Friday, January 29, 2016

NA Miata, Take 2: Black & Tan

A few weeks back, my scruffy little 1990 NA Miata project trackday car, El Cheapacabra, met an untimely demise. I posted a quick sob story describing the incident, and got some great leads from readers - thank you guys for the input! However, I couldn't help myself from setting up a craigslist alert with a few key criteria: model = Miata, year = up to 1993, transmission = manual, price =< $3500. With a barrage of daily autobot emails there were bound to be some good ones, and today I pulled the trigger on El Cheapo's replacement, using insurance payout cash to buy this 1993 "C package" car in black & tan. Hooray! Back to jinba ittai for me.


The car I found was being sold by a college student who needed the money for school, but obviously she enjoyed the little guy. It has a few upgrades already including a Mishimoto aluminum radiator and a Sparco suede-covered steering wheel. Overall, it's a relatively low mile (130k), relatively clean (a few minor bumps & bruises), rust free '93, last of the 1.6L Miatas in the US. DT's Editor-in-Chief Vince has not so subtly tried to convince me to get an M Roadster instead of an NA, but I already have two needy BMWs under my care - and wanted a low-fuss solution for getting out on our local tracks.


The engine bay needs a healthy cleaning but everything looks in order with some fresh maintenance parts and no leaks. The inner fenders have no signs of crumpling at all - unlike my last car, even prior to the killer accident. It idles smooth and pulls cleanly, like a rev-happy Mazda B engine should. The seller even smogged the car last month (!) which makes it the first in a long line of vehicles I've bought that fall into the category in a while, even though California private sellers are legally obligated to get the car through emissions testing successfully (most aren't aware of that requirement, it seems).


I wasn't looking for a black & tan car, which are somewhat rare to find in good shape, but I can't complain about the color combo. The Black & Tan (capitalized) edition was '92 only; in '93 the color combo was an option when the highest trim level was selected. The leather driver's seat has been thrashed harder than one of Kirk Hammett's ESP KH guitars, but it is strangely more comfortable than the decent cloth seat in the last car. I like the aesthetic in here especially with the Sparco wheel. Seats will be changed out for something that can accept 5-point harnesses, so no worries there. I felt a bit of shimmy at highway speed from the wheels & tires, but the Falken Azenis RT615K and cheap light 15 x 6.5" wheels from El Cheapacabra survived that accident and will be going onto this car along with the Racing Beat stainless exhaust I scored on CL.


So I suppose that t-bone into the E46 wasn't such a bad deal after all - I was able to upgrade to a better baseline car, and now I'm back in the groove of lightweight 5-speed motoring. Stay tuned for updates as we get this one ready for its maiden track day.

CFlo is Daily Turismo's co-founder and Technical Editor. When he's not driving an "emissions spewing" TDI he's underneath a Volvo, on top of a Land Cruiser, cursing at a broken BMW, or driving the piss out of a crapcan race car. And that's all before 10AM.

20 comments:

  1. Congrats, looks like a good base. Now it needs a badge from Mr.K.

    One piece of free, unsolicited advice (the internet is good at that) is if you are going to keep the 3 points for street driving along with the 5 points is to remove the tear away loop in the driver's belt. Maybe it's already been done, but most people don't do this when they go to a non-airbag wheel. The loop has tear away stitching that is supposed to tear away as your body moves toward the airbag. Without it, you get to hit the non-bag wheel as it tears away.

    Miata Airbag FAQ

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    1. That is an interesting link. I have never examined my Focus belts super-closely, but I always thought the tear-away sleeve was just a visual indication that the belt had been stretched. It was a way to tell you that they should be replaced. I will go and look more closely after reading this.

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    2. I checked this car and sure enough the sleeves are still there covering the tear away loops. Thanks for the tip G - I will get out my scalpel and surgically remove them.

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  2. This one is a huge upgrade over El Cheapacabra...but we need a better name. I dub thee...Coonhound. Or Foxhound -- either of which is available in a Black & Tan variety.

    I guess if you want a car that doesn't blow its cooling system each time it goes on track, you'd be better with a Mazda than a BMW....or so I've been told.

    Now it needs boost...

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    1. Did you ever sell the Draken?

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    2. Coonhounds and Foxhounds are regular size dogs - this is more of a Min Pin, no?

      [img]https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/06/6c/1b/066c1bc12e7b9bf0416410277a2dcc12.jpg[/img]

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    3. My wife wanted a Corgi, so we have a tri-color Pembroke Welsh who is quite the compact little energetic guy. His name is Wally, he is black & tan (and white) so maybe the car should be named after him somehow.

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    4. Yeah, but when you tell the wife you're gonna go scrape the sound insulation off Wally I hope she knows which one you're referring to.

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    5. Miata + Corgi = Miagi

      Wax on, wax off

      It's not really a Mr though, so call her Miss Miagi

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  3. You had me at Sparco suede-covered steering wheel

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    1. Seriously that thing is beautiful and changes the interior.

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  4. Looks like you snagged the bargain of the week! Nice job.

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  5. Black on tan, C Package, correct? Does that have the early (pre-Torsen) VLS differential?

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  6. Not sure yet if it has the LSD. But will check soon enough. Thanks for the comments guys.

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    1. Easiest way to determine is to call Mazda at (800) 222-5500 and give them your VIN. They can look up your car's build record.

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  7. SCORE! I had a Coonhound..........Zipper........a big old guy..... loved him to the end

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  8. Usually leather is paired with the (90-93 = viscous) LSD in the Miata packages. Those had a penchant for locking up so you might want to change the fluid.

    Nice shift boot.

    If you gently lift the backs of the headlight covers they will bend flush with the hood, people tend to lean on them which creates your current condition..

    The main thing I never liked about these early cars is that flapper door AFM. That's like a big 5hp cork in your intake. The power delivery on the 1.6 has it's own character though.

    I feel for you with the tan top. I've had two now and keeping them clean is nearly impossible. What I've found is a nail brush and something like simple green or dish soap works pretty well.

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    1. Like the series 5 RX7 (89-91), the viscous LSD found in the Miata is a sealed unit. Changing the differential fluid has zero affect on the operation of the VLSD. As I mentioned when El Cheapacabra was first acquired, the VLSD is pretty worthless on a track vehicle and at that mileage possibly non working already anyways. (The coupling fluid in the VLSD does break down over time and mileage.) A clutch based LSD is the ideal track candidate followed by a Torsen unit (type I or II). (Type I being the factory style in Miatas and Type II being the factory style in S2000s).

      I'd love to see some real data proving that the flapper AFM is actually a bottleneck in the design. I say this because in the second generation RX7 world the same thing is said but has proven numerous times by the ITS guys that the stock airbox and flapper can flow all the air that the stock motor can actually use even at race RPMS. While the Miata wasn't the flagship car that the RX7 was, I don't see the engineers skimping on the design and making it a bottleneck. Plus the bulk of the running bits in the Miata are just subtle redesigns and improvements on parts used in the 2nd and 3rd generation RX7s.

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