Definitions…NA, NB, NC

Okay, so we noticed this question pops up a lot. What is an NA, NB, and NC Miata?

We’ll start from the top…but it has to do with VIN (Vehicle Identification Numbers).

NA – VIN’s starting with JM1NA

This is the most iconic of Miatas, this vehicle was built from 1990 to 1997. It includes two different engines, the 1.6L 4-cylinder from 1990-93, and the 1.8L 4-cylinder from 1994-97. There was NO 1998 Miata. Easiest way to pick one out in a crowd is the famous pop-up headlights.

NB - VIN’s starting with JM1NB

The NB Miata was built from 1999 to 2005. It came with the same 1.8L motor found in every Miata from 1994-on. However, in 2001 the motor got variable valve timing and started requiring 91 or better octane gas. Distinguished by its near NA size and fixed headlights. It has a more substantial interior, but still shares much of the same running gear from the later NA cars, including brakes, tire sizing, and engine. NB1′s are considered to be 1999 and 2000 cars, NB2′s are post-2000.

NC - VIN’s starting with JM1NC

The NC Miata is still in production, 2006 to present. It is a whole new car, sharing almost no parts with the NA/NB cars. Distinguished by its bigger wheels, flared fenders, projector headlights, and a much more modern interior. NC1 are from 2006-2008. Starting in 2009, Mazda started building the NC2, incorporating suspension tweaks, a higher rev-limiter, and some extra features. Both NC1 and NC2 have a power retractable hardtop model, known by its acronym, PRHT.

The ND Miata is only a few short years away. Suspicious folks think it will be a smaller displacement SkyActiv motor, perhaps a 1.6L or 1.4L, and be several hundred pounds lighter than the current NC2. We can only hope!

Miata Motoring.

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Cooper Roadster vs. Miata Special Edition

We really enjoy these videos as they seem to really capture the essence of both cars. The Mini is surprisingly clinical and the Miata seems to be a bit more engaging. Both are great cars. Enjoy the video.

Happy Motoring.

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Busting Out of Prison – Winter Storage To End

It’s that time of the year again. We’re going to break our favorite lady out of prison!

This one isn't ours, but you get the idea...

The forecast is in. The mild winter of this year has been a blessing in disguise. Despite finally breaking down and buying a winter beater…Typical, first winter with little snow and we finally have a beater!

So here is the run down for storage removal:

Remove car cover – obvious reasons

Oil change – we overfilled the oil when we put it away

Remove mothballs – no one likes that smell, but we like rodents even less

Pull the towel out of the intake plenum – keeps the rodents out too

Remove battery tender – obvious reasons

Change differential and trans fluids – we do this annually anyway

Spark plugs – we have 55k miles now, its about time

Put our new spiffy Buddy Club delrin shift knob on

Swap to our spring/fall tires – Kumho ASX’s for less than ideal temps

Install new cabin air and air intake filters – we’re at 15k on both, time for a swap

You should also ALWAYS do a full visual inspection of all vital systems, brakes, battery, fuel system, cooling system, suspension, tires, etc. It costs nothing and noticing a serious problem now is a lot easier than 10 minutes before your first track day tech inspection.

On a personal note, we feel like we’re getting our souls back. It’s been a long winter in an automatic Subaru wagon.

Happy Motoring.

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Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona 2012 – Live Streaming Free on


A little guide for you!

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MINI @ NAIAS 2012 – Are You Sure This Is The MINI Display?

Mini display

MINI always traditionally has a great display at Autoshows. Their marketing in general has always been pretty good. We’re not going to lie though, we walked right past the ugly Countryman, and right towards that white roadster in the back. The Countryman really is ugly in person…and there were two roadsters beckoning us.

White Cooper S roadster

Black Cooper S roadster

There is nothing like a couple roadsters parked wingtip to wingtip. They are rather oddly proportioned in person. It is basically a normal MINI ‘vert without back seats. It does have a very small functional trunk. The one had a very unique interior pattern, probably even more unusual than the plaid that made appearances in many VW interiors.

MINI roadster interior

Our favorite gauge!

Not only did the car retain the distinctly polarizing interior, it had our favorite gauge. This is a top down meter, to let you know how many hours of top down motoring you have done. Awesome. The pie plate dash is still as ridiculous as ever and interior ergonomics are largely unchanged. We didn’t sample either with the top up, so we can’t comment on headroom (they refused to put the tops up/down for us). We’d imagine a white steering wheel/seat leather can get grimy fast, but it is very cool looking.

Giant speedo and cluster

Love the brakes

The one roadster appeared to be fitted with JCW wheels and brakes. The John Cooper Works line will carry over to the drop-tops, likely with its incredible pricing structure intact. We’re always amazed at the vast array of customizable features in these cars and the price tag the options often carry. A loaded roadster could easily break into the high-20s or low-30s range in price…not cheap!

