My aim here is to tell a story of a bond between human and machine, a brief fleeting moment of happiness that was almost too good to be true. I’m writing these words with sadness in my heart, a stark contrast to the happiness this car brought to me and others. Read on, as I’m sure I’m not the only one left heart broken from the lost of a beloved vehi— no wait, a beloved friend.
In late 2014 I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to buy a Miata I have been wanting to own for almost a year. A family member purchased it a year or two back with my help, and was now looking to sell it in order to make room for a new car. They gave me a bargain I could not refuse — 2000 dollars. This surely wasn’t the nicest Miata in the world, nor was it even 100% stock. The previous owner had a set of adjustable shocks, some poly bushings, and a sweet set of SSR wheels.
This Miata had some big shoes to fill, it was replacing my beloved Porsche 944, a car that I (and pretty much every one else) deemed to be too nice for me. Just driving it stressed me out, because I was afraid I was going to damage it. So, being a thoughtful owner, I sold it to someone who is probably enjoying it at this very moment, and taking better care of it then I ever would have.
Once I sorted through all of my DMV paperwork with my new Miata, I instantly just started racking up the miles. It essentially needed nothing, and was dead reliable. I drove it top down as often as I could. With the weather warming up on the east coast of the US this time of year, it would’ve been perfect. Notice the past tense wording. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Everyone who drove this car handed the keys back to me with a smile on their face, exuding the joys of what a great drive it was. As simple as it was, as slow as it was, it was a damned good drive.
I stupidly took this Miata ice racing to participate in AMEC’s awesome ice racing season, and there I learned that this car had the automotive equivalent of cancer. It appeared that the road salt and general east coast winter horrific-ness had not been kind to my NB. My car was very rusty. When I fitted some (too large, and crappy) winter tires to participate in the ice race and had to “roll” (read: hammer and block of wood) my fenders to prevent the tires from rubbing, I discovered that my Miata most likely needed large portions of sheet metal cut and replacement pieces welded in. By the end of the winter, my Miata was left scarred with a few rust holes popping out from under the paint after a harsh season.
My dear Miata and I participated in many a spirited drive with other friends, ones where it was easily the slowest car of the group. It mostly kept up in the twisties, however, thanks to my low-quality (but nearly new!) Hankook’s dismay. After taking the Miata to a few Cars and Coffee type events, it came to be known as one of the dirtiest Miatas at these shows. That’s something I’m rather proud of much to the chagrin of my friends who were forced to be seen at these shows with me.
It was around this time I discovered that the cancer had metastasized to near fatal proportion. My frame rails seemed to be consumed with rust aft of the shock towers. Determined to enjoy the time I had left with my beloved Miata, I filed this discovery to my mental brain shredder and forgot about it since, for now, it didn’t affect the driving.
On Saturday, May 9th, my Miata for all intents and purposes, died. I was in a left lane exiting a toll booth near exit 16E on the turnpike when a careless driver in a Lincoln MkT, in a funeral procession, quickly merged into my lane. Luckily for me and my passenger, Aaron Brown, I avoided hitting the other car by diving into the minimal emergency lane on the left hand side. Unfortunately, however, since the emergency lane was filled with some mix of dirt and other non-grippy materials, I was plummeted into a slide condition on my left side, where none of my inputs made a difference. At about 40mph (more or less, Aaron and I are unsure) I hit a crash absorption barrier head on, as the driver of the car who carelessly merged into my lane sped away.
I knew she was done for. As Aaron called the NJSP, I surveyed the damage. It didn’t look like much at first glance, and Aaron thought all it needed was a radiator support. Once the officers arrived, they employed a rolling roadblock so that I could limp the car to a rest area about a quarter of a mile away from ground zero. As I parked the car, I realized the damage was deceiving. Funnily enough, the only thing that failed was the frame. In fact, the front bumper cover didn’t even crack. The frame rail on the driver’s side took the impact and was buckled inwards half an inch or more, causing that whole corner of the car to be pushed downwards.
I’ve listed my once beloved Miata on craigslist, where it will find a new owner as a parts car, or to someone who will repair the frame and get the happiness I once did. Even after the incident, the car still drove exactly the same. Now, my Miata is just a reminder of a moment where I wish I would’ve done more, a moment of regret, a moment of sadness.
Goodbye, dear friend. Rest in automotive heaven. You will not be forgotten.
Heavy editing by: Brian Silvestro
Photocredits: Aaron Brown, Brian Silvestro