Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying Guide -

Rust re­con­nais­sance

Cor­ro­sion woes af­fect the NA, so pay at­ten­tion to the sills ahead of the rear wheels as rot can spread to the in­ner struc­ture; en­sure the drain holes from the hood area aren’t blocked. Look for poor qual­ity patch­ing. Orig­i­nal sills had a rougher, stonechip fin­ish so smooth paint in­di­cates pre­vi­ous re­pairs. Whee­larches go, and ex­am­ine the scut­tle and the wind­screen sur­round as rot in the A-pil­lars isn’t un­known. The jack­ing points, floor­pan, front chas­sis rails, and sub­frame mount­ing points will need in­ves­ti­ga­tion, too. Plenty of spe­cial­ists can re­pair an MX-5 cost-ef­fec­tively, though.

Iden­tity pa­rade

Check panel align­ment, es­pe­cially around the nosecone, as it could point to pre­vi­ous ac­ci­dent dam­age. The paint on the plas­tic nose can fade, too. And en­sure you know whether you’re look­ing at an MX-5 or a Eunos im­port; gen­uine UK cars have ‘JMZN’ in the chas­sis num­ber; ‘NA’ sig­ni­fies an im­port. With so many around a Eunos isn’t an is­sue – of­ten cor­ro­sion-free, they are usu­ally bet­ter-equipped.

En­gine in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The orig­i­nal en­gine was the B6-ZE 1.6-litre twin-cam, with a 1.8 added in 1994 (power for the 1.6 dropped from 114bhp to a pal­try 88bhp at the same time). Long-last­ing with reg­u­lar main­te­nance, check that the five-year/60,000-mile cam­belt change has been done al­though the en­gine is safe if it does break. Cor­rect anti-freeze lev­els are vi­tal in pro­tect­ing the al­loy cylin­der head, and it’s worth check­ing the units for a leak­ing wa­ter pump and oil seep­ing from the cam cover gas­ket, cam sen­sor seal, and the front crank pul­ley seal. The hy­draulic tap­pets can clat­ter, usu­ally be­cause ne­glected oil changes have gummed them up – an oil flush may help. Re­new­ing the oil and fil­ter ear­lier than the rec­om­mended 9000 miles is wise.

Into gear

The five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion is strong, but a sticky shift likely means that the rubber boot be­neath has split al­low­ing the lu­bri­ca­tion to es­cape; it’s an easy fix. A leaky clutch slave cylin­der isn’t un­usual, but again it’s cheap and easy to rem­edy. Oth­er­wise, just check for noisy syn­chro­mesh and whines from a tired dif­fer­en­tial (im­ports got a lim­ited-slip item that’s pricier to re­place). The pres­ence of an au­to­matic’ box means it’s an im­port, but it’s a re­li­able unit if lack­ing in driver en­gage­ment.

Keep in sus­pense

Check the dou­ble wish­bone sus­pen­sion for cor­ro­sion around the mount­ings, and for worn bushes; up­rated rubber ones can be a bet­ter bet than poly­bushes. And the car might have been low­ered, though not al­ways with great re­sults. They are sen­si­tive to cor­rect wheel align­ment, too, so look for un­evenly worn and mis­matched rubber. The brakes are usu­ally trou­ble-free but check for cor­roded brake pipes, seized rear brake calipers, and a poor hand­brake, while later cars got ABS, so check the warn­ing light il­lu­mi­nates and ex­tin­guishes cor­rectly. Ex­am­ine the power steer­ing pipes and pump for signs of fluid leaks.

In­te­rior ap­point­ments

The cabin isn’t the last word in lux­ury, but it gen­er­ally lasts well. Just check it’s not too shabby and wa­ter leaks haven’t left it look­ing mouldy. And look for scuffed and split leather in spe­cial edi­tion cars. Re­place­ment parts and cos­metic up­grades are plen­ti­ful though, so a re­fur­bish­ment is straight­for­ward. The con­vert­ible hood can suf­fer over time, and not un­zip­ping the rear screen be­fore fold­ing can leave the plas­tic rear win­dow cracked and opaque. Re­place­ments aren’t es­pe­cially costly, but look for a qual­ity item if this has al­ready been done. Fac­tory items and good af­ter­mar­ket ones are dou­ble-skinned around the rear quar­ter sec­tion.


The MX-5 can suf­fer from is­sues with the elec­tric win­dows. If they’re sticky, lu­bri­cat­ing seals is the usual cure, al­though frayed cables and failed mo­tors aren’t un­com­mon. Make sure the pop-up head­lamps work and aren’t mis­aligned, and look for a proper gel-type bat­tery in the boot as fumes from con­ven­tional lead-acid items can cause rot to de­velop.

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