Nothing lasts forever in life. There will always come a time when you must say goodbye to friends, pets, loved ones, or in this case a possession which you hold very dear. Sometimes when things part ways the situation is tragic, but other times it is for the best, and you are excited for what is to come next. I am happy to say that my situation is the latter of the two. After nearly three years lovely with my Mazda Miata, it has come time for me to let it go. I just recently graduated college, and life is changing such that having two sports cars will no longer be ideal for me. So with that, I would like to take a look back at my experiences with the car, and what I have learned from it along the way.
I recently posted a video from Petrolicious about classic cars, and specifically the Ferrari 250 GT SWB. In that video, it is said that you never really “own” a car, but are more its caretaker for a certain period of time. In that time, you write a chapter in the car’s history, and it writes a chapter in yours. In my time with it, the Miata has taught me many invaluable things about driving. Thanks to it, I found a whole new appreciation for “momentum cars”, and they are now one of my favorite types. It also taught me a huge amount about car control in a way that my STi really could not. The STi was a big, powerful all wheel drive car, and I was a novice driver at the time. The Miata allowed me to go back to the pure basics of driving, with a large margin of error thanks to its lack of power. I have since been able to take what I have learned from the Miata and apply it to other, much faster, cars.
Before I got the car I was one of those Miata haters. I was in the camp that thought it was too slow to be a proper sports car, and entirely ignorant to its true merits. What changed my mind was an issue of Evo Magazine, where they compiled a list of the top 100 greatest driver’s cars of all time. The Miata placed ninth, in the top-ten company of such masterpieces as the Ferrari F50 and the Pagani Zonda. I was shocked that they could put such a puny car in with the best of the best, but that peaked my curiosity big time. The reason wound up being the Miata’s purity and accessibility. It has a beautifully balanced chassis, with a classic front-engine rear wheel drive layout. The Miata is the perfect car for beginners to learn to drive on, as well as a fantastic tool for even professionals to sharpen their skills with. Evo magazine said the Miata behaves like many much faster sports cars, but that everything seems to happen in slow motion. This allows you to savor more of the experience, and consequentially adds to the overall enjoyment. Having owned the car, I can vouch for their conclusion. The Miata is all about the driving experience, not speed alone. A good driver can take a Miata to a pace that is quite rapid, but for most people it is just a fun car that you can drive hard without really exceeding the speed limit. Plus, anyone who really knows driving will tell you that some of the best fun you can have is driving a slow car fast.
As far as the whole “girly car”, or “gay car”, issue goes. During my three years with the Miata, I got way more attention from girls than I ever have in my STi (which always seems to get noticed by dudes). Women seemed to like the Miata, and they definitely seemed to like me in it. A guy driving a car like this says he’s secure and confident, something a loud V8 Mustang definitely will never say. The only “gay jokes” I ever heard on the road came from other Miata drivers, usually in slammed cars, who were well aware of the supposed stigma. Honestly, there is really nothing gender specific about a Miata at all. Sure, its small, round appearance definitely make it “cute”, but it is also a phenomenal driver’s car, which usually looks the part when modified. In the end, the only thing to worry about as far as appearances are concerned, are things you worry about with yourself anyway. If you’re insecure with who you are, then the car may hold a certain, self reflective stigma for you. However, if you’re just looking to have a good time, then none of this matters one bit.
During the last three years I have also gone through a rather large change in my personal outlook, opting for a more Buddhist inspired approach. The car helped me a lot with this actually, because it was so perfectly imperfect. It’s similar to a tale I’ve heard, about the the wall and two bricks:
In the story, a monk is constructing a wall, and everything turns out perfectly except for two crooked bricks. This bothered the monk to no end until one day another monk, who was visiting, remarked “what a beautiful wall you have constructed here”. The first monk then pointed out the two crooked bricks, and the second monk replied, “yes, but look how perfect the rest of it is.”
This is a theme I dealt with the whole time I had the Miata. Its chassis was a bit corroded, and my family and friends constantly called it a rust bucket, and said I should just scrap it. They could not see past the car’s flaws for whatever reason, even many of the people who drove it. In this focus on negativity, they completely missed everything that I saw in the car, and loved about it.
Mechanically it functioned beautifully. It offered an incredible experience that mixed great driving dynamics with top-down fun. The fact that it only sipped gas also made it the perfect car to take on long, spur of the moment cruises. But what I loved most about the Miata was its beautiful, focused simplicity. The car had everything I needed and nothing more. In the driver seat, there is just a steering wheel and a gear lever in front of you, with three pedals at your feet. The basic 1.6L engine up front sends power to the back wheels through a 5 speed manual gearbox. There is no traction or stability control, no ABS, and in my car’s final form, no power steering; it is completely on you to drive the car. Amenities wise there was a radio, with some lovely headrest mounted speakers, but that’s it. The top was raised and lowered manually, so there were no electric motors to go wrong either. Cost wise, the Miata took regular gas, and could do 300 miles on a tank. It also cost me just $66 per month to insure. If you are looking for reliable fun on a budget then it is hard to go wrong with one of these.
Most of all, Miata made all driving completely enjoyable, whether I was tearing through corners or stuck behind some old lady going 15mph. It has a fun, exciting nature to it, and that makes it easy to love. Sure my car had flaws, but like the best cars in the world, the flaws only served to make me appreciate the car’s strengths even more. The Miata’s rough edges gave me something that no other type of car can, the freedom from worry. Dings, scratches and dents didn’t matter, as long as the car functioned I could enjoy it.
It takes a certain sort of attitude to be able to appreciate a car like this. People who are enslaved by the desire for perfection will never be able to grasp this sort of thing. Being an old car in iffy condition, you might think the Miata had little left to give, and in many respects you would be correct. But the one thing it did have left to give was pure, unadulterated enjoyment. That is far more than most cars out there will ever be able to offer their owner, and for me that makes it much more valuable, regardless of its condition.
So with this, my time with the Miata is over. It has taught me a lot, and it put a smile on my face every time I’ve drove it. I will use what it has taught me about driving for the rest of my life, and it has left me with a new love for both roadsters and momentum cars in general. Will I own another Miata in the future?… Most likely yes. But for now I am happy to be able to pass the car on to my friend, Shane, who I know will enjoy it as much as I have. I had dreaded the thought of having to part the car out, so I was thrilled not to have to kill it here.
Life is all about the experiences you have. You cannot take anything with you in the end. I feel I used my time with this car to the fullest, enjoying many gorgeous days with long, aimless cruises, just for the love of driving. It is true that the car was a bit of a money pit for me, but that is yet another lesson it has taught. All in all, I regret nothing about my experience with the car. Yesterday, as I watched my friend, Shane, drive off in the Miata, I found myself thinking that I did a great job with the car while I had it, and I had a lot of fun in the process. I had never really seen it driving before, and it looked great on the road. The Miata is ending my chapter of its life in a better form than it started, and I must say that I felt more proud than sad as I watched it drive off. I had some great times with the Miata, and it taught me quite a bit, but now I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my automotive journey.