By on December 26, 2008

The 1960s was the golden age for convertibles: Lotus Elans, MG Midgets, Austin Healey Sprites, Triumph TR6s, Chevy Corvettes and others. By the mid-70s, market forces, safety regulations and horrific build quality conspired to kill the open seat convertible. Ten years later, when large convertibles started to make a comeback. In 1989, Mazda’s California design team issued forth an Elan-evoking drop-top– without the leaky oil and the wonky electrics. In the next ten years, Mazda sold nearly 500k Miatas. To celebrate the model’s tenth anniversary, Mazda created a special Anniversary Edition (10AM) model based on the then-new second generation car (codenamed NB).

Unlike previous special edition MX-5′s, the 10AM was more than a simple paint and badge job. The biggest change: the brand’s boffins replaced the MX’s slick-shifting five-speed gearbox with a six-speed manual transmission. This close ratio gear box improved the car’s performance and made highway cruising a slightly less noisy and tiresome affair.

The Hiroshima-built bomber was blessed with Bilsteins; the sport shocks greatly improved handling– in exchange for a significantly stiffer ride. A front strut bar increased stability in the front end and improved steering feel (already telepathic). The package also included special polished wheels and high performance tires. Mazda sold the model in one color: a special shade of blue that was never used before or since. Interior changes included leather seats with faux blue suede inserts, special floor mats, blue carpet, chrome trim and a matching blue tonneau cover. In fact, the 10th AE was loaded to the gills, boasting every possible option (ABS, larger wheels, etc.) save a slush boy.

One area that was not addressed: performance. The AE deployed the standard second generation 1.8-liter, four cylinder, 16 valve engine BP-4W engine. By then, horsepower was up to 140 with 119 ft.-lbs. or torque– which gave no real improvement in performance over the first generation cars. The 0 to 60 “sprint” was still an eight second affair. The AE’s six speed required an extra shift, making the AE only a tenth of a second faster than a garden variety MX-5. That said, Miatas are about the joy of driving, not speed per se. The 10AM was not the best handling Miata; that honor went to the lighter 1999 Sport model [no AC or power options], and had the stiffer sway bars and Bilstein dampers. But the 10AM certainly upheld the Miata’s core values, carving corners with true elan.

Mazda limited worldwide production to 7,500 10th AEs. Each model was individually numbered, with a number plate affixed to the side of the car. In an unusual move, all 7,500 Miatas were identical in all markets, including Japan. A total of 3,500 were allocated for the US. To further distinguish the “10AM” from lesser Miatas, each car came with a numbered certificate of authentication. Buyers also received a blue key fob, a small scale model of the car and his and hers matching Seiko watches with blue faces.

While reviews of the 10th AE were mostly positive, sales were disappointing. Many new cars sat on dealer’s lots well into model year 2000. Needless to say, price was the hurdle over which poetential 10AM buyers would not jump. Mazda wanted the highest msrp ever charged for a Miata: $26,875, roughly $6500 more than the base model. The price was dangerously close to low-end roadsters from BMW and Honda and/or a used Porsche Boxster.

The aesthetics didn’t help. Not all aspiring 10AM-istas were enamored by the special exterior and matching interior colors. The chrome wheels, bright blue/purple hue and the near bordello like look of the interior required a certain level of extroversion that the model’s core buyers lacked. Eventually, all the AE’s were sold.

Driving the 10AM is similar to other 2nd generation Miatas. The six speed gear box shifts as smoothly as the usual five speed, with short, precise cog swaps. Unfortunately, Mazda’s  gear spacing choices are questionable. There’s little to distinguish the spacing between 5th and 6th gear.

Many 10AMs were bought and stored as collectors items. Ten years later, it would appear that this was a bad investment. Low mile cars trading at in the teens. Higher mileage drivers in good condition are only worth 30 percent of their original value. With the large number of 10AMs produced, their value will continue to be flat, with little increase, if any, in value.

