My next car: NC Miata?

I already own a 1996 Z3, which I adore. Well, except for 2 things.

  1. It’s not very waterproof. We had a lot of rain this Winter, and my car was often damp inside. There’s a leak that drips onto the driver’s seat, and there’s always condensation on the interior of the car.
  2. I would never rallycross it. It’s on KW Variant 2 suspension, which is great on track, but is a little too stiff and too low for daily driving and rallycross.

I like little sportscars, so I’m considering an NC Miata. Being 10-15 years newer, it’s going to have fewer problems than a Z3, and being a Mazda, it’s going to be cheaper to fix.

One of the reasons I’ve stayed away from NC Miatas is that most of the track organizations used to require aftermarket rollbars for all Miatas. This is a pain, because most aftermarket rollbars that are designed to fit under the NC soft top fail the broomstick test. Therefore, installing a rollbar also means lowering the seat floor.

Looking at the convertible rules today, most organizations are okay with factory rollover protection for 2006+ convertibles. An NC Miata is legal for SCCA Time Trials, as well as a lot of the typical HPDE organizations in NorCal. It is also legal for SCCA Rallycross provided it has a factory hardtop.

Two decisions

Hardtop or PRHT (powered retractable hard top)? A factory hardtop costs over $6k, which nearly doubles the price of the vehicle. There are aftermarket tops that could work, but SCCA Rallycross rules require aftermarket hardtops to be accompanied by an aftermarket rollbar. One of the reasons I’m getting out of racecar ownership is that I don’t want to do shit like add a rollbar and lower the seats. The PRHT makes my life easier, but adds a little more weight than a hardtop plus a rollbar.

Manual or Automatic? You might think this is a simple answer: manual, but it’s complicated. On the one hand, I like shifting gears. On the other hand, I would let students drive this car and most students don’t know how to drive a manual. An automatic would also let me install the left-footed driving rig I used during my Achilles surgery recovery. I really enjoyed driving left-footed, and I think it would be fun to do that on track and on dirt. Interestingly, the NC auto is different from the manual in several unexpected ways.

  • The auto has a different tune, including a lower rev limit. This results in 158 hp vs the manual at 170 hp.
  • The auto has a different intake, with butterflies to increase air velocity at low throttle openings.
  • Only the manual was available with an LSD.
  • The auto has a steel trunk lid while the manual’s is aluminum.

Taken together, the manual is obviously the higher performance vehicle, but less useful for me.


The price difference between a NA/NB and NC Miatas is now very close. Maybe the NC price has dropped because ND Miatas are now on the market. For whatever reason, NC Miatas, including the overpriced PRHTs, are now economy sportscars. Perusing Craigslist, I found 3 PRHTs with clean titles in my budget (under $10K). That’s very tempting.


Here’s a video of an NC Miata chasing the Inte-R of Speed Academy (my favorite couple-of-white-guys-doing-car-shit channel on YouTube). The driver in this video can drive.


15 thoughts on “My next car: NC Miata?

  1. I love my NC. On the track, not on the street. The previous owner put all the go fast bits on it including coilovers and urethane bushings, so it’s not very fun to drive on the street. I mention this because you may not be satisfied with the performance of a stock suspension and improving it for the track can ruin it for the street.

    The other thing to watch out for is the stock seat height. It’s quite high, and your helmet might poke out above your windshield. I saw a guy in an NC get black flagged at Sonoma. They wouldn’t let him on the track until he lowered the seat.

    You can do fantastic things to an NC for not much money. Here is a very long and super interesting thread:


  2. I just spent a weekend with a ’22 Miata RF rental, which was my first time driving any miata for longer than 10min. It put a big smile on my face for a little bit, but my overall conclusion was that I wouldn’t want to own it with the auto. I can’t stand using the paddles on anything, so perhaps that makes it bearable, but I’m of the opinion that an automatic should be good enough to not need them. The chassis and steering were super eager though, wish I could have probed the limits a bit.
    NC sounds like it could be a good choice for your needs and wants.


  3. My new no brakes drill PB 1:02.77, Ian claims that 1:03.x is an expert level and indeed my best normal driving is ca. 1:03.2 but the secret technique (mentioned few times on this blog) allows me to hit below 1:03.00 . After one year of simracing my conclusion is that this drill is king. If you seriously think about improving simracing driving techniques than mastering this drill is a must.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I had no idea what are track limits and penalties, so the next time I will try with default track limits.


  4. Thanks! You really throw that thing around. I usually run around 1.05 in this drill. I can’t wait to try it your way. I really appreciate the video.

    Sorry about the topic drift Ian…


      1. I’m already there. Your video is awesome, thanks! Can’t wait to try some of your tricks


  5. Awesome but don’t try it too hard, it will come with time. Instead practice sliding on drift and rallycross maps, Ian very often mentions about this.


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