September 28, 2023

The Arrival

How did the 1994 Miata come to me?  I sold my 1996 Pontiac Firebird Formula and only had a 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier LS as my car and was looking for a fun car to replace the other. A good and very trusted friends had an NA Mazda Miata with 300k on it and often drove it to and on a track. He showed me the way of a small fun sports car that was inexpensive to work on and very reliable. A couple of months later I took my first test drive in a 1997 silver Miata 1.8l at a car dealer. I was hooked immediately. I had just one thought and I said it out loud, “I have to have one of these.

Going fast in straight drag lines was a cool exhilarating thrill in the Firebird, but I still felt somewhat disconnected from the road, something was missing for me. I found it in the Miata. While not a powerhouse that sucks your into the back of the car on take-offs and heavy throttle accelerations, the grown up go-kart feel of the Miata more than makes up and exceeds expectations. I like both cars for completely different reasons.

I searched for a little more than a year to find a car that fit basic requirements. I wanted inexpensive, no power windows, no power steering, AC optional, 1.8 liter engine, 5 speed manual. Anything else was optional. Basically, I wanted a raw little Miata sports car. I looked at tons of them at dealers, on Craig’s List, in the newspaper, under the bed, pretty much everywhere. You name it I looked at it, test drove it and pondered about each and everyone.  I bought this 1994 car as the 3rd owner. The first owner had the car from 1994 until 1999 sometime.  The second owner bought it in 1999 and had it until fall of 2009 when I purchased it.

I know nothing of the life this car led with the first owner except they put about 73k miles on it. I do know some about the second ownership. It was purchased for the wife of a retiring telecom worker. They had the car about 10 years and put about 10k miles on it. The wife drove it less and less over time so the car mostly sat on the farm. It was under a carport with top kept down primarily, so it was pretty filthy inside by the time I found it.

Sitting idle on a farm makes a car into a home for creatures. Field mice made their home in the trunk, in the passenger area, under the hood, and inside the air intake before the filter. Cats followed the mice and marked the car interior heavily. The car smelled foul if the windows were left up for any length of time especially if it was hot outside.
By the time I purchased the car for $2000 cash it only had 85k miles on it was sort of running with all kinds of alert bells, engine codes, flat spots in the tires, and the brakes were all but non-existent. With grace we got the car back to a friend’s house, who would help me immensely over time. He lived about 50 minutes from this farm.

We call this friend “PK”.  We brought it back to his house, because he lived closest, with me leading in my mighty Chevy Cavalier.  It was a scary drive back to his house with brakes barely working. He took extra care to allow time for the car to stop. When we got to his house all he could say was, “Brakes, brakes, brakes!”  I surmised he was telling me first order of business is put brakes on this thing. That actually did not become the first thing. First thing was this car smelled really, really, bad.

The examination began. We had to find out what needs to happen to get it running, get rid of the smell and let’s figure out why the trunk was full of water.  “PK”  lives about an hour from me and our work schedules didn’t allow much chance to get together and work on this car.  He proceeded anyway and chugged on through the mundane stuff. I feel a little like Marlon Perkins on Wild Kingdom pointing out all the things “PK” did but he is a good teacher if you want to learn and listen.

The water issue was likely the result of top down not under carport. At first we thought it might be that the rain rail for the top was bad. We bailed the water out and it did not fill again during the torrential rains we had afterward. That was good news. Also, the water hadn’t created any noticeable rust so it probably hadn’t been there very long.

The fact the water hadn’t been there long was confirmed by the fact that behind the carpet there was an old mouse nest that was not soaking wet, and usual lint. There were also nests under the hood, in the air intake tube before the filter, and behind the seats. The nature of farm life I guess. “PK” also removed these while I was still unable to get there to help out. Nice work PK!!!!  Thank Ya!.

On to what was that smell?  The smell… how do I describe the smell?  Well, it was a pretty bad ammonia smell from cat urine emanating primarily from the trunk and cabin area. It took a lot of baking soda for a long time to absorb the odor, and a lot of warm days with the car windows opened and the trunk open to even make a dent. Then a good cleaning to make the interior even hospitable to humans. Eventually, I could stand to be inside the car for more than a minute.

By the time I was able to get to PK’s place a couple months later fall had passed to spring 2010 and PK had the wet smelly cleanup out of the way. I still had not driven this car except for two test drives. The engine ran strong so we began the exam. What did we need to do to get it on the road and in what order?

We went back to “Brakes, brakes, brakes”.  Brakes, and Oil Change and Windshield wipers were on the list Also, cleaned the slightly fogged looking plastic back window.  Soap and water worked well on the back window removing the grime. It wasn’t perfectly clear but it was 75% better than it was.

Good brakes, and rotors rang in around $220.00. I had not changed brakes before and didn’t want to attempt this on my own, my life depends on this done right. “PK” did the work, I helped a little and watched and learned.

We did the oil change and I discovered My arms wouldn’t get there from top side so passenger wheel off and access it from there!  Filter and oil rang in around $19.00, wipers approx. $12.00.

The car started again and still ran strong, a very good sign indeed. We performed the test drive and there was a strange vibration from the tires that had flat spots from sitting for so long, CHECK, no worries for now. We did see the check engine light was still on. That was going to have to wait for my next visit to “PK’s” as I was out of time this day.


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