1991 Mazda Miata or The Joy of Slow Cars

Posted: April 5, 2012 in My Cars
Tags: , ,

I’ve had this on my mind for a long time, but there’s truth to the adage that sometimes its far more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow.

Let me explain.

I have had many, many cars that were dog ass slow, yet a joy to drive.  Compare this to some of the higher horsepower cars I’ve owned which were nightmares.  To put it simply, the reward that is gained from hustling a slow car dramatically exceeds the frustration one experiences in a powerful, capable car while stuck at legal speeds or worse, in traffic.

My Miata was the poster child for the fun of slow.  For $1,500 I acquired a delightful little car.  Wonderful, grippy seats, a snicky short shifter, a simple, driver oriented interior, and the best selling sports car on the planet.  My little Miata came with a perfect 50/50 weight balance and a 1.6L engine that buzzed along over 4,000 RPM at 80 mph, yet spun like a champ around town.  Coupled to its 5-speed gearbox and a 4.3 rear end, the car scooted, despite its measly 115 horsepower – and returned a steady 30 mpg no matter how I drove it, or where.

The joy of this car was twofold – first, accessible top down motoring – I have always been a fan of driving a convertible, and a small, efficient, light weight fun car like this is just perfect for a student in Washington, D.C.  Park it anywhere, fill it up every three weeks and don’t worry about beating it to shit on the bad streets with the crazy drivers.

The other component to this car was the way it drove.  Making this car turn, feeding in throttle to get it to rotate, and working hard to keep it moving fast were extremely rewarding to the driver.  On my “test track” (location undisclosed) I could average over 70 mph through the extremely technical twists and turns – by comparison, my GSX with three times the power (and twice the weight) usually peaked around 65 mph.  Of course that GSX would annihilate the Miata in a straight line, but 10 times out of 10 I would take that Miata – simply for the smiles per miles that it delivered.

I wish I had more pictures of the car.  I wish I still had the car – I did sell it to the same people I sold my MR-2, so I know it went to a good home and saw plenty of autocrossing action.

So, to this day, when people ask which sports car they should look at, I always tell them to start with the Miata.  Few cars can match the package that the Miata has, which explains why its the best selling car on earth.

I’m always met with derision, with claims that its slow and its a girl’s car, but to that I simply reply “drive one”.  Those who have driven one know, and those who don’t, don’t.

  1. When I used to ride motorcycles, I came to the same realization. Going from a 140 hp FZ1 to a 1973 CL350 was very rewarding. Spinning the hell out of the motor during any turn you took with out breaking laws was much more fun than on the big bike. Of course, nobody believed me.

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