Tom and Laura Tanner on the selection of 338 as our September Miata of the Month!
Tom Tanner and his son Keith stood on the Mazda lot in Ottawa, Canada, looking at an unloved Miata. It had been for sale at an associated Hyundai dealership for months and had just been moved. The paint was faded, didn't match very well and the tires were in poor shape. A test drive showed that the shocks needed replacing before the car had even left the lot. The clutch was almost gone and the exhaust leaked, but the transmission and engine felt strong. The interior was in great shape. And most important of all, a glance at the VIN showed that it ended in 100338. That meant that this sad little Miata was the 338th one made and was built in April 1989. It was also a very reasonable price and Keith was willing to do the mechanical work, so Tom made a deal.
Well, two deals. When Tom got home, he had to tell Laura what he'd done. She okayed the purchase on one condition - that they take the car on a road trip to Cape Breton that summer. Fair enough! The car was christened "338" in honour of the production number.
The first job was to restore the paint. It turned out that most of the damage was simply oxidation and some hard work transformed the car. Meanwhile, Keith tuned up the mechanicals and did a lot of basic maintenance. A good stock exhaust was nabbed from another Miata that was getting an aftermarket exhaust, shift boots were changed, the brakes were tuned up, a tonneau cover was installed and the car was declared fit for a road trip.
Before the car could go to Cape Breton, Axel and Steffi Windmueller flew in to town. They had arranged to borrow the car to drive to Texas for the Miata World 99 10th anniversary meet, running down the Blue Ridge Parkway and through Deals Gap on the way. Three 1990s - 338, Keith Tanner's "Baby" and Gary Fischman's "Max" - made the trip in convoy, with the newest having a mere 119,000 km on the odometer. It turned out that 338 was both the oldest car at the event and had travelled the furthest distance to get there! Some photos were taken with Miata number 500,000 and Tom Matano signed a print that now hangs in the Tanner home.
Upon the return to Ottawa, the shocks and sway bars were changed, a number of braces were attached to the car and Tom and Laura left for their trip. Laura's first car was a brand new MGB and Tom had grown up driving Sprites and MGBs. 338 proved to be an excellent replacement but without the problematic fuel pumps and leaky tops! The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton is an amazingly scenic drive that hugs the coast, twisting and turning under brilliant skies and through fishing villages. It was the perfect way to get reintroduced to sports cars.
338 had led a hard life before getting rescued, and a few years later the engine was using oil quite heavily. So Tom drove the car out to Keith's new home in Colorado and left it there for the winter. The engine was rebuilt and the completely worn clutch was replaced. Tom and Laura travelled out to pick the car up the next spring and drove back across the continent, taking a number of long detours to various national parks.
The shiny little Miata that lives in the Tanner garage almost ended up as a beater. Luckily, a peek at the VIN saved it...
Will you be next?