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Mazda MX5 Mk1

It’s déjá vu all over again Published: 25th Sep 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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By rights I should have walked away from the ‘for sale’ MX-5 I was stood beside on the dealer’s forecourt.

By rights I should have walked away from the ‘for sale’ MX-5 I was stood beside on the dealer’s forecourt. It had rusty sills, tatty driver’s seat, an engine that was leaking oil on a grand scale and an awful screech from the transmission when drive was taken up in any gear. On the other hand it was a late model Mk1, in my favourite colour of red and it had a hardtop. I felt, for all its faults, it had the potential to be a really great little car. So, somewhat to the salesman’s surprise, a deal was done and a couple of days later, when it had a new MoT and repaired sills, I took delivery of ‘Jo’

Winter had set in and it was several weeks before I could summon up the enthusiasm to enter the ice box that was my garage and begin work on the car. The time hadn’t been wasted. I had engaged in lots of internet research and correspondence with the always helpful MX5 owners club technical guru to try to pin down the possible sources of the transmission noise. All the obvious answers came back – clutch, release bearing and gearbox.

With the enthusiastic assistance of son-in-law Simon, out came the gearbox and, to our surprise, we were greeted by the sight of a new clutch and release bearing sitting securely just where they should have been.

Suspecting then the gearbox, I sourced a second hand replacement via the internet and laid it aside while some other issues were tackled.


The awful plastic steering wheel, more at home in a van than in a sports car, had to go. What were the Mazda stylists thinking? A rare bloomer on their part. I had a slightly scruffy Momo wheel from a Mk1 and after an application of good old-fashioned boot polish and elbow grease, it looked terrific and was fitted to Jo.

A trip to the Beaulieu Autojumble is always a pleasure. And that spring I hoped my visit would turn up something to occupy the space taken up by a blanking plate on the dashboard centre console where the electric mirror switch would have gone had that option been fitted. I fancied a clock, something never fitted as standard to Mk1 MX5s. But the modern units I unearthed didn’t come anywhere near floating my boat.

At Beaulieu, I spotted a used circa 1960/1970’s Jaeger ‘transistor’ clock on one stand for £16. I took a chance and after it received some tlc when I got it home, it worked, kept good time and looked a treat. Result.

A local car trimmer replaced the worn driver’s seat bolster for £60, which I thought was a very fair price and I replaced the twin electric horns with more modern – and louder – units. I think a strident horn note is an absolute must for a sports car.

Thankfully, the vinyl convertible top was in good, sound condition although it would benefit greatly from a good cleaning, inside and out. And the rainwater drainage channels would get attention at the same time – the likely source of the corroded sills.

The hood cleaning was made easier thanks to the excellent advice I received from acknowledged experts in this area.

After the thoroughly unpleasant task of cleaning up what looked like month’s worth (could have been years) of leaked oil from around the engine compartment and ancillary components I drew up a list of what needed replacing.

It wasn’t a short one. Both front camshaft oil seals, front crankshaft oil seal, rocker cover gasket, water pump, timing belt and tensioners, timing belt covers, coolant hoses and clamps plus the regular service items of plugs, filters, oil, and so on.

None of this came as a surprise on a car that had done 113,000 miles, and I also knew that properly looked after the engine had many, many more miles of service left in it.

It was now time to put the gearbox back in and see if the gremlins had been banished. The good news is the engine fired up instantly, ticked over evenly and kept its oil to itself.
And the bad news? I’ll tell you about that next time….

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