As EFTM’s self appointed classic car editor, I have dabbled in more old cars than I care to remember. Some have been epic while others have been epically bad.
I attribute my love of old cars to my brother. It was his first ‘real’ car, paid for by his first ‘real’ job. I remember going with him when he bought it. A tiny garage in a dark street on Sydney’s upper north shore held the slightly dogeared Snowberry White MGB that I don’t credit with sparking a love of cars, but that I do credit with sparking a love of old cars.
I will never forget the smell – a combination of canvas, hot oil and damp carpet.
I will never forget the fear – the night we drove it home was one Noah would have been proud of and I couldn’t comprehend just how ineffectual BMC’s wiper design was. Amazingly, the inefficiency of the windscreen wipers was matched by the power of the six volt headlights.
I will never forget the joy – the sound, the directness of the steering, the closeness to the ground, the snickety throw of the Moss four speed. I was in love.
It is this memory that is at the forefront of my mind as I pilot the Mazda MX5 RF GT down a deserted Pacific Highway. Only this time, it is a memory devoid of the stench of Castrol’s finest GTX burning on the exhaust manifold, carpets soaked in mold spores and biblical floods.
The MX5 has long been compared to the Lotus Elan. This is an unfair comparison. The Lotus had much closer links to motor racing and was altogether much more hardcore than any MX5. A much more authentic comparison is between the MX5 and the MGB. If we continue this metaphor, then the MX5 RF is the spiritual ancestor of the MGB GT – slightly more practical, slightly more grown up, just as much fun.
I’m seriously in love with this car. Just like the MGB, the Mazda has a reputation for being a hairdresser’s car. If it is, call me Stefan. To dismiss this little car as nothing more than a styling exercise is doing it, and you, a massive disservice. It is so much more than that.
The accuracy of the steering, gearbox, brakes, all of the touch points that really matter to a driver, are flawless. Cost cutting is evident, but you have to search for it. Further, the convertible layout doesn’t especially appeal to me, but I am prepared to endure it for the driving experience.
MX5s are often criticised as being underpowered. This simply isn’t true. Can the MX5 platform handle more power? Of course – tonnes more. However, by giving the MX5 more power, more brakes, more weight, more expense, I worry that you would ruin exactly what is so magical about this little car.
There is a movement in motorcycling where buyers are moving away from supersport bikes with their insane ability, insane complexity, insane expense, insane risk to licences and insane insurance premiums to simpler, more comfortable, more gentle bikes. Riders are finding it is far more fun to ride a slow bike quickly than it is to ride a fast bike slowly. This is exactly how I feel about the MX5.
I have come close to buying an MX5 several times. The purity of the first generation NA appealed, but I was closest to going through with the deal with the third generation NC – the folding metal roof was wonderfully appealing. Unfortunately, each time the impracticality of a tiny, tiny two seater put the kybosh on my plans for improving my suntan.
There is no sugar coating the impracticalities of the MX5. As a family car, it is truly horrible, but I regret not owning one. After spending some time with the RF GT, there is a MX5 in my future. I don’t need a crystal ball to know it. All I need to confirm this future purchase is pure, pure steering in a little rear wheel drive package – simply my idea of heaven.
The MX5 range starts with the $40k manual Roadster, complete with Smart City Brake, reverse camera and blind spot monitoring (essential given the over shoulder blind spot in the RF). Another $8k gets you heated seats, rear parking sensors and a Bose stereo. Automatic transmission is another $2k, but it would be sacrilege.
This car is meant to be a manual – the clutch is perfect and the gearbox well weighted and accurate. As tested, this RF GT retails for just under $53k. The extra spend gets you keyless entry and leather.
This upper spec model also sports niceties such as adaptive LED headlights, traffic sign recognition, Apple Carplay and a really nifty, and accurate, voice recognition system that can help you access all of the functions of the in car entertainment system. Save your money. The extras are nice, but this is not what this car is about. Go for the base model and enjoy driving again.
I’ve found the cure for CoronaVirus blues – it is the Mazda MX5 RF GT.