So now ( 1998 ) I’m single again, and driving only my S-10 since the Protege went with the now ex-wife. Thanks to the I.T. boom and Y2K projects I now had the means to get whatever I wanted, within reason of course. As you would expect, I couldn’t just get a normal car.
I wanted another convertible, but I wanted a driver’s car, not a Camaro or Mustang. I wanted something like the MGB, but reliable enough to be my only car. Something with A/C and a CD player. But I didn’t necessarily want a new car. There was only one option, a Miata. The redesigned for 1999 Miata was just out, and it had all the virtues of the first generation but was improved in so many ways. I looked at a couple of older models but I wanted all the improvements of a new one, and I wanted it to be new.
I bought the 1999 Miata you see here in October of 1998, and of course I had to have specific colors and options. I didn’t have to look far, the local dealer had it and was ready to deal. I sold my S-10 to a co-worker for my payoff ($1000 more than the trade in value) and bought the Miata. The Miata was fairly loaded, the only options it didn’t have was leather (tan only) and the larger wheels that came with the “LS” leather package. I loved it. Over the next year and a half I added numerous goodies, including a black double-hoop roll bar and a cat-back dual-outlet exhaust that made it growl.
This also allowed me to finally get a taste of racing. A co-worker got me into a local Porsche Club “Driver Education” track day. The photo to the right is the Miata on the grid amongst the Porsches waiting to go on the track. It was everything I expected, and then some. The bone stock (at the time) Miata was able to hang with most of the non-turbo Porsches on the small road course. It completely trashed the original tires, only 6 months and 8,000 miles old, but that was no great loss since the factory rubber had barely decent grip.
I also got involved with the local Miata club, where I met some good friends and learned a lot about improving Miatas. This led to several more track days and some auto-crossing. I racked up plenty of miles between trips to the beach, the track, Deal’s Gap, and lots of club drives.
I also came up with a few modifications for the car myself. One was a change to the trunk latch to allow the interior release to be turned off, essentially like a “valet” lockout. I was carrying a laptop and there was no really secure way to leave the laptop in the car since someone could cut the top, break the flimsy plastic console cover, and pull the trunk release. I knew the ’97 Protege allowed you to turn the trunk key backwards and disable the trunk release. I played around with the latch and realized that the Miata could do the same thing if the lock was modified to allow the backwards turn. The modification was a big hit nationwide (in early ’99) thanks to the internet and was so simple and effective that Mazda included it from the factory on 2000+ models of the Miata by using the Protege lock cylinder. No, I didn’t get any royalties!
I did have a slight mishap in this car, and it is still the only non-bumper accident I have ever been in. A woman ran a red light and smacked it in the driver’s side. Luckily she had braked enough to not hit that hard. I took it to the best Miata body shop around this area, the dealer now known as Trussville Mazda. One of the service guys was in the Miata club and promised to keep an eye on the repairs and it came out perfect. They put it on the frame machine but it was absolutely straight, and with a new door and fender you could really truly could not tell it had been wrecked.
In May of 2000 I got laid off. By that time this car was my weekend car only. I was already on my 3rd other vehicle, which you shall read about in the coming weeks. I needed to cut back, and I had a cheaper replacement that was almost as good. So I sold this Miata after less than two years and 40,000 miles of ownership.
Other Flashback Fridays:
#14: 1972 Chevrolet C-10
#13: 1999 Mazda Miata
#12: 1997 Mazda Protege LX
#11: 1997 Chevrolet S-10
#10: 1983 Civic Wagon
#9: 1982 Accord LX Sedan & 1996 Accord LX Wagon
#8: 1989 Voyager & 1996 Saturn SW2
#7: 1971 Chevrolet C-10
#6: 1971 MG MGB
#5: 1989 VW Cabriolet & 1989 Oldsmobile Ciera
#4: 1988 Honda Civic LX
#3: 1986 Honda Civic DX
#2: 1981 Chevy Caprice Estate & 1983 Toyota Tercel
#1: 1972 Chevy Nova