It’s finally here! After a few weeks of waiting and probably far too much excitement for a grown man in his 30’s, the little Eunos Roadster is finally mine and I could not be happier.
On initial inspection, the old girl is a bit rough around the edges. A lot of paint work is required, and she will almost definitely need a full body respray, and it’s a similar story with the interior. The carpets are fine – nothing a good shampoo can’t sort – and I’ve already tidied up the centre console a bit, but the driver’s seat is in desperate need of some love. Given her age and mileage however, this was all expected. The most important things to me are the engine, the chassis, and the roof, and they are all sweet. The little 1.6 pulls well and makes a great sound, the roof was replaced only a few years ago, and there are no signs of any life threatening rot under the car. Everything else is superficial and will be remedied over the coming months.
This is my new project, a kind of passion piece to document in my passion piece. I don’t plan on doing anything drastic to the car like turbocharging or wide arch kits: I want to get it as close to how it was when it rolled off the line in Hiroshima back in 1991 (with a few cosmetic alterations and modern touches).
The great thing about this particular car, and the reason I was so keen to buy it, is that I know Rob pretty well, and I know how well he looks after things. The fact that he replaced this car with an almost identical one shows just how much he loved and cared for it, so I knew I was buying something that had had no expenses spared in its upkeep. It seems the majority of MX5s or Eunos Roadsters on the market at the moment have not been so lucky.
I’ve already done the standard walk around and made a comprehensive list of everything I need and want to repair or replace, ranging from the little things like replacing the headlight bulbs so they match, right up to that costly full respray and everything in between. Since I’m aiming for originality however, it’s not as scary looking a list as you might think – mostly little bits here and there – and I’ve already started ticking my way down.
So far I have replaced the head unit for a Bluetooth Alpine unit, the headlamp bulbs for some Osram Nightbreakers, secured the centre console and cubby hole in place, replaced a rear lamp unit, tidied it up a bit and, for a bit of fun, applied some white roundels. I am not sure if these will go back on when the paintwork is sorted, I’ll see how I feel at the time, but at the moment I think they look great, and they seem to draw attention away from all the lacquer peel…
Unfortunately the Panasport wheels will be going back to the previous owner as soon as I have picked up the original Daisy style wheels and swapped the tyres over. I really like the style of the Panas, but to be honest it just gives me an excuse to buy something new. Not that I generally take much convincing!
As I said before, the engine on this runs beautifully. It starts on the button and makes a lovely sound. The only negative at the moment is a metallic rattle at revs, which is being caused by a loose exhaust clamp (also on my to-do list!).
Driving this thing is a truly great experience. Every time I get in start it up I feel like I am behind the wheel of something twice its age, but not in a bad way. With her wooden Nardi wheel, the rev-happy engine, and the rifle-like gear changes, she reminds me a lot of the MGB GT I drove for a few months last year, and that had a very similar sounding engine and familiar pull. You really do feel like you are driving a classic when you are in it.
As a driver’s car, she’s brilliant, and I instantly see why these cars have such a loyal following in the community. It’s small and agile and the little 1.6 has a surprising amount of go when you need it. Top end wise it is to be expected, rattly and noisy but it is not for that. This is a proper B-road blaster, a front engined, rear-driven little Jack Russel of a car. It just wants to play and make a bit of noise in the process. The gear changes are fabulous, everything has a really good weight to it and as you depress the clutch, it just clicks into place with a nice short throw and great precision. This particular car also benefits (and suffers) from having coilovers fitted. It sits nice and low to the ground and the handling is not bad at all but they are not the most sophisticated shocks and springs, so there is a lot of bouncing about on the road.
I have always been a fan of bigger, lazier and generally automatic cars because I do a lot of driving day-to-day, but the more time I spend in cars like the MX5, and recent test drives in the new Porsche Boxster, the more I remember how much I love the thrill and feel of proper old fashioned driving. I am never as happy anywhere else as I am when I am behind the wheel of a proper, driver-focused car. Whether it’s a 25 year old beaten up Mazda, or a brand new £138,000 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Manual, they all have that character and that feel nothing else comes close to replicating. It is why I love cars and why I am spend so much time outside of my work life to write and work on this blog.
I am slightly concerned about where this project will take me. It can only really go two ways – I will end up ploughing more and more time and money into it to the point where I have blown well over the value on it – and/or I will get “the bug” for these things and sell the Discovery and buy something else like this. I still have a real itch for a 987 Boxster S or Cayman S, so who knows what will happen next year.