The joy of driving Miata. Been there, done that

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May you always find magic in the ordinary”. A new motto for Mazda Miata. And a petrolhead’s view on Japanese minimalism

Mazda Miata NB ND

Every season is convertible season

Funny how anxiety manifests for the middle-aged petrolhead

Parent a few grownups in the morning at the office, get back home to wrestle two toddlers revving like VTECs. Life can sometimes feel like the 1-2 shift of a sequential gearbox

At night, do you ever dream of understeer? I hate understeer. Only natural it haunts me in my sleep.

The reverie is innocuous at first. Stress disguised in the form of a spirited ride.

I see the nondescript offset corner approaching fast. The wheel sluggish to initial input, as if all the power steering fluid suddenly dried up. Fun turns into nightmare. What was going to be a very late apex now looks like running out of road. Welp

I gently ease up on the rack and lift off desperate for rotation. Even during REM sleep good instinct and reflexes kick in. I guess a positive of my instructors having drilled the basic concepts into me. But in my mind’s Eau Rouge not an inkling of traction to be found. Understeer like a MF and the realization it cannot be saved. 

The abrupt awakening spares me the aftermath of the farm I just bought. 

Chris Delantonis

But there are good nights

Grownups follow directions and toddler smiles as soothing as the plush ride of a Lexus LS500. Gonna be sweet dreams tonight. Not of supercars or some unattainable chassis but those I loved dearly, the long departed.

A mainstay in the garage of my subconscious is the brilliant black ’99 NB Miata MX-5. Seven years of ownership

This one permanently etched in the hippocampus. So vivid my recollection, the roadster with the stretched hood could show up in my MRI. 

Any proud former or current owner feels inclined to add a few more lines to the myth of the honorable Miata, which apparently in Old High German means “reward.”

Well said but I prefer the Japanese “Jinba ittai,” translating to oneness of rider and horse

Light, agile, impeccably balanced. A hand in glove driving position provided you did not make the cut for the high school basketball team. An OEM short throw like none other. Connected yet quite forgiving. Gobs of fun without breaking the bank. Generous and reliable, even after you’d stomp on her repeatedly

Like a tail-wagging (pun intended) Labrador retriever, ecstatic to see you every time you found yourself snug in the homey bucket.

When have 140+ ponies from a meager 1.8lt naturally aspirated motor felt so exhilarating?

Not simply a vehicle to own, operate, and enjoy. For me akin to a college education.

I do recall the poignant U.S. commercial when the ND made its debut in 2016. Captured the spirit of growing old with the brand – see link below. Assuming they stay in production would not mind getting back into one when I hit 60

Quite strange…

… Because the NB was not love at first sight for me personally. A sleek shape yet quite awkward from certain angles, clearly lacking the NA’s charm after Mazda ditched the pop-up headlights. 

It was peer pressure which got me into a second hand one rather late in my 20’s.

Turns out it was that pair of jeans you bought off the cuff but end up wearing all the time. Thanked myself for the find. We discovered each other, no wonder we stuck it out for 150K miles.

Way more to share but I’ll spare you. This is a love letter not a novel.

One memory that lingers more than others was somewhere up at Angeles forest on a random weekday. Carrying all the momentum through each corner. The aftermarket 4-1 header and rest of the straight pipe setup courtesy of Racing Beat (and that dubious tech who helped with the Cali emissions sticker), sang the high-pitched song

We were sliding around ever so slightly

Just the right amount of travel on the Bilsteins working in concert with those glorious Yokohama Parada Spec-2’s.

Traction breaking just enough to position the front axle exactly where I wanted it.

The Nardi wheel staying put through the apex while the Torsen diff. worked out the necessary rotation in one fluid motion. Nothing extra. Man and machine forged in one. Jinba ittai!

Ps 1. What’s so special you may ask. Miatas are a dime a dozen. To the point you’d call them commonplace. Still, somewhere between the moments described above is when I became a petrolhead.

Ps2. Mazda USA corporate folks listen up. I got your next motto. Drop the toddler “zoom zoom” and the cut and dry “celebrate driving” from your vernacular. Picture an ND on full opposite lock. One of these five second screaming power slides àla Chris Harris. Screen fades to black. Mazda logo pops up: May you always find magic in the ordinary.” 

Pacific Coast Hghway

Photo: Ioannis Ioannou /

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