I have to stop. My sides are on fire, splitting and heaving with laughter. I can’t fill my lungs, the five-point harness and puffy insulated Carhartt coveralls pressing on my ribs. Just as well. I can’t see either. There’s mud everywhere. In my hair, my ears. Up my nose. Caked down my left side like cake icing. Splattered over my sunglasses. Mixing with the tears streaming down my face. I haven’t laughed this hard from behind the wheel since I went full Dukes Boys on a CJ2A Willys in high school.
A tube-frame Miata with a turbo and a lift will do that.
By now, you know what an Exocet is. Take all that that makes a Miata wonderful and shove it in a rigid, lightweight steel lattice. How lightweight? Fully assembled and ready to roll, figure 1,000 pounds less than a production Miata. No surprise then, that the guys at Flyin’ Miata have one to play with. Nor is it a shock that they’ve bolted one of their delirious FMII turbo kits to a salvage motor and dropped the thing in the nose.
The result is 250 horsepower in a 1,550-pound jungle gym.
It’s a thing capable of carving up any road course or winding mountain road. Which is why they put a lift and 30-inch General Grabber All-Terrain tires on it.
This is where Paco Motorsports comes in. The company’s designed a simple set of lower-shock mount relocation brackets that can give any Miata an additional three inches of ground clearance. They install in about an hour. It begs the question: Why?
There are all sorts of thinly plausible reasons that you’d want to lift a Miata. Maybe it’s your winter beater. Maybe you’re tired of getting high-centered on snow while doing donuts in the high school parking lot. Maybe you have glowing ambitions of rallycross glory. Or maybe your driveway threatens to rip your front valance off every time you leave. But the real reason is, why the hell not?
You can see how this happened. What bolts to a Miata will bolt to an Exocet, and without pesky fenders in the way, there’s room for thigh-high AT tires. Flyin’ Miata’s Exocet was lapping Laguna Seca the last time it turned a tire. Now I’m pointed at a fairly accurate facsimile of the Swamp of Despair from Never Ending Story. The mud is six inches deep in places. The kind of nastiness that will swallow a shoe or a leg or horse or a Miata-based kit car.
Keith Tanner, Flyin’ Miata’s resident instigator, is in the passenger seat. He doesn’t say a word as I point the car at the bog and mash the throttle.
There’s a mental disconnect here. The top of the front tire sits almost at eye-level. My brain thinks, “Dune buggy.” I romp on the throttle. The turbo spools, the delicious whine of forced induction gets going, lighting up the rear tires. Then I remember, “Not dune buggy.” This thing is still sitting on its viciously stiff track suspension. It’s too late. I’m committed. The surface is not the glossy face of Mazda Raceway’s asphalt. It’s the cragscape of Mars. Or I-75 through Detroit. The Exocet jumps and skitters as we bang through the ruts ahead of us, me desperately trying to keep the damn thing moving. The blow-off valve plays the song of my hesitation. They’ll find our bones out here if we stop.
Artax! You’re sinking! Turn around!
We are shaken baby syndrome. Or a school bus in atmospheric re-entry. It’s violent. I feel a pang of guilt, worrying what sort of damage I’m doing to the Exocet before the phrase “detached aorta” wafts through my head.
I have only the vaguest threat of control over where we go, which means I find the deepest spot in the muck within the first minute. We slow.
In a four-wheel-drive, I’d lift up on the fuel, let the tires bite, and gently ease out of the situation. The Exocet is not four-wheel drive. I put my foot to the floor. The turbo gets working again, and the rear tires spin, vaulting two rooster tails of mud three stories up. I’ll either bury this bitch to the frame or clear the tires and get moving again. I’m putting clumps of Colorado into low orbit. It’s a torrent. Twin geysers of wet earth shooting for the sun.
The Generals dig in. We accelerate. I am now drunk with victory. Fuck you, physics. Not today.
I manage to wrangle the Exocet back to the hardpack. Tanner’s cackling like a madman. We couldn’t be any more filthy if we’d fallen in a pit and rolled around like hogs.
“You know Paco’s working on a stadium truck style long-travel suspension kit for these things, right?”
Mother of God.