After buying 11 cars in 5 years, a near-perfect driver’s car might finally cure my automotive attention span issues.
I bought my first car in the fall of 2017, as a Junior in college. The $2500 I had scraped together bought me a baby blue Lincoln Town car with a landau top. Visions of six-passenger college road trips danced in my head until, a week later, I attempted one. Half an hour in the check engine light started flashing. It wouldn’t stop until I sold the car a year later, with most of the Lincoln’s time spent gathering dust in the lot where I had originally purchased it.
In the five years since, I’ve owned 10 cars. Nothing from a Porsche Boxster to a Lexus LS400 has been able to hold my attention for more than 10 months at a time, no car accumulating more than 10,000 miles. That is in large part due to the fact that, as my E39 M5 and LX470 both showed, I tend to buy awful examples of stellar cars and watch them deteriorate in front of my eyes. I’d think about whether I should sell them at least once a week, daydreaming about everything in budget that happened to pass me on the highway. I assumed I just wasn’t built to have a long-term car. But I just bought Engineering Explained’s supercharged ND1 MX-5 Miata Club, and I think it may fix me.
I’ve seen the light once before. Back in 2020 I bought a beautiful 34,000-mile AP1 Honda S2000, my attainable dream car, for a price that would make you want to punch me in the mouth. I paid eight grand for a two-owner car with zero rust, all of its maintenance up to date, no mods, and just one dent in the rocker panel. That car was my escape pod from quarantine in New York, the thing that got me into the woods and away from the oppressive weight of a city dark. I never even considered selling it.
I could imagine no better car for my life, but my car deserved a better life for itself. My clean, soft-top S2000 parked in Brooklyn overnight got stolen. I had the gall to act surprised. Insurance paid out far more than I’d spent on the car, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t replace it. Having purchased one for $8000, I couldn’t justify spending $20,000 on the same car, or $15,000 on a far worse one. I went back into the casino to try my luck with a Boxster, then an M5, then finally a Lexus LX and E30 two-car solution. Right when those two had me at my wit’s end, I got the text from Jason Fenske.
The meticulous man behind Engineering Explained had suggested I buy the Miata back in 2021, when I asked him his opinion on the M5 I was looking at. A yellow-wrapped, supercharged version of the world’s best sports car is the kind of car I couldn’t turn down. Sports car buyers should just suck it up and get a Miata, I always said. Here was a chance to do so, and I’d still own something unique.
Fenkse ended up needing the car for another year. I told him to text me the minute he decided to sell it. In the interim year, I tried on two separate occasions to buy a different, worse, supercharged, bright-yellow Miata. They fell through for reasons entirely outside of my control.
This time, I wasn’t going to let that happen. I firesaled both of my cars, moved some money around, and stretched the limits of my budget to get a near-perfect, 36,000-mile ND Miata with a professional, incredible bright yellow wrap, paint protection film, the BBS/Recaro package, and an Eaton supercharger that adds something around 50 hp.
The result is sensational. The added grunt and re-tuned power delivery make you want to wring out this Miata’s engine, something that wasn’t true of a stock Miata until the ND2. The crescendo is not dramatic as the on/off switch absurdity of VTEC hitting, but with more talkative steering, a more linear powerband, a softer setup that communicates through body roll, and an equally perfect gearbox, my ND is one of the only cars in the world that I enjoy more than my S2000.
Of course, I’ve gotten carried away before. Honeymoon periods hit hard with me. But reason to believe this time is different arrived last week. Aston Martin dropped off a DBS Superleggera, a $400,000 V-12 monster with carbon brakes and adjustable suspension. I’d already driven that car—the loan was cut short and rescheduled due to the car throwing error codes—but it is still the sort of flame-of-the-week that would normally cause me to forget my own car and focus on my materialistic dreams. Instead, I took it for one canyon drive to verify my driving impressions, then let it sit for the weekend as me and my friend tooled around Southern California with the top down.
That’s the beauty of the Miata. When you’re just getting groceries or meeting for lunch, a supercar feels disinterested and understimulated. In a Miata, every trip feels special. The tiny cockpit, the silly color, the open top, they all add a sense of occasion, of drama. And because the ND rides well, has a nice interior, and comes with a good stereo, I’ve already done 25 highway hours in a weekend without complaint.
Of course, no car is perfect. And the Miata’s main issue as a car is that it mostly isn’t one, given its limited ability to transport humans or goods between locations. I’m known among friends as the architect of many last-minute road trips, the kind that fill the cargo areas of large SUVs and tie up every seatbelt. For that life, the Miata won’t do alone. But I don’t care. This car is going to be with me for a while. Now I just need to find a beater truck to go with it.