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BradLTL UltraDork
9/7/20 9:08 p.m.

I'm a Porsche guy, have been for as long as I can remember. I've hit the phase where the older cars are more appealing than the new ones.  I guess it is a bit like the IPA beer phase. My favorite Porsches these days are Singers and Magnus Walkers modified early 911s.  On that note I was watching the Urban Outlaw movie:

(embed removed, link below)

So, I started shopping. Those early 911s are so expensive.  So expensive.  Even the 912s are crazy.

All that said, listening to Magnus talk about the character of the car and what interests him in them just made me want that more.  

I started thinking about what car would have similar raw focus of design, had reverence in car culture and could be a stand in for those of us who don't have early 911 money.  The answer, at least I think is The Answer.

What if you took a NA and modified it to be a more raw/pure, retro roadster with a bit of style.  A car that doesn't care about your lap time, but instead tries to give you joy when driving it anywhere.  Spend time on making the car an experience.  Lose the 90s gauges, the rubbery interior bits. Add custom door cards and leather pulls; wood + chrome shifter, bucket seats (vintage race style), retro gauge cluster... really it would end up being a very expensive cheap car.  Performance mods would be subtle, with the power mods focused on sound and improved delivery of torque. The suspension would be tuned for spirited street driving, not as stuff as you'd want for a track day but great for a drive in the hills.

Would you buy one?

BradLTL UltraDork
9/7/20 9:14 p.m.

Apparently the video isn't embedding correctly, here's the link:


Stampie (FS)
Stampie (FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/7/20 9:49 p.m.

Why make an NA more raw and pure?  They are raw and pure as they were built.  

j_tso GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/7/20 10:03 p.m.

I wouldn't be in the market, but I can see one for such.

Mazda in Japan now has a restoration program for NAs to bring them back to factory condition that already has a couple customers, so I can see this idea as being a step up.

Also check out MZR Roadsports in the UK, they're doing the Singer treatment to 240Zs.

Caprigrip New Reader
9/7/20 11:12 p.m.

Question if the typical NA buyer would pay high prices for a build.   Seems like the aftermarket is pretty accessible for anyone to do this themselves step by step.   I love the idea just not sure of the $$ viability. My .02. 

white_fly HalfDork
9/7/20 11:58 p.m.

There are loads of people in the game of modifying Miatas, not least of all being Mazda itself. But what's a modified Miata worth? Right now Flyin Miata has a V8 car available on their website. Asking price is $32k. My guess is that's close to the limit for what you could expect any older Miata to be worth and it honestly doesn't give you a ton of room to create something that rivals near million dollar masterpieces. 

What you can do, and is already being done on this forum, is paint your vision onto a Miata canvas and enjoy it for what it is. I think you'd also do well to recognize what it isn't and never will be, i.e. exotic or rare or highly valuable.

Snowdoggie HalfDork
9/8/20 3:48 a.m.

Facebook Marketplace is filled with Kiddos who spent way too much money on Miata accessories and can't get what they think their car is worth. Maybe in 20 more years when more NAs have been wrecked, parted out or rusted away and there just aren't that many of them left. 240Zs are worth money because few of them survived. I still see NAs all over the place.

thedoc GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/8/20 5:37 a.m.

Coming from the mustang world and owning two miatas, I wonder about just manufacturing cool bits to sell to miata people.  I can think of two business that started at car shows.  People asked, "who made your shift knob, etc", and then started selling said item.  I wonder if that would be an option for you to check out?

This also might not be the right place to ask the question.  Most all of us are diy people.  I don't know the classic motorcars board, but post this question there?

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/8/20 7:07 a.m.

First rule of startups: who are your customers and do you have enough of them to stay in business? Answer that a bit and you can flush out the rest.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
9/8/20 7:34 a.m.

I'd be quite wary of a business that relies on a raw material that went out of production 20 years ago and will never be made again. 

alfadriver (Forum Supporter)
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/8/20 7:49 a.m.

Having considered this not to long ago- basically making a Miata into a simple Sprite kind of car- no top, barely any interior, etc.  I'm not sure what is not good about the gages- you can change the face of them very easily so they look retro.  Including using lenses for the turn signals.  I would not consider re-engineering some of the stuff.

And the idea would more be taking stuff off- like most of the interior.

