OUR CARS The Total MX-5 fleet
You should never go back, some say, but John Simister didn’t listen and has reclaimed his old mk1
MX-5S are in our blood and, just as importantly, on our driveways. This issue John Simister welcomes back into his life a mk1 he sold in February 2014, Bennett readies his mk3 for winter, and Fox’s mk1 has its nose wiped…
WHAT GOES AROUND...
Have you ever owned the same car twice? It’s a strange feeling, almost as if the time in between never happened and the car never went away. My particular bit of time-disappearance happened between February 2014, when I sold the 1989
Eunos that I’d bought in 2011, and June 2018 when I bought it back for the price I’d sold it for.
As soon as it departed, on St Valentine’s Day, I knew I would be broken-hearted. Why did I do it? Because I’d just bought a new daily driver and something had to go. I made a monster loss, of course, having spent over £4000 on that Eunos by then, including buying it, replacing the ripply nearside front wing and having the whole car repainted, sorting out its suspension, replacing the hood and a hundred other little jobs.
The intention had been to buy a cheap but sound MX-5 for some carefree open-top fun, and this one fitted my stipulations that it should be early (so closest to how its creators intended it to be), a Eunos (less likely to be rusty, better equipped and somehow cooler), and Mariner Blue (the perfect mk1 colour, and the hue of the first one I ever drove when they were new). However, I should have factored in my inability to leave cars in a suboptimal state. Don’t be fooled by the F-plate, by the way, which is a great conversation piece in MX-5 circles: it’s an October 1989 car and should really be a G-plate, but was mis-registered on import in 1999.
It had undergone some visual ‘enhancement’ which I quickly reversed, although the front lip spoiler, and the Nardi steering wheel and gearknob, stayed because they are nice things and Mazda offered them as accessories. So did the Toyosports exhaust manifold, the decat pipe and the
Scorpion exhaust system. The cheapo Rokkor coilovers had to go, though – too harsh, too bouncy, even when raised back up to a sensible ride height – and were replaced by a set of Gaz adjustables.
They later went, too, because
I just could not get the ride quite right. In their place came a set of Sachs Super Touring dampers, plus standard-spec springs from the excellent Autolink. Reinstating this Oeequivalent suspension set-up was the best modification I made, helped by a pair of Performance 5 frame rails.
Then the Eunos departed.
Total MX-5 was launched, I contributed some stories and I found myself feeling a bit left out. So when I heard that F850 KGP was for sale, I could hardly not buy it back. It had lived in a garage and covered few miles in the interim, so I knew it would be fine and sent the money via the painless miracle that is internet banking.
The mind plays tricks at times like this, and the eyes don’t see all they should. The rear arches were still impressively free of rust, but the hitherto pristine lower rear wings, the parts that cover the sills and trap water because they have no drains, were not. I’d had the left one repaired in 2011 but it was now bubbling slightly, and the right was now a touch scabby at its vertical junction with the sill.
So these needed fixing. So did the offside front wing, which had gained a small kink and dent and some bubbles on its bottom edge. And so did the bootlid, which had acquired two bumps where it had been shut on something too big for the boot. Off went the Eunos to the bodyshop of Adam
Redding, a restorer friend who does marvellous work on E-types, Astons, Lancias and, well, anything. Including MX-5S.
Having chopped off the rear wing bottoms and established that the sills themselves were perfect, Adam’s panel man invisibly welded clever repair panels which incorporate drain channels, so ensuring they will never trap water again. I supplied one (which was all I thought was needed at first), he made the other. Adam also fitted a new front wing from Mx5parts, repaired the bootlid (now without the excessive rear spoiler which I had unwisely retained last time) and, to my slight surprise, repainted the whole car, except for the bumpers and windscreen frame, ‘to make sure it all matched perfectly’.
It looks truly lovely, but once again I have spent far more than intended. Worse, I have had to put right things that should have been kept on top of during the past four years away from me, but somehow weren’t.
So I have fitted new braided brake hoses, the transverse rear brake pipe and a wiper blade to match the one (yes, just one) replaced for the last MOT. The brake fluid apparently had a high water content, noted during that MOT and service, so it’s good that I have changed that, too. Ditto the antifreeze, noted as ‘very weak’.
Finally, I have ditched the ‘silenced’ decat pipe because I got fed up with the noise and smell. With a catalyst reinstated, the Eunos is odourfree, pleasantly rorty instead of anti-social, and goes just as well as it did before. So what, you may legitimately ask, is the point of a decat pipe? For a standard-tune road car, I have absolutely no idea.
As I scribble this, it’s early December and so far winter has been kind, with only a few light frosts and little salt on the roads. No doubt it will strike us down with great vengeance after Chrimbo, but that won’t stop me from using my MX-5. It is, pretty much, my only car, after all. And with the odometer nearing 143,000 miles, there’s little point in being precious about it either. That equates to getting on for 8000 miles in my care since I brought it in March 2018. Looks like it will be averaging out at about 12,000 miles a year, then.
