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It’s a Miata Thing: MX-5 Fandom Explained

The Mazda MX-5 Miata was once just known as a cheap convertible, but this little sports car has gained quite the following over the years.

A Fun Sports Car with a Following

Miatas driving together - gapmiatas.com
Miatas driving together - gapmiatas.com

Ah, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, a tiny sports car that was once commonly referred to as “a hairdresser’s car”. However, the fun little Mazda roadster has shed that derogatory image as more and more car enthusiasts have come to appreciate the model for what it is. The Miata is a proper rear-wheel drive sports car with lively handling and comes at a price point that’s approachable for a wider audience. All of this high praise over the years has pushed the Mazda MX-5 Miata to new heights and given it a following like no other. While the first generation (NA) is the star of this Miata fascination, the rest of the group is still equally cherished. So, here are all the unique things that Mazda MX-5 Miata owners are doing to their cars.

The Miata Wink

Wink & Sleepy Eye Mod - mx5tech.co.uk
Wink & Sleepy Eye Mod - mx5tech.co.uk

First up is a popular mod among the thousands of NA generation owners, the Miata Wink Eye Mod. The NA generation of the Miata was the only one lucky enough to feature pop-up headlights, so it’s become a part of the model’s personality. The Wink Eye Mod modifies the pop-up headlights to move independently from each other so that the driver can “wink” at other MX-5 Miatas they encounter on the road. This mod also sometimes incorporates another mod referred to as the Sleepy Eye Mod. This Miata modification raises up the headlights partially giving the car sort of a just woken up look to it.

Giving the Mazda MX-5 a Face

NA Miata with a face - @bboykayjay on Instagram
NA Miata with a face - @bboykayjay on Instagram

Speaking of visualizing the pop-up headlights as that Miata’s eyes, some owners like to really push into giving their Miata a face. I mean, it’s already pretty easy to see a face in the front of the NA Miata with those circle headlights and the lower opening that looks like a mouth. In fact, that’s part of the reason the Mazda was chosen for the Cars universe. Owners sometimes decide to accentuate the Miata’s appearance by adding teeth or a tongue to the “mouth”. There are even headlight mods like Miata eye lid covers to make it look sad or angry, but some have gone as far as slapping on some giant googly eyes instead. All of these little additions along with the pop-up headlight mods make the MX-5 Miata a crowd favorite at car meets, at least to the attendees with a sense of humor.

You Can Hear Them Coming

While the NA has more fun with its pop-up headlights, not everything from this fandom is reserved for that generation. For instance, what fun is having any of the different Miatas if nobody can hear it driving by? A majority of these sports cars drop the stock exhaust in favor of some aftermarket pipes so that they can really hear that four-cylinder rev. It can be annoying to some when a straight piped or cat back exhaust totting Miata passes by, but the driver and onlooking Miata fans will appreciate all the loud burbles and pops.

A Blank Canvas

modified NC Mazda MX-5 - carbonmiata.com
modified NC Mazda MX-5 - carbonmiata.com

If it wasn’t already abundantly obvious from the MX-5 Miata trends noted above, these are great project cars. No matter the generation, there’s a ton anyone could do to the MX-5 in terms of looks and performance. There are numerous body kits, specifically tuned aftermarket suspension kits, and a plethora of performance parts for under the hood. Plus, there are a bunch of online forums and social channels dedicated to the Mazda MX-5 Miata in which owners document their experiences modding the car, known issues for each generation, and step by step guides about working on the MX-5. There’s already so many examples out there of what can and has be done to this roadster, but that just makes crafting your very own Miata a lot easier.

From the Street to the Track

Miatas racing at an MX-5 Cup event - mx-5cup.com
Miatas racing at an MX-5 Cup event - mx-5cup.com

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of those cars you can pretty much take straight to your local circuit and enjoy a day of racing. With all the extensive performance parts tailored to the Miata, it can essentially be turned into a go-kart for grown-ups. This roadster is just one of those cars that feels great when it’s pushed around the winding turns of a race track. It’s such a great track car in fact that there are numerous racing series dedicated to the MX-5 Miata. There’s the National Auto Sport Association Spec Miata Racing Series, Spec MX-5 Challenge Series, and even the Mazda sponsored MX-5 Cup. Even if you’re an amateur behind the wheel that’s just starting out, working with a Miata at the local track can be a great beginners experience as you grow into the sport.

Miata Gatherings

Some of the 707 Miatas at Modena Circuit - @mazdaeurope on Instagram
Some of the 707 Miatas at Modena Circuit - @mazdaeurope on Instagram

Miata owners love to come together to show off their cars at meets all over the world, but these model specific events can climb to some high attendance numbers. Over in Europe for instance, a new world record was set at the Modena Circuit in Italy this year in which 707 Mazda MX-5 Miatas gathered together to parade around the track. I’m sure we in America could beat that number if we all showed up at our annual MX-5 gathering, Miatas at the Gap.

Mazda MX-5 Miatas gathered at Miatas at the Gap - gapmiatas.com copy
Mazda MX-5 Miatas gathered at Miatas at the Gap - gapmiatas.com copy

Miatas at the Gap is one of the largest and longest running MX-5 owners gathering in the USA. It takes all these Miatas through Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, an 11-mile road consisting over 300 curves in North Carolina. There are also six other curving mountain passes nearby the main event that these Miatas carve through over the course of the three-day event. If you’ve got a one of these Japanese roadsters, you’ve got to make your way to Miatas at the Gap.

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Jesse McGraw

Jesse McGraw brings his life-long car obsession into his writing. A fun childhood that involved growing up around race tracks, working on a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, and collecting Hot Wheels developed into a strong appreciation for automotive history. If there is an old, obscure, or rare car, he wants to know about it. With a bachelor's degree in Web Development & Design from Dakota State University, Jesse can talk shop about car or computer specs, focusing on classic cars, imports, and car culture.

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