MINI Cooper S coupe

We did get to also sample a JCW MINI Coupe. It’s a Coupe Cooper or some incredible naming rhyme. The interior again is very similar, this one had unique bumps in the roof inside for more headroom. If this is any indication of the roadster’s headroom, we’d be worried about anyone over 6 feet tall. It was a squeeze for us and our 6 footer had his hair brushing the roof. One thing we didn’t realize is that the coupe has a substantial interior volume for its packaging. We didn’t realize its actually a hatchback, not a trunk.

MINI Cooper S coupe trunk space

Overall, we were impressed by both of the new MINI’s. They retain their quirkiness in true British fashion. It still is very much a style purchase, but if the brutal effectiveness of the normal Cooper S on the track is any indicator, these cars will be very good. We still miss the supercharger whine of the old cars, but we’re confident these will surpass the Cooper’s of old.

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MINI Motoring.

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Guest Commentary – Why Is The R8 Topless?

From the Desk of JZ, friend and fellow Miata racer. 

Why the R8 is the most beautiful car in the world and how they screwed it up by taking the top off!

The vehicle in question

The Audi R8 is visually the most attractive car currently produced.  Forget performance numbers, cost, racing pedigree, fuel economy, practicality, or any other metric for evaluating a car.  On looks and looks alone, the R8 coupe is the car you should have a poster of on your wall.  Sure there are many other attractive cars that come to mind… the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Aventador, and Aston Martin DB9 are just a few that are likely to pop into conversation.  And certainly they deserve some recognition.  The Italia is a very pretty car, there is no denying that.  It is like a date that George Clooney would bring to the Oscars, amazingly beautiful, sexy, and elegant; nothing showy or boisterous, just sophisticated and gorgeous.  The Lamborghini is just the opposite.  It is like showing up with a porn star.  Sure you dream about the experience and love it for its audacity, but in real life you know you should be a little embarrassed.

The list goes on, the SLS has showy gull wing doors, the GTR may be accidentally picked up by a wondering giant looking for a shave, Ashton Martin modeled its grill off the mouth of a whale shark.

So what makes the R8 special?  The thing that makes the R8 sublime is that it was able to strike the perfect cord between elegance and blasphemy.  The curvaceous lines and three part grill add enough refinement that it would be at home delivering a Nobel winner to the awards banquet.  But it is not exactly a Bentley either. The headlights project an angry glare or a sultry stare depended on the angle you view them.  The strip of carbon fiber aft the doors is a message to all onlookers that the R8 is a lady on the streets and a proper racer in the seat.  No need for aircraft size wings on the trunk lid or intake holes that swallow small birds whole to tell the world “I’m a sports car!”

Instead, the intake crevasses feeding the mid engine V8 (or V10 for an extra $35 grand) are muted by a stroke of carbon fiber.  Around back, the R8 teases the eye with a peak of the motor through the rear windscreen, but is careful not to reveal too much as the exhaust piping is all neatly tucked out of view.  All that is seen are two oval exhaust tips poking through the rear bumper.  The taillights are sleek and modern.  The slighted rounded square lights encased in sleepy polygons are a perfect example of style without over engineering.  They highlight the entire mantra of the car: styled just enough to unmistakably be a supercar, but not so much as to use a megaphone to tell you.  And that is what makes it the most beautiful car in the world.

So why does the R8 get worse once it takes its’ top off? The reason is, because it loses so many of the features that made us fall in love with it in the first place.  That strip of carbon fiber along the side, gone.  The cut out in the back offering a glimpse of the motor, covered over.  It’s not as though it is unattractive.  At least the headlights are the same.  But it is the Kourtney Kardashian of cars.  Attractive, yes, but the one you really want is her sister.  And that is a problem, because the convertible versions of coupes should be the fun loving outgoing sister, not the toned downed sensible family member. Yet that is what happened to the R8.  The convertible version looks must less exciting than the hard top.

It was like the engineers that designed the R8 took a day off when the convertible version was built and their uninspired replacements went about making it pedestrian. So the debate at Top Always Down now is, what is the most beautiful convertible in the world?

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Hyundai @ NAIAS 2012 – The Veloster

What does that even mean? Veloster? Sounds like a cross between velocity and toaster, which is actually kind of true. We got to get up close and personal with the newest addition to the Hyundai line – the Veloster Turbo. It’s a turbocharged toasticity.

The Veloster Turbo

The Veloster Turbo

To start, we really liked the satin grey finish on the car. It was understated in a special way. No complaints there. The wheels were a nice take on the classic 911 turbo wheels. The styling is not as bad in person, particularly with the more understated silver/grey of the car. Most people find either the nose or tail of the car unattractive. We think its a modern take on the classic hatchback design. There were some things we didn’t like though.

