Tommy’s 1990 Mazda Miata

Words:  Mark Waterman
Photography:  Ethan Caldwell

The Miata is one of those cars that is seen differently by different people.  To the average person,  it’s a cute little convertible,  perfect for your favorite sorority girl.  The automotive enthusiast sees an inexpensive,  lightweight,  front engine,  rear wheel drive roadster that is one of the purist driving machines available.  This followed the same formula of the post war British that proved hugely popular with American troops coming home that had been replaced by the muscle cars of the 60s and 70s.  Since being released in the middle of 1989,  Mazda has sold nearly one million Miatas.  This has made older models very plentiful and good cars available for only a couple thousand dollars.  That,  combined with its excellent handling characteristics and easy to maintain design,  has made the car perfect for nearly all forms of motorsport and especially popular with the autocross and spec racing groups.

With the Miata,  also known as the MX-5,  being so popular, the tuning crowd has also taken a love of the car.  If you can dream it,  odds are someone;  somewhere has done it to the Miata.  One of the few places the MX-5 can be said to be lacking is in the power output of the motor.  In an American tradition,  it has been popular to remove the stock 1.6 liter or 1.8 liter motor with something bigger.  Everything from the 13B from the FC and FD RX-7s,  to 2JZs from the mighty Supra,  to the “stuff it in everything” LS Chevy small block family of motors have been swapped into the tiny roadster.  Like in any car though,  replacing the drivetrain,  no matter how many others have done it before,  is a major undertaking not desired by all.  Most Miata owners keep the stock motor and rely on other modifications to make it go faster in a straight line.

Miata owners are a breed of their own.  Once they have had a taste of the car,  it is not uncommon for them to go on and own multiple Miatas,  sometimes at the same time.  Tommy has owned a few of them already,  buying this Mariner Blue on in March of 2012.  The 1.6L was retained, but the power output has vastly increased.  Extra compression of the air before it enters the combustion chamber is provided by a TD04 15G Greddy turbo kit and piped through a Greddy front mount intercooler to cool and condense it.  Injectors from a later model 1.8L motor and a Walbro 190 Lph fuel pump are used to inject the fuel into the cylinders for combustion.  After the bang,  the resulting gasses turn the turbine wheel of the 15G then through a Turbo Tony 2.5” downpipe and 2.5” exhaust.  Helping to get the most power to the wheels is an ACT Street clutch and lightweight flywheel and the stock limited slip differential directs that power to the proper wheel.  While the car has not been put on a dynamometer yet,  similar setups have produced incredible hp.  Keeping the entire setup from overheating is a Koyo aluminum radiator with a CSR overflow tank.  To help clean up the look of the engine bay,  a wire tuck was performed while a set of custom stainless steel hood dampers keep the hood from falling on unsuspecting heads.

Even while the Miata has an exceptional suspension from the factory,  almost all the parts on this one have been replaced.  Providing the travel is a BCRacing BR Type coilovers and keeping the alignment proper are BSI Racing adjustable aluminum endlinks and Superpro offset rear lower control arm bushings.  Eibach sway bars in the front and rear help keep and body roll to a minimum.  The car rolls on a set of CCW LM16 wheels measuring 16×9.5 inches with a custom finish of hyper-black centers with black chrome lips.  Beefy Toyo T1R 245/35/16 tires provide the contact patch with the ground and the fronts are operated with the OEM steering rack that has been de-powered and been fully polished with the fittings shaved.  The standard soft top that came with the first generation NA MX-5s had been replaced with a lightweight carbon fiber hardtop,  complete with Lexan window.  The top is held down with a pair of solid mount Spec brackets.  On the front is the OEM R package front lip,  a pair of smoked front turn signals, and a 6000k H4 HID kit.  The side markers and taillights have been painted by VHT.

The interior has not escaped modification either.  Sparco Speed seats have been installed to keep the occupants in place and a Momo Tuner steering wheel with an NRG short hub and quick release have been put in for better steering control.  Making sure the engine is functioning properly,  an Autometer boost gauge and AEM UEGO gauge have been put into the cockpit.  A CD player and speakers have been added to provide a soundtrack other than that of the boosted 1.6L.  Since he has only owned the car for about a month,  nearly all the modifications to the car were made by the previous owner and Tommy has been looking for ways to give the car his own touch.  Currently in the works are a rollbar and a different Momo steering wheel which are ready to be put on the car.  Also on tap is a new ECU from Megaquirt so the boost can be upped,  and a new carbon fiber deck lid.  This is Tommy’s second turbo Miata and the favorite of all the Miatas he’s owned.  It should also be noted that this car is his daily driver as well leading some to ask why use such an impractical car as a primary car.  Well,  because Miata.


Mod List

– Greddy Turbo Kit (TD04 15G)
– Greddy Intercooler (anodized black)
– Custom Intercooler Piping
– Turbo Tony 2.5″ Downpipe (w/flex coupler)
– DP6061 2.5″ Exhaust (magnaflow muffler)
– 1.8L Injectors
– Walbro 190lph Fuel Pump
– ACT Street Light Flywheel
– ACT Street Clutch (solid disk, HD pressure plate)
– 1.6L OEM LSD
– NGK Plug Wires
– Koyo Aluminum Radiator
– CSR Aluminum Overflow
– ARP Fasteners Throughout
– Wire Tucked Harness (loomed and shrink tubed)
– Custom Stainless Hood Dampners

– BCRacing BR Type Coilovers
– CCW LM16 16×9.5 Wheels (custom finish; hyperblack centers & black chrome pvd lips)
– Toyo T1R 245/35/16 tires
– Eibach Front Sway Bar
– Eibach Rear Sway Bar
– BSI Racing Adjustable Aluminum Endlinks
– Superpro Offset Rear Lower Control Arm Bushings
– De-powered OEM Steering Rack (shaved fittings and fully polished)

– OEM R Package Front Lip
– Carbon Fiber Hardtop w/Lexan Window
– Spec Hardtop Brackets (solid mount)
– Smoked Front Turn Signal Lenses
– VHT Painted Sidemarkers & Taillights
– 6000k H4 HID Kit

– Sparco Speed Seats
– Momo Tuner Steering Wheel
– NRG Short Hub
– NRG Quick Release
– Titanium Shift Knob
– Autometer Boost Gauge
– AEM UEGO Gauge
– Panasonic CD Player (ipod)
– Panasonic Door Speakers
-“Roadster” Carpets

Gallery (click each pic for a higher resolution shot):





4 comments to Tommy’s 1990 Mazda Miata

  • Awesome shots. Any available in 1920 x 1200? 😛

  • PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT SELL YOUR CAR PETER!!!!I have regretted losnig mine ever since I sold it and now I feel empty inside and im running around like a wild man trying to purchase parts up again to rebuild that car!!! DONT DO IT you will kick yourself everyday!! Im talking from experience!! I wish someone had told me how painful it would be to sell my car, please dont do it!!Your Friend,Randy George

  • Paint it camouflage and put a gun in the trunk. Put a 6 inch lift and a light bar. But sulroesiy, maybe putting black rims on it, and painting the body kits black might help too. I’d change the exhaust tips to make it louder and more present. So long as the car is not pink I think you should be pretty well off.

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