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This Mazda Miata Climbed a Colorado Jeep Trail on Stock Suspension With No Spotters

It takes someone special to drive an MX-5 up Imogene Pass.

It seems like the ongoing battle between the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler takes up most of the off-roading headlines these days, but they’re far from the only vehicles skipping the highway for something a bit more challenging. There’s been Porsche Cayennes, stripped out Lamborghini Huracans, and now, thankfully, there’s an ND Miata skipping the asphalt and taking to the dirt.

New wheels and tires were arranged, some parts were removed, and the end result is an otherwise stock ND Miata all set to tackle some trails. The car didn’t necessarily get a trial by fire—Moab was not on the menu—but it did get seriously tested on Imogene Pass Road in Colorado. The car’s owner, Joel Gat, shared some details of the project with us and explained the challenge of taking the little sports car out of its natural habitat.

Joel Gat

Let’s get the unnecessary justifications out of the way first. Speaking to Grassroots Motorsports, Gat said, “I travel to a lot of mountain events and trailheads, and I prefer to have something fun to drive. What good is a fun Miata for 90 percent of the trip if it won’t take me the last 10 percent of the way, though?” See? It’s all pretty simple, really.

Talking with The Drive, Gat explained his modifications to the Miata are, as mentioned, light. “[I] removed the side skirts, cut away [the] fender liner, and a little love with a hammer to clearance some metal on the chassis side of the wheel wells.” That’s pretty much it. “Oh, and Weathertech floor mats.”  

The suspension is completely stock. There haven’t been any new parts or lifts kits—nothing like that. The new 27-inch Falken tires give a bit more ground clearance as well as offering more grip on the loose trail surface, but those new rollers are the most significant mods.

“I was wishing for AWD in a few spots,” Gat said on Facebook, replying to a comment. That’s sort of selling the Miata short, though. It did make it up to the Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge, which is along Richmond Trail, about halfway up Imogene Pass Road outside of Telluride. “Turns out that despite all the Jeepers’ complaints, this part of the trail had two really tough obstacles for me, and the rest was just a little finesse,” Gat explained.

While you probably wouldn’t want to go on something like  Black Bear Pass without four-wheel drive, this is—thankfully—lower risk. Considering the suspension is completely unmodified and all it took was some new wheels and tires to get this Miata up a trailhead, it’s an impressive achievement. “It’s been kinda funny how much attention it got,” Gat told us. “My plan was just to drive it as far as it was relatively safe to go.” Turns out, that’s further than anyone expected.

It looks like there’s plenty more on the way for the Miata, too. Gat apparently has some bigger plans for the future, and one comment reads, “Joel, Joel, Joel. I’ve known him for a long, long time. He’s a nut. You should hear the eventual plans for that car… He really wants a set of Fox (shocks) for that car. We’re just waiting for a shipment.”

That’d really be something.

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