How Revolutionary was the Mazda Miata in 1989?

(This article is from Popular Mechanics.)

It’s hard to think about the original Mazda Miata without considering what it is today, nearly 30 years after its introduction. After all, it’s the default choice today for a cheap, light, simple sports car, perfect for just about everything from daily driving to club racing. But obviously, the NA was once a new car, and it’s valuable to day to consider what it went up against when new.
As this old MotorWeek video reminds us, when the Miata arrived in 1989, you could buy a new Alfa Romeo Spider or a Toyota MR-2; the Pontiac Fiero had only just gone out of production, and Nissan had the 240SX. So you weren’t lacking choice for rear-wheel drive sports cars in the day.
And yet, the Miata blew all of them away. “The Miata will make MR-2 and Fiero owners understand that it takes a lot more than two seats and a sunroof to make a true sports car,” Motorweek’s John Davis said.
A key to the NA ‘s success was that it was designed from the outset as a sports car. It didn’t borrow its chassis from any other car in the Mazda lineup, and while its 1.6-liter four-cylinder came from the 323 economy car, it got four-valve heads and dual-overhead cams for better, more responsive performance.
Mazda paid attention to the details on this car, and it showed. Davis summed up the car well in his rather prophetic ending to this review:
“By mixing the fun of yesterday’s roadsters with the technology of today, it marks a giant leap forward in the evolution of the sports car,” he said. “And it will go down in automotive history as the car that saved the roadster from near-extinction.”
Nearly 30 years after this review was aired, and with the Miata still in production and great as ever, we can’t say he was wrong.

Tech Column by Paul Reinmann

My top replacement, 3X and counting…
My rag top has now been replaced three times due to rips at the pull straps that help fold the top when putting it down. That means I now have the third new replacement top. I thought all was well when (Play the music from Jaws) I found this top now ripping again in the same place. I notified the shop and await their response.
One question to you is do you have a soft top and what is the condition of your pull straps? I have to wonder if these tend to rip part way and then stop. In this case no one would notice as the top would still fold nicely when going down regardless of the straps ripped partly. I am a stickler for expecting things to work as they should. I am not giving up on this! Your input will help me understand this.
To check the condition of your straps, open the top to about the balance point and look at each side. At the crease point there is the strap pulling the top to a fold. Look carefully to see the pull straps. See attached pictures to see how mine have ripped.

SKYACTIV-X New Engine Technology
Mazda is exploring a new technology in engine design. They call it SKYACTIV-X; a compression ignition engine they say is coming soon. When In MX5? No news on this yet.
Basically a compression ignition engine is how a diesel engine operates. No spark plugs, the energy of compression ignites the fuel. Instead of timing spark as in a gasoline engine, the combustion in a compression ignition engine is timed by the injection of the fuel.

See links for more detailed info. groupone#!mazda-skyactiv-x-engine

How to Wash Your Car like a Pro by Tom Pane

There is much more to washing and waxing when it comes to cleaning and protecting your vehicle’s paint.

If you care about your car’s exterior, you will avoid those quickie car washes with the big brushes that can do more harm than good and do a DIY car wash that will achieve the best results.

Most people think a wash and wax is the best way to keep their car shiny and clean. Their heart is in the right place, but there is much more to washing a car than those two things.

I regularly hand wash my 2012 Mazda MX-5 using a water-hose with a suitable high pressure setting except near the PRHT which requires a soft shower setting to rinse off dust and lose dirt. I then use one product to wash and wax using cleaning mitt. However, one can wash with soap and water and wax later.

1 Evaluate the Condition of Your Vehicle

Evaluating the condition or your vehicle will steer you towards how it should be cleaned. A new car or one that already has a good coat of wax on it may only need a wash and wax to maintain it, but a car with an average to neglected exterior may need to be cleaned and polished as well.

2 Read the Label

Before using any type of car cleaning chemical, it is important to read the label. The application for soap, wax, or detailer can vary from brand to brand and vehicle to vehicle. For example, using a chrome wheel cleaner which is extremely acidic on an aluminum wheel can ruin it. Also invest in premium microfiber clothes and keep separate pile for those used on your paint, wheels and windows. Wash your towels and cleaning mitts after every use.

3 Washing your Car 

Washing your car will remove loose contaminants such as dust, dirt and mud from the exterior of your vehicle. Always use a car washing soap and not a liquid detergent or dish cleaner which can damage the paint and strip away wax. Rinse your car first to remove larger pieces of dirt which can scratch your car when washing, and use clean mitts and drying cloths. I use a combination of chamois and plush microfiber cloths to dry my cars. Most important is to wash your wheels first! This will help prevent break dust and other wheel contaminants from getting on the painted surfaces.

