The MK1 Mazda MX5 has a reputation that probably doesn’t need to be repeated here. What these little cars lack in power, they more than make up for when it comes to its handling and capability as a 2 door open top sports car.
Or so the Internet says. I’ve always been interested in these things, but the second hand market has priced good examples more than I’m willing to pay for a low mileage example.
So what if I told you I found a low mileage Mk1 Mazda MX5 for only £500?
The story so far
It’s 12th December 2021. You’re sat in a Wetherspoons at about 1pm with your brother, both enjoying a hangover with your brunch, when a post pops up on Facebook. It’s a (mostly) green MK1 MX5 for sale for £500.
£500!? It must be an absolute shed.
You’ve wanted one of these for a long time – it clearly needs some work but it’s so cheap. These things are on AutoTrader for thousands at a minimum!
Looking at the MOT history, it’s not had a valid one since 2015. It failed in 2017 and again in 2019, since then nobody has bothered trying it looks like.
So, let’s take stock of what we know so far. First, the good bits:
- It’s low mileage – only 43,000 on the clock!
- These are becoming quite rare and are clearly very desirable considering the price for good examples on the second hand market
- It’s got pop up headlights
- The seller only wants £500 for it
Now, the bad bits:
- It’s clearly been sat for a long time, so it’s probably had something living in it
- It’s also clearly got some wildlife growing on it
- All the tyres need replacing
- The suspension needs sorting out
- All the brakes are probably useless
- The seller only wants £500 for it – so it’s clearly got some serious problems
So clearly there’s only one logical option. You tell your brother to message the guy, and you head to the cash machine to get some cash.
I bought that (mostly) green shitbox before I’d even seen it. It was dropped off at my brothers work the following week.
Let’s see the MX5 in person
Here it is! First impressions: the picture doesn’t do the paint justice, it’s so bad. The interior smells a bit and I’m not convinced the roof is watertight.
However, all the electronics seem to work (mostly – the drivers window is a bit lazy and the left indicator sometimes doesn’t want to work), the pop up headlights are great and the engine sounds solid. The sills don’t look too bad either*, something these things are known to be sentenced to death for!
*My illusions about the condition of the sills would soon be shattered
This rusty little MX5 is unroadworthy at this point, so it had to stay where it was. However, a few days later we were able to get it up on a lift to have a proper look underneath to evaluate how big a mistake this was.
It’s quite rusty, apparently
While it was up on the ramp, my brothers friend, Matt, had a poke around at those sills with his screwdriver. Unfortunately, quite a lot of body filler fell out of this little green nugget and there was a pretty scary amount of rust…
There were audible gasps from some of the other mechanics who’d gathered around to watch as the body crumbled before our eyes. They condemned it as a money pit and said I’d be better off scrapping it, which I considered for a few minutes as Matt continued to look over it.
Long story short, we’d figured out to get it back on the road, it would need:
- Complete sill repair on both sides, including some previously unseen rust holes welding shut and new end plates fabricating
- A paint job
- Front and rear upper and lower control arms
- New suspension bushes
- New suspension springs and shock absorbers
- All new brake discs, pads, callipers and lines
- All new tyres
- New roof
- Some wiper blades
- A major service
- A new battery
Parts alone would be about £4000 before thinking about any labour. I decided that I wanted to crack on (obviously, or else I wouldn’t have wasted your time to get to this point!), much to Matt’s despair as he’d be the one welding this thing back together.
So the first thing we need to do with this is start cutting into the body to remove the rust we can see, replacing those panels with new ones. This is a huge amount of work to do and it makes sense to start with this before any of the easier bits as it might all be in vain if you discover dangerous amounts of rust.
Having decided to crack on, I’d ordered the new rear arch and sill repair panels for both sides and waited patiently for them to turn up.
In the next post, we’ll jump into the first big phase of the project and see if we need to condemn this little MX5 to the scrapheap in the sky or not!