Buying a rusty NA to restore

Hi there,
I will shortly be in the market for an NA MX5. I’ll be after a UK spec 1.8 manual (of course), that hasn’t been modified. I’ll be doing some tasteful mods - maybe even turbo at some point - and want the fun of taking the car from stock and the option of reverting it back (to stock). I’ll handle the mechanicals and self-servicing, but not welding/painting. 
This will be a weekend project car, kept in a garage and (potentially) occasionally tracked. I’ve done a lot of research, reading forums, YouTube videos and Keith Tanner’s books. But I have a question around the pros and cons of buying a very good condition example vs something rusty to restore. 
Rationally, I’m thinking that there are enough NAs still about to get a mint example for not a lot of money. However, irrationally, I really want one in the rarer Laguna metallic blue colour and these seem few and far between given they only had a 2 year production run. 
Looking at the market over the past few weeks... 
...the heart option would be to get a car in the colour I want in poor condition and restore it. I don’t think this optimistically advertised example is worth anywhere near £2k (perhaps £1k max?!), given it has visible holes in the front sills and what looks like a bodged previous repair with mismatched paint, presumably to fix the MOT fail - ‘near and offside suspension component mounting prescribed area excessively corroded significantly reducing structural strength outer sill’It has 95k on the clock:

From the prices on, it would cost around £1,560 for new rear sill and arch panel repairs to both sides. Not sure how much it would add to fix the front holes with new front wings/full sills on top of this, but I guess this could be another £1k. 
So, if I’ve spent £1k on a basket case, £2.5k on rust repairs/prevention, I’m up to a not horrendous £3.5k before factoring in any mechanical parts needed to bring a potentially poorly maintained car up to scratch. But I’ll have a more unique NA in my preferred colour, properly welded and waxoiled so that it should hopefully not need body work for many years to come, given the car will almost always be garaged when it’s not in use. 
...the head option is to spend a similar all-in amount (around £3-4K) for a very good condition car that’s not in the colour I want (probably red), but has full (or lots of) service history, hasn’t got any rust/has been garaged and has less miles. 
I don’t particularly want to colour change a car with a respray (or wrap) as the metal under the bonnet etc won’t match, without an unnecessarily extensive (and expensive) engine-out job. I could minimise how noticeable this is by respraying a white or black car, but it’s still a bit of a bodge which, I think, would make the car harder to sell if I needed to shift it in the future. 
What are people’s experiences on the heart option of buying a rusty car to restore? Any additional negatives or costs that I’m not taking in to account? My assumption is that, worst case scenario, serious NA rust only plagues the sills and arches and is (always?) repairable for a cost in the low £thousands, adding up to an all-in cost comparable to buying a VGC MX-5. 

‘I’ll be after a UK spec 1.8 manual (of course)’

In your position I would be after an early MK1/Eunos 1.6 115bhp, so there  is no of course about it:-)

You are not a welder/fabricator/painter so the cost of good repairs will be high as you are aware and are prepared to cost in but…

Why spend £1000 or less on a car that needs expensive restoration when an extra £1000 - 2000 will furnish you with a far better car that does not need work. 

Some money would be wisely spent protecting that extra investment - waxoyling, dynitroling, whatever but not the soul destroying job of new panel/weld repairs.

Most people that end up spending big money on repairs do not buy into it. They have owned/enjoyed the car for years are are prepared to spend the money to keep that healthy relationship going. Buying into this at the start is quite frankly a mugs game, particularly when retail prices paid for repairs.  

My take on your position, at the end of the day your choice.    

As has been said above.why buy a rotter and spend loads marking a patched up rotter. And then spend more modding it.

Id personally get the best eunos you can afford .

That’s exactly what ive  just done

Buy on condition when you are buying a car over twenty years old and stop saying “I want this specific colour”.

I reckon you could spend more than the cost of a three year lease of a new MX5 to get something that may be Ok or may well still need work after all those repairs if it has to be a 5,000 mile a year car. I reckon you will get rid of it after a few years at a loss.

