2017 Mazda MX-5: A Return To STR

I suppose this began back during Spring Nationals, where my girlfriend decided it was a good idea to fly and drive, and codrive one of our friend’s ND MX5 in C Street. After running her HS Civic all year, she pretty quickly came back after a couple runs, and told me she was buying an ND. Great.

Now, I didn’t really know how this would affect me much, I didn’t have much interest in running a CS car, wasn’t a particular fan of the ND in that trim (or in general….), and I’d planned on keeping my C5 Z06 for the foreseeable future. Well, things change. I got offered much more for my Corvette than I’d expected when just posting a feeler for it, so it was removing itself as an option for 2018. I had a few options. First, was to go and buy a C6 Z06, the car I should have bought to begin with. I decided it was pretty foolish to go and keep spending money on ANOTHER new autocross car. So then, I was waffling between my BMW, and the ND in CS. I didn’t want to devote another season to chasing down BMW issues, at the expense of driver improvement and a desire to only lose based on *my* performance as a driver. I didn’t want to run the ND in CS, although that was looking like the option. I didn’t really want to go through the ordeal of ST prepping a car either. But, here we are…

During my 18 hour haul back from Lincoln, I decided I’d simply deal with the extra work and time to get this car prepped for STR, as they seem like a tremendous amount of fun to drive (although I’m keeping my expectations tempered in a post-Corvette world), and Brian Karwan at Karcepts, the shop who’s been building and doing most of the development work for parts and setup on these cars, is both a good friend, and local to me, having supported a lot of work on my last STR build. So, I decided to reach out to him about parts selection…

She went and finally picked up her 2017 MX5 Club in October. I’ve already got the Karcepts-Spec MCS suspension in my possession, supported by some Hyperco springs and helpers, and Karcepts spherical mounts. The remainder of the STR parts are on the way, and I’m looking to wrap up the car by the end of January, at least in a baseline trim.

2000 Mazda Miata – ES? NASA Time Trials? Spec Miata? Track Toy?


So, my¬†girlfriend wanted a beater, I wanted something I could hit the track in (at purchase time, there wasn’t really any plan for it), and something we could take to small, local autocross lots without really worrying about safety concerns or tire cost.

Of course, this swiftly scope creeps for me, as with everything else I seem to do. I, of course encourage the purchase of a Miata, and ideally wanted something we could turn into a competitive autocross car.

We browse craigslist, and found a killer deal on a 72000 mile 2000 Miata. Great. Pretty quickly we went out, negotiated the deal, and picked it up.

So, we quickly realized there were a number of things that needed addressed with this particular car. First, it had a recurring check engine light. Failing cat. Okay, great, it’s a California car with two cats, we’ll pick up a stock header and swap that on, along with the requisite midpipe, O2, and ECU changes (total cost was rather small for this, I still haven’t gotten around to most of it).

Second, the early NBs had a really terrible center console. With nowhere to put even a drink that would keep it standing up, the first order of business was to swap on an NB2 center console. These are typically well over $100, but lucked into finding one a friend had, who was building an Exocet, so that swap happened pretty much immediately, and the car is substantially better for it.

That, along with my typical 1980s Alpine head unit install for bluetooth audio, made this a pretty decent daily driver.

Now that we’d gotten this thing in good daily driver shape, a few things happened. First, I’d ended up selling my C5 Z06 somewhat unexpectedly. So we needed a new plan for next year. Ally decided she was going to pick up a new ND MX-5, so that made this car no longer a daily driver, and resulted in her having 3 cars. I was down to one (STX 128i). I both wanted a beater, and figured this was definitely down the road of scope creep far enough, so I decided it best to just buy her out of it and continue building it out with my own money.

In the prior month or two, we’d already tracked down an OEM Torsen diff (found crazy cheap on eBay, still waiting to get around to installing this), along with some Koni shocks. They went on the car, along with some RE Suspension bump stops, a Flyin’ Miata 1in front sway bar, and the Racing Beat reinforcement blocks, as well as some Improved Racing adjustable endlinks.

I’d also picked up some very cheap OEM 15x6s, and takeoff Bridgestones from some local autocross friends as something to play around on. This stuff went on, and the car became a hell of a lot better to drive around.

Somewhere along the way of all of this, I’d swapped Hawk HP+ pads onto the rear, along with *TWO* valve cover gaskets (don’t buy an Amazon replacement for $9), replaced the shifter boots and bushings, done an oil change, and replaced the plug wires after one disintegrated upon removal to do plugs.

Of course, the next step was to actually get this out to an event…due to some parts availability issues for the BMW, we decided to bring this out. It wasn’t particularly fun or fast, given the stock alignment and open diff, and quite old tires, but was used to do a good test (results to be posted separately), and shake the car down.

With that, we decided we probably didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time competitively autocrossing this thing, especially with the ND arriving soon to be used for the 2018 season.

And that brings me to today. I’ve picked up a Hard Dog roll bar to put in, the ES suspension and wheels/tires are going away to eventually be replaced by a Whitener Racing setup, used some Hawk contingency to pick up some Street/Race front pads for track duty, and now am looking forward to getting back out on track, for the first time since 2011.

The winter plans include taking care of that, getting rid of this CEL by finally swapping the Federal setup on, along with getting the Torsen in and an alignment done. Hopefully, it’ll be ready to go come the end of winter, and I’ll also have acquired a hard top by then.