OUR CARS The Total MX-5 fleet

We don’t just write about MX-5S, we own them, too. So when some­times we say that ‘we feel your pain’, that’s from first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence. And once again that ex­pe­ri­ence seems to be cen­tred around rust…

Total MX-5 - - CONTENTS -

Rust comes knock­ing loudly, but at least some MOTS are passed, if only just in cer­tain cases…


They say never meet your he­roes. To which I might add: never watch a man with a disc cut­ter slice up your MX-5. It’s painful, even when you have a rough idea of what to ex­pect. But when the ma­chine fires up and the sparks start fly­ing, the hole be­gins grow­ing and the rust is soon show­ing, you’ll rue ever ask­ing to watch what’s go­ing on.

The full hor­ror of this rev­e­la­tion took place at The MX-5 Re­storer, the East­bourne based spe­cial­ist we re­viewed in the last is­sue of Total MX-5. We’d ac­tu­ally nipped down there to have a drive of Garath Smith’s fab­u­lous mk1 Speed­ster that you may al­ready have read about on page 34. But we had pre­vi­ously been talk­ing to Garath and his busi­ness part­ner, Chris Loader, about do­ing a fea­ture on re­pair­ing the sills on early MX-5S, so while my car was in their work­shop, it was deemed ap­pro­pri­ate to stick it up on a ramp and have a peek at the sills.

In or­di­nary con­ver­sa­tion Garath ap­pears to be a nor­mal, laid-back bloke, but put him in the vicin­ity of a rusty MX-5 sill and he be­comes the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of Ed­ward Scis­sorhands; his face cracks into a con­tented smile as he bran­dishes cut­ters and chis­els and ham­mers and other tools of fer­ric de­struc­tion. With zeal­ous en­thu­si­asm he prods and whacks and scrapes your sills and arches, and soon you be­come so wrapped up in the mo­ment that you hear your­self say, ‘sure, crank up that cut­ting disc and crack open that sill and let’s take a look see what’s hid­ing down there.’ At least, I think that’s how it went…

Be­witched or not, I agreed that, for the pur­poses of a later story, Garath should dig right in. Which he did glee­fully. The cut­ting through metal was nasty. The lev­er­ing back sec­tions of body­work with a bloody great screw­driver, worse. The ex­po­sure of the rust be­neath was gut-wrench­ing. Of course I knew it would be lurk­ing there, but the ex­tent of its progress and the al­most ma­li­cious man­ner in which it con­verts steel into brown, crum­bling par­ti­cles was shock­ing. Truly aw­ful.

Garath was smil­ing, though. In the man­ner of a man who en­joys cut­ting things up. ‘Don’t worry,’ he tried to re­as­sure me, ‘it’s bad but we’ve seen much, much worse.’ Which was a help. But not much of a one. I cer­tainly wasn’t go­ing to stand around to watch what car­nage might be un­cov­ered when he at­tacked the other sill.

Ex­cept that wasn’t go­ing to be an im­me­di­ate thing. In our keen­ness to get some de­cent photography, we’d sort of for­got­ten to ask The MX-5 Re­storer if there was an avail­able slot to have the work com­pleted. Turned out there wasn’t. Not for a while. So with a large hole where a chunk of the driver’s side sill used to be, I had no op­tion but to leave my car down there in East­bourne. And take a train from the south coast to the Suf­folk/nor­folk bor­der, which was no kind of fun. None at all.

Shame about the bad plan­ning, be­cause I’d re­ally been en­joy­ing the MX-5 for the pre­vi­ous cou­ple of months and had a few things planned for it mov­ing for­ward. Oh well… Just prior to our trip to The MX-5 Re­storer I’d lucked in to an early MOT – I was drop­ping off some stuff at Michael Clev­er­ley’s and heard the guys grum­bling about a no-show for an MOT. I was about to book one any­way, and didn’t have to be any­where else, so we helped each other out. Vin­cent, who per­formed the test, ad­vised me that al­though the sills were le­gal they’d need work be­fore the next MOT: which, I guess, is why I didn’t have any hes­i­ta­tion about Garath Smith as­sault­ing my car with Old Sparky, his disc cut­ter.

I had hoped that the high­light of this update on my car would be the fit­ting of Dave­fab’s cold air in­duc­tion kit, which I’ve been bust­ing to get un­der the bon­net ever since I got it. The kit draws cool air from the area be­tween the base of the wind­screen and the bulk­head with the en­gine bay, and for it to do so in­volves cut­ting a hole in the bulk­head and mov­ing the washer-bot­tle out of the way – Dave­fab has thought­fully de­signed a fab­ri­cated metal low-level re­place­ment that sits in the cold air space on the other side of the car. All of which is to say, once the kit’s in­stalled, you’ll not be eas­ily switch­ing back to the orig­i­nal air­box ar­range­ment; so if you want to ob­tain a rolling road ‘be­fore’ power fig­ure, it re­ally does have to be prior to fit­ting the kit.

What with one thing and an­other, I’d been rather slack in track­ing down a dyno to take my car to, and so the cold air kit has been sim­ply knock­ing about in my of­fice, look­ing pretty. But then Mr Clev­er­ley en­quired if I’d tried the dyno boys about three miles down the road… Guess I should have asked him in the first place.

Hy­brid Tune is owned by Sam Weller (sam@hy­brid­tune.co.uk), who is as­sisted by Matt

Will­goss, and they soon had my car up on the rollers, the tailpipe vent­ing into a large ex­haust gas ex­trac­tor unit, while around at the front a size­able fan was blow­ing cool­ing air at the en­gine bay. If you’re not an ha­bit­ual fre­quenter of rolling roads, the rag­ing noise and vi­o­lent turn­ing of the wheels of a car – your car – only a few feet away from you can seem slightly alarm­ing: it doesn’t feel any­where near as dra­matic when you’re be­hind the wheel driv­ing.

Sam and Matt tried my car with the bon­net shut and then open, the lat­ter to en­cour­age out any last lin­ger­ing ponies that might be hid­ing from the heat in the en­gine bay. Yet their best ef­fort coaxed a total of only 116bhp, much down on the 130bhp the 1.8 is sup­posed to pro­duce. So they checked the en­gine tim­ing to see if that might be steal­ing horse­power: it wasn’t. Per­plexed, they ran the tests again. Same re­sult – max­i­mum power of 116.8bhp at 6404rpm and 108.3lb ft of torque at 4839rpm.

Strangely I’m not glum about the out­come, be­cause on the road my 5 al­ways feels perky enough. The power deficit is puz­zling, though, but I reckon if I men­tion it enough times in front of Michael, then his in-built cu­rios­ity will kick in and he’ll want to know the an­swer, too… I do at least now have a base­line fig­ure to work with and it will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see what difference, if any, the Dave­fab in­duc­tion kit makes – the two Daves aren’t mak­ing any claims for power im­prove­ments, and they’re as keen as I am to find out the facts.

Fas­ci­nat­ing to watch be­ing done to some­one else’s car, tear-in­duc­ing when it’s your own – just ask ed­i­tor Fraser. Or maybe don’t…

The hor­ror be­neath… The Red Men­ace has been feast­ing

MK1 1.8 Run by: Brett Fraser Owned since: 2016 Total Mileage: 118,231 Lat­est costs: £207

Fraser’s 1.8 is put through its paces on Hy­brid Tune’s dyno equip­ment to measure its power out­put

Check­ing the tim­ing

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