That said, given the Miata’s simplicity and reliability, buying a 100k mile 10AM for $9k gets you a garish but unique looking Miata that handles like a go kart. The 10AM is not for every Miata fan, but if you like/can live with the color scheme, it’s easily the best value in used second generation Miatas today. And that’s saying something.

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37 Comments on “Review: 1999 Mazda Miata 10th Anniversary Edition...”


  • avatar
    MX5bob

    Interesting write up.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I have wanted a miata for a while. $8-9k for a used one is definately interesting!

  • avatar
    Terry

    WELL….
    I thoroughly enjoy my ’99 Miata, although not the anniversary edition.
    And the 6-speed never shifted as smoothly as the old tried-and-true 5-speed. As a Mazda tech, I’ve worked on many of the 6-speed boxes–where were little more than a front-wheel drive powertrain placed in a rear wheel drive case.
    While the numbers may not show it, there is a difference in performance and driveability between the 1st and 2nd gen Miatas. The 2nd gen had solid lifters and a variable length intake manifold for improved torque, and altered suspension mountings for improved handling. We also have a 1st gen Miata in the family for comparison.
    I like all the Miatas, but am not especially fond of all the body cladding the special editions have tacked on.

  • avatar
    pariah

    Nice writeup. The NB has been my favorite Miata since it hit the streets. It’s too bad about the color though. I bet if they’d stuck with the standard color options, left out the sports watches, and dropped the price a few grand they woulda sold like the hotcakes they really are on the inside.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    The NB is the only Miata I can’t get comfortable in. Weird.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    pariah:

    As Terry above points out, you could drop the tchotches, the paint and a couple grand and go with the Miata LS 6-speed for every year the 2nd generation was out (or almost every year).

    Terry:

    I prefer the look of the 1st generation, are the 2nd generation ones significantly better than the refreshed (’94-’97) first generation? If so would you go for a 5-speed or 6-speed 2nd generation?

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    are those rollbar/hoops stock equipment?

  • avatar
    Theodore

    Strippo :
    December 26th, 2008 at 11:57 am

    The NB is the only Miata I can’t get comfortable in. Weird.

    I have the same problem. I solved it by buying an NA.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    My ’93 Miata will always have a special place in my heart. What a nice, fun, TROUBLE FREE car!

    I had bought it new and kept it for ten years or so; and it was on my mind when I chose my username here on TTAC.

    When will Mazda bring back the “Miata” name? If I recall correctly, it was German for “high reward,” and my car certainly lived up to the meaning.

  • avatar
    Terry

    # no_slushbox :
    December 26th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    pariah:

    As Terry above points out, you could drop the tchotches, the paint and a couple grand and go with the Miata LS 6-speed for every year the 2nd generation was out (or almost every year).

    Terry:

    I prefer the look of the 1st generation, are the 2nd generation ones significantly better than the refreshed (’94-’97) first generation? If so would you go for a 5-speed or 6-speed 2nd generation?

    Hello! Those chrome hoops are not standard, many aftermarket companies sell them.
    No slushbox: Yes–I do think the 2nd gen Miatas are better in most ways than the 1st gen Miatas. And the 1st gen cars were excellent!
    I like the glass rear window of the 2nd gen over the plastic of the 1st gen, the later interiors and dash, but most of all the handling. The revised supension points eliminate the tippy feeling the 1st gen had, and the rear bracing was aslo revised. On my ’99, I do have the factory front strut tower brace(as on the M-Edition) and that alone stopped what little cowl shake I had.
    The 5-speed as a great box, easy to repair, slick-shifting, etc. The 6-speed is a nightmare to work on by comparison, and most of the 6-speed Miatas Ive driven had a notchy feel to the shifts I didnt care for. Likely the product of the double-cone synchronizers of the 6-speed box.
    My personal preference is the ’99–2000 Miatas. The ’01–’05(except for the Mazdaspeed Miata) had oil-controlled variable intake cam timing, and some had problems. While rated slightly higher in power figures, the ’01–’05 actually made less, and there were…u,,,…buyback issues related to the quoted power numbers. I also dont care for the taller seatbacks of the ’01+, nor the center console, but that could just be my personal preference. The ’01+ did have significantly more underbody bracing and was a torsionally stiffer car.
    But..they are ALL good. I am even watming up to the NC cars, especially the retractable hardtop models.

