Run by: Steve Bennett Owned since: December Total Mileage: 124,450 Latest costs: £50 (MOT)
SPIT AND POLISH
So, where was I? Ah, yes. So, in the last issue I unveiled my surprise new purchase in the shape of a mk2 MX-5, to replace my, er, mk2 Mazda MX-5. The rationale behind this seemingly puzzling purchase? Well, it was in rather better condition than my rotten old thing and Vince, at Cleverley Repaired Cars, wanted just £600 for it, on the basis that it was a bit scruffy and needed some bodywork, but nowhere near as much as my now redundant mk2. It had also been on the receiving end of a new head gasket, waterpump, cam belt and it had a very good hood. It was, as we so often say, a no-brainer, so I raided the piggybank.
It proved to be a good move, because no sooner had the red roadster arrived on the drive, the outgoing green machine decided to blow its head gasket, presumably in a fit of pique. I was actually on my way to the local car wash to get it cleaned for a no reserve appearance on ebay, when the heater started blowing out cold air and the temp gauge shot into the red. I limped it to a garage, filled it with some water and coaxed it back into life, but the whiff of antifreeze and the various gurgling noises gave the game away. Still, I thought it wise to seek a second opinion and called in at Michael Cleverley’s. Yes, it was the head gasket. And the cause? A corroded pipe exiting the water pump.
Of course it could have been repaired, but really it wasn’t worth the expense given the state of the bodywork and the hood, so I offered it to Michael for parts, but not before I had robbed it of various bits. First up I swapped over my trusty Nardi wheel, which is a must compared with Mazda’s OE, oversized, spongy plasticrimmed standard offering. My driver’s seat went in, too, because Vince, for reasons best known to himself, had removed the padding from the seat base of the red peril. The centre console was swapped over because mine had a working lid, plus my metal gearknob and Sony head unit, which I rather preferred to the ‘Max Power’style Pioneer job that Vince wanted back anyway. Needless to say, with my seat, steering wheel, gearknob and head unit, I felt right at home.
Cosmetically the new car was suffering from a very scabby nose, where the lacquer was lifting, and door mirrors that were similarly blighted. I considered getting the nose painted or even doing it myself, but then found a ‘Classic Red’ nose on ebay in good nick,
which I bagged for £30. Result. I kept a look out for mirrors, too, but they were all a bit pricey, so I picked up some rattle cans from Halfords and resolved to do the job myself.
Swapping the nose sounds like a big job, but the reality is that it’s pretty simple. Well, it is an MX-5 after all. With the plastic inner wheelarch liners partially removed and pulled back, assess to the three fixings on either side is revealed. These are simply unscrewed. Further fixings are accessed under the bonnet, where the top of the nose is fixed to the slam panel, and then finally a further three fixings inside the air scoop under the number plate. A bit of a tug and off it comes, ready for the new one to be offered up, but not before transferring the number plate holder and reflectors. In true Haynes manual style, fitting the new nose is the reverse of removal.
Removing the door mirrors is a doddle. Mine are manually adjusted, so no electrics to worry about and nor is it necessary to remove the door cards. Simply twisting the mirror on its base reveals two external screws.
I can’t say I did a magnificent job, and really I should have given the mirrors a few coats of lacquer, but they’re a good sight better than they were and this is ‘Bangernomics’ in action, not some sort of concours resto. That said, with some spit and polish, the red 5 has come up rather well after attacking it with various lotions and potions from years of hoarding car care products. Autoglym’s ever-popular Super Resin Polish works for me, topped off with Autoglym Extra Gloss
Protection sealant, for extra durability. This combo really works and the dirt just falls off in the winter. And if you’re going to have a red car, then it has to pop, so a spiffing shine is essential. Combined with the new nose and painted mirrors, the effect is rather more than £600’s worth of MX-5.
With green MX-5 diddly-dead (as my grandmother used to say), the red 5 was put into immediate daily use, starting with local chores and then some long distance trips including the Autosport Show at the NEC, a jaunt to the Porsche Experience Centre at Silverstone (it wasn’t the only journo-owned MX-5 in the Porsche-dominated car park) and as camera car joining the MX-5 ‘Rocketeer’ for this issue’s Road Trip feature (p48).
A 600-mile round trip is challenging enough for any 20year-old car, but the £600 machine acquitted itself well on the challenging North Yorks roads in sub-zero temps.
Up on Blakey Ridge we shot the front cover, which involves strapping a camera to the bootlid, while photographer Fraser drives and snaps remotely, while I pursue in the Rocketeer just inches behind. That’s how the magic happens!
So there we are. More cheap thrills than you can shake a rattle can at and a warm sense of smugness too.
Fitting new, shiny ebay nose, a snip at just £30. Nice matching overalls…
Photographer Fraser attaches camera to boot of Bennett’s MX-5
Camera car duties in Yorkshire