November 27, 2022

The right mixture of energy, reliability and affordability all blended into one made the Mazda MX-5 Mk1 a success from the off. Regardless of rising costs, the primary era MX-5, or Eunos, is a contemporary traditional that’s assured to place a smile in your face. Right here’s what to know earlier than shopping for one.  

Phrases: Paul Wager.

How did the Mazda MX-5 Mk1 come about?

The historical past of the Mazda MX-5 Mk1 is nicely documented however varies curiously, relying on who you consider: one model is that Japanese-speaking US automotive journalist Bob Corridor, then editor of Autoweek had prompt to Mazda Analysis and Growth Chief Kenichi Yamamoto {that a} easy, enjoyable two-seater sports activities automotive must be produced to fill the hole available in the market left by the departure of the standard British automobiles, on the time stuffed solely by the X1/9 and ageing Alfa Spider.

By 1981 Corridor had taken a job within the product planning division of Mazda’s Californian R&D operation which allowed him to pursue the thought additional. To his obvious shock the response was optimistic and the challenge was adopted for improvement.

Mazda’s company historical past nonetheless tells it a special means: the corporate had recognized a necessity to provide an revolutionary mannequin to make the model stand out from different marques and a crew of engineers observed that the standard roadster was all however extinct, leaving a possibility to create a contemporary equal. Senior administration apparently wasn’t so eager however the enthusiasm of 1 specific employees member persuaded them to approve the challenge. The true fact is almost definitely a mix of each tales, with that super-keen staffer most likely being Corridor, however the consequence was the Mazda eXperimental quantity 5, or MX-5.

The automotive itself was a really worldwide affair for a Japanese maker in these days, with the stylist Wu-Huang Chin being an ex-GM American, and the primary operating prototypes constructed up by IAD right here within the UK earlier than being examined at MIRA close to Nuneaton. The primary on-road drives occurred in California earlier than improvement was accomplished again in Mazda’s Hiroshima facility.

The unique temporary had assumed a big diploma of part sharing with different fashions, however the improvement crew underneath Toshihiko Hirai took the automotive’s dealing with so critically that it ended up being nearly a clean-sheet design: suspension was impartial by wishbones, with an aluminium bonnet and superior physique engineering to trim weight down to some extent the place a robust engine wasn’t wanted. The engine, gearbox and rear axle have been linked by a skeletal construction linking entrance and rear ends contained in the transmission tunnel in an echo of Lotus’s spine chassis and the consequence was a really inflexible construction.


Mazda MX-5 Mk1

Launched because the Eunos within the US in 1989, the Mazda MX-5 Mk1 ‘NA’ was launched in Europe in 1990 and the UK was one of many largest markets, snapping up 2246 examples in that first yr. It will go on to outline a wholly new market and see the European makers desperately enjoying catch-up. Certainly, if not for the Mazda, it’s potential we’d by no means have seen many iconic fashionable classics together with BMW Z3, MGF, Honda S2000, Porsche Boxster and Mercedes SLK.

Energy got here from the B6ZE 1598cc, 90 bhp engine derived from that within the 323. An alloy-head twin-cam, 16-valve unit, it ran a Mazda-licensed model of Bosch L-Jetronic gas injection and drove the rear wheels by a five-speed guide field. In Could 1994 the vary was broadened with the addition of a 1.8i mannequin, utilizing an 1840cc model of the identical engine, producing 131bhp with torque up from the 97lb ft of the 1.6i to 114lb ft. Simply as vital as the additional grunt was the bracing added to 1.8-litre fashions which included a decrease strut brace and what Mazda termed ‘efficiency rods’ which have been longitudinal braces to raised find the rear axle. The 1.8i fashions additionally gained bigger brakes and customarily larger spec.

On the identical time a brand new 1.8iS mannequin was additionally provided, mechanically an identical to the 1.8i however providing higher gear together with electrical mirrors, colour-coded mudflap spats, distant boot launch, wider 6×14 wheels, driver’s airbag, leather-based steering wheel, energy steering, electrical home windows, radio, stainless trims and ABS.

And that was just about that other than the explosion of particular editions, till the mannequin was changed by the second era ‘NB’ automotive within the UK in April 1998. This was actually little greater than a facelift, primarily based on the unique design however with a revised entrance finish remedy which misplaced the pop-up lamps and with a redesigned roof incorporating a glass window. One huge enchancment was the enlarged boot which made an enormous distinction to the practicality of the automotive.

