Saturday, September 12, 2009

Welcome, Emma

As most of you know or can guess, I bought a car---another Miata---during our trip to Atlanta for Dragon*Con. (I'll post the oft-requested photos from the con shortly.) Actually, for logistical reasons, I sent the money to my father and had him make the exchange for me a few hours before our near-midnight arrival in the ATL. (Thanks, Dad.) Interestingly, I never actually laid eyes on the car until after the purchase. I asked a lot of questions of the seller, who seemed very honest about the vehicle's merits and demerits, but it was my former roomate/overlord, Masta, who made the long-distance purchase possible. He gave the car a thorough going-over and test-drive. Since he's a mechanical engineer, a car guy, and a former Miata owner, he was just about the perfect person to inspect the car for me. (Thanks, Masta.) I'd also like to acknowledge JD, from my local Miata club, who also attended Dragon*Con and offered to haul back all the bulky extra bits in his truck. (Thanks, JD.) (Come to think of it, all three of the guys who helped me with the purchase are Georgia Tech graduates. Interesting.)

The "new" car is a 1995 MX-5. Thus, it's a first-gen (NA) Miata with a 1.8-l engine. I've chosen to name her Emma, because the Miata's alphanumeric designation is pronounced "Em Eks Five." The color is called Laguna Blue Metallic, and, as you can see, it's quite attractive. Laguna Blue was only offered in '94 and '95, so it's considered fairly desirable. I didn't buy this car for the color, however.

You see, my plan is to make Emma a dedicated motorsports and fun car, leaving Mia to be my daily driver. By design, no great transformation is required to turn this vehicle into a track rat and toy car; the previous owner---whom I found via using her for exactly those purposes, and he outfitted her with a number of performance modifications. That is why I bought this particular Miata. The car came with all of the following:
  • Stock seats plus Cobra Suzuka S race seats.
  • Stock seatbelts plus 5-point harnesses.
  • Stock 14x6" wheels with Falken Azeni tires (205/50-14, I think) plus 15x7.5 6UL wheels with Nitto NT01 tires (225/45-15).
  • Stock steering wheel plus a tiny, 280-mm Momo race wheel.
  • Bilstien PSS9 adjustable dampers and springs.
  • Racing beat front anti-roll bar.
  • Hard Dog Hard Core Double Diagonal roll bar.
  • R Speed intake, Jackson exhaust manifold, and Flyin' Miata exhaust.
  • Deleted soft top.
  • OEM hard top, in Laguna Blue.
  • R-Package-style front chin spoiler and rear lip spoiler.
  • Tow hooks.
  • Other assorted goodies.
All-in-all, I think I got quite a lot for my money.

I do have a few things I want to do to the car to get her even more track-ready and to make me more comfortable, but once I get her registered and titled in Maryland, there's nothing stopping me from hitting the track.


  1. This may be a deeply stupid question, but why two racing buckets? Planning on rallying with a navigator?

  2. Sadly I won't be registering for the Targa Newfoundland---or any other rally---any time soon.

    The explanation for the second seat is much less exciting than that: It's useful to have 2 race seats if, like me, you are still required to have an instructor in the car with you when on track. (Most organizations require the instructor to have the same safety equipment as the driver.) Plus, this way I can give rides. Finally, the car is just more useful with 2 seats; I'm planning to put Rex up for sale next week, so Emma will be our backup car, in case something goes wrong with Zippy or Mia.

  3. Ah, the instructor thing makes sense. I figured you'd want to have a second seat for day-to-day use, but I wasn't clear on why it had to be a racing seat.

  4. So are you thinking Oscillation Overthruster or Flux Capacitor? I think you'd have a hard time squeezing both in.

  5. Hi,
    Found your blog through a google search. Can I ask a question about those seats? I am thinking about getting some for my MX5 here in the UK but how well do they fit? Are they tight on the transmission tunnel (i.e. can you move them forward much or do they get jammed?) and are yours on runners or bolted to the floor - how high / low do you sit?

    Thanks very much!

  6. Andy,

    I'll do what I can to answer your questions.

    The previous owner fabricated some brackets out of strips of steel. These strips allow the side-mount seats to bolt to the stock mounting points (the bumps in the floor). Thus they are not adjustable in position or angle at all. Because the PO was much taller than I, I need to find a way to move them forward. The seats are quite low this way, however.

    My plan is to use real, live sidemounts (L brackets), like the ones sold by Cobra or Sparco, and bolt those mounts to the floor. That will allow some longitudinal adjustability, by bolting the side mounts to the floor using different sets of holes in the bottoms of the mounts. This change will also allow me to adjust the angle, again by using different holes in the mounts, this time on the side. This arrangement will necessitate knocking the stock mounting points off the unibody with a hammer and maybe a chisel.

    Now to your question about how far forward I can go. I'll need to move very far forward, since my legs are extremely short. Talking to my friends in the local Miata club and on, it seems likely that I'll have to "massage" the transmission tunnel with a dead-blow hammer. (Aluminum seats are smaller, but not as comfortable, and I don't trust them.) Apparently, this is not a big deal, since there is considerable space between the tranny tunnel and the transmission itself.

    Spec Miata (the most popular amateur racing class in the US) is especially popular in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast part of the country, and there are a couple of race shops nearby that specialize in SM or at least work on Spec Miatas, so my plan is to have one of those shops help me with the installation.

    I'm having some work done to the car right now, to get it even more track-ready, so I won't be able to address the seat issue for a couple more weeks. I'll almost certainly post photos and a report when that happens.

    One last thing: The space available to the left of the tranny tunnel is a bit different from (or differnt to, as you might say) that on the right. Thus, things may be different for you in a right-hand-drive car.

    The seats themselves are quite nice. They are well made and pretty comfortable, for race seats. I'm 5'5" and 136 lb (156 cm and 9 stone 10), and the seats are not too big. The PO was over 6 ft and about 220 lb (15 stone 10), and I can't imagine how he fit comfortably into the seats.

    Please let me know how it works out.



  7. Thank you for the detailed reply Michael, sounds like they are a pretty tight squeeze and will require some custom work to get them in. If I can find some for a decent price it might be worth it though

  8. Just thought you might like to know how this worked out for me in the end. I got some Cobra Imolas which are a bit better for the road than Suzukas. Had some brackets made up to mate up the side mounted seats to the existing sliders/runners in the car. My passenger side (your drivers) is definitely a tight fit, I need to adjust it because the 'wing' hits the door when closed. I can now move the seat backwards and forwards a fair amount and the height is about the same as the stock seats. photo here:

  9. Andy,

    Thanks for posting that update. I see what you mean about the wing conflicting with the door. My plan is still to get some help from some Spec Miata guys and mount the seats directly to the floor.

    Your setup looks good, though.