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Mazda MX5

MOD & MEND Published: 11th Jan 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mazda MX5
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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

Mazda’s MX-5 is the ‘new MGB’ and it’s plain to see why. A modern yet uncomplicated sportster of the old school kind, it’s almost MG-easy to own thanks to a raft of specialists such as David Manners, MX-5 Heaven, MX-5 Parts, Dandy Cars, MX-5 City, Mazmania, Everything MX-5, Sulston Hills and MX-5 Motors to name a few. While the feature mainly concentrates on the classic Mk1, much of it equally applies to the Mk2 which is fast gaining ground on the original in terms of popularity as good Mk1s become scarce, not helped by grey imports from Japan have almost dried up!



There’s real potential with an MX-5 and 200bhp is possible for road use from the 1.8 either by usual head and camshaft upgrades or the popular fi tment of super or turbocharging – pricey at £2500. MX-5 Heaven (01305 268149) has developed a range of cylinder head and camshaft upgrades for both engines but a £90 K&N induction kit is the best starter on all engines and sounds the business.


The alloy head needs the coolant to be kept in tip-top condition or it will fur up. Cambelts should be changed every fi ve years or 60,000 miles for peace of mind. However it isn’t the end of the world if the belt breaks, as the valves and pistons won’t collide on this unit so it’s unlikely damage will be done. There’s not a lot of scope for over boring other than the usual re-bore allowances.



If you’re thinking of buying an MX-5 for modifying then go for the already zesty 130bhp 1.8 over the 1.6 (improved in Mk2 guise anyway) and definitely not the detuned Mk1 1.6 as this entry level version yielded only 88bhp. If a new unit is needed, bear in mind that it came from the 323 range. Mad cap alien engine installations include V8s in the United Stats; pre 92 MX-5s can legally run without power absorbing catalytic converters.


This Ford Lotus twin cam look-alike (sexy shiny chrome cam covers are available, too!) is very reliable although head gaskets and water pump failures are not unknown, especially if the antifreeze isn’t changed. Oil weeps aren’t uncommon as the miles mount up but are an easy enough fi x. The cam box seal is usually the worse culprit but a dead easy repair, less so the O ring for the cam sensor which is known to be an annoying weeper.



Don’t lower the car! It spoils the ride and offers little handling benefits say experts although probably is needed if you intend to race one or seriously track day. A set of polyurethane bushes is the way forward making the chassis feel taut yet without spoiling the ride quality. However because of the number employed, a front set costs a hefty £90 while the rears are double this. So if you’re working to a tight budget it may be worth waiting until the existing 22 bushes are on their way out!


The standard dampers won’t last long and a car may begin to feel baggy after 60,000 hard miles. Instead of using stock parts, which are okay but you can certainly do better and for less money, go for some uprated adjustable types such as KYB which, we’re informed work especially well on this chassis. Apart from broken road springs – front usually due to the engine’s weight, there’s no real problems with the Mazda’s suspension so only typical maintenance rules apply.



If you fancy an extra-sporty edge then there’s the option of a short-throw gearchange kit. These are available at around £100 from MX-5 parts – and fitted within minutes. A significant power increase may need a better clutch to handle the power. MX-5 Parts offers normal replacements but by far the most effective option is the ACT Advanced Clutch Systems stage one upgrade kit, which does the job for sure. It does cost £250 mind.


If the change feels sticky then it may just need a little lubrication or a spray all over the linkages with WD-40. If you can feel any excess heat filtering into the cabin from around the gear lever area then the rubber seal beneath the gear sleeve may have given up on the task. Again, it’s nothing to worry about and is cheap to replace as and when. Gearbox oil should be ideally be changed before 50,000 miles incidentally.



EBC’s Green Stuff pads is the first upgrade. And cheap at under £40 from MX-5 Parts. Most will find this more than adequate for road use, but if you’re hitting the race tracks there’s the option of braided hoses and drilled and/or grooved discs. A pair from EBC costs around £105, while Goodridge stainless steel braided brake hoses ensure a firmer, confidence inspiring pedal for around £80 depending where you shop.


