The Demi-Wave

DSCN1734_49e638616bfb4-lightboxI really couldn’t care less. The MX-5 is a much-maligned car that is exquisite to drive. Mainly due to its popularity and therefore ubiquity, nobody even notices you and those that do, don’t care that you’re there. Which makes it easier to drive damn near everywhere on the lock-stops.

This is my third MX-5 and where it starts to get serious. A few weeks back, I was given a few passenger laps round a track in a very heavily supercharged 5 and at the time I remember thinking that these laps could end up costing me lots of money. I’m happy to report that it’s already started…

Let’s start with the car itself: a 2003 1.8 Nevada. It has lovely greeny-blue silver paint, blue leather and a blue soft top. It also has the much-loved Torsen ATB differential that is a form of LSD which, having had one car with it and the other without, I was adamant had to be on the new one. It also has various other options which I’m not in the slightest bit concerned about. Other than that, the car is pretty much the same as any other MX-5.

I bought it, thrashed it and watched in horror as the exhaust (barely 4 years old at this point) split in two. MX-5 exhausts corrode really rather badly as it turns out, so if you’re buying one, look at having it replaced. On my Mk1, the exhaust was on its way out when I swapped it for a Larini. I was so impressed I went straight back to them for the new one and not 5 days later, a lovely oval tipped, stainless steel back-box and mid-pipe were waiting to be offered up to the car’s arse end…who would have thought a 4 pot could sound as nice?

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ikiziJyjkqQ

Impressed with the way the car felt, I booked myself onto a trackday at Oulton Park not long after and quietly set about bricking it as I do before every trackday. I needn’t have worried about the car though, as it felt great…my driving let me down once or twice but the car was cracking. Towards the end of the day I felt confident enough to really push the car hard and see what happened. With most people having left by then, there were very few cars on the circuit so it felt good to provoke the back end into moving a bit out of Shell Oils and in the 2 chicanes. Unfortunately, it was obvious by the way my passenger’s eyes had widened that he thought I was going to crash…then an S2000 doing similar manoeuvres to me span and hit the barrier hard. He nearly had a fit. I called it a day and reflected on the Demi-Waves’ performance…what a truly entertaining little car.

At this point, I searched for some suspension upgrades to further improve my times on track and stop the car rolling as much as it did on the trackday. Going into Knickerbrook at speed really upsets the balance of the MX-5 and I could physically feel the body weight swaying from one side to the other. Enter my next purchase: a set of Performance 5 Sport Drive suspension. Unfortunately, due to the manufacturing timescales, these haven’t arrived yet.

Road biased suspension and corroding exhaust aside, there are a number of faults with it, the first of which is a misfire on a steady throttle. This is also a well-known problem with MX-5s and is usually down to the plug leads being stretched too much when changing the plugs…at least I’m hoping it’s as simple as that! The next is a rattle coming from the area where the catalytic converter resides. This isn’t a constant noise but manifests itself at around 3,000 rpm, which is annoying as that is when the engine starts to come on cam, the result of which is that you get to hear it quite a lot.

The big problem at the moment isn’t actually the car’s fault. On my way back from the pub one night, I had an altercation with a brain-dead buffoon in a VW Passat who veered on to my side of the road causing me to take evasive action. I moved left and promptly smote a large stone that tore a chunk out of a relatively new Michelin, kerbed my alloy and knocked my steering out of line. I had the tyre replaced (£186 for 2), the alloy repaired (£36 per wheel) but the steering is still out as I’m waiting for recommendations from the MX-5 Owners Club for some suitable 4 wheel alignment specialists. I’m not expecting it to be cheap though!

All in all a decent car then, just don’t expect to get taken seriously in one. Then again, why would you want to?

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Tom Jones