Last issue, it was MOT time (which it passed), plus new front discs and pads. Prior to that I had a new clutch fitted and sorted the suspension with Eibach springs and anti-roll bars, plus I fitted new tyres. Now, I’m happily reaping the rewards of reliable motoring both locally and further afield as and when big mileage, social and business trips crop up. It’s not the greatest mile-muncher, but it’s not intolerable either and it’s certainly a step forward from previous mk1 and mk2 MX-5S.
It’s even got the mk4 covered, thanks to greater interior space, which is a good thing when you’re a six footer with legs like a giraffe. My only real grumble is backache after long periods at the wheel, which is something I’ve never had in my other MXS, with their seemingly more basic chairs.
With all the mechanics sorted, I’ve been able to devote some time to cosmetics and the hood. The latter I was prompted to tackle after bumping into an Mx-5-owning chum in the village, Rob, who I encountered busily treating and re-dying the hood on his own mk3, with a Renovo kit. It reminded me that I had a Renovo soft top kit in the garage, which I had bought for my mk1, probably four, or even five years ago, but never got round to using. However, with the hood on my mk3 in great condition, I was determined to keep it that way. A mk3 hood is rather more expensive to replace than a mk1/2 hood.
The kit is super-simple to use, with three separate procedures/treatments. First up it obviously needs to be clean, so after brushing off any loose dirt I set to, using a large paint brush to apply the solution. Renovo recommends leaving it for 20 minutes or so, before then scrubbing with a sponge to create a lather, to draw out the dirt. Then, finally, I blasted it with the jet wash to get all the cleaner solution out and then let it dry, which on a
breezy, sunny day, didn’t take very long.
At this stage I could have used the Renovo Soft Top Reviver, to re-dye the hood, but I decided it was looking pretty black enough already, so went straight in with the Renovo Ultra Proofer, which it is claimed re-establishes the original waterproof weather barrier and protects against UV and prevents mould and mildew. Applied with a paint brush and working from the centre of the hood out, Renovo recommends two coats, which the 500ml bottle just manages to achieve.
Job done and the hood looks like new and is well protected for the winter. Which is why, of course, I folded it flat and dragged the hardtop out of the garage. Well, if you’ve got a hardtop, then you might as well use it, and it means my soft-top will escape the ravages of winter, and emerge in perfect condition in the spring. There’s method there somewhere...
The hardtop was a pig to get off back in the spring, so I gave all the fixings a good squirt with WD-40. Also treated all the rubber seals with a rubber care stick, which I swear by for protecting and reinvigorating any kind of rubber trim or seal. It has the slightly unfortunate name of Gummi Pflege Stift, but then it is German. I’ve never investigated a translation, but take it from me, it works and it’s easy to apply. Search it out one day online.
There are those MX-5 fans who deride the hardtop as the devil’s work, mainly because it pretty much puts pay to getting the top down on those sunny, winter days. That’s true, but I’m happy with the cosy pay-off that comes with the hardtop. Of course, with a MX-5 mk3 coupe, you can have your cake and jolly well eat it at the touch of a button, and you don’t have to worry about where to store your bulky hardtop either. It’s no wonder they sold so well...
Final winter prep? To give the paintwork a rigorous polish, wax and finish off with a sealant glaze. I used to be a bit of a car care perv, but in recent years
I’ve just stuck with good old Autoglym. However, this time round I tried some products that came recommended by another German outfit by the name of Klasse. I’m not that bothered about uber-expensive carnauba waxes and the like, what I’m after is a long-lasting shine and finish, which will generally be synthetic. So, I used Klasse all-in-one polish, topped off by Klasse sealant glaze. That said, I have learnt a little trick, which is to then use a good quality wax on top of the sealant.
Works every time for a deep shine, and when the wax does eventually wear off (which won’t take long in the winter), there’s still a couple of layers of shiny protection left. That said, after a couple of months, the paintwork is still beading well. Oh, if you’re into all this stuff, then I can’t recommend motorgeek.co.uk highly enough, for all your car care needs.
Finally, what of winter tyres? Well, I have a spare set of mk3 alloys, but I’m not sure I’ve got a spare few hundred quid for the winter tyres, though. I’ll keep an eye on the long-range weather forecast and besides, the household Citroën Berlingo has just had some new winter boots, so that will probably have to do.
Simister has kept the Nardi wheel and gearknob because ‘they’re nice things’
MK1 EUNOS 1.6 Run by: John Simister Owned since: 2011, off and on Total mileage: 132,400 Latest costs: approx £2500
Hood revitalisation in three handy Renovo badged bottles
MK3 2.0 Run by: Steve Bennett Owned since: March 2018 Total mileage: 142,800 Latest costs: £0