Immediately , the Mazda MX-5 Mk1 has made the total journey from must-have newest toy to down-at-heel low cost enjoyable automotive, grudgingly accepted fashionable traditional and now arguably a  fully-fledged traditional. All of which implies that the demand for clear, unique Mk1 MX-5s in commonplace kind has seen values rising, with even tasks now commanding greater than they might have accomplished simply a few years in the past.


Regardless of this, they’re nonetheless nice worth, however you do want to concentrate on the pitfalls, so right here’s what to search for.

Mazda MX-5 Mk1

Mazda MX-5 purchaser’s information


The engines actually are powerful within the Mazda MX-5 Mk1 and until they’ve been run with out oil or water then you may anticipate few issues. Some elements are dear, equivalent to coil packs, which might apparently fail for those who depart the ignition on for lengthy intervals with out the engine operating. Aside from that, make the standard checks for rattles, noises and smoke however usually if they’ve oil and water then they are going to final nicely. As you’ll know, there are a lot of modified MX-5s on the market so ask the proprietor about any modifications.

Oil leaks don’t are typically main however can happen from objects just like the camshaft sensor on the rear of the unit.

Don’t neglect that the engine makes use of a cam belt, so verify for proof of it being modified.

Mazda MX-5 Mk1

Suspension & Brakes

When correctly arrange, these automobiles provide an ideal mixture of trip and dealing with nevertheless it’s all adjustable and incorrect geometry could make them really feel twitchy and provides them a stressed trip too. Suspension elements are usually available, however some will be pricey. If the outer ball joint for the entrance higher wishbone fails, the ball joint will be changed with out your entire arm.

Low-speed noises are sometimes all the way down to ageing anti-roll bar drop hyperlinks, whereas bushes can all get replaced or upgraded. Test for damaged coil springs, too and when you’re underneath there verify that the metal suspension arms aren’t excessively corroded.

As is frequent on automobiles with rear brake discs or rotors which additionally use the caliper for the handbrake, the meeting can undergo from both sticking sliding pins or handbrake linkage. The straightforward remedy is a reconditioned caliper from round £70 every, or a brand new seal equipment at £30.

ABS sensors will be costly at round £90-£170, and in the event that they fail, there’s no getting across the warning mild on the dashboard that can in flip fail the MoT take a look at – it wants to return on with the ignition and exit with the engine operating. The sensors can seize into the hub but when they’ll’t be eliminated with out drilling, then a less expensive resolution generally is a used hub.


Mazda MX-5 Mk1 bodywork & roof

The Mk1 MX-5s are outdated automobiles now and the largest difficulty shall be physique rot. It’s confined to at least one particular space although, specifically the rear of the sill space. It’s essential to maintain the drain tubes from the roof storage space clear, since in the event that they block up then water will successfully overflow after which rot out the internal construction on the rear of the sill.

A fast and soiled restore will be achieved by merely plating up the surface of the sill, however a correct job entails eradicating the outer part and welding in a restore part to the internal construction earlier than repairing the outer pores and skin and tidying it up once more for paint. Do it correctly and the automotive’s good for an additional 20 years, however it may be pricey in comparison with the automotive’s worth.

Different areas can embody the underside of the entrance wings and in excessive instances, the scuttle on the base of the display screen pillars. It’s additionally price checking the flooring for rust attributable to leaks.

The convertible prime is a world away from the tent-on-sticks fitted to an MGB for instance nevertheless it’s nonetheless a comparatively primary single-skinned affair with lined rear quarters and due to this fact not too pricey to switch if you’ll want to.

The glass rear window didn’t arrive till the Mk2 Eunos, so all Mk1s got here with a plastic window which must be rigorously folded as you decrease the roof. Many homeowners didn’t hassle and the plastic turned completely creased and even break up. Specialists can provide a alternative rear roof part with a zipped-in plastic window, or a complete new roof is underneath £500. It’s additionally potential to switch the roof with an improve together with a glass window for round £600.

Becoming a used roof is an alternative choice and a straightforward DIY activity as your entire roof and body will be transferred as a single unit.

Mazda MX-5 Mk1


There’s not plenty of it and what there’s tends to be fairly sturdy. Tatty seats will be retrimmed utilizing a canopy set by a eager DIYer to nice impact, whereas correct moulded carpet units are additionally obtainable. Take a couple of minutes to verify for wiring bodges by individuals becoming aftermarket sound techniques and alarms as they’re so usually accomplished very badly. Objects like instrument cowls, console faces and armrests can all be purchased individually to refurbish a hacked-about cabin.