4 Prepare the Surface 

After washing you can easily see scratches, swirls, and oxidation in your paint. Feel for bonded contaminants such as overspray or tree sap that washing doesn’t remove. Just run you hand over a washed vehicle, and if you can feel little bumps, then you need to a step further with cleaning your car.

A clay bar can be used to remove stubborn bonded contaminants. It will remove everything off the surface of your vehicle including wax and will restore smoothness to the paint. Start by kneading it into a flat wafer and use a detailer as a lubricant. Hold it in the palm of one hand and run it across the surface of your car. To remove scratches and etching that are below the surface you will need to use a compound that can be applied by hand using applicator pads or by using a dual-action polisher. Wipe away soon after applying. A compound paint cleaner needs to be worked into the finish and can sometimes require a 2nd, 3rd, or even a 4th application. Some scratches are too deep and only a paint touch-up will repair them.

5 Polishing for Extra Gloss

This step is optional and can be compared to applying lotion on your skin. Polish can be applied by hand or with a dual-action polisher. The conditioning oils add depth of color and maximum gloss prior to waxing, especially on dark colored vehicles.

6 Wax to Protect

Waxing is like sunscreen for your car. It adds a layer of protection from UV rays to prevent fading as well as anything that may land on the paint. It preserves your high gloss finish and is available in a carnauba or polymer form. Both types of wax perform the same, but a polymer wax won’t haze as it dries and can usually be wiped off soon after applying. The choice between using carnauba or polymer wax is similar to choosing synthetic or regular engine oil. Polymer is a bit more expensive but is easier to apply and may perform better.

7 Maintain a Shine and Protection

After you’ve done the hard work of washing, cleaning and protecting your car, you will need to take steps to maintain its appearance. Keep a spray detailer and clean microfiber cloth in your trunk, which can come in handy for quickly removing dust, overspray and bird droppings. I also use a special microfiber car duster to remove dust that may accumulate between washings.

If your car is relatively clean and all of these steps seem daunting and time consuming, one-step cleaner/wax may be the best choice for you. It is my first choice for sure.

8 Clean the Windows

Stay away from Windex and other household glass cleaners as they usually contain ammonia which can damage a car’s window tint. Use an auto window cleaner for best results and wipe down twice to ensure the cleaner is removed.

9 Clean the Wheels (first)

Wash first. If you need something stronger than car soap, then the most important wheel cleaning tip I have is to use a product that has been specifically formulated for your type of wheel. If you don’t know what type of wheels you have, than go with the least powerful version which is an acid-free pH balanced aluminum wheel cleaner as these can be used on all type of wheels, so I am told.

Happy motoring!

Note: Much of the above information came from articles posted in Popular Mechanics and Automotive Engineering as well as YouTube videos. However, the magazine articles have been significantly edited for the RTT newsletter and include the editor’s personal experience on this subject. All the materials, cleaners, etc. that I have discussed in this article can be found in Griot’s Garage Handbook (

A Tech Day Follow-up by Ken Schiess

Those CFMC members who participated in Tech Day at Stevenson Mazda may remember that Ken had complained that he was experiencing a vibration while driving his Miata. He learned that day that it was rooted in two of his aluminum wheels (see the March issue of Ragtop Tales). Below is his follow-up to that event.

Two of my wheels appeared to be oval when we ran them on the balance machine at Stevenson. That would have explained the vibration I was feeling between 45 and 55 mph.  So I had Stevenson get them straightened. It was cheaper with the club discount than if I took them to the wheel guy myself, probably due to the professional discount that Stevenson gets but cheaper is cheaper (Thank you Stevenson Mazda).  Anyway that pretty much solved the vibration issue but since I needed tires anyway I went ahead and replaced them with fresh balancing and four wheel alignment. Now there is no vibration at all.

On the subject of tires; I had Falken Z912’s on the car for the past 19,000 miles. They are a great high performance tire. They stick well but I don’t tend to drive that aggressively so the short comings of a harsh ride, noise and complete wear down to the wear bars in 19,000 miles seemed an excessive trade off. I have replaced them with General Altimax RT 43 Grand Touring tires. They are MUCH quieter, ride better, especially over tar strips and other uneven surfaces but are slightly slower to respond to steering inputs. But only slightly and they tend to stick tight enough for anything I do with the car.

