Rare Breeds Centre
Russ Hogg owns more MX-5S than most of us, all of them are rarities, especially in the UK. We take a look at his Japanese tuner collection and wish we could take a couple home with us...
Russ Hogg owns more MX-5S than most of us, all of them are rarities, especially in the UK.WE take a stroll through the collection
What’s the ideal number of
MX-5S you should own? The answer can be calculated using an equation made popular by the cycling community when determining the optimum number of bikes you should have in your shed. It’s a simple formula:
x + 1, where x equals the number of MX-5S you currently own…
Russell Hogg (Russ) – proprietor of a digital marketing company and the detailing products maker, Bonner & Fitz – is confounding that equation, however, by divesting himself of one of his current collection of five rather special factoryand aftermarket-tuned MX-5 mk1s. Over the years he’s owned about 20 mk1s – he doesn’t care for the looks of the mk2 or the heft of the mk3 – so we’re inclined to forgive him for reducing his fleet at this juncture. And also, he doesn’t really want to see it go, but needs must.
‘The car I’m selling is my gorgeous Zoom Engineering Elan, that I bought as a basket-case about six years ago and into which I’ve invested a lot of passion and money. So why sell it? Partly because I seem not to drive it very much any more, and partly because I have my eye on a Porsche 924 S Le Mans special edition and I need the space. Although I’ve owned a good many MX-5S in my time, when I was a little kid on the
Brixton council estate where I grew up, I had a poster of a 911SC on my bedroom wall. I’ve been a Porsche fan ever since. I already own a 997-series 911 Carrera,
but with prices of the air-cooled 911s now absurdly high, I think that frontengined Porsches like the 924 are about to have their day.’
For Russ’s sake we hope he’s right – and also hope that the Le Mans he has his eye on is in as good condition as he thinks it is – because we’re smitten with the Zoom Elan and would struggle to wave it goodbye if it were ours. Zoom Engineering’s kit – front and rear bumper units, bootlid, rear wing and rear lights – combines beautifully with the two-tone paint to create the perfect homage to the lithe little Lotus. And once this car is gone, its rarity means that Russ is unlikely to find another of such exceptional quality should he fancy revisiting one in the future.
All of Russ’s current MX-5S are rare beasts, even the 1.8-litre RS Limited that was produced by the factory, total production of which amounted to just
500 units worldwide. The rest of the collection, though, makes the RS Ltd seem almost commonplace. Russ is a big fan of Japanese tuning companymodified fives, and their output was tiny even when the cars were new: the ravages of rust and crashes, and changing fashions that have seen some of these tuned machines altered to a different specification, mean that their numbers have dwindled still further.
The 1992 Zoom Engineering Elan we have already made reference to, and it is joined in Russ’s small industrial unit in north Cornwall by a 1993 Pit Crew Racing conversion, Greddy’s prototype turbocharged R Ltd, and a 1992
Tucken99 Eunos Roadster that also features a Greddy turbo along with a plethora of other modifications intended to make it an animal on the race track.
The Zoom, Pit Crew and Greddy are in stunning condition, each subject to extensive restoration while in Russ’s hands, although the latter is a work in progress, with some finishing off still to be done. The other turbocharged Eunos is also handsomely prepared, but Russ isn’t content with how the fabulous copper-coloured Whistler wheels fill the broad Tucken99 N2 arches, and is searching for much wider ‘JDM’ wheels. The regular RS Ltd is sound structurally and mechanically, but in need of paint – it may not get it, as Russ’s wife is taking the car as her own and thinks that if the paintwork is to the same standard as others in this Cornish collection, then she’ll be afraid to drive it.
Russ talks of being the ‘curator’ of a line-up of unusual MX-5S and he’s obsessive about ensuring any work done to them being to the very highest standards. And yet he’s not a complete stickler about originality. Though sometimes he is.‘originality’ is a bit of a loose concept when the cars you own are modified and always have been, and Russ seems forever to be looking at ways to enhance them further – an improved clutch here, some re-trimmed seats there. But in certain instances he goes out of his way to retain the bits that were on the car when he bought it.
The Greddy prototype is a case in point. Its glitzy custom ‘Work’ alloy wheels were in a sorry state when he acquired the car, but rather than replace them, he had them lavishly refurbished. ‘I could have bought another set of the same for far less money,’ he laughs.‘but the wheels that were on it were part of the car’s history and I thought they should stay. I sent them to Rimscarnated to be stripped down and rebuilt, and the guys there discovered that the four wheels were of three different sizes… It was an expensive operation: luckily I’m into my wheels.’