Thanks for the replies so far. 
The ‘of course’ bit was supposed to refer to the car being manual vs automatic. Sorry, I didn’t write that particularly clearly :). 
I would rather buy a VGC car and not have to immediately pay for lots of bodywork. I just haven’t seen any VGC examples come up in the colour I want. Maybe I haven’t been looking long enough. 
I know colour is a weird thing to get fixated by, but this is a car I’ll be buying for pure enjoyment; I plan to keep it for quite a while and put a chunk of time/money into it. Subjectively, I know I will get more pleasure out of it in Laguna blue. Eventually, I’d probably replace the roof and re-upholster the interior in tan too. 
Whilst I don’t want to have a car that’s hard to shift for a reasonable price, I’d expect to lose £££ if I needed to sell it further down the line. But I’m viewing this as a toy not an investment, and the toy I’m after is definitely a UK spec NA ;). 

as someone that welds, & owns 2 NA Eunos Roadsters, I’d suggest you forget a UK spec car AND especially a rusty UK sec car as you’ll find the rust an expensive problem

as the previous relies above say, it’s your money but it’s also your stress


weld-repair costs, paint on top costs more…



the Japaneese spec Eunos car’s are usually more rust-free if not completely rust-free as they spend the first however many years (before export) in a country without salted winter roads so a better starting-point?

my ‘J’ reg Eunos has never been welded, doesn’t need any either (at least for the next few years, the inevitable will occur eventually)

my recently bought ‘G’ reg eunos has some rust, the rear arches / sills & majority of the body is clean & clear but theres a few repairs needed on the front drivers wheelarch area (an odd place?) and the rear panel behind the numberplate is holed - again another ‘odd’ place?

engine’s can be swapped easily, the '5 is Mazda’s ‘meccano’ car so theres plenty of interchangability from 1989-2005 



Thanks again for the response.

In addition to my OCD just preferring a UK spec car for UK roads, one of the reasons for wanting a UK spec car is insurance. A justification of this toy is using it to keep my no claims bonus. I take the train in to London for work, so don’t need a car day-to-day. I currently share a big Landy with my wife which is on her insurance policy (due to her work requirements) and I’m now close to my maximum length NCB lapsing if I don’t take out my own policy.

I’m not worried about the small additional cost of insuring an import. Just that some insurers take a dimmer view on imports and may require specialist cover that, like historic insurance, may not be recognised towards my NCB. I’m already coming up to the 3 year mark, so will be insuring with Adrian Flux as other insurers lapse NCB after 2 years.

I’m also of the (admittedly relatively uninformed) opinion that most Eunos cars were imported so long ago now that our salty roads will have caught up with many of them. That’s in contrast to something like this one owner, 50k miles UK spec example that has always been garaged. I haven’t seen this in the flesh, but would imagine it should be comparable to, if not have faired better than, a Eunos that’s spent 10+ years and decent miles on British roads:

I totally get that I can find plenty of well looked after VGC NA MX-5s for the cost of restoring a £1k basket case. But are you saying that spending £2.5k for rust repairs, prevention and respraying won’t sort a £1k garaged weekend car out for the foreseeable future?

No, there is a sound point.

  1. Mk1s can be basket cases (never pass a MOT),

  2. Honest, straight cars (seen a few repairs, but nothing too fancy

  3. Bodged (repairs done to hide extent of damage, done cheaply (filler over rust), through the trade

  4. Someone else’s project; but you never saw what they were like before, you had no control on who did the work. Seller thinks the car is great, might even call it rust free.

  5. Garage Queens/ potential concours. Just annay up

  6. Avoid basket cases. I would say basket cases are cars with sill, arch rust, front and back.

  7. Given the car is expected to be a restoration project, why restrict to a UK spec car? What is it about a 25 year old UK spec car that appeals? All Euno Roadsters in Laguna Blue were S-Specials, with Torsen LSD, upgraded suspension, BBS wheels and some interior additions. UK cars had cloth seats that wore very badly, but the cloth seats in Laguna Blue mports are much better. No UK automatic Mk1s. All S-Specs were manual.

  8. Buying someone else’s restoration project. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is value. Some owners might be very proud of the “expensive” repairs they have paid out for, others might see layer upon layer of filler, all nicely smoothed in and filled. And that makes negotiation hard, because you are trying to persuade someone that their pride and joy is in fact a bodged rot box. Hence elsewhere, cars with a decent history of mechanaical upkeep,mmaybe with a nice new roof, but suddenly has the £50 obvious plated sill repair, might in fact be good buys. These are honest cars; otherwise good except for the poor sill. But budgeting a good repair on these cars is very doable. As you indicate, around £1500 will cover sills, arches, any internal repairs and paint, to a decent standard.

Here is the basic free MOT history check for that car




I had a look at the MOT history checker and saw the oil leak (which I thought should be a fairly easy fix, depending on location). I somehow missed the 2016 corrosion point though !:


Nearside Rear Outer Seat belt anchorage prescribed area is excessively corroded sill (5.2.6)’


If a clean-looking, always garaged £4k NA still has had rust issues, that actually makes me think it’s better to start with a cheaper car and pay a decent outfit like The MX5 Restorers a couple of grand to properly fix the rot. 

