If you’re in the market for the beautiful Mazda MX5/Eunos Roadster Mk1/NA, make sure you read our top tips on how to choose the right car and review our handy ‘Buyers Checklist’
Choosing the right MK1
- Before you even hit the classifieds check out our ‘Which MX5 model have I got?’ guide to the Mk1 to help refine your search.
- Take your time, look at as many cars as you can to get a feel for the market – you can afford to be picky and soon learn the difference between a good one and a bad one.
- Import or not? The market for Mk1s is full of imported JDM Eunos Roadsters and there was a time they were considered safer bets for having covered fewer miles on our salty roads. That advantage will have narrowed but is still worth bearing in mind. Of more interest is the fact Eunos Roadsters tend to have more generous equipment and a wider – and more exciting – range of desirable special editions. In terms of insurance, parts and suchlike there are few worries about running an imported Eunos – some people prefer to drive a ‘proper’ Mazda-badged MX5 but, as an ownership proposition, they’re pretty much one and the same.
- Original or modified? Owners love to customise their Mazdas and that’s all part of the fun. But as the Mk1 matures into a true modern classic it’s clear there’s greater interest and value in original cars, whether you want to preserve it that way or start with a blank canvas for your own upgrades. Wheels, suspension, exhausts and induction kits are all common modifications you’ll encounter and can be easily put back to standard if that’s what you’d like. More extensive modifications to bodywork or powertrain should be considered on a case by case basis.
- 6 or 1.8? Mk1 MX5s were originally sold with a 115hp 1.6-litre engine, with a 130hp 1.8 joining the range in 1994. Both engines are fundamentally the same and both have their advocates – the 1.8 is about half a second quicker 0-60mph than the 1.6 and it’s got a little more torque and improved flexibility. However, some purists prefer the 1.6’s slightly revvier nature and say this makes it more fun, despite the slight performance handicap. It’s important to note that later UK 1.6s sold after 1994 were detuned to just 90hp and feel significantly slower.
- Power steering or not? You may find some MX5s with non-assisted steering and be tempted to consider this more purist. But it’s worth bearing in mind these use a lower-geared rack and feel less agile as a result.
- Think you’ve found ‘the one’ and ready to put your money down? If you know the registration you can swot up on https://www.check-mot.service.gov.uk the MoT history before seeing the car, get a sense of whether the claimed mileage stacks up and whether there have been any recurring failures for potential red flag issues like corrosion.
The ‘Buyer’s Checklist’
- Paperwork – Is the vendor legit and is the V5 in their name? Does the MoT paperwork and service history tally with the online check? An extensive service history and folder full of receipts is useful evidence of how the car’s been looked after and worth taking the time over. A lack of paperwork is a concern but, if you know what you’re looking at, you can still safely buy a car ‘blind’ if you’re confident with the visual/mechanical checks.
- The five-minute check – Walk around the car and check for obvious damage. Are the tyres from a matching brand? Are they quality rubber or cheap ditchfinders? Is the hood in good condition with no cracks in the rear screen or vinyl? Are you happy what you’re seeing corresponds to the claimed mileage and description in the advert? If yes then proceed with a more detailed check, if not then be ready to walk away.
- Bodywork and rust – Bring a torch and be ready to get down on the ground and have a thorough look under the car. Are the sills in good condition? Pay particular attention to the rear end by the wheelarch, underneath and for signs of corrosion under the sill kick plates. Is there rust on the inside of the wheelarch lips? Have the chassis rails been damaged by poor jacking or speed bumps? Look inside the boot and lift the carpets up – is it dry? Is there any evidence of crash repair like overspray? Look for the same in the engine bay, again checking for rust or signs of accident repair.
- Engine and transmission – If it’s an early 1.6 check to see if the engine has a short-nose or long-nose crank – check the main pulley on the front of the engine and if it’s got eight slots in it it’s the sturdier long-nose. With the engine cold open the radiator cap and check coolant level and condition. Do the same for the oil, both via the dipstick and the filler cap on the cam cover. Look at the condition of the belts and ask the owner when they were last changed – if it was more than five years ago budget for a cambelt service in your negotiations.
- Is there oil at the back of the engine? Check the https://www.mx5parts.co.uk/sensor-ring-mk1-p-243.html seal for the cam position sensor first – these often leak and it’s a cheap and easy fix.
- Suspension, steering and brakes – Has the car been used regularly? If not the rear calipers could be seized or sticking. Look through the wheels at the condition of the discs and pads – they’re not too expensive to replace but it’s another potential bargaining chip.
- Interior/hood – Check the hood for obvious damage; rear screens can crack and tears often develop in the folds along the top of the window edge. Does the interior smell or feel damp? Check the carpets and have a good feel around in the footwells. Does the ventilation system and air con (if fitted) work correctly? Check air blows through all the vents in the different settings as cables controlling the flaps can snap. If the car has electric windows make sure these work smoothly – slow operation can point to sticky seals and strain the regulator and/or operating cables, both of which are a pain to fix.
The Mazda MX5/Eunos Roadster Mk1/NA buying guide – at a glance
- What do you want? Are you after an original car to preserve? Foundations for a track car? Something to mod? A summer fling? Refine your search accordingly!
- Paperwork – Check the MoT history online, compare against paperwork and service history accompanying the car
- The once over – check tyres, bodywork for obvious rust or damage and the hood for rips or other damage
- Engine – Visual check for fluids and ‘mayonnaise’ in radiator and oil filler caps; check when belts were last changed
- Suspension and brakes – Check for obvious knocks, clonks or rattles and budget accordingly; sticking rear calipers are a common problem
- Interior – Inspect footwell and boot for damp, make sure electric windows (if fitted) and ventilation system operate correctly
- Buy on condition – by all means have your dream spec but be fussy and buy the best your budget allows, whatever colour it happens to be
Already bought a Mk1? It miight be worth a quick look at the top 5 things we recommend you buy for your new purchase
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