  • avatar
    yellow_04

    Very nice cars but I have to vote for the mazdaspeed turbo. Its the only miata with enough power for tolerable every day driving.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I’m a notoriously fickle car owner and have owned dozens of cars and motorcycles over the years. The only car I’ve ever kept for a long time has been my ’91 Miata. I bought it 10 years ago when it had 35k miles for $7,000.

    To say that I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of the car would be an understatement. The car has been nearly trouble free (the only failure was minor, a power window regulator). I replaced the top about 5 years ago with an aftermarket one with a glass window (again, I had to replace it not due any problem other than my ham-fisted sister’s boyfriend who somehow managed to rip the zipper off the back window). Agree, the glass window is a godsend but I wouldn’t base my purchase decision on it since aftermarket units are cheap and an older car will likely require a new top anyway.

    Despite a lineup of other cars over the years (BMW 5-series, Porsche 911, and others) and an expanding family, the trusty silver “baby car” as my 5-year old calls it has kept an honored place on our driveway.

    When I drive it I always smile, it’s the perfect backup car for when one of the others is in the shop, and after a prolonged international trip it was the only one of my cars to fire up without complaint and was able to jump-start the BMW which was totally drained of battery power.

    These are really well designed and fun cars. They don’t appear to have any particular vices, they get decent fuel economy, the little 4-cylinder engines sound great, the manual transmissions shift well, and they are even easy to live with on a daily basis with usable trunk space (a week’s worth of groceries or golf clubs are no problem). They also have terrific aftermarket support if modifications are your thing, strong owner clubs, and are a great entry into autocross or track racing.

  • avatar

    I bought a ’95 Miata back in 95. When this came out, i wanted it badly. Not only was it in my favorite color, it had the 6 speed!

    Very nice to see a writeabout about it and how it didn’t hold its value, sadly. I still think this design is much nicer than the current body style, which is why I didn’t consider one and got an S2000 instead.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Terry :

    Thanks for the information, it is very good to know.

    With the 2nd generation solid lifters have you ever seen a valve adjustment actually be necessary?

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    “Not all aspiring 10AM-istas were enamored by the special exterior and matching interior colors. The chrome wheels, bright blue/purple hue and the near bordello like look of the interior required a certain level of extroversion that the model’s core buyers lacked.”

    Blue on blue is relatively conservative compared to my favorite combination, the 1993 red on black limited edition:

    http://www.miata93le.com/About_LE.htm

  • avatar
    BEAT

    The appearnce of the Miata never change same old style and small

    If Mazda added some body kit or wings or a hard top. US consumer will probably will be more interested in purchasing a Miata but with our huge freeways.

    This little car has no chance out there with those fast bigger sports sedans.

    I used to like them but please Mazda change the style for crying out loud.

  • avatar
    red5

    I’ve owned 3 Miatas – two 96 models, and an 04 Mazdaspeed version which is hands down the BEST car I’ve ever owned! After our first kid was born I traded the MSM in for a Speed3, and while I really enjoy the 3 for track use and cargo hauling, I miss my Miatas more than ever.

    The 2nd gen NBs also had a (slightly) larger and more usable trunk because of the relocation of the spare tire under the trunk.

    Thanks for the review Terry, I’m going to go put another $100 in my future Miata account.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    A nice write-up.

    Other cars may be faster, prettier, more comfortable or more prestigious, but few (if any) are such simple fun.

    If you haven’t owned one, you should do so before you’re too old for ingress/egress.

  • avatar
    Terry

    # no_slushbox :
    December 26th, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Terry :

    Thanks for the information, it is very good to know.

    With the 2nd generation solid lifters have you ever seen a valve adjustment actually be necessary?

