Hello everyone, I’ve been running a thread for a few weeks on PistonHeads, but I thought I’d start one on here to update you all, as it would be nice to be part of this community. As I’ve already owned this a couple of weeks and have made some progress already, I’ve put all of the updates in the past two weeks into one post to start this thread.
Grab a cupper, this is a huge first post.
I’ve owned a 2003 Boxster S for around 5 years, and loved owning it. I’ve sold it for a 2006 MX-5 NC 2.0 Sport. The reason was simple: we’re buying a house next year. I didn’t want something that was expensive to run whilst saving for a deposit. The difference with keeping or selling was a two bed house or a three bed with a garage. We both benefit from that, so it had to go.
And truth be told, I miss having a small Japanese car. The car I owned before the Boxster S was a Toyota Celica T-Sport, and I regret selling it. Reliable, cheap, fun on the road. I’ve also wanted a car that I can get onto the track with, and start to build a fast road/track car. So I went shopping for a two-seater Japanese sports car, rear wheel drive for around £3,000.
It had to be the MX-5. I’ve never been a fan of the NA and NB cars (expecting a slap), and always had a soft spot for the NC. Plus with the rust issues of the NA and NB cars, for the money I was going to spend it was a no brainer. I had driven an NC about four years ago, a year after I bought the Boxster S and instantly thought I’d made a mistake in buying it after I drove an MX-5. I still remember what it drove like and wanted one since.
The criteria for my search was:
- Not silver (just a preference)
- NC 2.0 Sport
- No retractable hard top (harder to fit a roll bar for the track)
- As little rust as possible
- Around £3,000
Cars of this price had around 90,000 miles. I didn’t mind mileage, but soon realised that mileage on the 5’s had quite a correspondence with rust. I saw one the day before yesterday that had around 100,000 miles, and I managed to put my hand through the sill. Not good. That made me nervous with finding one for around £3,000.
But just over two weeks ago, I bought one!
It’s a 2006 MX-5 NC 2.0 Sport in Black. It’s got good and bad points, but the good outweigh the bad monumentally.
I’ll start with the good:
No rust. It’s got some very light subframe surface corrosion, not even enough to be an advisory on an MOT. But that’s it. There’s no mention of rust on the MOT’s, and the only thing its failed on are tyres and brake pads. The sills are absolutely solid for two reasons. The first is that the owner regularly ensured the water runs were clean with a trombone cleaner. The second is the next good point:
It’s only on 43,000 miles! I was surprised at the mileage, but the MOT history checks out.
New shock absorbers all round. This isn’t just good because it has fresh suspension, it’s good because it’s not the Bilstein shocks that come with the Sport model. It’s got Sachs shocks. That’s good as I want to eventually get rid of the 4x4 look with some lowering springs (to start, coilovers later), but lowering the Bilstein shocks on the Sport model has proven troublesome from my research with a numb feeling ride. The fact it’s a Sport with Sachs shocks means I get the benefit of a Sport (6-speed gearbox, heated leather seats, Bose, etc) but with suspension I can lower cost effectively.
It’s been looked after mechanically. A lot of service history with some nice products used, from Micheline tyres to Bosche wipers. That’s a small thing I know, but it says a lot about an owner who doesn’t hold back on looking after a car mechanically.
Bose system, but with a Pioneer head unit. I thought this was a positive, but turned out to be a negative… read on to fine out.
It was £3,500. Originally £4,200, then £3,800, but the seller and I agreed a price. A lovely guy who still wanted something fun, but a little higher to get in and out of.
And now for the bad.
Paint work is horrible condition, but nothing a machine polish couldn’t do. It’s unloved, but well used. It also has scratches from a previous boot rack. Luckily there’s no deep scratches anywhere, but the paintwork has clearly been neglected. There’s swirl marks, scuff marks, matted paint, etc. It needs a 2-stage correction. The headlights and exhaust are also in need of wet sanding. Here’s a walk around of the car showing how bad the paint is: https://youtu.be/iU82VXktGzY
Rear discs aren’t in great condition.
Whilst the head unit is good, one of the previous owners hasn’t wired it in correctly. The rear speakers between the seats are almost silent, and there’s a constant hiss.
It has a subwoofer, which is pointless, and doesn’t work.
The suspension is very, very high at the front.
Chrome indicator bulbs at the front. They look great when off, but barely light up, so these need to go
I’m sure you’ll agree though, the bad points are very little considering this is an example that has no rust, new suspension, 43,000 miles and for the price I paid, it’s an absolute bargain.
First thing first, I had to fix the high suspension at the front:
I saw this when viewing the car. I also saw that in September last year the car was treated to four brand new Sachs shocks. Putting 2 and 2 together here, I’d imagine the suspension wasn’t pre-loaded whilst tightening the bolts. I was a little worried about it sitting at this height for almost a year, putting stress on the wishbone bushes, but it all turned out fine.
I jacked the car up, removed the wheels, and loosened both wishbone bolts and the bottom shock bolt. Then jacked the ball joint up until the car lifted off the axle stands and was under normal load. At this point, I tightened the bolts, replaced the wheels and lowered the car.
A few snaps of the car the day after I bought it, after lowering the suspension. I haven’t done anything here, no wash, nothing.
The yellow wire there leads to a ridiculous subwoofer
With an equally daft remote
That has to go.
But the previous owner gave me a box full of stuff
Onwards with things that need doing.
First up, four wheel alignment.
