I’ve had an eventful life. Filled with tremendous peaks and troughs. But there is one thing that has always remained positive. That genuine feeling of momentum where fear and exhilaration blur into absolute focus, right at the far corner of safety, where nothing else matters. Like many others, I found that feeling through cars and motorcycles. From the first hit, I was hooked.
Pick just about any day in my life and there I’ll be, staring at my motorcycle, then turning my head to look at one of my father’s project cars. I’m not entirely sure what all the other kids were doing at that time, but I never cared. I was pulling apart an old car.
When I turned 18 the first thing I did was get my driver’s license and I soon became immersed in a whole new type of automotive culture. Almost every night was the same, I would deliver pizzas for a few hours in the evening just to pay for the fuel I would burn directly after. My friends and I would meet at the local car wash before taking our cars up the mountain. We didn’t entirely behave ourselves, but we weren’t hurting anyone and it kept us away from the depraved nightclub that our non-car friends frequented. We had better things to do. If only our pals in blue saw it in the same light, but that’s another story.
My first car was a murdered-out fourth gen Subaru Outback, a fantastically capable machine but it soon felt far too practical. So I set out to buy something else. My criteria was pretty broad; It had to be quick up the mountain and able to be maintained on a minimum wage budget.
Enter my beloved 1992 NA MX-5, with its whopping 85kW of power and 130Nm of torque. Okay, that’s pretty pathetic, the car isn’t fast. However, what the spec sheet doesn’t tell you is that regardless of power figures, an MX-5 in the right environment can be driven extraordinarily quickly. The type of quick that can only be measured from within. Am I contradicting myself? Kinda. But let me explain.
When you step into an MX-5 you’ll be greeted with very little; the interior is as ’80s Japan as it gets. If you’re anywhere near six feet tall, you’ll knock your head on the roof and your leg will cramp. Try and stretch all you like, but the four-something inches between the steering wheel and the armrest is all the wriggle room you’ll get. So, now the glare from the sun is in your eyes so you retract the sun-visor, only to realise you are now unable too see out the windscreen. Character, I guess.
You turn the key, depress the beautifully weighted clutch pedal and select first gear, the shifter action is simply spectacular. Solid, positive selection, a short throw and a metallic click to confirm each gearchange.
You’re now belting along a back road, bouncing off the 7200rpm redline and the first corner approaches. You slide into second with a quick heel-toe. A wayward bump by the outside curb throws you out of balance. You resist. The turn-in is direct and the car feels planted so you apply more steering, the MX-5 has an uncanny ability to tell you what it wants, so there are no surprises. The car begins to rotate so you counter-steer, and lo and behold, traction.
The feedback the MX-5 gives you is unparalleled, in fact it trains the driver. The more you put in the more you get out. Therein lies the magic.
Purists will tell you that an MX-5 is best in its stock form. I picked up my particular example in superb condition, so I intended to maintain it’s concourse nick. I lasted about three days.
I installed some wider wheels from a later model, cabin and strut bracing and a short-ratio differential. I later added some aftermarket shocks and springs and upgraded the brakes. Not heavily modified by any means, but I wanted to give it some personality, and thanks to its new stance and body modifications, a touch of aggression.
Some people say that your choice of car reflects who you are as a person, I don’t see it that way. My car is my companion, the kinetic energy that represents a time in my life. I don’t know what the future holds, but whatever happens we’ll be ready, my MX-5 and I.