    To tell you the truth, the only time Ive seen them needing adjustment is during a head swap(overheated, warped. And many times the owners do not want to pay for an adjustment.
    58K miles on mine, in 2K miles I’ll be replacing my timing belt and water pump. THAT’S the time to adjust the valves, since all it takes from that point is measurement and removal of the camshafts. There is a Mazda Special Service Tool to change shims without camshaft removal, but with the belt off it’s faster to just pull the cams anyway.
    I prefer the torque characteristics of my 99 over the Mazdaspeed Miata, but I DO like the wheel/rim combination of the MSM along with the extensive chassis bracing and stiffening the Turbo has.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    OK article for 2 reasons

    -1- Its about Miata.

    -2- Its not about Detroit

    Otherwise too much of what’s wrong with 10AE, instead of what’s right about the Miata overall. This is not a “blast from the past” article which I hoped for when I read headline.

    My weekend car is 99 base model. Its a wonderful little project. Bought with 15k on the clock last April. A nearly new 99, perfectly preserved in heated garage. Adding in body braces this weekend; frog arms and butterfly. Racing Beat headers and exhaust next week. All waiting patiently on shelf.

    I didn’t fit into it until I gutted the seat and bent gas pedal forward. Common mods.

    Next I want S2000, maybe 2 years away. That has a really nice engine and needs no body braces or other aftermarket fixes.

    I can only dream of NSX.

  • avatar
    mxhi5

    I own a 99 (NB) sport and an 07 (NC) sport and after changing the shocks I’m really dig’n the NC. It just does everything better than the NB.

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    When I was married, we owned 2 Miatae (’91 A-package with aftermarket 15″ rims and a 2000 Special Edition). I loved those cars.

    One of the most fun times I ever had on 4 wheels was driving down Highway 1/Big Sur with two friends (who were on motorcycles). Simply epic.

    Of all Miatae, the ’99 Special Edition was/is my favorite, although the ride with the Bilsteins is a bit rough of everyday use. That’s why my wife opted for the 2000 SE (plus she liked the wood interior trim).

    Ultimately, I was more attached to hauling our dogs around (so I drove a 5-door hatchback) and she really wasn’t a sports car driver (her current ride is a Toyota Solara convertible), so we sold both Miatae. But it was fun while it lasted…

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Very nice cars but I have to vote for the mazdaspeed turbo. Its the only miata with enough power for tolerable every day driving.

    All Miatas are torquey little buggers that can handle daily driving tasks with ease if you know what you’re doing and enjoy making the effort. What you find intolerable I find endearing.

  • avatar
    Chris Inns

    Mazda have shown admirable restraint with the Miata over the years. If just about any other company were making these, they would have rear seats, standard automatic transmission, a V6 or V8 and be the size of a Ford Thunderbird by now.

  • avatar
    Sonic EJ

    I own a 99 Sport model and it is amazing. Put some great tires on it and it becomes 9/10th’s of a Lotus Elise for 2/10th’s the cost!

    I bought the car 2 summers ago intending to own it for 3-5 months and use it to learn to drive a manual. Now I can’t bring myself to sell it. I just got a 2006 Legacy GT as my daily driver but I think I might keep the Miata forever or a least until I’m board with amazing handling and the best shifter in the world. I might even get another one just to put a LS3 V8 in it someday.

  • avatar
    narkleptic

    I remember sitting in this car at the dealer when it came out, lusting after it and bemoaning its near 30K sticker. At the time, I was still driving my grandfather’s New Yorker Imperial.

    Last year I decided I needed a roadster before I had kids. I drove an S2000, a Solstice, a Z3, a Z4, and a Miata. What was clear to me in just a few minutes of driving was how much more fun the little mazda was to drive over it’s faster progeny. I mean, all of them were fun to drive fast. But the Miata is fun to drive slow.

    I ended up with the best of both worlds when I picked up an ’04 Mazdaspeed for a song. Not only is this the quickest Miata ever produced (up to and including the new NC models), but it responds VERY well to simple bolt-ons.

