Increasingly, MX-5 NAs are owned by enthusiasts, which can be good (they’re looked after) and bad (many have undergone modifications that might not be to your taste). A sub-100,000-miles car in totally standard specification will usually be the best buy.
Mazda MX-5 engine
It’s bulletproof and smoke-free to huge mileages, but early 1.6s with a ‘short-nose’ crankshaft can chew the end of the shaft and the keyway if the bottom pulley works loose. This sends the cam and ignition timing out; the expensive cure is a new crankshaft. Check for oil leaks from the cam-angle sensor at the back of the cam cover; on the 1.8 a leak here can rot the heater hose. Rattly hydraulic tappets on start-up are normal in 1.8s. Note that 1995-on cars have a fake oil-pressure gauge.
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The gearchange should be ultra-precise with short movements of the tiny lever. Ask if the two rubber boots under the lever have been replaced – they split with age, and the lower one seals the separate oil chamber in which the linkage moves. A low clutch biting point and difficulty selecting gears usually means the clutch slave cylinder has failed – an easy fix. Blackened clutch fluid suggests failure is imminent.
Suspension and brakes
The suspension is fully adjustable for camber, caster and toe, and a caring owner will have had this checked regularly. Springs tend to break if rust gets a hold; wishbone bushes eventually crumble. Polyurethane bushes are a popular mod but tend to make the ride harsh. Some Eunoses came with yellow Bilsteins whose damping is uncomfortably firm for our roads.
Bodywork and interior
Top rot-spots are the inner and outer rear wheelarches, the lower rear wings where they go over the sill (an MOT failure if bad), the base of the windscreen pillars, and the lower edges of the front wings. Advanced rear-sill rot can extend to the floorpan.
Most cars will have had a replacement hood by now, so check it fits well. It should have a double-skinned rear section with no stitching visible outside around the rear window; if not, it was a cheap job.
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1598cc|
|Max power||115bhp @ 6500rpm|
|Max torque||100lb ft @ 5500rpm|
|Transmission||Five-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive|
|Tyres||185/60 R14 front and rear|
|Top speed||114mph (claimed)|
|Price when new||£14,249 (1990)|
|Tyres||£58.62 each (Bridgestone ER300)|
|Brake pads||£48.30 (front set, EBC Greenstuff)|
|Brake discs (front pair)||£32.40|
|Exhaust||£198.61 (stainless, excluding front pipe)|
Supplied by MX-5 specialist Autolink. Tyre prices from blackcircles.com. All prices include VAT at 20 per cent
UK cars have a 9000-mile schedule, Eunoses 10,000km (6000 miles). The cars are practically the same so Autolink suggests a simple annual service at £144. This covers an oil change, filters, plugs, checking the brakes, a litre of Waxoyl to top-up the rustproofing, clearing the hood drains and the usual lubrication. A cambelt change (£216) is due at 62,000 miles.
What to pay
Eunoses can come in S-spec, V-spec and more, while the UK importer created several ‘special editions’. Ignore the names and instead consider a car on its merits. Tatty MX-5s and Eunoses can be yours for mere hundreds, and eBay is full of them, but there’s a rich seam of Eunoses between £1000 and £2000, usually with well under 100,000 miles recorded (or 160,000km, as their odometers will say), and these represent the best buys. Late, low-mileage UK 1.8s seldom pass £3000.
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