Lightly modded RS Limited
James Peach always wanted an MX-5, but when he bought his RS Limited didn’t fully appreciate what he’d got. He does now, though…
James Peach is one of a new generation of MX-5 fans who understand that massive horsepower isn’t the only path to hardcore driving pleasure. Words and photographs: Brett Fraser
If you’re of a certain age then you’ll remember when the MX-5 was way too uncool for younger car enthusiasts. Too slow. Weedy outputs. Image issues – too mid-life crisis for some, too hairdressery for others. Frontwheel drive hot hatches were the way to go, unless you could afford the insurance on a Subaru Impreza Turbo…
But times change. MX-5S – especially the more affordable mk1 – have edged their way into youthful consciousness. The drifting scene probably helped. The Fast & Furious movie franchise certainly did, introducing new generations to the thrills and delights of rear-drive handling. And, of course, sometimes you can’t be told that something’s good, you have to find out for yourself: which can take time.
James Peach reckons that he always wanted an MX-5: I can detect in his voice that the 22-year-old wondering why I even bothered asking what triggered his interest in the little Mazda roadster and if he’d encountered any stigma from owning it. ‘Actually, a big group of my mates own MX-5S,’ he states. But then, with a smile, he confesses that they are all aware, and undaunted by, the MX-5’S earlier reputation for being a bit soft.
‘We’ve loosely fashioned ourselves into a club, the Hairdresser Squad, and we’ve even got stickers. As yet there aren’t enough of us to afford our own stand at shows, but we tend to tag along with other clubs to some of the events, such as Japfest. And we attend the local MX-5 Owners Club monthly meetings.’
James’ car is a 1994 mk1 Eunos RS Limited. ‘I bought it four years ago from someone in Solihull,’ he says, ‘but although I’d always wanted an MX-5 – my sister had one and it was great – I wasn’t fully aware of what I was buying, as I hadn’t paid much attention to the limited editions. That I bought one of the best models was a happy accident.
‘It was in good condition with no visible rust and had done about 100,000km, but the RS’S hallmark carbon-kevlar Recaro race seats were missing, replaced with regular tombstone items: I found a pair of the Recaros a while later, in Wales. The roof was knackered but I had a garage so it wasn’t a problem – I tend to drive around with the roof down anyway unless it’s pouring, and now that I have a second car and don’t have to use the MX-5 as my daily driver, I’ve got rid of the roof altogether. I do have a hard-top, though, for the winter.’
As tidy as James’ car was initially, it couldn’t escape rust’s hungry jaws. ‘It was inevitable,’ he sighs. ‘I had the sills on both sides replaced and the offside rear wheelarch sorted out. I got Deepcar Autobodies up in Sheffield to do the work and to paint the repaired sections.’
These days a junior technician with Cotswold-based Rennsport, an upmarket Porsche restorer that also specialises in bespoke modifications to classic 911s, James was quick to personalise his MX-5. He slammed the suspension, cranked up the negative camber, and fitted fat BBS alloys and a chromed style bar over the back of the cockpit. It looked fabulous but for James wasn’t quite right. ‘I decided that what I really wanted was something more trackday inspired.’ These days the RS rolls on lightweight (4kg) Enkei RPF01 wheels wrapped in Nankang NS-2R semi-slick tyres, and is suspended by Meister R adjustable coilovers.
Under the bonnet the guts of the engine are standard, but it’s fed by a K&N induction kit, and vents its exhaust gases through an HKS stainless steel 4-2-1 manifold that feeds into a Powerflow cat-back exhaust system. The engine bay also features a Honda Civic radiator that’s half the width of the standard item, allowing space for a cold air intake right at the front of the car.
For the present James has no plans for further engine upgrades. ‘I want to get out there and drive and enjoy it,’ he insists, ‘not fuss over a big spec list: that’s what the MX-5 is all about, don’t you think?’ Frankly, we couldn’t agree with you more, James.
Above: James’ first batch of mods resulted in a smart-looking car, but he then decided he wanted better driving dynamics
…that’s echoed on the centre console
Chromed mirrors add a retro touch…
Above: Note half-width rad and position of cold-air intake Below: Motorsport tow hooks from Jass Performance
Above: RS’S stance suggests a real sense of purpose Below: James likes the thin rim of wooden Moto-lita wheel