Congratulations to Jason on the selection of his Miata as the October Miata of the Month!
Jason's in the middle with a couple of other Alaska Miata Club members.
I can remember the very first time I ever saw a Miata: 1992, I was 11, in the back seat of my grandparents' Mercury Cougar as we were driving down the I-15 in Southern California. We passed a Sunburst Yellow Miata, top down, and I can remember thinking how nice it would be to be driving down the road in a car like that.
Fast forward 10 years and I finally have a car like that! Except it's Classic Red instead of Sunburst Yellow. And it was an automatic (oh yeah, and I'm now in Alaska instead of California we'll get to that in a minute). Being taught to drive in automatic cars, I didn't think too much of buying this Miata even though it was an automatic: it was a 1992 with right around 30,000 miles, the VIN checked out clean on CarFax, and it had a hard top. What more could I want? I loved this car so much I made up a site to show all my pictures, then it morphed into allowing everyone else to showing their pictures too - miatapix.net.
About 7 months after buying the car, I test drove a manual '96 Miata. Mind you, my manual-driving wife had to guide me a bit at first on the whole shift thing I had the theory down from countless video games and "Days of Thunder," but putting it to practice took a few miles. We didn't buy that '96, but it sure made me want a manual, 5-speed Miata!
Shortly after that test drive, I read a couple of articles on swapping transmissions and thought it was something I could do. I'd only changed brake pads and oil up to that point, but it can't be THAT hard right? So I picked up a high-mileage, 5-speed manual '92 Classic Red Miata for cheap. It was in Arizona, about 2,000 miles away. It really made for a good reason to take a road trip a 3-week long road trip!
We went down with three weeks worth of clothes, laptop/GPS stuff, camera equipment. Surprisingly, the trunk of the Miata can hold quite a bit. When we ran out of space there, we slid the seats up a bit and crammed some more behind there. Fun stuff.
Let me tell you, we put 3,200 more miles on a Miata that already had 205,000 miles and it ran like a champ. We drove from Sierra Vista, AZ west to the Southern California coast, hitting some theme parks along the way, then headed north and drove the Pacific Coast Highway top-down to Monterrey. We were a little behind schedule, so we headed in and took the I-5 up the rest of the way to Seattle. At that point, we had to get a rental and put our little 5-speed on a barge for its weeklong trip home to Juneau, Alaska.
Now I'm the proud owner of two red convertibles. You may have heard about our long winters up here in Alaska it's really nice because it allows for plenty of wrench time.
With the help of the Miata Enthusiast's Manual, an impact wrench, and the invaluable advice of those on the big Miata mailing list, I was able to successfully swap the transmissions and related systems between the two cars. In the end, I had a 5-speed Miata that used to be an automatic (9:1 compression ratio good for FI!) and an automatic Miata that used to be a 5-speed. I sold the latter for a little more than I paid for it, so it worked out well. Want to do the same? Not only do you have to drop out the transmissions, you have to yank nearly ALL electrical wiring. There's a writeup on my whole experience in the Miata.net Garage.
Since the whole transmission swap, I've done some suspension upgrades, put together a homebrew CAI, and am on the way to saving up for some sort of forced induction system - I'll decide which one later!
Now, you might be asking, "Why have a convertible in Alaska? Isn't it always dark and snowy?" Well, no it's not always dark and snowy (and no, we don't live in igloos either - they melt during the summer!). There are plenty of good reasons to own a convertible here and there are a lot of convertible (i.e. Miata) owners to back that up. There's actually a whole club the Alaska Miata Club @ akmiataclub.org for which I am the Juneau Representative. I can't speak for the whole state, but here in Juneau where we get nearly 13 feet of rain and 9 months of cloudiness per year, being able to drop the top on a sunny day, hitting some radically twisty roads, and packing home a couple big salmon in a bucket on the passenger seat is the only justification I need for owning a Miata!
Will you be next?