Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Topless Miata Road Test w/Video

Project Miata has gone from a non-runner headed for the scrapper to one tremendously fun way to get to work.  Short of handing you the keys, a video is the best way I can think of to show you what it feels like to drive.  It's a lot of fun. My thoughts after the jump.

Ride quality isn't something I'm terribly concerned with in a sports car but Michigan roads are third world levels of smooth.  I don't want to wince over every bump.  The stock shocks and springs made way for Bilstein sport shocks and coil-overs mounted with later NB style top-hats.  Front springs are 450 lbs/in and rears are 350 lbs/in.  Stiffer, lower, and no seat padding make for a firm ride that's not painfully firm. 

From my embarrassingly large collection of 14" race tires I pulled out a set of decade old Bridgestone Potenzas.   They were old rain tires that came with the first race car I bought back in 2006.  Being rains they have nearly full tread depth so I don't have to tip-toe over wet pavement.  The relatively large sidwall also helps ride a bit.  Overall, the rubber matches the chassis well.  Turn in is responsive and they track well down the highway.  The handling is communicative and progressive.  As the lateral acceleration limit is reached, the car has just a touch of understeer.  Applying a dab of throttle balances it out nicely.  Feeding more power sends the tail sliding.  The manual steering is not quick so counter steer must be applied rapidly, though not annoyingly so.  See the first turn I make in the video.  The rear end is just coming around slightly as I exit the corner, balanced on throttle.  This kind of driver involvement is intoxicating.  I'm tempted to slide the tail out the exit of every turn.

Let's just say the wind noise is loud.  I'm accustomed to listening to my vehicles for odd noises that indicate impending mechanical failure. Acoustic mechanical sympathy is not possible above 30 mph.  Some form of eye protection is mandatory above that speed as well, at least for those who wear contacts. I've tried a few pair of driving goggles with success but for more than a few minutes on the highway I wear a half-helmet with a bubble face shield. Seventy mph winds constantly blowing my hair numbs my scalp after about twenty minutes.

The stock 1.6L engine sounds like its fast, but its not.  I'm not going to win any drag races and I've decided I don't care.  The gearing is short and the engine is happy to rev so you rarely notice how slow you're going.  My occasional lack of self control is tempered by only having about a hundred horse pressure at the rear wheels.  Not that the Topless Miata's 1,934 lbs needs a lot of power to be entertaining.  More importantly the pedals are well placed and the clutch is light and easy to modulate. The shifter feels like its had 177,630 miles because it has but still gets the job done without being a chore.    Of course it needs more power, but what doesn't?

The trunk is small and only deep enough for a helmet or small suit case.  Thankfully, completely removing the top opened up a useful load area behind the roll bar.  Huge coolers, a grill, and massive gear bags have all been easily accommodated if you're willing to sacrifice rearward visibility.  Coating it with pick-up bed liner was more useful than I imagined. So far the only thing I can't haul is more than two people. 

This is by far the most fun car I've ever owned.  In absolute terms it's slow but that allows me to run out first and second gear at WOT without losing my license.  The controls, steering, handling, and visibility all contribute to a hell of a good time.  Other people will notice how good a time you're having.  Last Monday I had two people take camera-phone pictures of me driving down I-275.  Now I just need some more warm weather to enjoy it a few more weeks. 

1 comment:

  1. You need to source a power steering rack, less turns lock to lock and super easy to convert to a manual rack.