If the first half of my automotive life was informed by Honda products, the second half was largely colored by “Sport Compact Car” magazine, which I still consider to be America’s finest automotive print magazine. From the age of 13 onward, I faithfully purchased SCC every month, enthralled by the idea of low-budget import car builds and sweeping California canyon roads. I liked that they took a different tack than most of the other tuner magazines; they weren’t as dogmatic as the other rags were with respect to the “Japan rules, America sux” dichotomy that seemed to pervade the lesser publications. There were no photo spreads of Asian women in flourescent bikinis. Unlike the editorials in Grassroots Motorsports, the budgets for their projects seemed realistic.
One shot that has stuck with me is this shot of an ancient 323 GTX sliding through the dirt; I can’t remember if it was an SCC project car or not, but it encapsulates what I always pictured Southern California to be; an automotive playground free of rust and full of roads that are appropriate for whatever driving conditions you could want. The 323 GTX’s near me are either terminally oxidized or going for absurd amounts of money ($6,000 for a barely running 26 year old Mazda that would amputate my legs in a crash? No thanks) but Mazda was kind enough to lend me a Mazdaspeed3 for my first trip to Los Angeles so I could live out my canyon run fantasies on the Angeles Crest Highway, albeit in front-drive form only. If that wasn’t enough, TTAC contributor Jeff Jablansky brought along his own Volkswagen GTI MKVI for comparison.
For the past 16 years, we’ve done the same routine with varying frequency; it started when I was 2 or 3 years old, at my insistence. Go for a swim at the YMCA, then lunch at McDonalds (always a Filet-O-Fish, since nothing else was kosher. I didn’t know what a Big Mac was until Junior High) and finally, we would arrive at Mecca, 715 Milner Avenue, the site of Honda Canada’s head office.
Back when I reviewed the Scion FR-S, I wrapped up by saying I’d want to check out the latest Miata before I passed judgment on the bang-per-buck value of the Subuyopet. So, I called up the PR flacks at Mazda: “Hey, remember how I didn’t totally trash the CX-5 I wrote about in July? Yeah, so now the entire Toyo Cork Kogyo organization owes me, which means I need a Daimyo Class ticket on the next flight to Tokyo, a BLACK TUNED MX-5 waiting for me, and an honor guard of eight dekatoras to escort me as I cruise around looking for an Autozam AZ-1 to ship back to Denver.” Disappointingly, what I got was a US-market MX-5 Club Sport dropped off at a shuttle lot at George Bush International in Houston, to which I’d flown Misery Class in order to judge at the fifth annual Gator-O-Rama 24 Hours of LeMons. I spent three days with a True Red ’13 Miata, mostly shuttling between my hotel in Angleton, Texas, and the race at MSR Houston. (Read More…)
“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.” “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand. “I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
Edit: Now with updated graph
So, what the heck does a manufacturer mean when they offer a ‘Sport Suspension’ and is it something you actually want? While I haven’t examined every version available, themes have carried through various makes/models, so what follows are safe generalizations. I even throw in a dyno chart!
While discussing the future of a Mazda/Fiat collaboration last week, one industry insider trusted by TTAC had this to say
“It’s a bit like a first dance during the sixth grade…the Roadster, I mean. They’re leaving room for Jesus, but still able to cop a feel if they’re lucky.”
Now we’ve got more info on the Alfa/Mazda collaboration, and the possibility of more co-operation between Fiat and Japan’s last auto maker.
In our second installment, we take the Scion FR-S to the track, along with the heavier, but more powerful Hyundai Genesis 2.0T and its spiritual antecedent, the Mazda MX-5. Oh, and there are special guests from Japan and America.
Sunday mornings are for sleeping in. Since the invention of the Digital Video Recorder, all my motorsports viewing has been pre-empted until the afternoon, when a big mug of coffee, some eggs and a spoonful of hot sauce has been ingested, and I’m comfortably ensconced in my couch, with no exposure to fresh air or natural light.
Unless my friend is racing.
I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong (though I tend to be right nearly every single time without fail. So there.). When I saw that Mazda had asked Jalopnik readers for their thoughts on the next MX-5, I oscillated between sheer terror (at the prospect of reading a bunch of keyboard jockeys telling engineers how to do their jobs, i.e. every press launch) and total Schadenfreude.
The next MX-5 is more than likely “locked in” past the point of no return. Styling, engineering and powertrains are all but locked in, and not a damn thing can be done to change them, even though the next MX-5 will have to be tweaked a bit to become an Alfa Romeo. That’s a shame. Mazda might be wise to listen to some of the suggestions put up by Jalopnik’s readers.
Back when I was searching for my first car, I briefly found an Alfa Romeo Spider that looked like it would be in passable condition. Before I could even call the number from the classified ad, my father chimed in with his usual wisdom. “Oh, you don’t want to start with those. They were crap! Just get a Miata and finish!”.
It’s just a car. That’s what I keep telling myself. It’s my first car. A 1997 Mazda Miata. British Racing Green with tan leather. A rip in one of the seats. Torsen LSD, Bilstein coilovers, a roll bar. Needs a new 02 sensor. Otherwise in great condition. In the last year, it’s needed a new alternator, new brakes. Body is good, paint is only so-so. Someone made me an offer I’d be stupid to refuse. I am usually responsible with my finances. No debt to my name. Rarely carry a balance on my credit card. Roughly a quarter of each paycheque goes into a dedicated savings account. I’d be an idiot not to sell it. My self-control is failing me.
A couple months back, I visited Southern California as part of a triangular journey from Denver to the Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 24 Hours of LeMons. Mazda’s PR flacks handed me the keys to an RX-8 at LAX (review coming soon, really) and I pointed the car’s nose south, heading beyond the Orange Curtain. Since the Impala Hell Project began while I was an art student at the University of California, Irvine and I was devoted to lowering Irvine’s property values while I was there, I figured I’d pay a visit to Mazda USA HQ in Irvine and see about lowering their property values. (Read More…)
For most of the ’11 Goin’ For Broken race, the battle for the overall win seemed to be all about the Spin-N-Out Burger E30 and the Model T GT… but a lot can happen over the course of 24 nonstop hours of road racing. We had snow, gusty winds, dust storms, wild horses, and— eventually— a whirlwind of mechanical problems and black flags that knocked out the top two contenders. You don’t dare make any mistakes when you’ve got the winningest car in LeMons history looming in your rear-view, and Eyesore Racing’s ghettocharged Miata made its move at oh-dark-thirty this morning. (Read More…)
The North Dallas Hooptie 24 Hours of LeMons is over, tornadoes, lightning, and all, and a most improbable team has taken the win on laps. (Read More…)
You get some crazy weather when your traveling race series holds events in April; last weekend, we had to throw the checkered flag early on Saturday’s race session because blowing Michigan snow knocked visibility down to zero. Today, we had to end the session an hour early because a wild lightning storm swooped in and threatened to zap the corner workers. Minutes later, the tornado alert sirens started blowing. The members of the Miagra Miata team, no doubt donning their helmets and cowering in the nearest bunker, could console themselves with the knowledge that their team will start tomorrow’s race session as the race leader. Well, that’s if a funnel cloud doesn’t deposit their Mazda in the next county. (Read More…)