2001 Mazda MX-5 Miata Ownership Review: Great First Car

If your son, daughter, or self are looking for a first car, look no further than any reasonably priced Mazda MX-5 Miata. For me, my first car was a 2001 Miata, also known as the NB Miata generation, which I foolishly bought for $7300 on good ol’ Craigslist. If anyone knows Miatas, that’s well over book value, but the owners argued that since it had a fresh coat of paint, many accessories they lovingly put on, and low miles at 83k, it was worth more. Me being 18 years old and because the Miata market where I lived was scarce, I impulsively pulled the trigger.

I considered other alternatives to the Miata, like a Civic Si or high-mileage fifth-generation Mustang GT, but in the end, the Miata was perfect for a budding performance driving enthusiast. Little did I know that this car was, funny enough, also the last bit of denial I had toward my sexuality. I grew up Mormon; therefore, many church parking lot donuts were a rite of passage–along with stoplight U-turns as the tail hung wide, just after I took delivery of my very first car. It was just like having a street-legal go-kart with the gayest dual-tone air horn I’ve ever heard and dashboard cover with “Bee happy” embroidered. For those who aren’t catching on, the classical synonym of gay is happy, and the previous owner’s wife suffered from depression. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to fight those demons than soaking up Vitamin D with the top down and wind in your hair like Grace Kelly.

During ownership, I did exactly that since anyone’s teenage years and twenties are hard even if they’re not heterosexual. Living in Idaho provides twisty, mountainous roads and views that are unparalleled less than twenty minutes outside of Boise; the Miata was the perfect companion. I took it to McCall, which is two hours along previously mentioned roads north of Boise, and along a twisty old high-desert highway through scenic southern Idaho which spits you out in Twin Falls. It was absolutely wonderful—apart from the check engine light coming on from retarded camshaft timing in Bank A. I tried not to take it personally and, yes unfortunately, the R-word was used on my OBD II scanner.

Owning any car with age has its own gamble of problems, and the Miata was no exception. A few of the first parts to be replaced were the clutch and driveline. Yes, I knew how to drive stick just fine at 18 years old. The reason why they had to be replaced is because the previous owner installed a performance clutch but for some reason reused the pilot bearing, so a constant, ear-deafening squeal emitted whenever you drove the car more than ten minutes. The driveline needed to be replaced probably because in combination with sticky tires, a performance clutch and the many times I dumped it at stoplights, the resistance and shock twisted the U-joint to a point I’m surprised the whole thing didn’t fall off and pinwheel me into the air.

After replacing the clutch assembly and driveline, the next item to be replaced was the oil pan which had an oversized drain plug rammed in and was not sealing properly. Whoever worked on this car needs an intervention. After finding a replacement oil pan online from a junkyard Miata and having the dealership I worked at do the labor, I then replaced the camshaft position sensor myself to see if that was causing the retarded timing since the crankshaft position sensor was already replaced a few years before; it didn’t fix it and I didn’t bother with it further because the only other reason I could think of would cost a pretty penny. After all that, I changed the spark plugs and fuel filter for fun and fixed a blown fuse to the air-horns. Then some loser in an Audi lightly side-swiped my younger brother as he drove it home from his high-school graduation and lightly scratched the front driver’s side fender. Thankfully, this mostly buffed out.

In the end, this car brought similar feelings to that of an Alfa Romeo. I had so much fun with it and loved it, but I was so incredibly glad to see it go when I sold it for $4700 after spending about $2000 to fix it. Many amazing memories were made driving it from summer jaunts in the Idaho mountains to passing Ford Raptors in the snow on Blizzaks. It was time for an upgrade to something with at least a little bit of a warranty: a 2013 Scion FR-S.

I need an Excedrin.

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