The technician said “Is that genuine mileage? That’s outstanding”, which gave me a smile. We looked underneath and, aside from some slight surface corrosion on the rear subframe, there’s no rust. The sills are solid, and that’s made me incredibly happy.
All done. I’m aware that there’s better set-up’s than this, but it’s fine for now.
This was a little annoying as I couldn’t remember which was lock or unlock.
A new keyfob and keyring later and we’re laughing.
And then a problem hit. As I was driving, the car started to shudder and slow. Initially it was so violent that I thought it was a blow-out, but stepping outside showed that my tyres were fine. The front N/S wheel, however, was scalding hot. A binding caliper it was.
After nursing it home, I ordered a caliper rebuild kit.
Should be everything I need. Time to inspect the caliper
It doesn’t look that bad after the initial edge
These certainly look terrible, and badly fitted.
Cleaned and re-shaped the clips to ensure they were free of corrosion
Onwards with the caliper build
Doesn’t look great inside…
After using PlusGas, sand paper, and a wire brush as well as a flat head screwdriver in the runs to ensure a good seal with the new rubber seals.
All finished. The car drives lovely, and all of the brakes are even temperatures all round.
Before I go and detail the paintwork, the first thing that I need to do is the roof. This is due to the product potentially staining the paintwork, so I may as well do it first as I’ll be correcting the paint anyway.
Roof had a lot of mould:
But a lot of scrubbing later with an iron brush and some AutoGlym renovator, the results were fantastic.
Slowly getting there.
The radio, even though it’s an Apple CarPlay radio, was bugging me. There’s a constant hiss (amp issues conflicting with the Bose amp) and it screamed ‘aftermarket’. If I could implement an AUX port into the original Bose unit, that would be fine for me. So I went about replacing the system with the original Bose unit.
This was behind it…
Oh my word.
It all had to come out.
Out comes the yellow sub power lead
The reverse camera has to go too. Not great quality, not in use with the Bose head unit, and more leads that I don’t want.
I plugged the hole with a spare rubber caliper slider boot I had from a Ford Focus. Weirdly it went in perfectly.
This took me forever, but the amount of leads that came out…
All of that was for the head unit. Absolutely ridiculous, and a horrible install at that.
Far better. Sounds much nicer, and looks far neater.
I had a lead that was 3.5mm to the Bose media socket, which allowed me to enable the original AUX Media function on the stereo.
Installed in a nice neat location, along with USB power.
After all of this was done, I finally gave the car its first wash to assess the paintwork.
I spent an hour or two on the engine bay with a fine brush, engine de-greaser and dressing.
The brakes needed a good coating of hammerite
Much easier on the eyes. Next up, the wheels:
They need a refurb, but I’m not going to spend hundreds on a refurb. Instead I’ll go at them myself as I’ve done a few in the past. They’ll look far better than this and will cost nothing as I already have the sprays and equipment.
Ye ol’ playing card trick.
But the finished results were great!
Which leads us up to now.
The interior is going to be tackled today as I still haven’t cleaned it in the two weeks of ownership. I’ll be doing a thorough detail to bring it as close to factory condition as I can.
After that, the only thing that’s left is the paintwork. For this I’ll be two-stage correcting the whole thing, and that’s after I remove the bumper to wet sand and polish the headlights. Once the headlights and paintwork are done, this car will be in outstanding condition, and the only thing that’s left (for the time being) is to drive it.
For now though, what a car. How does it compare to the Boxster S? Well, the S was exceptionally capable. The flat-6 was responsive and pulled like a train, and there was no knocking how the car handled. But for me, I felt a bit disconnected. It could well have been my confidence with the car. I never felt like I was controlling the car, but rather making inputs whilst the car was driving me. It felt quite heavy and I never pushed the car to its limit. This was a problem in itself though, as it did 72mph in second gear.
The main thing with the two cars is that, I can use more of what the MX-5 is built for, than what the Boxster was built for. You have to be doing something illegal to have a thrill in the Boxster, but the 5 is fun in every sense of the word. Driving the two back to back, I actually prefer the Mazda, and if I had realised this car was up for sale whilst I still had the Boxster (and had driven it), I would have sold the Porsche for it. It’s that good. If you haven’t driven one yet, go and do it.
I’ve been on the track a few times, several in a Formula Ford single seater in Silverstone. This is what the MX-5 reminds me of. Beautiful low driving position, gearstick shaking under your hand with the transmission vibrations traveling through it, lots of feedback through the wheel, and a perfect weight balance making you feel like you’re sitting dead center in the pivot point of the car. I felt I could put the car exactly where I wanted it to be, something which I felt I couldn’t do with the Boxster.
So it’s cheap, reliable and is a dream to drive, even compared to the likes of cars far more capable than this. I’ve driven a lot of cars, and this is up there with one of the sweetest handling cars, if not the best. The future plans are to tighten up the suspension with lowered springs to start and coilover suspension in the future, uprated brakes, air filter, light weight wheels, and one or two little bits and bobs, whilst keeping it comfortable on the road and sticking to Mazda’s ethos. Think 911 GT3 compared to a standard 911. I’ll be keeping it comfortable for the road, but capable for the track.
I’ve already got a to-do list for this car, but at the moment it’s mainly to get it back to standard condition. I’m going to enjoy it standard for what it is for a while, and see why everyone else in the world loves the MX-5.
I’m already starting to see why.
P.S. if you’ve read this entire thing, here’s to you!