The way I saw it- the only real design needed was how to change the dash to move the middle support from the trans tunnel to the firewall.  There are plenty of KISS heater systems with simple sliders that would hide behind the top of the dash.  Which would mean the key "new" things are the door cards, the lower dash cover up, and some kind of carpeting that covers enough.

The part that I could not actually figure out elegantly were the headlights.  I wanted to remove the mechanism for simplicity, but could not come up with an elegant replacement.

It may be easier to start with an NB, since it already does not have pop up lights, and changing the door cards to something super simple plus taking out the console would make the car much more spacious.  

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/8/20 8:04 a.m.

I like your ideas. I seriously doubt you can make a business out of it. 

Although you might make some traction is you didn't modify cars, but offered the mods as a DIY kit. THAT'S something I might buy at the right price. 

The problem is I'm cheap. Unless you had some tremendous connections with Chinese manufacturers which would enable a rather low price, I don't think you could offer the kit at a price I would buy. 


SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/8/20 8:06 a.m.

The other problem is almost all NA owners are like me- cheap. 

If they weren't, they'd own Porsches. 

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/8/20 8:07 a.m.
Tom Suddard said:

I'd be quite wary of a business that relies on a raw material that went out of production 20 years ago and will never be made again. 

Singer et al might disagree, but one of the big differences is that much fewer people had pictures of Miatas on their bedroom walls than of a/c 911s.

To echo some of the other comments, who are the customers and are they willing to pay for whatever the OP is offering?

Not to mention that the Miata NA/NB market is one that has a few companies offering high quality parts (like FM, and a bunch of companies in Japan), but there is also a bunch of companies flooding the market with cheap tat.

STM317 UberDork
9/8/20 8:08 a.m.

911's have always been aspirational models from a performance brand. People love Porsche, and people that don't know Porsche still aspire to be able to own one someday. In other words, you're starting with something that's already seen as "Cool" by a lot of people.

You don't really have any of that cache' with a  Miata. You'd have to overcome the image of that "hairdresser's car" stereotype. It's not seen as "cool" by nearly enough people to command high enough prices to justify the effort.

If I were looking to start a Singer type of company that focused on subtle, tasteful upgrades of a specific vehicle or marque, I'd probably look at 70s-80s Benzes. Start with SLs, and then move to the sedans. Heck, you might even be able to do something with older Bentleys and RRs from that era which are typically a fraction of their MSRP now (There's a diesel tech where I work that drives a mid-late 80s Bentley).

BradLTL UltraDork
9/8/20 8:13 a.m.

To be clear, this would only be a side hustle (at best), and really it is only hypothetical.  I'm not quitting my day job or mortgaging my house to fund it.

I think part of the value proposition would be the quality of the end product.  I wouldn't want it to be just aftermarket bolt ons.  Being handcrafted, being unique is part of the story and character of the car.  It would have to be as much about the brand as the car.  

ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual)
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) HalfDork
9/8/20 8:18 a.m.
Tom Suddard said:

I'd be quite wary of a business that relies on a raw material that went out of production 20 years ago and will never be made again. 

It isn't really related to the thread, but your comment really struck me:  This is kind of the issue that the current Spec Miata world is wrestling with, and why the running battle over letting post NB cars into the class is intensifying.  Nobody wants to end up in the big dollar arms race that consumed the small bore SCCA classes.and ended in $15k transmissions.

9/8/20 8:48 a.m.

What you are proposing is building a Brand, not so much a car. The Miata is the proposed foundation of that brand.

Brand building is expensive and takes a lot of time. You really need to put yourself out there and stay on message. You are in effect seeking celebrity in order to make this work. The actual physical results are important, but secondary to the first effort.


Not for me. I don't want to be an Ass Monkey or any of the other of that ilk. Not a fan of  hipsters; more hat than cattle as a rule, so Magnusen is out also.


If this is just to be a side business, the Miata specialized garage/shop based business is good pocket $$$. Everybody hates paying their mechanic's overhead, especially if its a dealer. Miatas are simple and repetition makes for efficiency. If you can establish yourself as the guy who speaks fluent Miata and can leverage low overhead and cash sales to undercut the industry, people will find you. The danger is outgrowing your facility or tolerance from the rest of the hood.

You are in a town of less than 300k so not a huge market to draw from how popular are Miatae in your area? Are you in the loop with a club or anything like that?

