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Big Meet For A Small Car: Miatapalooza 2013

Bryce Womeldurf April 30, 2013 Car Shows 41 Comments

Big Meet For A Small Car: Miatapalooza 2013

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’ve 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. This is a parking lot celebration of every generation of the diminutive roadster from Mazda.

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.Filling it up, I assumed everything was good to go, but on the trip from Tampa to Lakeland the car started to run a 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 spare parts 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.

Mustachioed Miata

Quite unusual, a mustachioed Miata! The car had a similarly hirsute owner who was also sporting a handlebar ‘stache.

Pulling into the show lot, I popped the hood and checked the oil while doing my best to try and remain calm. The oil was still full, so I checked with the owner of the above 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.

Miatapalooza registration area

Black NB Miata with carbon fenders

An NA Miata with half Miata trailer.

An NA Miata with half Miata trailer.

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 had a clean recently NB (second generation car) shipped to them from New York.

NB Miata on jackstands

An NB Miata being prepared for the track.

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. That’s where the NB came in. It appeared to be a very clean example and seemed to be in the process of being stripped out. Along with that car, a few Spec Miata race cars were in attendance.

BCI Spec Miatas

BCI Spec Miatas

Miata dragster

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 according to the event organizer (known online as “Phatmiata”):

“This Turbo Miata runs 153mph in the 1/4 mile! This is currently the World’s 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.”

Miata dragster engine

Miata dragster

Classic Miata half race car

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.

Classic Miata half race car

White NA stance car

White NA stance car

NB Miata stance car

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.

Miata stance car interior

NA Miata track car

Some of the other cars were clearly all about the track. A few sported some impressive aero and visible wear from track damage.

NA shark Miata

White NA Miata track car

Rear view of White NA Miata track car

I really liked the white NA with what looked to be a homemade Lexan ducktail spoiler. The car looked like it had a lot of work put into it and there was a good mix of show and go in my opinion.

Miata racecars

Miata racecar interior

Red NA Miata track car

This red car was 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

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 by the NA and NB, giving people the option of additional power before the NC would arrive.

Three Mazdaspeed Miatas

So, you can imagine how rare it is to see three of them lined up in a row. My friend Justin and his pal Owen drove down from Orlando in their 2004 and 2005 models and the third one, a 2004 model in red, parked next to them.

Ferrari badged Miata

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.

Miata hood with a Ferrari badge

Custom Miata with green paint

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.

Miata engine with individual throttle bodies

Purple Miata

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.

Purple Miata's engine

Classic Red Miata

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.

Labrador puppy

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.

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 a bit frightened 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.

(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.)

  • danleym

    "World’s Fastest Miata in the USA"

    Ummm… wouldn't this make it the USA's fastest Miata?

  • Soo…. what was wrong with your car?

    • O2 sensor, PRC Solenoid, and a coolant temp sensor, according to the engine codes. I just figured how to pull them the other day, so I haven't bought the parts yet. I'm guessing back when it overheated and warped the head, the temp sensor may have been ruined in the heat. The PRC and oxygen just both seemed to have gone bad. Not sure if it's related to the sensor or not yet. It runs, roughly, but I'm mostly keeping it in the garage for now.

      • O2 sensor could have been fouled by coolant in the exhaust, or it may be reporting a vacuum leak.

        And yeah, when the MIL comes on, the code is stored so you can read it even if the light isn't on at that moment.

        • That's reassuring to hear, oddly enough. I don't think it's been getting great gas mileage and that would explain how it's all connected. I'm just hoping it stays trouble free for a while after these get replaced (probably doing a fuel filter while I'm at it). That head gasket job was expensive!

  • Preludacris

    Looks like a fun show, no noses in the air. There's something about a little round roadster where you can't take yourself TOO seriously in it. I see a young guy in my neighborhood with a bright yellow one and smile every time.

    • Exactly. It was probably one of the most laid back and friendly shows I've been to. Very friendly and helpful staff and the chance for prizes. I get a smile on my face when I see a Miata too. So excited to finally have one of my own!

      • Edgardo

        Hey what's your email? I want to know if you have pictures of mine still. Is ur car running right now?

        • Hit me up on Facebook or Google+ and I can share a couple of photos.

  • ThirdPedalGirl

    What fun, what fun…. amazing the diversity of activities, care, modifications, etc all off this one car.

    Mazda rocks.

  • I thought the Worlds Fastest Miata would have been LS1 powered. Thank goodness it is turbo powered. That is rad.

  • ToLiveNDieInNJ

    Amazing fact. That GM dark teal Miata is actually the current evolution of the infamous "Pedobear Miata".

