I Never Loved My Project Miata. So Why Does Selling It Hurt so Much?

They say you should never settle. I certainly did when I brought my 1992 Miata—but now it has to go, and I’m strangely sad about it.

byLewin DayNov 3, 2021 3:00 PM
I Never Loved My Project Miata. So Why Does Selling It Hurt so Much?
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It was never supposed to be this way. I was supposed to have a good life, with wealth and comforts above such menial concerns as these. But we all know what they say about best-laid plans. When things do go off the rails, all we can do is try and pick up the pieces. Over the past month, I've realized I have to part ways with the first and only sports car I've ever owned. This is a story about love, a story about sacrifice, and a story about the difficult choices we have to make as a part of growing up. 

The tale begins in the building warmth of spring, back in 2015. My nascent engineering career with one of the world’s largest automakers was snuffed out as quickly as it begun. I’d realized I’d loathe nothing more than spending decades of my life watching ancient machinery churn out transmission casings ad infinitum. I’d landed a better job elsewhere with more money, and with this change came a realization: somehow I’d reached the adult age of 25 without ever getting behind the wheel of a sports car.

My love of cars had been put on the back burner since I got my license at age 16. I’d been working menial jobs and studying at university, and I'd neglected my passion along the way. With a real grown-up job and a new lease on life, I decided this had to change.

Lewin Day

Of course, I’d always been the risk-averse type, and my budget was limited. I’d dreamed of owning a Nissan 180SX or S13 Silvia (did I mention I'm in Australia?) since I was a teenager, but prices had already rocketed out of reach. A manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive were non-negotiable, but I only had a few thousand dollars to play with. What's the old saying? Miata is always the answer.

Thrifty as I was, or perhaps you could say poor, I ended up with a 1992 NA6 in Crystal White. To land one under budget, I’d had to make sacrifices. In this case, that meant paint peeling off, a torn-up soft top and a noisy diff that was on the brink of falling apart. It wasn’t fast, it didn’t really handle, and a week after I got it, it stopped running entirely when the keyfob for the alarm fell apart. It was far from perfect, but I took it anyway. It was the sports car I could afford.

In time, I invested. Coilovers and sway bars fixed the handling issues, and I went as far as completing a full de-powered rack installation for the ultimate steering feel. The soft-top got torn out and a rollbar bolted in. Throw in the sticky tires and I had a car that could absolutely rip through the corners, and my lap times at the local track began to tumble. I turned wheels and met some amazing new friends and like every other kid with an MX-5, droned on endlessly about how I was definitely planning to go turbo.

Along the way, trouble cropped up, but a car this simple was never much challenge to keep going. I gave up nights and weekends to keep her sharp for the track, bolting on upgrades and dealing with all the troubles that come with a car that just crested 400,000 km (nearly 250,000 miles) on the clock. A new radiator solved the overheating problem for good. A new O2 sensor kind of helped, but not really. The godawful alarm system was finally wrested from the bowels of the wiring loom after a good few days spent teasing apart wires in the footwell. 

This was the car that took me for my first ever laps on the track. Countless hours were spent with the roof down, winding through the hills with friends and lovers alike. 

But I never came to love my Miata. I never even gave it a name.

Lewin Day

In another reality, I found the money to install forced induction, and it finally gained the speed it needed to burn its name into my heart. But that world never came to be. The worm turned, relationships and careers shifted, and suddenly spending thousands of dollars on race tires and turbo kits was no longer the right move. I was left, not with a sports car, but a curse. A resounding monument to the fact that I’d failed. For all the self-assured belief I had in my teens, I’d reached the end of my twenties with naught but an asthmatic Mazda in the driveway.

No turbo, no noises, no adrenaline. No S13. A flaky, white reminder that I’d been forced to settle. I never wanted a Miata; I bought one because it’s all I could get. The corners might have been golden but mashing the accelerator had the engine roaring not with power, but disappointment. 

In an ideal world, for all its flaws, I’d have had the money to make the Miata what it should have been. Faster, cleaner, and with a shiny purple wrap, I might have come to love it as my own. But as I desperately scrape together money for housing, I’m taking stock of what can stay, and what sacrifices will have to be made.

Instead, I went and bought myself a sensible car, complete with luxuries like air conditioning and power steering. It proves far more comfortable for day-to-day use. Without the disposable income to finance club memberships and regular track days, and with Australian police growing sterner by the day, the Mazda barely gets driven anymore. There's simply nowhere for it to go.

From time to time, I still get waves from passers-by, or shouts of "Nice Miata!" from friendly people at gas stations. It's something I always struggled to understand. I had a Miata, yes, but certainly not a nice one. I had a mechanically reliable car with some of its paint flaking off and, for a time, a gaping hole in the exhaust. What they were really saying, of course, was that it was nice that I had a Miata, and I suppose that was true. But it always bothered me that I'd been unable to properly restore my ride to glory.  

In the end, not loving the Miata will make it easier to say goodbye. In the difficult fight to secure housing, an extra few thousand dollars in the bank could make all the difference. Up against those numbers, it’s hard to justify keeping around a sports car that no longer gets driven the way it should. 

Lewin Day

When all is said and done, however, I will still be sad to see it go. It feels like another loss. In the same way buying the Miata felt like I’d failed to buy an S13, selling the Miata feels like I’ve failed to hold on to a sports car at all. Cars are so incredibly important to me it defies all explanation; one of my first loves, and my most enduring. And yet, I’ve barely even scratched the surface. Now, even my project car is going away. It hurts. 

But being an adult is means knowing that sometimes you have to make sacrifices. With this car, I’m learning that all too well.

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