Original is best... or is it?


Author: James PagePublished:

When I bought my MX-5 back in August, obviously I tried a few before plumping for one conveniently located on the other side of the country.

Up until I started my search, the only MX-5 I’d driven was Ian McHattie’s 16,000-mile concours example.

Ian's was a bog-standard UK-spec 1.8, so that meant no power steering and wind-up windows, and it was utterly brilliant. In fact, it was the reason I subsequently went searching for an MX-5 of my own.

The first one I tried was with a local dealership, and it had some suspension tweaks. A few hundred yards down the road, I summed up those tweaks by assuming that the suspension had actually been removed.

It was terrible – bone-shakingly hard and devoid of the finesse that Mazda had spent the GDP of a small country engineering into the standard car.

There’s a huge aftermarket scene for the MX-5, but when it’s so good out of the box, I was left wondering why you’d bother changing it.

It was therefore with a degree of trepidation – and some well-practised polite noises – that, after a fair bit of banter, I hopped into the Mk1 run by Dan Trent on our sister website – and open-plan office neighbours – PistonHeads.

Dan’s car is a Eunos, so there’s air-con and electric windows, plus power steering, which I must admit was a welcome addition around the streets of South West London. It’s also had some suspension work, and runs on 15in wheels rather than the standard 14s.

This time, however, the work had been done properly. Rather than simply lowering it and fitting stiffer springs, Dan’s taken a more 'overall' approach, and the guys at Performance 5 have upgraded the dampers and fitted chassis-rail braces.

Working around soft springs and good damping sounds like an encouragingly Lotus-esque formula, and means that the ride quality is maintained at the same time that the handling is sharpened.

It’s now a very impressive little car, and made mine feel – relatively speaking – quite soft and heavy.

Many classics have a similar range of upgrades to the MX-5, and I can certainly see the attraction if it’s something that makes the car more usable.

When it comes to the handling, however, there is a danger of confusing 'unpleasant' for 'sporty'.

I do keep having thoughts about the odd upgrade here and there, especially since it would make a cracking budget competition car.

But at the same time, standard MX-5s may well become increasingly rare in the future. Perhaps I’ll leave it as Mazda intended. For now...



Pre 80s TVR

I guess it depends on what you use the car for.
My Mum had an early mark 1 which looked gorgeous in red with a set of 16" OZ Saturn alloys. It handled and gripped fantastically, but the tramlining was scarey. Her mark 2 is standard, and i suspect it is much nicer to drive.


TVR Car Club Pre80s Editor

harris speedster

The Miata is quite the sports car in general.

Yes, the huge fan base is world wide.

I contribute this to the factory stock chassis, engine etc being well balanced>> and fun to drive.

Most magazine articles praise the Miata, and recently have made them the most popular sports car in the world.

Miata just celebrated there 900,000 one built a few months back.

A new book was just introduced on the Miata>> a buyers guide.

In reading a few posts, and commenting on them herein, value is determined by the public and enthusiats.

That crystal ball,

Racing, ahhh, the Miata has ther own leagues that fiercly compete in the US and Abroad.

Modifications; well that is an owners own choice.

Many early Miata's are being altered in many ways, for street and all out track competition.

With this said, the prices of good original unmolested early Miata's continue's to rise, and I truly beleieve, because the public has made them of collector value, will continue to esculate.

I posted in what cars do you have or owned, besides some real radical and desirable automobiles, I have had many miata's.

Do love them and they are a blast to throw around while driving.

Soooo, either keep it stock or go wild with many street modifications or track modifications.

BTW, moss motors, about 1 year ago, brought out/launched a catalog for Miata>>>> ummm, does that say or mean anything?

Personally, I prefer them stock, low miles and any color but red.

All the best today,


Home of the exotic 1935 Harris fwd speedster


Before modifying the suspension on the MX5, get a decent wheel alignment (as much castor as possible, at least 1 deg neg camber all around, and zero front toe works well), make sure you have either the standard wheels or very light weight aftermarket ones with as close to possible as the standard offset, and some good "performance orientated" tyres. A good alignment can make a big difference for a small cost. If that then doesn't satisfy you, only then start changing suspension components. Don't use "poly" bushes, the Mazda rubber ones are best for the road. Heavy wheels and incorrect offset can make a big (detrimental) difference to how the MX5 drives and handles - they are very sensitive to wheel/tyre/suspension changes so it is important to get it right.

At least with these cars, changes such as shocks and springs can be reverted back quite easily, so keep the standard suspension on hand for when you go to sell, and the aftermarket stuff will still find a buyer on ebay!

Like Mini's, they will still be just as popular with some subtle tasteful mods.

Ian McHattie

Looks like you have caught the "MX5" bug, watch out because it does get worse, the three I have sitting on the drive is testament. Good to see you are enjoying the experience and you probably have a permanent grin when out and about, roof down of course. Regards Ian McHattie

harris speedster

gskehan & Ian,
Totally agree with the both of you !!

Glad other owners finally chimed in on this topic/post.
These little Miata's are great roadsters, almost unbreakable and very reliable.
Warmest regards,

Home of the exotic 1935 Harris fwd speedster


Leave it alone. My wife bought a 1992 MX5 new and still has it. Never modified and with 32000 miles, it feels like new.
Start tinkering with the car and the balanced package Mazda developed is upset. Just enjoy the car as-is.



Well, i think different people have different tastes. Some people like the added suspension, but some think it makes the car steer worse. In some cases like you said, old cars can drive better than new ones because of the upgrades done to it. However, you better get a specialist to do all the minor tweaks because someone inexperienced can easily ruin the feel of the car.


Best regards / Peter Mould / pmwltd

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