Congratulations to Todd on the return of Max as the May Miata of the Month!
The last time you saw this car was when Gary Fischman owned it. It was "Miata of the Month" back in April of 1998.
The odometer was reading 171,079 miles.
Since then, the car has had four
different owners and many adventures -- some good for it, some bad for it. In
this Miata of the Month, I (the current owner) bring you up to date with the
car and show what can happen in the life of a Miata.
Well, Gary kept the car for another two years, gave it a nice, new paint job, then sold it to Frank Mowry with 186,529 miles on it. This began the first of the car's transformations. Frank used it as a project car, he had a 1.6 liter motor for the car, which already had a built bottom end and a one of the first Flyin' Miata II kits already installed, and he bought this car to put it in. Frank went through a lot of tuning and development with the car and was a frequent poster to the "Miata Power" mailing list.
During its time with Frank, it was broken into and the radio was stolen. Unfortunately, the theives did not take the easy way into the car (through the top!) and instead they pried the door handle out. This required the passenger's side of the car to be repainted, but all the original sheetmetal remained on the car.
You can see the additions of the
Japanese GAB wheels and the Hard Dog roll bar. You can also see the PIAA fog
lights that Gary installed remained. The interior stayed almost exactly as Gary
had left it, with the addition of some aftermarket stereo equipment and A-pillar
Frank sold the car in September of 2004 to a mystery person. The only information that has made it through is that the man was named "Josh." The only mark that was left on the car following his ownership was this parking pass.
I don't know how many miles were
on the car when Frank sold it, but the fourth owner bought it in January of
2005, with 208,389 miles on the clock, meaning that the mystery buyer only had
the car for four months. So, in the 37,310 miles that the car saw from when
it left Gary's hands, it went through three owners and had a whole lot of go-fast
parts put on.
In January of 2005, John Schiller bought the car and now the car was living in sunny Orlando, Florida.
John had fun with the car and with Frank's work, the car made a lot of power. Enough power to literally tear the rear differential out of the car! I know, that sounds like an exaggeration and I wouldn't have believed it either, until I saw the picture.
To repair this, John replaced the entire subframe with one from a '96. It was back on the road, still making a lot of power!
John had the car for just over a year when it was stolen. It was found a day later in a gravel pit, stripped of all of the easily-sellable parts (wheels, stereo, electronic boost controller, wideband meter, etc.) and left for dead. John had to pay $230 to have the car towed back to his house.
Sadly, a lot of the parts Gary had originally installed were taken, including the Voodoo knob, PIAA lights, Momo steering wheel, and on and on.
He didn't carry insurance that would cover the damage.So, he was left with no option but to sell what was left.
He posted a message on a private message forum, offering the car for sale... as is, where is.
As soon as I read that, I instantly messaged John and told him that I'd give him what he asked for the car, send some wheels and a steering wheel down to him so that it could be put on a trailer, and then have a transport company pick up the car to bring it up to Ohio. He agreed and we made the deal.
After a couple weeks of waiting, the car arrived. With some help, I pushed it off the trailer and let it roll down to the bottom of my driveway, where the garage is. After the transport truck left, I gave the car a once-over. Yep, it looked pretty thrashed, but mostly intact. I hotwired it to see what would happen and it jumped to life! It wasn't the prettiest sound, since there were a number of vacuum lines cut and whatnot, but it did run. I was happy to see this. One indication that the car saw some really nasty things was a 2" rock that blew out of the tailpipe (!) when I started it!
Then, the restoration began. I put the car in my garage and started to take things apart. It went up on jack stands for a full evaluation of the engine, drivetrain, suspension, brakes, et cetera. I sent a pair of 16" wheels from my other Miata, but I intended to put the 15" set on this new car. Unfortunately, the nice Wilwood brakes did not clear the 15" wheels. So, I had to retrofit stock 1.8l calipers and lose the Wilwoods. Other than that, the car kept all the goodies that it showed up with.
As I got into the restoration, I found a lot of encouraging things regarding the integrity of the car. I found that the body panels were all original, still showing the VIN stickers that Mazda put on them when the car was new. I found that there was zero rust on the chassis and the underside was in excellent shape. Unfortunately, there were some other surprises.
When the car was recovered, it was in a gravel pit. With no wheels. So, to get it out, the car had to be pulled out, which the tow company did from the rear. This left the exhaust system to drag on the ground, which crushed the downpipe, badly. I called Bell Engineering and ordered a new one. The difference between the new and old downpipes were striking!
Which would you rather have on your car (obviously there were some advances in downpipes in 8 years!).
After about three weeks more work, I got the car back on the road. It had seen a complete wet-sanding and refinishing of the existing paint, had every mechanical system inspected and repaired, and it was back to being a functional car. The interior still needed some work, though.
During the process, I had to modify some of the wiring at the ECU to revert back to a narrow-band O2 sensor. While I was there, I saw the serial number on the Link ECU and decided to contact Bill Cardell at Flyin' Miata to see what information was available on the original purchaser. Imagine my surprise when I found that it was Frank Mowry, who built this car at the same time I was building my black '92 FMII car!
Well, I contacted Frank and he gave me the rest of the history on the car. The more I found out about the car, the more I liked it. A few weeks later, it looked like this:
Once I got the car in shape to drive, I used it as a daily driver until this past Winter. It runs and drives great! In fact, with some basic tuning and turning the boost up to 19 PSI, the car is a rocket! The car is just about to come out of Winter storage and I'll continue to drive maintain and modify it.
So, in fewer than 50,000 miles, this car has seen five different owners, has been broken into once, has been stolen and stripped once, has been flat-bedded from Florida to Ohio, and then finally restored. Who knows what the next 50,000 miles are going to bring, maybe you'll see it as Miata of the Month in 2016 with another update!
If you do see it again, keep in mind the following picture of the odometer as it reads right now, 219,041 miles:
Will you be next?