An Ode to the Roadster
How a little tired NB2 Miata has changed my mindset on cars for the better.
I grew up like most southern boys, bathed in the glory that was drag racing, straight line speed with large displacement V8's. 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2 is ingrained in my mind as if it was an English lesson, at least when I still paid attention in school and didn't use it as a time to research outside the world of American muscle.
At sixteen, my parents bought me my first car. A 1995 Subaru Legacy. From there, I drove myself deep into the world of fire-breathing boxer 4 cylinders, 1-3-2-4 with a bit of a whistle behind them forcing the process along like a drill sergeant. Always on time, rarely skipping a beat; a well-orchestrated symphony of valves and pistons squeezing the air that is forced in to create what we all love. Horsepower.
Two cars later, I got into a car we all love to hate, but secretly love. The Toyota MR2. I started my journey away from the six stars of Pleiades with a car that begged for your soul to be weak so you could meet your maker. Luckily, at eighteen I had a streak of dumb luck that never lead to the infamous monster hurting me; from nineteen to twenty-one that luck never left me as the vehicle went from an anemic 5S-FE to a throaty, in your face 3S-GTE. 1-3-4-2.
My 1993 Toyota MR2.
Time went on; I owned the MR2 through some tough times in life. It was there for me, and generally reliable through its abuse. The S54 gearbox didn't give me a single one of its famed issues; whether it be synchronizers or outright gearset failure I was never left stranded by the unholy combo.
Within that time came some adulthood responsibility, wherein I wanted to have a practical yet fun vehicle that was new; reliable; responsible yet not too responsible. I wanted to get away from the pattern of cheap car after cheap car after cheap car that came with owning a Japanese sports car as my primary vehicle; I always needed something to carry the That's where the Germans shine.
The MK7 GTI has been a hit since 2015, and I wanted a taste of that Kool-Aid. So I purchased a brand new 2019 GTI, in the stripped down but plentiful S trim with its potent but yet to be unlocked EA888. 1-3-4-2.
It was everything I wanted; a funky patterned cloth interior, modern amenities, and most importantly a manual transmission. A dying breed in the age of self-driving cars; partially autonomous robots we trust our lives with every day without so much as a negative thought of the systems working to keep us alive.
My 2019 GTI. Photo by Stephen Jones/SJMedia
The GTI just felt right. I loved it; it performed amazingly on and off the racetrack. I finally had a vehicle I was comfortable with taking onto a closed course without having a trailer at the ready; a vehicle that shined in the turns and had the grunt to pull itself out of them. But there was one mistake I made.
I told myself I would keep it stock.
I told myself I'd track the MR2.
The first track event I signed up for had the MR2 registered. Last minute I got into my daily driver, and drove the 45 minutes north to Dominion Raceway with painter's tape in hand, and put a large two and zero across the front doors. At this point, there was no turning back. I tracked my daily driver.
My stock GTI in front of Dominion Raceway.
This one trackcross event lead me down a rabbit hole of slight modification after slight modification; I was now tracking my daily driver. The more I did to the GTI, the more I let the MR2 sit.
After 7 months of ownership of the GTI, I had barely driven the MR2. So I sold it right before the pandemic hit; timing was unintentional but worked out in my favor. Not long after the sale, I started looking for a replacement vehicle to have separate fun in. I had my motorcycle license, so naturally I started looking towards the 2 wheel route. I purchased a 2014 Triumph Thruxton 900. It was between that and getting my hands on a clean, rust free NA Miata, and I went for the motorcycle because it takes up less space and I was itching to ride during the coming spring and summer.
A British classic attitude within a modern frame.
The bike did fine at holding me off for 4 months. It was my escape vehicle, no distractions during the ride.
But I started getting bored with the GTI; I started looking at what could be next.
That's where the header vehicle comes in, the inspiration for this all.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata; the car that has held the throne for bang for your buck since 1990. The car that every sports car gets compared to. Not because of speed, but because of pure driving enjoyment. It's rare that another sports car hits at the same level as the Miata. Many come close; it seems as if none can dethrone it.
I've owned 11 cars in my short 6 years of driving; nothing has come close to the pure experience that is a Miata. No car that I have driven begs to be pushed like this. No car feels as fun within the speed limit.
I was lucky to have my good friend Stephen lend me his 2002 NB2 for a few days, as I am now looking for a Miata as a daily driver to replace the GTI. I wanted to see if I could fit one in with my everyday life.
I definitely can live with one.
The NB wouldn't be the ideal choice due to the smaller interior, so I'm more along the lines of an NC2/3 or an ND1.
Small but complete cabin, no frills.
What this NB2 has taught me is that you don't need 200, 300 horsepower to have fun; you don't need a turbo compressing the air to provide more power. You need a car that is meant to be driven.
I have never driven a vehicle that puts a constant smile on my face; not until I drove this tired MX-5. Even with the age it is showing it still excites me; even with the little quirks here and there it still excites me; this is an exciting car.
This car deserves every single bit of appreciation it gets; it lives up to the hype that all the kids in the CarThrottle comments section give it; it lives up to every bit of praise it has been given by journalists in the past 31 years.
The steering is direct; the inputs make sense; the shifts are crisp. It is the car that every automotive enthusiast should own at some point in their lives, whether you get the original NA with the lovable face; the revised NB that had a more determined expression; the overly happy and unloved NC; or the return to purity that is the ND. An automotive enthusiast should make it a goal to own a Miata at some point in their lives.
It is what every sports car should aim for.
Until then, we all know what Miata stands for.