MK2 1.8

Run by: Steve Ben­nett Owned since: De­cem­ber To­tal Mileage: 124,450 Lat­est costs: £50 (MOT)

Total MX-5 - - OUR CARS -

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

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