I’ll give you an update on the tires in a year or two when I have 5,000 or 10,000 miles on them

Tech Column by Paul Reinmann


So, this top replacement was actually done by a shop in Wilmington. If anyone wants to know how to do it yourself there are lots of videos on the Miata Forum. Most admit it takes over 20 hours with no prior experience. Mine took two hours; one hour to drop the car off and one to pick it up…

I decided my 2008 Miata was ready for a top replacement when I had patched many spots on my original vinyl top and then when removing a leaf at the rear edge, put my thumb nail partially thru the fabric. This showed me how degraded the material was. While it still did not leak during rain I decided to replace it now before it did.

First I visited my trusty Miata Forum for tips, not just how to replace the top but for the right materials too.

I chose to use a cloth top instead of vinyl mainly to give it a try. It will require treatment with water repellent every 6 months or so using a

product called 303 Fabric Guard or equivalent. Some people I talked to said that a cloth top was better at opening and closing in cooler weather than vinyl. I read differing opinions. Some said Robbins was the best while others liked EZ Top better. Upholstery 1 Trim told me they use both and didn’t see a difference. I think mine is a Robbins top.

I don’t have indoor space and replacement takes a few days, so I decided to use a local shop. I contacted four shops with prices ranging from $1,300 – $1,800. All these shops are experienced in this work, so no first timers. I chose Upholstery 1 Trim located in Dutch Square in Wilmington. When I asked them how many Miata tops they have done they asked: “In this year?” They have done about 10 just this year and have been in business 30 years.

I dropped the car off on a Monday morning and they had it done the next day at 3pm. All looked good and they cautioned me to not open the top for 2-3 weeks because the cloth material needed to stretch out. I did wait two weeks. When opening the new top it was a bit tight, but not so bad closing. I assume it will loosen a bit more over time.

While the replacement was at the half way point I visited their shop to clean my rain drains and take some pictures. They allowed me in and also let me use their shop vac. My rain drain areas have a blue filter material installed by Stevenson Mazda. This was required when I experienced problems with a soggy trunk and interior floor areas which were caused by rain drains clogged with tree debris. Apparently the previous owner parked the car under trees. These drains were filthy dirty. I removed these filters and ran a coronet brush down the drain tubes as far as I could. The brush wasn’t long enough to poke out the bottom. I have heard a trombone brush is the

thing for this job. Anyway, we blew compressed air down the drains and also vacuumed all around the drain areas before reinstalling the filters.

They finished the installation and water tested the top area prior to calling me to pick her up. All done in little over a day and a half. So far it has been a month now with no problems. Please see the pictures showing drain location. The big area circled is the whole drain on the right side. The smaller circle is the top of the drain tube.

Side Sill Drainage

Side sills not draining?

Ever wash your car and notice that the water doesn’t drain from around the top as fast as it used to? There could be a good reason for that! The side sill drain holes are susceptible to dirt, leaves and other debris. One key indicator – after washing or a heavy rain, a sloshing noise that sounds like it is coming from the bottom of the door(s) can be heard due to trapped water. This, of course, could cause Mister Rust to visit one day! There are four sill drain holes per side – two in front of, and two behind the door. Periodically, I like to clean the openings with a pipe cleaner. If you have a pair of ramps, it makes it all that much easier. But beware – you will get dirty!

REF 1994 Mazda Technical Services Bulletin

Anti-Freeze Alternatives

If you haven’t changed your antifreeze in 2 years, it’s time. There are 2 ways to do have it done: yourself or a shop. It isn’t at all complicated and a shop can even suck out the old without climbing under the car. But if you do it yourself, you will need to dispose of the old properly, as it’s sweet smelling and very toxic if ingested by kids or animals. If you want to try it, see Ivan at the next event and he’ll show you how easy it is!

New to the American market is the so-called 5 year/150,000 mile extended-life antifreeze. GET THIS! Not because you ever need to leave your antifreeze unchanged for that long, but because it’s a different and far superior chemical composition. The old green-colored antifreeze contains phosphates and silicates. These can eat up the insides of your engine and radiator. The new amber-colored antifreeze doesn’t have these and has been used by European car manufacturers like Mercedes for a long time. The additional cost is about $1 per gallon, goes in the same way, and will protect your Miata much better. Protect your investment so you can continue to be a part of our runs without a break-down.

PS. And if your radiator hoses (5 all together) are over 4 years old, they’re due for a change too. Also easy if you can handle a pair of plyers and a screwdriver!!