I’m Selling My Track-Day Mazda 2. Here’s How I Got It in Shape for Its New Home

It’s time for my Mazda 2 to go up for sale. Here’s how I prepped it.

byPeter Nelson|
mazda2 on tracrk
Cali Photography

The time has come. Now that I've secured a fresh, new-to-me BMW 128i project car, it's time to move my Mazda 2 along to a new owner who will give it the life it deserves, and not stashed away in my garage with two-week-old gas in its tank. To me, the happy lil' hatch's ideal life is one filled with providing its next owner years of solid reliability, great fuel economy, and some confidence when the road gets windy. To appeal to a broader market, rather than just sport-suspension-loving gearheads, I'm thinking fresher factory suspension and new OEM-sized tires on some OEM Mazda wheels will seal the deal to make this car a great all-around economy hatch, which outlines exactly how I've been prepping it for sale.

It's been a hell of a run with this dumb little car. As I write this, the vibe I'm getting is similar to those epic, lengthy montages at the end of each season of The Wire, except instead of McNulty leaning against a car looking contemplative, it's me staring at my little Mazda as it's bathed in afternoon sunset light, thinking about all the fun I've had with it over the past eight years. Writing about my experiences with the Mazda 2 not only served as some of my first published bylines, ever, but also application fodder for my editor Andrew Collins, and helped launch my writing career at Car Bibles and now The Drive

Cali Photography

It also served as a valuable learning tool for driving faster and better on track, as well as a solid platform for reviewing products at my previous job at WindingRoad.com. Finally, it's been an excellent platform to wrench on, as it's so simple and straightforward, dead reliable, and parts costs (whether OE or aftermarket) are very inexpensive. But since I barely drive the 2, it's best to move it on to someone who will.

My 2's got some minor scars here and there from eight years of ownership and around 50 track days, but I'm proud of the fact that I've kept it generally very clean and in very good health. I'm still amazed to this day that it doesn't burn or leak a drop of oil, and refuses to overheat on track on the hottest of California Summer days. 

To make it as clean, reliable, safe, and comfortable as possible, I went about swapping some OEM parts back on and giving it a good overall clean-up.

First off, the 2's brake fluid, brake pads and rotors, and engine oil are all quite fresh. The pads and rotors have plenty of life left, and both fluids have less than 500 miles on their intervals. You really can feel it, too, as the fresh Castrol SRF DOT 4 fluid gives the brake pedal a sturdy feeling and really cuts down on stopping distance. For normal SoCal street driving, or possible autocross or track day duty, the next owner will be more than equipped. If they're a fellow enthusiast, they might want slightly more dedicated brake pads, so I'm throwing in my set of gently used G-LOC R12 pads and some brand-new OEM Mazda rotors for free-ninety-nine. The Hawk HPS pads that are currently mounted up are a great street-friendly performance compound but they do overheat on hot summer track days.

Preparing the 2 for sale, mid-suspension swap. It might not be too happy sitting next to its replacement. I've got the e-brake up, as well as wheel chocks, a jack stand, and a jack in place. Peter Nelson

As far as how the lil' Mazda is suspended while treading along the tarmac, I decided to swap in its factory front and rear springs. This gives the 2 a more soft and supple daily-friendly ride, thus improving its appeal to a wider variety of motorists. Not everyone wants tight, solid, and controlled cup kit suspension, like the H&R Sport springs and Koni STR.T dampers I had on it. Well, I'm actually keeping the Konis there—they've been bolted up for less than 3,000 miles, and should provide the next owner many thousands of miles of adequate damping. Swapping the H&R springs with the factory springs was a piece of cake, as the 2 features ultra-basic MacPherson strut suspension up front and a twist-beam out back. The only tricky part was aligning the front springs on the shock bodies with the spring compressors holding them down, as the aftermarket spring seats aren't perfectly tailor-designed for OEM springs. The springs have to fit in a certain way so they rest flat under load on the seat, as well as sit flat against the upper mount, which was a little tough to get right the first time.

Up next: adding civilian-friendly wheels and tires. I've had a spare set of OEM Mazda 2 Touring trim-spec alloy wheels sitting in my garage for a couple of years, ready to have some OEM-sized 185/55/15 tires thrown on. Their time has finally come. I had some inexpensive-yet-well-rated Nexen all-seasons thrown on at America's Tire, and I think they look great bolted up to my 2 at factory ride height. The 15x7.5 Konig Dekagram wheels with 205/50/15 Federal RS-Pro tires looked great and made the 2 a grip machine, but were far from ideal for the average everyday motorist. Plus, they had some significant toe wear upfront, no TPMS sensors, and would almost definitely rub on the inside of the fenders with factory suspension due to their more aggressive offset. I'm happy to bolt up a fresh factory setup to help sell the thing, too. Who wouldn't be stoked about getting essentially new tires when purchasing a used car?

