A 28-year-old Mazda Miata MX-5 resurrected from a dark place to asphalt and sunshine.
The answer is always a Miata. You’ve lost count of the number of times you heard this before, but the deeper you dig into motoring culture, the harder it is to falsify the statement. As an automotive enthusiast, if there is a name that you can never escape from, then that has to be the Miata. The Mazda MX-5‘s silly happy face has been giving haters sleepless nights for decades, and I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon. With more than million of them on the roads there is hardly a racetrack in the world that hasn’t seen a Mazda Miata MX-5. They come in all shapes and forms. There are blokes out there stuffing them with engines as massive as the frame can fit, and there are people trying to make excellent exoskeletons that make the Mazda Miata MX-5 a proper track day tool. There’s even one that hones a sweet sounding Jaguar 3.0-litre V6… a Miata enthusiast’s proper wet moment.
The one we have here is none of the above. In fact, it is one that has been left closest to how it was found when it left the factory assembly line. Whats so special about this one you might ask. This 1989 Mazda Miata here is actually one of the only two Mazda Miata MX-5s that are seen racing in the whole of South Africa. It is an account of one guy’s fascination for lightweight sports cars that saved this machine from seeing its very own rusted, deserted end.
First generation Miatas aren’t a very common sight in the country. Seeing one racing is even rarer. Apart from being sold in exceptionally small numbers, the parts needed to make the Gen-1 cars racing worthy are hard to find with almost everything ending up being imported. Sudhir Matai, the owner of this particular MX-5 roadster understands this and planned his MX-5 project such that while challenging, his Miata MX-5 would slowly transition into the unicorn racing roadster that the country has rarely ever seen.
Sudhir’s 1989 MX-5 is one that came originally badged as an Eunos Roadster. Eunos was once a sub-brand of Mazda that was marketed as a fun to drive, upscale brand in the local Japanese market up untill 1996 when the badge was eventually relieved from duty. Technically though, the Eunos Roadster is no different than the NA Mazda Miata MX-5s that were sold in Europe and United States.
Sudhir’s decision to go with a Mazda Miata MX-5 isn’t a surprising one since his favourite class of cars are the ones that spell lightweight simplification. The MX-5 born to be that exact car from day one. A longitudinally mounted 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that powers the rear wheels via a simple 5-speed manual gearbox. No electronics, no gizmo-gadgetry or any sorts. Even the roof is made out of cloth, and works on muscle power. The Mazda Miata MX-5 is the motoring equivalent of a basic tossed salad, simplicity with the right ingredients. While the MX-5’s that have come after the Gen-1 NA have gained bulk due to safety and tech features here and there, the basic philosophy of a light weight, simple roadster still lies in the core genes of each car that comes out of Mazda’s factory till date.
When the time came to take the plunge and get himself the ideal track day machine, Sudhir came across this particular 1989 MX-5 painted in British Racing Green. The car had 170000kms on the odo, which is mere run-in as per Miata enthusiasts. That said, the MX-5 had been lying in storage for over two years due to which the battery had gone flat… and that’s really it. As soon as the battery was topped up, the MX-5 broke into a healthy rasp. Everything checked, Sudhir drove back home for the first time in his first ever track day project car.
Once the Miata MX-5 was hoisted up a few more issues came under light. A cracked set of steering rack boots and a broken temperature spending unit. Apart from that a full fluid flush for the braking system and cooling system was all there was remaining for the MX-5 to being its new life. While at it, Sudhir also decided to throw in a set of JDM alloy wheels. All set to go racing then.
Since the end of 2015, Sudhir has been continuously racing the MX-5. His car along with a fellow Miata racer participate in Kent Home Fine Car Racing, a South African racing series that invites saloons and production cars that were manufactured before December 1989. The Miata MX-5 has been receiving progressive upgrades since the first track outing to a point where it now has Pirelli racing semi-slicks, L&T Suspensions, PowerMods ECU and wiring harness, K&N Air Filter, a new exhaust system, better coolant plumbing, Powerbrake brake discs and Power Stop brake pads.
With each upgrade, the 28-year old Mazda Miata MX-5 has become a little bit better at competing. In the 2016 season of Fine Car Racing, Sudhir won a race and finished third overall in the championship. His 1,70,000km run Miata MX-5 has just begun its second life and there is a lot more to come in 2017 as Sudhir gets more sponsor support and parts to make his machine an even better contender at racing. This is just one of those stories that refreshes your belief in the small Japanese Roadster. Even if you are a Miata hater who has made it this far down the story, you are once again face-to-face with what you refrain from hearing… The answer is always a Miata.
You can follow Sudhir’s MX-5 excursions over on his Project MX-5 Facebook page.