Beater Miata – Part 1

One sunny spring day in 2012 my Dad was coming over to our house for reasons I cannot remember. He arrived in town early and decided to kill some time checking out the local yard sales. When he arrived at my house, he casually mentioned that my neighbour one street over was having a sale and it included a car.

Of course, that grabbed my interest and I asked him what kind. He responded with the word Miata. Well, you don’t have to tell me twice, I bee-lined over to the sale to see what was there.

As I rounded the corner, there is sat – a 1990 shiny white Mazda MX-5 Miata. At first glance it looked to be in good condition. I began looking at the car and the owner came up to me and we started chatting. The car had a relatively new top, new windshield, new radiator, new gas tank, had been repainted once and recently received new brakes. All she was asking for it was $2,500.

Been Around the Block

I should probably mention at this time that car had just over 307,000 km on the odometer so it was no spring chicken. Yet, it looked to be in great shape inside and out for a car that was 22 years old and had driven the equivalent of around the world seven and a half times.

Assuming the car must barely drive considering the mileage, price and appearance, I still climbed behind the wheel for a test drive. As I drove around the neighbourhood I was amazed. The engine was still responsive, all five gears operated normally with no synchro issues, the clutch didn’t slip, the rear differential was smooth – the car was mechanically sound. The suspension felt worn out and the brakes were just on this side of safe, but overall, for the price, I was sold.

It turned out I was the second person to want the car, so I had to wait to see if the first buyer backed out. Apparently, it was a young guy who really tried hard to make purchasing this car work, but after a week, couldn’t string together the funds. The owner of Miata called me up and informed me it was mine and would even give it to me for the price of $2,000 she had agreed upon with the previous potential buyer.

It’s Mine!

I picked the car up and began the long 20-foot drive home. I wasted no time booking a safety appointment to see how much work I would need to do to for the car to be certified road worthy. Much to my surprise, the car passed safety on its first try, which would then lead me to question the validity of the mechanic I had just used.

You see, on my drive home it was raining out. As I parked the car in my driveway, I noticed two issues. Issue #1 was that the car had a very slow leak of oil from somewhere in the engine. About three drops a night.

Issue #2, and more serious, was that the rug in the driver’s footwell was soaked. Like a small puddle had formed. I know the roof wasn’t leaking so I went in for a closer look. I began poking at the carpet when suddenly my finger when right through both the carpet and the floorboard. That isn’t good. I checked under the car and saw the great horror.

During all my inspections of the car originally, I never checked the floorboards. I know, huge rookie mistake. Underneath the Miata was nothing but rot. Fist size holes of floorboard were missing in places. It was not good. (Side note, the car still received a safety certificate in this condition – yikes).

Also not good was the fact that I had already sold my Subaru SVX at this point so I needed to make this car road worthy. I began by removing the seats and the carpet to see just how bad things were. You can see for your self in the photos below – it was bad. Having zero experience doing any sort of body work in my life, I began to Google what sort of rot I had to remove from the car and how to repair the rest. Honestly, my repairs will make you cringe, although very effective. But I’ve already taken up enough of your time for now and will get into that during the second installment on my Beater Miata.

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