The rear brakes can be a bind – quite literally – as the callipers are highly prone to seizure, taking the disc with it too and the only real fix are new ones at £125 a go. It’s worth doing if you intend keeping the car it has to be said. However a broken spline on the adjuster isn’t unknown causing the same problem and can be made to work after some fiddling as well as saving you a tidy sum. Don’t yank the handbrake on in future!



There’s all manner of spoilers, vents and bumpers on sale but the most useful is a hard-top, even though a genuine Mazda item costs a cool grand. One idea that was once batted around was a hard boot cover, which fitted over the top of the roof when folded down behind the seats to give a smoother look. US specialists offer aftermarket versions. Chrome has always been popular; roll bars and boot racks the most useful fitments.


UK built MX-5s suffer from rust at the sills. Inspect the rear corner towards the rear wheelarch as this is the most common rot spot. A lot could mean a big repair bill., not least the ‘repair kit’ costing £106.50) per side. Other rot areas to watch rear arches, wings etc. A lot of the rust is caused by not keeping hood drainage channels clear; Waxoyl or similar is a wise annual job.



You can either go bling or the traditional wood and leather look as Mazda did with special editions. Either buy new or used from a scrapped car. Careful owners unzip the screen so that it lays flat and so doesn’t become damaged. Hoods are pretty expensive so shop around: Mazmania offers good value alternatives with very handy optional heated rear screens.


The side of the cloth seats wear. In particular, the driver’s seat tends to fray most due to getting in and out. At least leather seats can be repaired and re-dyed – with cloth you’re looking at local repairs. Wonky door mirrors are usually caused by the retaining bolt rotting; aftermarket specialists can offer a better alternative to OE replacements, too.



Don’t go over mad with custom gear as originality will count for much as good unmolested MX-5s become thinner on the ground over time – especially special editions where many featured unique trim, wheels and so on. The MX-5 has an odd-sized ‘gel’ battery and it’s not unusual to see the wrong type fitted due to cost cutting. Either the battery doesn’t fit right or a smaller less effective one is fitted.


Do the pop-up headlamps work like they should – does it mean poor accident repair? The same goes for electric windows as they feature a fairly weak cable operated set up and it’s not uncommon for them to fray and get chewed up by the motor. Motors can also burn out regularly. A new winder mechanism, sans motor, is around £70 so look at breaker bits.



Under no circumstances should you mess with the wheel size and go over large with big boots. The original 14” seven-spoke Minilite-style alloys remain perfect for the MX-5’s chassis and even Mazda got it wrong when it fitted larger 7x15” wheels to special editions later on. If compelled to change the style of your wheels, just stick to the same size…


The original Minilite-style alloy wheels were the best, but have a habit of collecting brake dust and rust. Any good quality tyre is fine but what is worth investing in is an alignment check; an MX-5’s drive will benefit tenfold from correct geometry – so just make sure that the ones you have are correctly aligned, rather than investing in expensive big boots.


Engine oil 10 W / 4 0 S e m i - s y n t h e t i c (3.8 litres inc fi lter)

Gearbox Fully synthetic gear oil 75W 90 is advised (2 litres)

Cooling system 6 litres

Spark Plugs Denso or NGK BKR 5E-11 Iridium type now recommended C.b. point gap N/A Electronic ignition

Timing 10 degrees officially but runs better if set at 14 degrees


Superficially the only bit of the Eunos that looks different is the rear panel with its square number plate. Some say their windscreen is thinner but the screens seem to be interchangeable. The same underseal was slapped on both Japanese and UK cars, as they all came off the same production line! The average Eunos is far better equipped than ours and many Mk1s 1.6 came with a LSD plus power steering was a common fitment. Less popular was automatic transmission.


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