At least you’re cutting away the body work to expose any internal rot and getting it sorted once and for all with new panels and wax oil. As opposed to paying more for a car that looks great, but could be hiding inner sill rot and potentially still need an expensive repair in the not too distant future.  


In other words, better the devil you know! But it sounds like this isn’t a popular or recommended approach .




By your definition, would you classify the optimistically advertised Laguna Blue eBay car I linked to in my original post as a basket case Saz? I think it looks more like a £1k than a £2k car.


If it wasn’t going to be an insurance issue, then my UK spec OCD could be overcome for a Eunos if it was a lovely Laguna Blue example .






whats the issue insuring an import? maybe 20 years ago this was an excuse used by companies but I’ve not had a problem insuring one, I usw Brentacre as brokers with a modified policy, agreed value & ncd

(& after my father & a few friends had isseus I actively  AVOID the one you named - google search for the problems & issus people have had!)

an mx5 is an mx5, branded diferently but made in the same factory (remember mg/austin/morris etc. )


Imports are virtually no different if at all to insure. 

Ive got a crown 1jz at the moment and its hardly any dearer tgan my 530d bmw. 

If any of the crowns panels need replacing itll be a write off i imagine.


Its a 1.8i, so has that lousy slow manual steering rack for a start. The manual rack was cobbled together in 6 weeks. It has a slower ratio than the power rack, and even the father ofthe MX5, Bob Hall, compared it unfavourably with the Nissan Micra steering rack.


Looks like its being sold in a scrapyard. MOT is grim, busted springs (they break because of rust, offside front and rear springs replaced twice over on that car. Odd), floorboard corrosion, needs welding on welding. 2008; needed welding.  2013 needed welding.  2016, both sides needed welding again. 2018, more rust on both sides. Mouldy interior, probably why its needed welding all the time.

This obviously didn’t extend to the welding.

[quote] All rust welded.
Would Benifit From.
2x New front wings (Bottoms have rusted. The sill/structure of the car is still intact). [/quote]
So a rusty MX5

Yeah, sounds like a winner…

I would say parts car.


Most  1.8 imports came in 2000-2004. Yeah, sill wise they might have caught up on UK car. The first car I recollect in the club to need welding was a 1990 UK car, in 2000.  Most of the 1.8 imports are now comparable to what a 1990 car was like in 2005. Bit of rust on the sills, but underside all good. Rusty UK cars can be horrific down there.


Poorly presented, scruffy Laguna blue import

I’ve been to look at a fair few cars over the years, and I’ve personally never seen a UK Mk1 that either didn’t need welding or had been welded already, in the usual rear sill/lower rear wheel arch area.

There’s a green uk one for sale near me on ebay with very low miles for sale at the moment. 



Means nowt mate. I went to view a UK car with 20k on the clock. It looked amazing under the bonnet, in the boot etc. But it had still been botched up in the usual rear sill/arch area.

Many thanks saz. that sounds like a thorough assesment of that eBay Laguna Blue car and its hilarious optimistic seller! One to miss, then . From what you’re saying, maybe a Eunos that has been garaged/looked after may be a good option. 

The Eunos insurance thing is that I’ve never taken out a policy without having to declare the car isn’t an import. As if, if it was, the policy would be voided. Given I’m looking to get a lapsed NCB rolled over (which I believe only Adrian Flux will do) and the age of an NA probably warrants a historic policy, I just didn’t want to add in the extra complication of an import.


I’ve been to look at a fair few cars over the years, and I’ve personally never seen a UK Mk1 that either didn’t need welding or had been welded already, in the usual rear sill/lower rear wheel arch area.



To this point, if a Laguna Blue NA came up that was in fair condition, but in need of sill/wheel arch panels, I think I’d rather get it cheap and pay for the repair to be done properly vs pay more for a car that’s had a repair job of unknown quality. 


But, what I’ve learned from this thread is that I can’t just pick up a rot box because I like the OEM colour and expect to get away with replacement panels only. This isn’t the only corrosion weak spot and, if a car has been neglected, the floorboards etc could rotten too. So, I’ll need to wait for a Laguna Blue NA to come up that’s at least halfway presentable. 

Interesting to see that Gumtree ad for the Eunos car Saz. The Blue looks a bit dark vs other Laguna blue cars (not for sale) that I’ve seen pictures of, but I guess that could be the light. It’s certainly scruffy! But, on face value, the bodywork could well be a lot better than the eBay car! Although, it looks like there’s lichen on the rocker cover and intake .

…then again on the Gumtree Eunos, MOT advisories for seatbelt anchor and chassis corrosion!