Cars MX5

[Project MX5] Part Zero – Diamond in the rough

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

A sad looking green Mazda MX5

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…

A very rusty MX5 sill

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.

A grotty MX5 engine bay

Next steps

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!

Dev stories Golang

A PHP developer learns Go

What could possibly Go wrong?


I’m writing this blog post in a chronological order; as I discover and learn things, I’ll add some more content. The idea is you’ll probably see madness setting in as I go further down the gopher hole, or come to revelations about how much better Go is than anything else.

Time will tell 🙂

More Preamble (sorry).

The idea for this blog post came originally from a colleague I spoke with recently. I recently started a new job in the property tech sector (which I might reflect upon in a new post) and I was on an introduction call with someone else (Chris) who started recently who is much more senior than I am, and a senior member of the data team, Phil.

To cut a long story short, me and Phil ended up talking about some of the languages he uses day to day, and he mentioned he really likes Go. I’m a PHP/JavaScript developer by trade so this is very different to what I’m used to – I’ve seen Go code, and I can’t make sense of it whatsoever, so this should be interesting!

Hello world.

Getting started was easy enough – downloaded the installer, ran it, opened my terminal and…

PS C:\Users\cretn> go version
go version go1.16.2 windows/amd64

Time to actually write some code, I guess. Looks like we have to set up a new module…

PS C:\Users\cretn\Documents\Code\Go> go mod init
go: creating new go.mod: module

PS C:\Users\cretn\Documents\Code\Go> touch hello.go
touch : The term 'touch' is not recognized as the name of a cmdlet, function, script file, or operable program.

Shit, I forgot I was on Windows. I’ll just make a new file in VS Code instead rather than trying to be a terminal ninja. After opening up a new go file VS Code recommended I installed some stuff, when it was finished it gave me a lovely message.

All tools successfully installed. You are ready to Go :).

How lovely.

After copying out the code in the tutorial, we did it!

PS C:\Users\cretn\Documents\Code\Go> go run .
Hello, world!

Am I a Go dev yet?

Tech Support

How I fixed an old iMac using Time Travel

Today I encountered a bit of a strange problem while helping a friend fix his newly acquired 21.5″ 2012 iMac. He tells me it’s been wiped clean and he’s having issues re-installing macOS.

He was getting the following error about a minute into the El Capitan installation:

No packages were eligible for install. Contact the software manufacturer for assistance.

Before I Googled anything, I decided the fix would be to attempt something like this to re-install macOS:

  • Boot into Recovery, by holding CMD + R while booting the machine up.
  • Boot into Internet Recovery by holding CMD + OPTION + R while booting the machine up.
  • Go to Apple and beg for help.

I didn’t feel like going to Apple today, so I opted to attempt the recovery options. However, it turns out that on this machine, there was a firmware password that had since been forgotten, rendering my attempts useless.

We tried a few things, including removing the RAM and attempting a PRAM reset to circumvent this password. Turns out this only works on older Macs manufactured in 2011 and before.

Defeated, we returned to the original screen which was causing us problems. Could there possibly be a way to coerce the installation forward without any access to the built-in recovery tools that Apple have given us?

Yes, actually. And it involves us going 88mph…

Fixing an iMac by travelling back in time

Back to the future screenshot
© Back to the Future, Universal Studios

We stumbled upon this thread on Apple’s support forum which suggests simply turning back the clock to 2017.

From the main screen after turning the iMac on, head to the top of the screen and click Utilities. Then, click on Terminal to open up a command line.

Type the following command:

date 0115124517

Hit the enter key – the iMac now thinks it’s January 1st, 2017.

Exit the terminal and head back to the install screen and give it another try. If it starts working, congratulations! You’ve just fixed your iMac with time travel, and you didn’t even need a time machine.

Lessons learned

Even though I’ve been fixing things for ages now, I still sometimes forget the basics. I didn’t Google the error – I just assumed I knew what was going on and dived straight in, rather than assessing all my options.

The recovery tools might have worked, but that wasn’t really addressing the first issue we ran into. In pursuing this course of action I jumped down the rabbit hole and spent more time attempting to fix new problems than the one at hand.

Had I Googled the error message we got, I would have learnt that time travel was the answer a lot sooner.

So, I guess in summary, don’t forget the basics – even if the basics, in this case, do send you back in time.

Thanks for reading 🙂