In the spring of 2013, I was almost 47. I had (and have) a good life and much to be thankful for. There were however, a lot of “what does it all mean” moments. While it is reasonable to expect adult life and family pressures to be stressful, it seemed to be a 24/7 grind. There was not a lot of balance or fun to be had. But all that hard work (and luck) was starting to pay off. I finally had a few spare nickels rolling around. Mrs. C knew I long wanted a second, fun car, and she was supportive. I had to be fiscally responsible, so I set a budget of $10,000, as I wanted to pay cash. At the back of my mind from the start was a Mazda Miata MX-5: reliable, fun and affordable. I felt if I was going to dip my toe into the sports car realm, this would be a good place to start.
The Holy Grail Miata – That I Didn’t Get
I had my sights set on a generation NB (1997-2004). Ideally I wanted a manual, in British racing green Miata with low mileage..less than 50,000 miles. I found there was a wide variation in condition and prices of used Miata’s. The low priced ones were more often than not total sad sacks: tastelessly modified, beaten down, then rode hard and put away wet. Miata’s here are prone to tin worm, especially if left in the elements. But there were a lot of spring-summer low mileage cars out there, well-cared for by grown ups. I found and test-drove a green one at a Ford dealer in Wayne MI , good miles, asking price $7,500. I sent a friend to look at if off hours for his opinion. He texted me pictures and it had serious rust underneath. Somehow, I missed all of that in the excitement. I next drove a black, low mileage 2000 but I didn’t really want black, so I wasn’t feeling it.
I Think Miata’s Look Good Even With The Top Up
On Craigslist, I found one 30 miles west, offered by a fellow in pharmaceutical sales who was certain he would soon be laid off. A nice man, he said it was “his baby”, and it showed. Underneath, it was spotless and rust free, and you could eat off the motor. He was the third owner, and it had 41,000 miles on it. He was clearly sad to have to sell it but had other priorities. Exterior: very good from 10′ but lots of stone chips in the front fascia below the grille, but I could live with it. The interior was great except for abrasions on the left driver seat bolster from years of getting in and out and rubbing. He threw in a very nice Miata specific and branded car cover. We settled on $9,600.00 and it came home the next day. In retrospect, I think I overpaid slightly, but I did get a very nice example and I was thrilled.
Anniversary Edition Specific Blue Accents on Seats and Steering Wheel
Getting into the nitty-gritty here, but specific to the Anniversary Edition, it had: 1). a six, rather than a five speed manual transmission 2). 15” polished aluminum wheels 3). Torsen limited slip differential 4). model specific sapphire blue paint and blue Alcantara seats and trim accents 5). Bose audio 6). Bright chrome gauge rings and stainless steel scuff plates on the door sills. I’m sure I missed a few things but this is the good stuff.
The 6th gear gave it a slight improvement (7.6 vs. 7.9) in 0-60 MPH times, plus a higher top speed (130 to 133MPH), and better gas mileage (up to 35 MPG). There was a sequentially numbered badge on the driver front quarter panel. When new, Mazda threw in a special 1/43 scale model, a keychain, even his and hers Seiko watches, all in a velvet lined box, but those trinkets were long gone by the time I got it.
My Anniversary Edition Number
All in all, I thought these were tasteful , understated enhancements. It wasn’t like buying a Indy 500 pace car replica with cheesy loud colors and decals. This model does not appear to be desirable from a collectability perspective at this point. In 1999, it was $6,500 more than a base model. 7,500 copies were made globally, 3,150 for the US. It was not a sales success, and Mazda had unsold leftovers well into 2000. Somewhere along the way, a dual exhaust was added to the car and it had a great sound.
There has been a lot written about Miata’s on this site, and a COAL was written for a another 1999 NB in the not too distant past here. Suffice to say, it’s the best-selling roadster of all time for a reason. It’s an affordable, supremely well executed and balanced car. It is not neck snapping fast, but has all the speed that you can use. It’s revvy, ready and willing with just the right amound of power for the car. The handling is absolutely amazing, almost unflappable (more on that later). The shifter is excellent, with short throws and it’s very forgiving and easy to learn on.
The Miata was a very fun and enjoyable car for us. Everybody loves a ride in a convertible. It would be brought home from storage in April and put away before the first snows in mid- November. I received lots of complements on the car, and with the shimmering blue color, it was a head turner. It would drive it to work on less busy days when I had no appointments. A top down drive home was always relaxing, and I’d often take the long way. On summer evenings, my wife and I would go for drives in rural areas on quiet two lane roads, and just enjoy top-down riding and being together. It was clearly most at home there. I did not like to take it on major highways. Not that it wasn’t a nice cruiser on the open road, you just felt a bit vulnerable next to cement mixers and semi trucks.
I had to do a few things to it. When you open the Miata’s hood, it’s all there, right in front of you. So easy to work on and everything is placed thoughtfully for easy access. Even with my 10 thumbs, I was able to throw on a set of new plugs and wires on it. New Dunlap tires really helped, no telling how old the existing ones were. A few years in, one day I could not get it to go in gear and we found it needed a slave cylinder, it had a slow leak. Neither the part nor the service to install were expensive.
I did have one near miss with the car that bears mentioning. One Sunday, I punched it coming out of a left-hand turn. I am generally a careful driver, and didn’t think I hit it too hard. Shockingly…I suddenly lost control. The car started to fishtail and did a 360 on a well traveled two lane road. Luckily, there was not a car in either direction for at least a quarter mile, but had there been…it would of been a disaster for one or both of us. Pulses racing, this was a God moment and we were extremely lucky it was not a horrible accident. Suffice to say, Mrs. C was very, very angry with me. Not sure if we hit a patch of oil or if it was residual salt caused it to slide, yeah, that must of been it. Nope, on second thought I’m certain it was my stupidity. The incident did tell me to respect what the Miata is capable of.
In the summer of 2017, I decided to sell it. It wasn’t that I was tired of the Miata, or bored of it. I was not , but was ready for something different. I put it on Craigslist and after a few weeks, I had just one tire kicker and a few luke warm emails. There were at least 20 NA and NB’s for sale in our region and I found I was a little rich on the asking price of $7,500. Weeks passed and I had no more nibbles, then realized the posting expired. I put it back on at a lower price. Not long after, a buyer who sounded hot-to-trot reached out and we met barely 2 hours later with his wife. He had a 1987 Regal Grand National as a fun car at home, but the couple had an NB in the late 90’s. This clearly was a car guy. He put it on ramps he brought with him to check for rust underneath and he liked what he saw. We settled on $5,000 cash and it was gone. His wife drove it away, a huge smile on her face. I am very glad it went to a great home.
I had enjoyment of the car for almost five full summers. I like all generations of Miata’s, and think the current edition (2015-) is beautiful. Some think all Miatas, including this generation, are still too underpowered, but I disagree. There are plenty of V-8 swaps, turbo and supercharger modded Miata examples out there, but really, what’s the point of that? It’s one man’s opinion, but I think everything about Miata’s are just right as is, pure stock. In fact, I think this is one of the best enthusiast cars of all time. Suffice to say, I liked it so much that I think I would like to have another one, maybe sooner than later.