've been watching craigslist pretty regularly, and I'm keeping my eye out for a post-1994 model (1.8L engine and if I recally correctly, some reliability issues [which isn't saying much about the Miata] were fixed with the 1.8) with a roll bar. Even then, I'd gladly save up for a month or two then get a rollbar sometime later.

Hey! Good to see you on here. After all was said and done, I was actually glad to have you not lifting to let me pass. It forced me to work harder and plan ahead to build the momentum to get a run-up on you. That was a GREAT track day! Most learning I've had at one yet!

I looked for a '94+ when I got mine, because I wanted to be able to drift. There were a lot of changes in '94. Bigger engine. Bigger breaks. Adjusted brake bias. Additional chassis stiffening. Bigger rear end, with a Torsen differential (that is worlds better than the viscous type used earlier).

The improved differential is what I was most interested in, but I like all the other upgrades.

The "reliability" issues of the 1.6 engine were specifically related to the short-nose crank used in '90-'91. The '92-'93 got a long-nose crank, and didn't suffer the same issues. Even still, the short-nose crank isn't especially more prone to failure than the long nose, and is well documented on how to fix.

If you were to get a Civic, look at one of similar vintage to the Miatas. Something like a '93-'94 Si will be more fun than a 2005. They are still more stolen and harder to find unmolested.

JmfnB
JmfnB GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
11/26/08 1:28 p.m.
Tyler H wrote:
bludroptop wrote: Yeah, asking this group if they would recommend a Miata is like asking Hugh Hefner if he likes boobies. Still, a good choice.
Yeah...but Heff can't buy boobies for a mere $3500.

Sure he can, You don't think he pays retail do you?

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
11/26/08 1:30 p.m.
TJ wrote: This is sorta like asking a pack of wolves if they like red meat. Get a Miata. How long until someone says E30?

I think Miata wins this one. As great as the E30 is, they tend to require more maintenance and prep. The Miata can be played with out-of-the-box.

Miata parts are cheaper, and don't wear as quickly.

Plus, women get more excited about riding in/driving a Miata than an E30.

neon4891
neon4891 Dork
11/26/08 2:16 p.m.

and to round out the trifecta...P71. Tho I'm not sure if this is a good car to start with

Tommy Suddard
Tommy Suddard GRM+ Member
11/26/08 2:41 p.m.
TJ wrote: This is sorta like asking a pack of wolves if they like red meat. Get a Miata. How long until someone says E30?

E30. They're like Miatas, only better.

mtn
mtn Dork
11/26/08 2:50 p.m.
Tommy Suddard wrote:
TJ wrote: This is sorta like asking a pack of wolves if they like red meat. Get a Miata. How long until someone says E30?
E30. They're like Miatas, only better.

Yep. Which is why I have an E30, and lust after a Miata. And a Corvette. And another E30 :)

thatsnowinnebago
thatsnowinnebago GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/26/08 2:59 p.m.

Ive owned my Miata for around 3 years and roughly 50k now and in that time I've replaced nothing out of the ordinary other than a clutch slave cylinder, shifter boots, and a brake caliper.

TJ
TJ Reader
11/26/08 4:44 p.m.

I've had mine going on 4 years and other than oil changes the only thing I had a problem with was a faulty fuel pump that was replaced under warranty.

GregTivo
GregTivo Reader
11/27/08 12:16 a.m.

Be warned though, miatas are the "Lay's Potato Chips" of cars...you can't have just one

I've owned 3 in various stages of togetherness. Still love my '96 B&T though. Through all my trials and tribulations of ownership, every drive on a twisty road or autocross brings a tear to my eye.

92dxman
92dxman Reader
11/27/08 12:42 p.m.

If you need 4 seats and more than 2 doors, look no further than the 4 door version of the first gen Miata, the 90-94 Protege. Snag an LX and you get the 1.8 twin cam that was found in 94+ Miatas. Plus you get 4 wheel disc brakes and all the other goodies. I'll go out on a limb and also recommend a Ford Zx2. It's basically a Mazda chassis, parts are cheap, plenty of grunt, decent handling, can be had in your price range all day long, suspension goodies to make it handle better and people won't swipe it as they will a Civic.

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