You are looking for this crowd:

Birmingham ALABAMA, We Need to Meet!

I've been living in Birmingham AL for a few months now, and I keep seeing plenty of NAs and NBs around that look like they've had some work done, which means we've got something in common.

I'm throwing a line out. Let's get some responses on here from my 'Bama folks and anyone else within driving distance.
Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/8/20 8:51 a.m.

A "more raw and pure" Miata is easy and cheap to get.  Triumph made around 300K of them. They're called Spitfires.

dabird Reader
9/8/20 8:55 a.m.

There are always reasons not to do something and no shortage of people willing to point them out. There is only one way to find out 

9/8/20 8:59 a.m.
Ian F (Forum Supporter) said:

A "more raw and pure" Miata is easy and cheap to get.  Triumph made around 300K of them. They're called Spitfires.

I think you meant to say MGB wink

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/8/20 9:17 a.m.
white_fly said:

There are loads of people in the game of modifying Miatas, not least of all being Mazda itself. But what's a modified Miata worth? Right now Flyin Miata has a V8 car available on their website. Asking price is $32k. My guess is that's close to the limit for what you could expect any older Miata to be worth and it honestly doesn't give you a ton of room to create something that rivals near million dollar masterpieces. 

Market value for the FM V8 cars is north of $40k. Check the BaT archives - the last FM-built NB went for $46,500. The one that's on our site is one that has been sitting for years after the owner died and everyone's scared of it. They shouldn't be, but hey. FIrst one to man up will make $10k on that car.

I've actually been considering this sort of thing for a while and have collected a few parts to use for testing. The market for $50k Miatas is difficult, but there may be a market for a $100k Miata if it's good enough and it has the pedigree. I've even talked about it in public somewhat, our shop car "Capn' Bob" put some of the plans into practice.

First, you'd have to come up with an appropriate engine. Something that is like the original 1.6, but more. I was heading towards a built 2.0 MZR (not a long stroke truck 2.5) if I could make it fit. Naturally, driveability would have to be as good as factory and the install would have to look good.

Then you have to come up with a distillation of the design that looks right but not different. You can't just stick a set of Lucas taillights in a housing and say it looks like the factory did it, it will look like those awful aftermarket taillights that people have been trying to convince themselves are attractive for 30 years. You'll have to spend some money on custom body parts, and choosing where to spend that money is important. You want cohesiveness and completeness, not the end result of an aftermarket parts bin raid. You see this on the Singer knockoffs, the cars don't have that purity of vision. The changes may be subtle.

You are not going to be building this to start an aftermarket parts business. Singer won't sell you their parts separately. You need to keep them exclusive so that any car with your parts is one of your cars. If you start selling your custom parts to everyone you have not created a "Singer, but Miata". You've created an accessories business with a single halo car and no market for more halo cars. This means that (almost) nobody on the GRM forum will be your customer. That's okay.

And you need the pedigree. Honestly, this is an area that FM or myself could go but others would struggle. I don't know if I'll ever go through with my plan, but I'm not giving up everything I've come up with other the past few years :)

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/8/20 9:54 a.m.

In reply to NOHOME :

No, I didn't...

Having had experience with both, the MGB is much more of a "car" than a Spitfire.  Driving the MGB felt more like a convertible version of a Volvo 1800.  Driving a Spitfire is more like a loosely assembled chassis, body and engine that is occasionally all moving in the same direction.  It is a considerably more "raw" experience than driving a MGB.  When you sit in a Spitfire, you literally look "up" towards a MGB.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/8/20 10:03 a.m.

If you want the Singer version of an MGB, you get an LE50. But it's a generation older than a Miata. Those that imprinted on the Miata at an early age are not those that imprinted on the MG. Cars like this aren't necessarily about the mostest, they're about the idealized version of something.

Tom1200 Dork
9/8/20 10:29 a.m.

There could be a market for this; Keith lays it out very well.

One thing I haven't heard mentioned is margins; you need to pen it all out and figure what margins are possible. This sounds obvious but what do every "save my restaurant, bar hotel" show have in common? The owners don't truly know what their costs are or what the market will bear.

Being passionate about the product and making sound business decisions should not be mutually exclusive. Businesses that don't make a profit are useless to their customers in the long term.

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