Tidying the MX-5 Up

In March this year, I bought myself a fairly sought after 1.8is Mk1/NA MX-5 that needed quite a bit of work doing. Birthday present from me, to me, I thought, something to restore over time and then start turning into a modified supercharged or turbocharged project once my 25th birthday hits and I ultimately get something a little more sensible to drive daily.

Already it’s had a lot of work done to it, mostly done by myself. A new motor that’s up to 68,000 miles, new suspension shocks (is spec) and boots all around, fresh Brembo brakes on all four corners, new seats (Eunos Roadster tan tombstones), a new roof (cheapo one until I decide which colour I want on the car), new exhaust, upgraded sound system and a new steering wheel. Despite all of that, the car really owes me nothing, which is a bonus.

However you may ask – if I’ve done all that work and the car “owes me nothing”, then what was the catch with it when I bought it? Quite simply, the bodywork. The sills had previously been replaced, but a previous owner obviously hadn’t paid a decent specialist to match the paint, and didn’t bother treating the arches at the same time. As such I had a couple of spots on the rear that was starting to corrode – nothing that would change the roadworthiness of the vehicle, but pretty grim to look at. That and I suppose the amount of labour it would’ve cost to do all of the above work…

Over the last couple of weekends, I decided to have a go at fixing it. To summarise, it had been a case of strip the rear quarters, boot lid, doors and rear bumper back to primer. I then filled and block sanded stage by stage with fiberglass filler, polyester filler then 1K stopper. Finally, a blast and block with some high build primer and then a few coats of 2K paint courtesy of MAJ Paints in Sunderland (matched to the original Mazda Neo Green/British Racing Green). The end result is about 100 times better than when the car looked when I bought it.

There are a couple of spots that need attention and some wet sanding to achieve a mirror finish, but I’ll do that once the paint is fully cured. 2K is notorious for a long curing time, even after a blast under heat and infrared lamps. Come end of December and the whole car will get a cut and polish.

Interestingly, I seem to have figured out why the arches are quite a weak spot for corrosion on these cars. There is a lip where the inner wing welds to the outer body panel, and road dirt, salt etc tends to accumulate on this lip. At some point, I’ll opt to get a new body panel put on the car which I’ll have to get welded in, probably in a few years time. When I do this, I want to try adding some fiberglass filler to the lip to turn it into a smooth surface. Hopefully in doing this before painting and undersealing, as I think that would stop the dirt from collecting behind the sill panel and the arches, and thus make them a little less likely to rot. Besides – fiberglass doesn’t exactly rust like steel does!

Bonus too; 4 neighbours, the care taker and the cleaner seem to appreciate the effort and have commented how much better the car looks in the garage. I suppose that also reveals the timescale of this project, roughly a week in between going to work and university. All that’s left really bodywork-wise aside from a cut and polish are some stone chips at the front, and a dent on the front wing where a neighbour managed to bump their lawn mower into it some months ago.

Next installment will either be installing a new headunit, installing a new heater control panel (old one is a bit scratched), or installing a new convertible top (may have found another I like with a heated glass screen).

I’m enjoying this project car malarkey! Big shout out to my friend Peter for being a project car advocate.