What this Mazda MX-5/Miata-based Bullet V8 Roadster was doing at Lakeside Raceway’s All-American Day is beyond me. They limit entry to American cars and there’s nothing American about this NA-series MX-5/Miata, modified by a small company here in Queensland. Before you think this is another one of those ubiquitous SBC swaps, that’s not the kind of V8 that’s under the hood.
The MX-5 has always delighted enthusiasts thanks to its lightweight, rear-wheel-drive platform and its sense of poise and balance. But some people have always seen the car as crying out for more power, an inherently talented chassis that can handle so much more. But if you were expecting a simple V8-swap MX-5, that’s not the case with the Bullet. Although these use an MX-5 body and various components, there was a new space-frame chassis underneath with a new MacPherson strut front suspension and a MX-5-derived double wishbone set-up at the back. A limited-slip differential was borrowed from the Holden Commodore and beefier Brembo brakes were standard.
Initially, Bullet models used the RX-7’s 13B rotary engine but in 1999, the company started installing 4.6 Rover V8 engines as used in British TVR sports cars. These were mated to a Tremec five-speed manual.
The Rover crate motors increased in price so Bullet switched to refurbishing and rebuilding Toyota’s 1UZFE 4.0 32-valve V8, as used in the Lexus LS, SC and GS, and producing 295 hp and 280 ft-lbs. A supercharged version, producing 429 hp and 405 ft-lbs, was used in the Roadster SS. A Lexus four-speed automatic was an option but, well, why would you bother? That Tremec stick will do just fine, thank you.
Weighing just under 2800 pounds, performance was spectacular. The SS could finish the quarter mile in 12 seconds flat, reach a top speed of 290 km/h, and accelerate to 60 mph in around 4 seconds. Even the regular Roadster could do the 0-60 dash in just under 5 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.5 seconds. One would expect sparkling performance considering the price these listed for: AUD$98,000 for the naturally-aspirated model and an eye-watering AUD$120,000 for the supercharged model, the latter almost four times as expensive as a new MX-5.
Bullet Cars has changed owners but still exists in one form or another, with plans for new vehicles on the horizon. The limited number of Roadsters they have produced remain highly sought after on the used market and have kept their value amazingly.
When I saw this Roadster at the All-American show, I was confused as to what it was doing there. I was also puzzled as I’d never heard of the car before. What I thought was simply an MX-5 with an engine swap revealed itself to be so much more. Now, I’d like to take a drive in a Roadster SS, please.