Since my first ride in a convertible (in high school, in a ’67 Mustang), I’ve always wanted one, but never really had the urge to really look for one or price one up. Now an opportunity has come up to get a FREE CAR, which happens to be a first-generation Mazda MX-5 (the one with the pop-up headlights), which is one car I’ve always thought would be really fun to own and drive.
It’s small, rear-wheel drive, perfectly balanced, convertible (for those few weeks every year that the British weather lets you enjoy top-down weather) and apart from some common but well-documented rust areas apparently it’s a solid car to drive.
With cheap storage costs it’ll be a decent deal, although insurance will be a bugger. Even though it’s free the end cost after it’s fixed up will probably be close to what I could get a good running car for: there’s no interior except for the dash and steering wheel, it hasn’t run in 2 years so it’ll need a new cambelt and maybe tires straight off, it needs an exhaust and the rust I mentioned will have to be cut away and replaced with new steel, then rustproofed and painted.
Luckily a workmate knows how to fix up cars and knows a few people locally who can deal with the welding and electronic stuff (to bypass/remove the faulty alarm), plus his son can do things like take the brakes off and clean them up to see if they’re OK, etc. So in effect I’m getting a new car and spreading the ‘payments’ over a month or two, then I pay the Vehicle Excise Duty (mistakenly called the ‘road tax’ by many British), get it on my insurance and take it to the MOT centre where it gets inspected to make sure it’s legally road-worthy. Once that’s done it’s top-down time, no matter what the weather is like
The first comment I got on Facebook after I said I’d be getting an MX-5 is that it’s a “hairdresser’s car”, which is what Brits call a “girl car”. Fair enough, it’s a small convertible but to be honest I don’t see many women driving an MX-5 around. It’s usually men, and men who know what a decently performing car is like. (Maybe it doesn’t help that the first person I knew who had one of these cars is a gay guy named Bart.) But then, most British folk call the Jeep Wranger a “hairdresser’s car” too…not something I would call off-roaders, hunters and rock crawlers, really, who are the only people I’ve seen drive Wranglers.
So the list of stuff to get for this car seems long, but I’m finding really cheap stuff (like a complete exhaust system for £30) because there’s a big market of MX-5 “breakers”, or people who buy old MX-5′s and take them apart to sell the parts. I can get whole doors, body panels, sets of wheels with tires, etc., it’s all about looking as much as possible and comparing prices.
Could I get a whole, running car cheaper? Maybe. But putting together (or, to be fair, helping to put together) a car that I can turn into a daily driver will be part of the joy of driving it.
And I fully intend to keep the White Lightning (the Saab 900S) – I’ll need it to carry all the parts I have to get!
As for a name for the MX-5? Not sure yet, but maybe “Marty” or “Max”, to keep with the M-theme.