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ValourUnbound
ValourUnbound New Reader
2/9/20 11:54 p.m.

I was browsing CL and found this car, nearby and it looked to be in okay shape and most importantly it has a new soft top. Most other Miatas in my budget need new tops, which is not something I want to deal with. It also has records showing the latest timing belt, water pump and other useful bits (full list below). I went and saw the car the other day and liked it a lot, which now means that I am someone for whom the answer applys, and I am okay with that. The guy wouldn't take my pocketful of cash lowball approach, so now I need to decide if I want to sell my C4 and get this. With this thread, I'm focusing more on the second part: do I want to get this particular Miata?

First, a couple of pictures.

It has good sides and bad sides. Mostly bad sides.

Paint aside, it is in decent shape. It is a 1991 with 193k miles. The interior doesn't appear stained or ripped. The seats, which are covered in these photos, are cloth and the only problem is that the driver side has  a small bolster rip. I probably wouldn't even cover them. The dash has one crack and there are some plastic bits that are broken, such as the interior door handles.

The exterior window sweeps is rusted and dried out. They do appear to keep the rain out of the door, for now at least.

The interior sweeps are also bad. This picture is terrible, but it shows that the interior sweep is falling into the door. Now that I think about it, that could be because the entire door card is loose and wiggly.

Another nice feature for this price range is that the tires do not need immediate replacing!

The trunk appears clean, though the residue on this hump concerns me (passenger side is the same). Is that just some sort of undercoating type thing? The battery, not pictured, is a lawn mower battery that seems to do the job and has the vents hooked up.

On to the mechanical bits. The seller has recent receipts for the following: valve cover gasket, cam seals, spark plugs+wires, PCV, timing belt, water pump, radiator, thermostat, cooling piping, starter.

You can see some of those bits below: 

I confirmed that there was no power steering pump but didn't take a picture. I noticed that this red panel thing seemed extra crusty, especially compared to the rest of the engine bay. Any idea what could cause that?

There was oil residue in CAS area.

Does that typically go all the way down the engine? This is from the front of the car. The seller told me that he has not needed to add any oil since the last oil change 1500 ago. I noticed that the dipstick was approach the L mark...

The diff appear to be leaking, but probably not terminal yet.

I noticed that the front shock mounts need replacing but did not take a picture :(

Other than that, everything seems good. It shifted and drove well. The lights go up and down with no hassle.  My primary concerns are with the leaks and interior bits. Are the pictured leaks alarming or not a big deal? Is replacing door cards and window sweeps impossible (parts or labor wise)? Do I want to avoid 1991s at all costs? Full album, including the original posting, is here: https://imgur.com/a/8T7Cvu2.

Is this Miata my answer?

Raze
Raze UltraDork
2/10/20 12:48 a.m.

Stance looks funny in those pictures, like it's riding high...

What's the price if u don't mind me asking?

mitchfishman5
mitchfishman5 New Reader
2/10/20 1:00 a.m.

Personally I wouldn't take if for over $1500 if that. How much are they asking?

ValourUnbound
ValourUnbound New Reader
2/10/20 1:03 a.m.

I got him down to 2200.

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/10/20 5:54 a.m.

In reply to ValourUnbound :

Depending on location I'd say $2200 is close to top-dollar for that car in that condition. 
 

Also, top replacement isn't that bad. It's much easier with a 2nd pair of hands, but completely doable solo. 

Shadeux
Shadeux GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/10/20 6:07 a.m.

My observations over a cup of coffee:

wiper blades are wrong size.
is the condensation on rear window on the inside? Indicative of an interior leak if so.
loose door cards  - missing screw caps - broken door lock latch - mean someone’s been in the doors - radio and antenna has been replaced. Likely door speakers too. Fixed antenna means no car cover.
brake rotor looks a bit grindy.
one heater hose has been replaced with non-stock hose and clamps.
lower tray is missing under engine.
lower steering column cover missing.
what is that button in front of the shifter?

