In the past, I’d been to what I thought of as large car meets. Forty or fifty Subarus? Sure! That’s enormous! But I recently learned that it really isn’t. I’d heard that the Miata community was large, but little did I know how big it really is until I recently attended this year’s Miatapalooza in Lakeland, Florida, a parking lot celebration of every generation of Mazda’s diminutive roadster.
Getting to the meet was a bit of an adventure. I’d recently had a new head gasket installed and subsequently ran the Roadster a bit low on gas right after I got it back. I’d filled it up and assumed everything was good to go, but on the trip from Tampa to Lakeland the car started to run a little bit rough and the check engine light came on several times. I was in a bit of a panic, but continued on because where else would someone likely have an engine code reader, and possibly parts to fix it, than at a Miata meet? It was the slowest drive up I-4 I’ve ever made, right at the 55mph limit, which was about 20mph less than everyone else was going.
Pulling into the show lot, I popped the hood and checked the oil and did my best to calm down. The oil was still full, so I checked with the owner of this mustachioed roadster to see if he owned a code scanner. No luck, but he kindly suggested I check with the BSI Racing trailer. They were kind enough that they would have let me use one, but the light had gone out whenever I slowed the car to normal street speeds rendering the code un-readable, or so I thought at the time. I would just have to limp it back home later.
There was quite a variety of build types present for just one car, from form to function and everything in between. While I was over at BSI, I overheard one of the mechanics talking about their new client who’d had a clean NB (second generation car) shipped to them recently from New York.
Apparently the client owned a Ferrari that he occasionally took to the track. The Ferrari had gotten into an accident on track and the client realized that he could buy a track ready Miata for roughly the same price as the repair was going to cost for the Ferrari, and that’s where the NB came in. It appeared to be a very clean example and it seemed to be in the process of being stripped out. Along with that car, they had a few Spec Miata race cars.
This Miata dragster was quite impressive and I imagine it takes a huge amount of courage to drive something so small with so much power. I did not get to speak with the owner, but from the event organizer, known online as Phatmiata, “This Turbo Miata runs 153mph in the 1/4 mile! This is currently the Worlds Fastest Miata in the USA!
This particular Miata was actually custom built by Mazda as a drag car back when the import drag racing scene started taking off. Eventually Mazda moved on to focus on other cars like the Mazdaspeed3 and SkyActiv projects. This car was then purchased (several years ago) and rebuilt by its new owner and taken from 500+hp to the 815hp car you see now.”
This curious looking half racecar was built by Classic Mazda to show off what could be done with a new NC Miata. It had half of everything, right down to half of a roll cage.
There were some very clean stance cars around, aggressive drops but subtle in the details. The blue NA (first generation car) had so much track equipment in it, I wondered whether the suspension was just at a really low street/show setting or it may have been set up for drifting.
Some of the other cars were very much all about the track. Sporting some impressive aero and visible wear from track damage.
I really liked the white NA with what looked to be a homemade Lexan ducktail spoiler. It looked like it had a lot of work put into it and there was a good mix of show and go in my opinion.
The red car was even pulling a small trailer with another set of wheels and tires for track duty. Both the red and white cars were force induced. The white featured a turbo and the red, a Jackson Racing supercharger.
Mazdaspeed Miatas are somewhat rare. Only offered in small numbers and only for two years, due to a factory fire, these are the only factory turbocharged Miatas that Mazda has ever produced. They were the last hurrah for the original platform used in the NA and NB, giving people the option of additional power before the NC would arrive.
So, you can imagine how rare it is to see three of them lined up in a row. My friend Justin and his friend Owen drove down from Orlando in their 2004 and 2005 models and the third one, a 2004 model in red, parked next to them.
You can really see the diversity that was on display in the next three cars. This Classic Red NA looked fairly stock, but had a subtle tribute to higher aspirations: Ferrari badges! I’ve always wondered what the old Ferrari and Alfa Romeo triangular five spoke wheels would look like on a Miata. Maybe the owner of this car will find out for me.
You go to one extreme in customization and you have this custom painted, bolt on fender-ed, CCW wheel wearing, and individual throttle body equipped beauty.
On the other less costly, but still plenty of fun end you have this car which the owner told me he meticulously taped and prepped but painted with a roller! He gets extra points for originality. He wanted something that he could just say “follow the purple car” to his crew, and they’d know just the car to follow. Despite the paint having been applied with a roller, the utmost care was taken in taping off sections not to be painted.
The really great thing about Miatapalooza that I enjoyed was that there weren’t prizes for “best of show” or “loudest stereo” or any of that. It was just a celebration of a pure sports car brought to market by one small player (Mazda) who was brave enough to reinvent the old British roadster and bring it to market. So many cars that we know and love today would arguably not exist without this special car.
At the end of the meet, it all wrapped up with a raffle of over $9,000 in aftermarket parts. I didn’t win anything but I stayed for the whole thing and saw some really nice parts go to some lucky folks. Entertainment during the wait came from this nine month old Labrador/Pit puppy that kept wandering around us all. People in the crowd started helping it’s sitter to keep it from getting stepped on as it wandered.[gigya src=”http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649″ width=”580″ flashvars=”offsite=true&lang=en-us&page_show_url=/photos/brycewomeldurf/sets/72157633354178290/show/&page_show_back_url=/photos/brycewomeldurf/sets/72157633354178290/&set_id=72157633354178290&jump_to=” allowFullScreen=”true” ]
Driving home was a little scary as the car was hard to start, but I got it back on the road okay. The funniest thing was that on my way back, I got scared because I started to smell burning oil; not a good thing when you’ve just spent the money to change the head gasket. Then, up ahead, I spotted a Mazdaspeed RX-8 and an old RX-3 and all of my worries quickly faded.
Full Disclosure: I was not paid by the event organizers to shoot Miatapalooza. All opinions outside of quotes, are my own and do not represent the views of Miatapalooza organizers. I just wanted to show off my new old car and had a great time doing it. Oh, and by the way, the problem codes were for an engine cooling temp sensor, an oxygen sensor, and a PRC solenoid. Hopefully it will be back on the road soon.
Re-published from Hooniverse, text and photography by Bryce Womeldurf