1990 Mazda Miata MX-5
1990 Mazda Miata MX-5. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 1999 Mazda Miata
Modern Classics: Mazda Miata, 1990-1998

Manufacturer’s web site
Mazda Canada

Article and photos by Michael Schlee

Photo Gallery:
1990 Mazda Miata

Ok, this isn’t really a Final Drive — well, at least I hope it’s not. This Final Drive is going to be a bit different as it is more of a Project-Car First Drive than a This-Car-Might-Not-Even-Make-It-To-The-Wrecker Final Drive. For those of you reading this that are regular members of our Autos.ca Forum, you may have read about my recent purchase, a 1990 Mazda Miata. After extensive floor rot repair, I finally got it on the road last week and began to discover the ‘nuances’ of a 23-year-old car with 308,000 km on the odometer. Below are my unsorted, random ramblings after an initial 100-km drive.

1990 Mazda Miata MX-5
1990 Mazda Miata MX-5. Click image to enlarge

0 km – Before getting too comfortable in the vehicle, I decide to take a quick drive around the block to ensure it will move under its own power, and more importantly, that I didn’t do anything detrimental during my repair work, like cut a brake or fuel line. As I back up, I eyeball a small puddle of engine oil. I have a bottle of 10W-30 in the trunk, I should check the level later.

1 km – Everything appears to be A-OK, so I am ready for a longer drive. I adjust my seat and find that there is a surprising amount of room in the car, even for someone over six-feet tall like me.

2 km – The Mazda badge on the back of the car falls off. Hopefully that is all I lose during my trip.

3 km – My seat back is relentlessly rubbing and squeaking against the hoop roll bar.

4 km – I begin to realize just how Spartan this vehicle really is [Ed. – The Spartans walked everywhere, Mike… Our thoughts and prayers are with you]. No air conditioning, no cruise control, no ABS, no airbags, no reinforced doors, no traction control, no tilt steering… no problem! Right??? Right???

1990 Mazda Miata MX-5
1990 Mazda Miata MX-5
1990 Mazda Miata MX-5. Click image to enlarge

5 km – The lack of modern safety gear in this car starts to circle around in my head as I am stopped at an intersection beside a Ford F-150. My head-height sideways gaze is parallel to the top of the Ford’s wheels and my sightlines underneath the truck are so clear that I can see buildings on the other side of it.

7 km – I’m getting hot so I figure it is time to activate “Roadster Mode”! The back window needs to be unzipped before lowering the roof and this is done easily. The roof neatly folds down and I am almost ready to go.

7 km (still) – The crank windows, namely the passenger side, require herculean strength to lower. Add in the fact that the aftermarket Pioneer speakers stick so far out that the window crank smacks it on every rotation. I give these plastic handles on the crank about a month before I snap one off in my hand.

13 km – I have discovered the headlight button on the dashboard that raises and lowers the pop-up headlights even when they are turned off. Like a fool I spend the next several minutes popping my headlights up and down as I cruise down the road.

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