The missing stuff can be replaced with a trip to the salvage yard, so not too bad.

I don't know about the prices in your area, but I would max out at 2k even if it drove great.

 

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/10/20 6:34 a.m.

Well, someone could have been in the door to fix/replace/lubricate the window winders. But yeah, the plethora of broken parts and cheap replacements is a bit off putting. Especially as a fair number of these parts aren't that expensive in the first place.

Ride height look like somewhere between stock and stock with blown shocks.

I'd look for one in better condition, that'll save you money in the longer run.

Shadeux
Shadeux GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/10/20 6:48 a.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim :

I guess I'm a bit sensitive to disassembling an area and encountering a E36 M3-storm of zip-ties, hot glue, and duck tape. Geez, people, take a moment and take stuff apart correctly. It pays off when you put it back together. frown

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/10/20 6:51 a.m.

In reply to Shadeux :

I think we're very much in agreement here. 

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
2/10/20 7:05 a.m.
ValourUnbound said:

I got him down to 2200.

This is what our $2000 Miata's look like.  Maybe he will take $1500?
 

noddaz
noddaz GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
2/10/20 7:44 a.m.

Because the top was replaced does not mean the rain gutter (?) was replaced.  I cannot understand why you would not replace the gutter, but I did not do the work.

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
2/10/20 7:56 a.m.

Yeah, I'm not sure how much better NA you're going to get for $2200 without getting really lucky.   I mean, it's a 29 year old convertible.. of course people have been into the door cards, trunk, etc.  Of course the door cards are slightly weak and probably didn't survive being pulled off/on the few times that someone needed to service the window stop or regulator..

Look at a creampuff 91 and it's going to be in the 5-6k range unless you get really lucky.

I'd say you're in the ballpark, but it's not a screaming deal or anything.  Like Datsun 310 guy, around here, a $1500 miata is missing the bottom corners (at minimum), has a partially stripped interior and at least 2 or 3 broken interior bits.

If this one speaks to you, it's probably worth finding someone nearby who is parting one out and grabbing all the bits you're missing.

For reference, my daily beater is a 96 with 165k that I got for $1200.  On the pro side, It had a new top, recent fluids change, AC worked, tires were good and it wasn't missing too many interior pieces.  On the con side, it was missing all four lower corners, it had a crappy rattle-can primer paint job, the muffler was broken off and had to be replaced.

So I ended up with $300 worth of vinyl wrap and a few hundred of replacement panel work.  Now it's okay.  Still would need lots of love if I cared..

Greg Smith
Greg Smith Dork
2/10/20 8:12 a.m.

In reply to Datsun310Guy :

Another plus is that the engine bay, trunk, and all seams are already black if you want to do a color change on the car...

 

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
2/10/20 8:53 a.m.

Brake fluid leak would be the root cause of this yuckiness. May or may not involve blown booster.

bluebarchetta
bluebarchetta Reader
2/10/20 9:36 a.m.

Longtime owner of '91 Miata here.  The short answer (get it?  answer?) is that if you want a Miata primarily for motorsports and hooning around, this car would be a good purchase.  I don't see anything to be alarmed about mechanically.  But it will cost you considerable time and effort to make this car pretty if that's your goal.  Looks like a good candidate for the Hot Rod magazine $98 paint job.  You do have the good fortune to be in Oregon, where old Japanese cars don't seem to rust like they do almost everywhere else.

Yes, a bad CAS leak will dump oil all down the back of the engine and onto the ground, and it's easily repaired.  Like, $7 washer and 90 minutes work.

No, you shouldn't be afraid of a '91 (or a '90, for that matter).  The one you're looking at is a long-nose crank, but the short-nose crank issue is blown out of proportion.  Lots of short-nose engines (including mine) still going strong on the original crank.

Does everything electrical work correctly?  Button in front of the shifter looks like it was for an alarm system that is no longer there, but God knows how much of the wiring is still there and held together with corroded crimp connectors.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/10/20 9:51 a.m.

