FailCar is perhaps best known on PetrolBlog for his delightful Peugeot 205 GTi. Well as regular readers may already know, he also has a rather tasty Mazda MX-5 too. After some time fronting and maxing and then chilling in the car he spent all the week waxing*, he’s decided to pen some words for PetrolBlog. Remember to follow FailCar on twitter @FailCar.
After spending much time fettling with the 205 and getting it sorted I started to get twitchy and decided to purchase another project. This was not entirely silly though as I had been planning a Euro trip and fancied another convertible. Thanks to insurance issues with my other half, the S2000 would only have been possible if piloted by me and even I had to admit that was a bit harsh.
So I started hunting on the interwebs for something topless that would get ok-ish MPG, be fun to drive while comfortable for long journeys and be pretty mechanically bulletproof. It also had to cost £2,500 or less.
I had quite a few options going round in my head which eventually came down to a Saab 900, MG TF, BMW E30, MR2 MKIII or MX-5. Then I applied more logic. K-series? Bye MG. Needs to be fun to drive? Bye, bye Saab 900. Must have some actual luggage space? Sob, bye MR2.
So I was down to the choice of either MX-5 or E30. I used to roll in an old 325i and loved it but sadly decent examples of E30 cabs are either too expensive or ‘in need of some attention’ Fact is the beemers are 20 years old or more and for the same money I could get less scuttle shake and more grins with the Mazda.
Once decided on the MX-5 then came some confusion that mostly involved trying to figure out what the difference between the 1.8i, 1.8is, 1.8s, 1.8 Sport etc etc. All I knew is that on my budget I wanted a MKII 1.8 with a limited slip diff. Thankfully after much searching I discovered a handy table which made things clearer although I can’t find it again now.
So I ended up finding a 1.8s which is defined by having LSD, alloy sill plates and a Nardi steering wheel. But it’s not a Sport. Although one of the V5s reckons it is. Er… It’s blue.
First thing I noticed when looking at the car was that one of the rear tyres did not match. Not a massive oddity but as soon as I drove it the issue was clear. Under hard acceleration and deceleration the car always decided that going right in quite a violent manner would be the best idea. The geometry on the nearside left was miles out and as such it had just been eating tyres on that side. How the owner did not notice I don’t know but at the same time as getting two Proxes T1-R fitted to the rear I had the geometry set up properly at the eye-watering cost of £30.
Next up were the brakes which had made driving the MX-5 even more entertaining. They were knackered and way off balance which meant that the car pulled to the left under braking. When this was combined with the geometry of the car wanting to go right it meant setting up for a fast corner involved the closing of eyes, mild begging and a new pair of pants when I got home.
I went online, bought some discs and pads for all-round and then spent a couple of hours swearing and cutting my fingers for no good reason but it seems to happen whenever I even look at a spanner.
At the same time I bought a grille from MX-5 Parts. No, not some tacky alloy blingy grille just a plain hidden black one to give the radiator some protection as I had heard that a couple of stray stones in the gaping hole in the front of the MX-5 can turn the radiator into a colander. Only took about five minutes to clip in and hopefully should help.
After an oil and filter change I decided to give the MX-5 a good cleaning and proceeded to get it taxed and insured for the road. With all the fixes it felt like a different car to the one that I drove home after purchasing and has provided many a grin.
Two things had been bugging me about the Mazda, the first being that should it fall over then my head would pop off and it did feel a little bit wobbly on roads with crap surfaces. As ever I took to twitter and several suggestions came in that I should buy a roll bar from TR Lane. So I did.
The other thing that bugged me? That would be the noise the Mazda makes or rather the lack of it. So I picked up a cheap stainless exhaust from MX-5 Parts which seems to have done the trick. Not deafening, but just a bit of burble.
I quite fancy sorting the suspension as well maybe getting a coilover kit for it and have heard good things about the Koni sport kits. If you have any suggestions let me know in the comments or via twitter @FailCar!
I should probably go on now about how the Mazda is to drive and live with but I’ll save that for a #RealWorldReview which I shall get up soon…
*with humble apologies to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.