We can't fit!

The back seat on any performance hatch is always a bit of a compromise, particularly on one as small and light as this. However, we can’t fit in the back seat. Getting in and out is massively awkward for even the shortest in our group (5’8). For me at just over 6 feet tall, it was a nightmare. My head was brushing the top of the rear hatches glass. This makes me really worry about the crash-worthiness of the car, particularly in a rollover. We don’t like to talk too much about awkward back seats, as most sports cars have a joke for a back seat. However, this isn’t a coupe, it’s a fast hatch. It’s supposed to be practical enough to haul a few friends…compared to an RX-8, this backseat is a joke.

Side Mount Intercooler

The Veloster also has a very tight engine compartment. We were very unimpressed as the charge piping looks like it was made out of recycled shoes from a third world sweatshop. It was soft, pliable, and looked like it would balloon up at room temperatures. The side mount intercooler gives us fears of quick heatsoaking – a dreaded power killer. It seems the whole set-up was done on the “shoehorn” and “cheap,” two words we don’t like to describe any car.

With all the chiding about these quibbles aside, the interior was pleasant. It had nice materials, a good looking build quality, and their sat nav set-up seemed intuitive. For the cost, I’d be very seriously looking at the Genesis Coupe right that was sitting right behind it. It’s bigger, nicer inside, and has a more common sense layout (did we mention its RWD?). The Gen-Coupe also has a very reasonable sticker that isn’t a reach from the Veloster’s top ticket. Overall, we like the Veloster idea, we’re just worried the execution got lost in the shuffle.

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Enjoy the full slideshow of Veloster pics and feel free to comment with any questions.

Quirky Motoring.

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Mercedes @ NAIAS 2012 – Ballistic Missile Edition

Big and Fast

Have more money than Mitt Romney? I found you the next convertible you should buy. This is hands down one of the most powerful convertibles on earth. The big twin turbo V8 will utterly melt your face right off.

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The lighting for these photos was very interesting, they had a white car with LED’s shining down on it that changed color. The blue photo was my favorite, so we included it. As always, Hi-Res is available via email to [email protected]

Colorful Motoring.

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Scion and Subaru @ NAIAS 2012 – ScioToyoBaru

“This is the same car,” we heard that several times. For starters, Toyota didn’t have the GT-86 at all. Only Subaru and Scion had their much anticipated flat-4, RWD coupes on display. Both were definitely production models. One looked like it had certainly been driven a few times a short distance. Several of the folks in our group were kicking this around as our next cars. It’s a very unique vehicle, 7,000rpm redline with 197hp and 151torks. Not to mention is an affordable RWD coupe, which is very rare in the non-gigantic segment (aka. ‘not camaro, mustang, or challenger segment’).

Scion FR-S

Subaru BRZ

We did get a nice view inside both cars. They wouldn’t let us sit in them, but we got close enough to see the differences. The Scion definitely looks a bit lower rent, the Subaru has the full alcantara and WRX STI treatment on the seats, shifter, and steering wheel. Both carry the same size 215 profile tires. Both have nearly equal sized brakes. The styling is very close. We definitely liked the blue of the BRZ a lot more than the silver Scion.

BRZ Interior

We also noticed a few other tidbits, like the different side emblems. The FR-S has the small GT-86 monikers on the side panels. The BRZ lacked this treatment. They really are slightly different cars. I’m not sure how Subaru will command more, even significantly more money, even with a nicer interior. We really liked the look of the BRZ shifter and gauge coloring, but that is all purely subjective stuff.

GT-86 Anyone?

FR-S front tires/brakes

We definitely preferred the look of the Subaru from behind. It doesn’t have those godawful altezza tails that the silver FR-S has. Again, we’re not sure if this justifies the added price. Keep in mind that we don’t know the pricing yet either. Both had plastic rear splitters.

BRZ rear shot

FR-S side profile

Overall, we’re really excited for this car. It very well could be the defining sports car of a generation. Most Japanese performance is stretching into the 30′s (Lancer Evo, 370Z, a later model s2000, etc). It’s a hope a light, RWD car that is available for the low-20′s could even exist. This very well could be the Miata Coupe they never built, even if it does have the lineage of a wild mutt dog.

Mutt Motoring.

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Chevy @ NAIAS 2012 – Miray?

We had a bit on this car a few months ago.

A very cool looking concept in person. We were surprised that it was smaller than expected, though still very mean looking. This is definitely a purely concept vehicle, perhaps a car for 25 years from now. It almost has a 1950′s jet powered car of the future feel. Very angular and not quite as eye-pleasing in person. It was fun to examine from all angles though. See the slideshow below.

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