FYI, this car has had a significant repaint at some point. It didn't get clearcoat from the factory.

A CAS leak will look like a rear main seal leak from underneath the car. The goo on the front of the oil pan tells me it's probably got a leaky front seal. At 193k, it should have had a bunch of timing belt changes - the most recent at 180k. I don't think the diff is leaking, I think that's leftover from the most recent fluid change that should have happened at 180k.

At 193k, assume it will need shocks and bushings to be a good driver.

Tops are not difficult, really. A lot easier than bushings.

What do you want when you're done? How much work do you want to do? Do you want power steering?

_
_ Dork
2/10/20 10:17 a.m.

I wouldn't pay more than a grand for that. It's a basket case compared to my na8 I picked up (in Eugene) for about $1500. 

dherr
dherr GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/10/20 10:28 a.m.

After reading through all of this, I would not pay $2200 for this car. Keep on looking and you will find a better example. Our 1991 is an automatic, but only had 120K on it, was rust free, new soft top and a hard top for $3,000. I am sure you don't want an automatic, but the car had a perfect interior, absolute no rust and recent water pump, radiator and timing belt. Minus the hardtop, the car was basically $2,000, so keep looking. FYI, we are converting it to a 1.8, 5 speed and Torsen Diff, too solid of a car not to keep.

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
2/10/20 2:21 p.m.

My top (Texas) dollar for this is ~$1700. It's not horrible but is so far from nice that it shouldn't bring the 2k+ he's asking, and even then, getting it hundreds cheaper just makes you feel better, not really moving the value quotient much. As in, if you want a pretty one, it's cheaper to buy one than make this pretty. 

But if you just want to be into a Miata that doesn't suck, i'd say its an 'ok' deal at $2200 and as long as you end up enjoying the ownership you'll never look back on the few hundred dollars between our numbers. Dont tell him that though! cheeky

car39
car39 Dork
2/10/20 2:43 p.m.

I sold this last year, 90 with 123K 6 month old tires, new battery, timing belt, water pump and clutch at 100k and a darker grey refinished factory hardtop with headliner and defroster for $2500.  Solid rockers and fenders, two rust spots on the windshield header, good seats, new floor mats.  Took me several months to sell on a Miata site.  You might want to look a little harder.

ValourUnbound
ValourUnbound New Reader
2/10/20 4:13 p.m.

Wow, lots of great replies. Let's see if I can get to everybody.

Pete Gosset said:
    Also, top replacement isn't that bad. It's much easier with a 2nd pair of hands, but completely doable solo. 

It's more about the 3-500 than the labor.

Shadeux said:
    wiper blades are wrong size.
    is the condensation on rear window on the inside? Indicative of an interior leak if so.
    loose door cards  - missing screw caps - broken door lock latch - mean someone’s been in the doors - radio and antenna has been replaced. Likely door speakers too. Fixed antenna means no car cover.
    brake rotor looks a bit grindy.
    one heater hose has been replaced with non-stock hose and clamps.
    lower tray is missing under engine.
    lower steering column cover missing.
    what is that button in front of the shifter?

    The missing stuff can be replaced with a trip to the salvage yard, so not too bad.

    I don't know about the prices in your area, but I would max out at 2k even if it drove great.


Lots of good observations! I hadn't thought about the antenna at all, wow. I'm not a big cover guy so that's not a concern. As someone later mentioned, the "button" is actually an indicator light for an aftermarket alarm. Seller says that it is disconnected and that he hasn't had trouble with it (no random imbolilzations, etc)

BoxheadTim said:
    Ride height look like somewhere between stock and stock with blown shocks.

Would bad shock top hats lend to that?

Datsun310Guy said:
    This is what our $2000 Miata's look like.

Ours looks like this: 


https://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/cto/d/columbia-city-mazda-miata-1990/7065696294.html

So about the same :)

WonkTheSane said:
    I'd say you're in the ballpark, but it's not a screaming deal or anything.  Like Datsun 310 guy, around here, a $1500 miata is missing the bottom corners (at minimum), has a partially stripped interior and at least 2 or 3 broken interior bits.
    So I ended up with $300 worth of vinyl wrap and a few hundred of replacement panel work.  Now it's okay.  Still would need lots of love if I cared..