Left: old, right: new. Notice the big difference in contact patch, and also the hard life that the Federals lived. Peter Nelson

I'm proud to report that I've kept the 2's interior in very clean shape. Frequent dusting, cleaning, and vacuuming has kept its weak, econo-spec interior plastics and carpeting in generally great shape. I even swapped some worn panels with clean ones from a junkyard last year. There isn't much to do here, but I'm still going to give it a good cleaning before putting the car up for sale. There's nothing worse than test driving a car with a bunch of trash, dust, buttons with a questionable, sticky feel to them, and other dry-heave-worthy attributes in its cabin.

For emissions compliance and under-hood OEM cleanliness, it was time to remove the short ram intake and modified ECU carrier that's lived on top of and beside the engine for the past several years. The short ram intake isn't CARB (California Air Resource Board)-legal, so I'm not passing on that liability to the next owner. Honestly, though, the 2 saw better fuel economy with it attached, which is a testament to the ridiculousness of some aspects of CARB. But anyway, I re-installed a factory ECU-carrier-slash-airbox (it's one convenient unit) with a cheap K&N drop-in filter (which is CARB approved), and boom: no problem passing smog inspection.

Then, I went about doing some miscellaneous fixes, refinements and paperwork. I bought a new driver’s side mirror as I cracked the previous one on a parking column pulling out of a tight parking space. I haven't washed the thing in over a month, so it's due for a deep wash and wax. The car has to be smogged before the sale—inspected for emissions compliance in the state of California—before the car transfers ownership, so that's on the docket.

There are also some light scratches here and there to clean up with some touch-up paint. Finally, registration is due by the end of the month, so it makes sense to boost its marketability by saying registration has just been paid. 

All back to stock, just needs a good, thorough wash. Peter Nelson

In fact, it looks like my Mazda has likely already found its new home. I mentioned on social media that I've been slowly prepping the 2 for sale, and have received some interest from prospective buyers. One of whom, a gentleman I know from the SoCal track community, who's also owned two Mazda 2s (as well as a Ford Fiesta ST, C6 Corvette, and many other cool cars), expressed a lot of interest. I explained the exact state of where the 2 is at, as if he were to check it out in person at this very moment before I had a chance to continue remedying some things. We e-shook on a number over Facebook Messenger, and he's going to come by in the near future to take it off my hands.

The new owner's intentions are to have a fun, safe, reliable, and economical daily that he can load his 2 dogs in, as well as occasionally take to an autocross or track event (sans dogs, of course). Because of that, he'll make good use of the fresh all-season tires for daily use. I'm throwing in the coilovers I pulled off of it a few months back, too, so he'll be all set if he wants better tires and to make good use of the spare brakes. Swapping suspension and doing an alignment on these cars is incredibly easy, I'm glad he'll have ample potential in this gem of a hatchback after I've signed away the pink slip.

I don't mean to puff myself up and sound like I'm saying "Look how nice of a dude I am," in case that's the vibe you've been getting, dear reader. I'm also not trying to sound like an egotistical asshole here. I just think it's important to sell a car in a good and reliable state of tune if you're going to ask a price that doesn't entail that it's a fixer-upper, mechanic's special. Plus, it's always good to ensure nothing will come back to bite you. 

All-in-all, I spent $446 on four new tires installed, plus $30 for the K&N filter, $50 for the emissions check, and $52 for a new OEM driver side mirror. Finally, I sourced a used OEM ECU carrier-slash-airbox in good shape, which set me back $87. Everything else I had on hand, such as the OEM springs, and the car already had the Koni STR.T dampers mounted up. To spiffy up the 2 otherwise, I used some elbow grease to give the interior a good cleaning, and have had some touch-up paint in the factory color for a few years to remedy some of its body's minor scratches here and there. I don't think $665 is too bad for sale prep costs, especially considering I would've not felt comfortable selling the car with the previous set of worn track tires, and I wanted to make sure everything was emissions compliant.

Putting the finishing touches on the 2 under the hood. You can see what I mean by ECU-carrier-slash-airbox. Peter Nelson

A few lessons I learned: Decent all-season tires are incredibly cheap in 185/55/15 compared to track-centric rubber, and I should've hung onto the factory ECU-carrier-slash-airbox. Luckily it was cheap, and luckily my parking whoopsie that damaged the driver-side mirror was also cheap, but both amounted to nearly $150 I would've rather not spent. It's also a significantly less stressful experience selling the car to someone who's familiar with it, rather than selling to a total stranger. I know I'm fortunate and lucky here as not everyone has the luxury, especially considering how terrible third-party car sales can be.

It's important to hook a buddy and fellow enthusiast up with some extra gear, too, as that's what I experienced when I bought my Bimmer, as well as when I picked up my Land Rover Discovery last year. The sellers were all super-friendly and threw in a bunch of extra parts, so it's only right that I do the same when selling the 2. I could pull all the nice aftermarket parts off the 2, combine them with the stuff I have sitting in my garage, and take my time selling them off separately. But frankly, that also sounds like such a pain in the ass.

As you can tell by the 2's face, its happy place is the track and not stashed away in my garage. Cali Photography

I'm absolutely thrilled that the 2 is going to a good owner who'll take good care of it and get lots of enjoyment out of it. Plus, between the BMW, previously owned Land Rover, and press cars, the 2's barely left my garage in the past year. It deserves far better. I'd love to ride shotgun when he takes it on track sometime this summer, too.