He’s also into his componentry. Without recourse to printed notes, as we peer at each car Russ rattles off a Who’s Who of MX-5 parts suppliers. Both the Pit Crew and the Greddy have a Garage Vary bonnet, and the latter also has a Garage Vary rear light panel (as does the Tucken99); the Pitcrew has a Nakamae ‘NATO’ transmission tunnel and internal door pulls; the Tucken99 track car boasts a Toda lightweight steel flywheel and a Tegiwa gearlever extension, not to mention a Project G lightweight hardtop rear window with vents and a Carbon Miata carbonfibre bootlid with integrated ducktail spoiler; and so it goes on until just about every MX-5 tuning company has had a namecheck. It’s impressive and makes you realise what a huge industry Mazda inspired when it launched its famous soft-top.
Talking of soft-tops, they’re another area in which Russ has made his subtle mark on the cars. He’s replaced the
original hoods on the Zoom, Pit Crew and RS Limited with mohair items imported from a Stateside hood supplier, then professionally fitted in Blighty by professional trimmers. And for the Pit Crew and the Greddy, he sourced/inherited Lotus Elise seats and had them re-trimmed, along with the door cards. The Pit Crew has also been treated to Revlimiter custom-made instrument dial faces, and a specially made ‘Pit Crew Racing’ metal badge for the rear of the car. All these things may not be original, but they’re very much in keeping with the spirit of the cars.
Russ’s fascination with the MX-5 can in part be attributed to his earlier ownership of a Triumph Spitfire, although he was into his sporty Fords at the time when he first put his money into the drop-top Mazda.‘i bought my first MX-5 from a car dealer and part- exchanged a very low mileage mk2 Ford Capri against it – what must that Capri be worth now?’ he chuckles.‘the MX-5 was a mk1 with a few subtle mods and I kept it for a couple of years. I partexchanged it against a Boxster but was disappointed with my first Porsche experience. So it was back into an MX-5 – an S-spec Eunos Roadster that I bought for £4000 in East London – just before my wife and I decided to move to Spain in 2005.We managed to pack a month’s worth of belongings into, and strapped onto, that car, and we drove it down there.when we returned to the UK three years later we left the MX-5 there, and it’s still running around on Spanish plates to this day.’
A few other sports cars later and Russ was back in the MX-5 fold with a red Ukspec mk1 with a supercharger and lots of body mods. Although he was to sell it to fund the purchase of the Zoom, he was clearly fond of that red car, as he knows who now owns it, several years on.
‘I started my current collection with the Zoom Elan,’ Russ recalls. ‘It was a wreck and had to be stripped to the bare metal and fitted with new sills, suspension, exhaust and interior.’
Meanwhile Russ had also acquired the black track car with its distinctive Tucken99 wide arches.‘i bought it off a Virgin Airlines pilot from Tunbridge Wells and it had been built as a track car by GT4 Motorsport. It’s a 1.6 with a Greddy TD04 turbo kit and we’ve figured it at 213bhp – it probably makes more, but the clutch slips under boost and will soon be replaced.’
The RS Limited had also enjoyed some motorsport action before Russ added it to his growing collection.‘a friend had used it for hillclimbing and it was missing its original seats – as luck would have it, I’d already bought some RS carbon-kevlar seats, at vast expense, to go into the Pit Crew, so they were reassigned.’
On the subject of the Pit Crew, Russ
has owned two. The car pictured here replaced the first one.‘through a contact in the UK with his own contacts in Japan, I learnt of an auction in a far-flung corner of the country that had a Pit Crew in amongst various other boring stuff, and it was in nice condition. I put in a cheeky bid, won the car, and shipped it home to the Uk.whereupon it was soon after hit by a BIG truck…
‘The trucker’s insurance company was very good and said do what needs to be done. And what needed to be done was for Pit Crew Racing to re-commission some long-dormant equipment to make a new rear clamshell.
Deepcar Autobodies took on the whole project of fitting the new panels and refurbishing the whole car. That included outsourcing the rebuilding of the 1.6-litre engine to MX-5 specialist, Autotronix in Sheffield, who also mildly ported the head, installed slightly wilder cams and fitted Jenvey throttle bodies.’
The Greddy was a car that Russ had followed for years on the forums, and had watched its steady decline.‘i bought it to go drag racing. But it had a full race clutch – like an on/off switch – so was a nightmare on the road. The whole car was a mess: the Greddy TD05 turbo was held on by a single bolt and the bonnet and front bumper were in a state. It required a lot of work. On the other hand, it does have forged engine internals and Öhlins suspension.we still need to get the engine management sorted and apply some specially designed graphics, but the plan is for the restored car to make its public debut in May, at ‘Perran’ (the Spitfire Raceway) in Cornwall.’
When you hear Russ talk so animatedly about his MX-5S, as if they were part of his family, you wonder again how he can bear to part with the Zoom Engineering Elan.‘it was a tough decision,’ he concedes, ‘but I know that it’s going to a good home: I wouldn’t have sold it otherwise. And the new owner is part of the MX-5 community, and to me that’s important.’
With thanks to:
Dave and Emily and Deepcar Autobodies, Mike at James Dyer Transport, Vlad at Jass Performance, Clive at Autotronix, Nick Bailey at Skuzzle, Andrew at Autolink.