A wrap and a new driver front fender were in my plans for this car, but it sounds like I should try to find a cheaper example or one that doesn't need body panels and a wrap.

bluebarchetta said:
    Looks like a good candidate for the Hot Rod magazine $98 paint job. 
Hmm, that's even cheaper than vinyl...

    Does everything electrical work correctly?  Button in front of the shifter looks like it was for an alarm system that is no longer there, but God knows how much of the wiring is still there and held together with corroded crimp connectors.

Cluster, Radio, heater, head and taillights all work. There um... isn't a lot else to worry about.


Keith Tanner said:
    FYI, this car has had a significant repaint at some point. It didn't get clearcoat from the factory.
That is good to know!

    At 193k, assume it will need shocks and bushings to be a good driver.
    Tops are not difficult, really. A lot easier than bushings.
    What do you want when you're done? How much work do you want to do? Do you want power steering?

I want a car that is presentable and drives as it should. I'm fine with doing about 1-2k (parts) in work as long as it's mostly drivable while I'm working. Swapping out panels, mechincal parts and wrapping are all things that I'm okay with. I'd prefer to not crack the block or do a clutch, at least for a while. 
Labor wise a top is fine, but I was hoping to avoid the initial cost (with the rain here, a dry top is pretty critical). Same for tires. I'm good without power steering. The main goal of this car is to have something amusing to drive to work (4 miles).

_ said:

    I wouldn't pay more than a grand for that. It's a basket case compared to my na8 I picked up (in Eugene) for about $1500. 

dherr said:
    After reading through all of this, I would not pay $2200 for this car. Keep on looking and you will find a better example.

vigo said:
    My top (Texas) dollar for this is ~$1700. It's not horrible but is so far from nice that it shouldn't bring the 2k+ he's asking, and even then, getting it hundreds cheaper just makes you feel better, not really moving the value quotient much. As in, if you want a pretty one, it's cheaper to buy one than make this pretty. 

car39 said:
    You might want to look a little harder.

    
Well, it looks like the nays have it. When I made the appointment to see this car, I had not been seriously looking at buying a Miata, or any car really. As I was looking into parts, I was amazaed with what I found. A pair of new door cards for $92! That's 5-600 for C4. Once I got in it, I really liked how everything had held up over the years. The interior felt simple, not dated. As much as I like the Atari dash, there is something to be said for simplicity.

I guess I will now begin my search in earnest.

Anybody want a C4? laugh
 

ShinnyGroove
ShinnyGroove Reader
2/10/20 4:18 p.m.

If you up your budget to around $3k you can find a clean, rust free NA6's for sale that make a better base.  If you're stuck on a $2,000ish budget, I would find a clean roller with a blown engine then drop a VVT in for around $800.  It's not a bad swap at all.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/10/20 4:28 p.m.

As always with old cars, buy the best you can afford. You'll probably get a better car if you spend $4k now than if you buy a $2k car and put $2k into it.

Fixed radio antenna is not a problem for a car cover. Either put in a grommet or just unscrew the antenna and toss it in the trunk. No tools needed. If you're not listening to the radio, you don't need an antenna anyway.

If you want a fly and drive, here's an NB2 for $3k in Denver.
https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/2518548335130274/

Or a lower mileage NB1.
https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/1040203929652765/

 

 

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/10/20 4:34 p.m.

In reply to ValourUnbound :

Re the ride height, I don't think it's due to worn out top mounts. The ride height is pretty close to stock, or someone stuck NB Bilsteins from a MazdaSpeed in for the extra 4x4 look.

rustybugkiller
rustybugkiller HalfDork
2/10/20 4:37 p.m.


This is what $2500 looks like to me. 69,000 miles. Yours looks like no more than $1200. 

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