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The problem with owning so many vehicles is that you never seem to have them for long. Situations, needs, properties, and family change, and you change cars as a result. Sometimes you simply change because of a whim, or a lust and need for more power, but there is only one car that I yearn to buy again – my 1992 Mazda Mx-5.
I knew my cousin had a pearl white '92 MX-5 (Miata for you North American folk) sitting in storage, but I didn't want to complicate family, so I bought an MX-6 Turbo instead. To use a rather crude Aussie saying, it went like a cut snake. It had power for days, but handled like the soft, middle-aged, chopped 626 sedan that it was. When I started having injector problems, I decided to sell the coupe, bite the bullet, and ask my cousin to sell me the MX-5. Negotiations were stress-free, and I picked up the ragtop a week later.
Going from a turbocharged front-wheel-drive car to a naturally aspirated rear-driver stressed me out – was I going to notice the lack of power? Was I going to be able to get away from the lights without bogging down? Would I look like a princess? Driving the MX-5 for the first time after putting it back on the road was a revelation. I thought I had owned well-handling cars before, but this was a different animal!
All of a sudden I understood Colin Chapman's mantra of "adding lightness." The little 1.6-liter loved to rev, and I loved to rev it! It was a match made in manual-transmission heaven. With slightly larger wheels and tires, the grip was extraordinary. One experience in particular has burned itself into my memory. A friend and I drove through one of Victoria's greatest driving roads – Justin in his Nissan GTS-T and me in the little MX-5. On the straights, Justin would disappear in a whoosh of turbo thrust, but in the twisties, I would reel him in with the neutral handling and sticky rubber. All I had to do was plant my foot and steer.
The MX-5 stayed with me through over five years of country drives, changing jobs, moving house, transporting my Great Dane (yep, Great Dane), and I loved every single drive.
One day our old friend money came into the picture and opened up a world of possibilities. The inherited funds gave me the automotive world on a plate, and I became obsessed with finding the next perfect experience.
The hunt also brought to light the issues with the MX-5. The roof I replaced early on in our relationship had started to leak on the driver's side, so on wet days I ended up with a soggy thigh and butt cheek. And in that same wet weather, the near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution and low weight meant that accelerating just that little too much on a winding road was tantamount to suicide.
The chase led me to believe that another Mazda was the way to go, and so I traded the MX-5 in on a pristine RX-8. It had done less than 50,000 kilometers and was utterly spotless and gorgeous. I paid over market value because I wanted the best one I could find. Which proved to be my biggest mistake.
The RX-8 was too good. It was shiny, unmarked, and perfect, and so I hated driving it because I wanted to keep it perfect. I even tried to recreate that life-changing drive with Justin and his now highly modified GTS-T, but I backed off as I didn't want to thrash the RX-8. I washed it several times a week, and wept when I found the tiniest of stone chips or marks on the leather.
It was a trip to the local supermarket that made me realize I was trapped in automotive hell. I parked away from the hordes where I found three spots – space on either side. I walked to the entrance, glanced back at someone parking next to the RX-8, and ran back to move it. This repeated three times before I drove home empty handed.
The entire drive home I couldn't help but wish for a soggy thigh and suicidal handling.
I sold the RX-8, bought a Saab wagon, traded that it on a Falcon ute, which I traded in on a RAV4 for my wife, and bought a Mitsubishi Challenger which lasted six months before self-destructing. I now drive a Forester XT, which is great for the family, goes like stink, and is perfect for the constant renovations of a mid-century home.
But I miss the MX-5. And given the choice, I would put up with a wet bum all day long.