    <img src="http://v2lab.com/theory/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/miata2.jpg&quot; width="600">

    He went all stancy with it before it reached it's current functional, yet incredibly clean state.

    <img src="http://v2lab.com/theory/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/matt6.jpg&quot; width="600">

    Pictures courtesy of Versiontwo Laboratory: v2lab.com

    • I'd seen it a couple of years back at a show called Straight Stance, when it was still flat black. I'm glad he seems to have stopped with the risky behavior. It's a beautiful car in person. Looks like he's raised the ride height a little from when that picture was taken.

  • stigshift

    I just got my first one! A friend of mine just bought himself a new CTS-V coupe 6 speed, and sold me his '90 for 300 bucks. 205K on it, needs a few things, mostly cosmetics, but runs great and drives tight. And I'm so sick of hearing people say they can't fit in one because they're 6 feet tall. I'm 6'4" and 240 lbs., and I fit fine.

    • Neen85

      Sitting on the trunk with the top down doesn't count as "fitting fine"

      • stigshift

        Haha. It's roomier than the X1/9 I had. And yes, I fit in both even with the tops in place. Not that I'll ever drive the Miata with the top up. I'll just take my P71 Crown Vic on those days.

    • Three hundred? Nice price! Yeah, foam-ectomy of the seats supposedly can help a lot. It's tight, but I just fit into mine. I'm always thinking that my phone is ringing with how much the door vibrates against my leg from the speaker. I'm not tall, but I'm a little umm… stout, like my dad.

      • Kevin

        Do a little foamectomy, get a smaller diameter steering wheel, and replace the armrest on the door with a simple leather strap. Then you are good to go!

    • dculberson

      Nicely bought! A drivable Miata is easily worth $1000 in parts so $300 is a great deal. I hope you have a ton of fun with it. Cheap cars are like crack for a gearhead. They get you really high.

      • JayP2112

        I can't find a "ran when parked" Miata around here for less than $1000… the spec Miata guys bought them all up!

      • stigshift

        Agreed. This one runs real strong, supposedly has two intake cams in the head, instead of one of each. Anyone heard of this?

        • bill

          look up the exHintake cam mod. it's probably two exhaust cams in there.

          • stigshift

            Thanks for the lead!

    • smokyburnout

      Cool! I was hoping to look at a $500 one yesterday, but I guess you have to get up pretty early to catch those deals.

      • stigshift

        This one literally fell in my lap. Good friend bought it in Novemeber from a 6 year owner friend of ours, for 600 bucks. His Dad died shortly after, and left him in decent financial shape, hence the V-Coupe, his first ever brand new car. My situation is not as robust as his, so he cut me a damned good deal. Good friends are awesome.

  • Todd_Lappin

    I also painted my Miata with a roller, and in matte. The finish turned out great, but because I am an idiot, I chose haze grey, which looks like primer, so everyone always asks what color I plan to paint my Miata when it's finished. *sigh*

    Speaking of idiots… too bad there weren't any LeMons Miatas there, like the snowmobile-powered Miata, or the mutant Volvo-skinned Molvo. These are among the ugliest Miatas on the planet.

    • But the beauty of roll on is that you could always roll something new on top of it.

    • I've never seen the Molvo in-person, but Balto is among the most beautiful Miatas on the planet, snowmobile engine and all:

      [youtube jEoj5u9WGvY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEoj5u9WGvY youtube]

      Fast, too.

      • Todd_Lappin

        I say ugly because Balto is beautiful, of course. I've raced the Molvo; it is also ugly-beautiful but (not surprisingly) tail-heavy.

        <img src="http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5252/5563081503_07e53fb143_z.jpg"&gt;

        <img src="http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5177/5563636940_eca681e88f_z.jpg&quot; >

        • Nice! I've raced against Balto; it effortlessly kicked our ass even on only two cylinders, despite the fact our car was still running on all three at that point.

      • Ol' Shel'

        Is Lemons racing all just a big parade and car show, as shown in the video? Why isn't anybody trying?

        • It's endurance racing, so they're trying to cover the most laps over the course of several hours, not trying to turn the fastest possible laps. Those two goals tend to be incompatible, and LeMons doesn't award trophies for lap times.

  • Sam Payne

    Is that your red NA with the steelies? Looks mighty clean, I'm digging the bone-stock look! Too bad I live in Illinois, where older cars look as old as they are, and I'm nowhere near Miatapalooza. 🙁

    I have a 1995 black NA with 36,000 miles, and I love it! I can't believe it took me this long to buy a Miata!

  • Shinsen1086

    Great pictures! That's my Shinsen right next to yours.

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