    Since my days driving the New Yorker, I’ve owned some frisky metal–300z, 3000GT, and a couple of A4s–but the little MSM Miata is my favorite vehicle by far. My wife learned to drive stick on this car and has since become smitten as well. Now we fight over who has to take the Jetta.

    FWIW,I think the early M2 models (1999-2000) are the best value going in Miataland, with prices starting around 6k. I do like some of the special editions though, particularly the 2000 Mahogany and 2001 British Racing Green versions…

  • avatar
    MX5bob

    The suspension differences in the NB vs. NA are more travel and the front upper control arm mounts are a bit more inboard. The ’99 also has all the rear subframe bracing that first came on the ’94. For some reason the ’97 lacked some of it.

    The Miata name was only dropped for the first year of the NC. The 2007 and are called the MX-5 Miata.

    The early four-cylinder BMW Z3 could have been a better performer, but the power-to-weight ratio wasn’t better than the NB’s. Still a fun car to thrash, just don’t expect it to remind you of an M Roadster.

    Still, there are very few cars that handle as well right out of the box as the Miata, any generation. The NC works better with stiffer shocks and front sway bar, but the ABS/EBD brakes are great.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Bob, see if you can get a copy of the “Mazda MX-5 Miata 1999 Service Highlights” book. Part No. 9999-95-072F-99
    The changes to the suspension, steering, infact all areas of the Miata were extensively revised for the NB cars.
    In addition to this manual, I also have the NC Service Highlights Book(and ALL Mazda service materials), along with the instructional CD-Roms. If you need anything copied and sent, let me know.

  • avatar

    Hey, MX5bob how did you know??

    http://www.mjposner.com/m

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I have a 2002SE (similar to this one, but post-facelift). In 2001, the NB got better seats. Still not great though, too much padding on the seat bottom.

    Anyway, just one warning to those who decide to shop for an NB – many of us will tell you that the 6-speed is NOT as smooth as the 5-speed. In the cold it’s absolutely terrible until you replace its fluid with some Redline MT-90. But you do drop your highway revs a few hundred RPM and that’s worth it to anyone who’s going to commute in it.

  • avatar

    Very clean one for sale on ebay:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1999-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-10Th-Anniversary-Edition_W0QQitemZ170290113438QQihZ007QQcategoryZ6324QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    Price is too high imho. Hard Top adds about 1K and low low miles adds about 1k so I would peg this one at 12k max.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Lemmy offers good advice. I owned 2 of them, loved the hell out of them, and am too old to enjoy them given the pain of the ingress/ egress.

    PS Chicks dig’em. Don’t worry one bit about it not being masculine enough.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    And for about $5-7k you could drop in an LS1 and T56 out of a 98-02 Camaro. Now that would be sweet.

  • avatar
    mxfive4

    I guess we’ve given up on editing around here. I am close to horrid with grammar and punctuation and I found a ton of issues.

    I have never heard the 10AE referred to as the 10AM – spell check issues?

    Back to the car – Too much blue and the 6th gear never made enough of a difference to make highway cruising any better. Add to that the fact that a lot of Miata nuts consider the 5 speed the better tranny (tighter shifts) and I think the only thing the 10AE really offered was the fancy shocks and smurf-a-rific styling cues.

  • avatar

    I have one of these and love it. Great car for socal canyon blasting. In the really tight stuff almost anything else has to work three times as hard to keep the same pace.

  • avatar

    mxfive4 :

    “I have never heard the 10AE referred to as the 10AM – spell check issues?”

    Actually AM was what Mazda called them..Anniversary Model

    http://www.miata.net/faq/brochures/2000/m10th-page10.jpg

    Michael

  • avatar
    kentnorton

    96 mx5 “m” edition.none of the driver side window regulator-power- i have looked at, about 50, will fit this door it bolts from the bottom can anyone direct me to a site all the ones i viewed bolt from the side; dont fit. what a hassle.


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