27-02-2017 – Laurie Southern
A Most Enjoyable Pairing
Feature

There’s pretty much only one thing that any self confessed car fanatic thinks of when the first snow of the year arrives, and that thing is RWD. To those that keep a rear wheel drive machine in their life, the snow is the perfect invitation to get out and have a little fun. That’s where Matt Carter comes in with his beautifully subtle Mazda MX5 NB.

The Miata is the perfect candidate for a winter’s blast through the hills, being relatively inexpensive (pre scene-tax) and packing a huge amount of smiles per gallon. The FR layout, twinned with it’s weight and balance make it one of the most raw no-funny-business driving experiences around.

Matt’s is a UK spec with the slightly beefier 1.8 engine, pushing a solid 144 BHP and 160 Nm @ 5000 RPM on the dyno. The Mk 2.5 weighs in at around 1060 Kg, making it a blisteringly playful toy in the right circumstances. It more than makes up for any ‘lack’ of power when there’s twisties involved. What’s special about Matt’s car is that by some kind of miracle, it has barely lost any power from new throughout it’s 17 year life span.  Rust issues are non-existent on the car, too, a testament to the owner and his care for the little Japanese roadster.

Having been in and around the car for a good long while, my favourite thing about it definitely has to be the sound. The SOUND. The burble that the Cobalt twin exit system creates on idle is nothing short of a symphony. The rise through the rev range is no different, either. It’s far from obnoxious – just enough to put a childlike grin on anyone’s face when he gets a little more playful with his right foot.

The 15×7 inch Rota Grids are a pretty hefty footprint enlargement over stock, aiding with that oh-so-important grip. The car sits beautifully over them, lowered just enough for the aggressive styling to show through without making it a complete pain to use each day. On top of this, that front lip rounds the front end off like a dream.

Everyone knows that an older car that’s abused day in day out is likely to suffer those all too common age related marks. Notably the paintwork, however this car is an exception. Just look at that shine. Driving in the snow does no favours here in the UK with the sheer amount of salt and grit added to the roads. Even still, she’s sitting pretty and gleaming in the sunshine mid way through the day.

After getting stuck in a very icy and precariously off-cambered car park whilst an amused couple on a dog walk pointed and giggled, it was time for a jaunt through the hills and on to find us a nice quiet patch of snow.

It’s roads like this when the car really shines. The rolling hills and tight turns bring the car’s geometry and power into a league of their own, and Matt isn’t afraid to give it a go, upsetting much quicker (and might I add, expensive) cars rather often.

A short while later we come across the real reason to come out for a play. I’d sent Matt a text late the night before as the snow started, asking him to keep the following day free and to roll out of bed as early as he could. These UK winter days are surprisingly short, we had to make the most of what we had.

Golden hour hit early afternoon and the car was still relatively dirt free, so we found a pretty corner and sat back (with a cold, damp backside) to watch the sunlight pour through the trees. The car just oozes driver appeal. Of course it does, it’s the little brother to the FD RX7.

It would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

A quick word with the guys running the Mill that this empty car park belongs to, and we were given the go ahead to have a bit of fun. There is nothing more ideally suited to the thin layer of snow we were given than a Miata, by anyone’s words. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the smile on Matt’s face when the rear kicked out on him so willingly.

An important thing with project cars, or any car kept as a toy, is that it must be enjoyed. It has to be usable to a point where it can be thrashed every now and again. After all, what’s the point in owning it if you can’t throw it around when the opportunity arises? That’s not to say the car is a throwaway, however. The way Matt looks after the car is enough to inspire anyone. You become one with your machine in that kind of situation, he’s no different.

They have fun together, whether it’s new parts or a spirited drive here and there. It’s not a show car, it’s not meant to sit in a multi-storey at a soulless car meet. It’s meant to be enjoyed, something that is carried out almost every single day.

It’s definitely not a supercar brawler, but it’s a complete package. It’s balanced. Keep an eye on this one though, Matt assures me there’s big plans in store for him and his beloved Miata yet.