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...

Total MX-5 - - CONTENTS -

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.

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