Mazda MX-5 Icon


    We bought a rather unloved, virtually abandoned MG RV8 in late 2017 here in Orkney with the intention of saving it from further neglect - we have gradually achieved that, it’s now up and running and we have been to a few shows putting a couple of thousand miles on it. Christine has driven it a few times but it’s really quite a handful with the absence of power steering and you even have to wind up the windows manually! We both took to enjoying ‘top down’ motoring in the MG, even though we had had an XJ-S Cabriolet for nearly 25 years but having air con in that one meant there was rarely any need to remove the targa panels and half hardtop.

    During our visit to the excellent Tain Rally we visited the Club stand of the MX-5 owners and were really impressed not only with the friendly exhibitors but also the cars themselves. Might this be a suitable, more modern replacement for this MG we wondered? Not wishing to go too modern we started looking at adverts for model year 2000 examples (NBs) and came across the Icon edition in what we think is a fantastic colour combination of maroon (Art Vin Rouge) with cream leather. Lots of web trawling and general forum information seemed to indicate that most suffered terminal tin worm in some rather difficult places - there are however many specialists who can repair the offending well known areas. I suppose the problem is that now they are so cheap and plentiful, it’s rarely an economic proposition to rectify serious corrosion in this ‘throw away’ society.
We started looking seriously at adverts for this limited edition (750 were made) 2000 Icon version. The very useful DVLA website with MOT history and checking every one for sale or seen in any related articles, led us to the conclusion that almost all suffered some serious corrosion problems - rectifiable, I know but at what price?
     We wouldn’t normally buy any car or bike without having a good inspection first but we came across an August 2000 W reg one with quite a lot of good history in North Wales and we live in Orkney, from a dealer whom I felt comfortable dealing with. We shared lots of emails and all questions were answered and any requested photos eventually sent, so I pushed the button and bought it relatively unseen! The price reflected the condition and mileage and they delivered it with a fresh MOT to a friend in Southport where we used to live prior to our retirement to Orkney. Peter has gone over it for me (he is also a very observant enthusiast) and pronounced it fit for me to improve cosmetically, something we really enjoy doing but otherwise it’s mechanically and bodily sound - at the moment! Once again, our intention is to improve it and attend to any bad parts as soon as possible - we know there will be as yet unseen challenges, there always are - it’s nearly 20 years old after all!


About to be unloaded at Peter's


Quite a tidy example

    The original plan was for me to go down to Southport to collect it and drive it back home. At that time there was someone interested in one of my motorcycles who lives only about 50 miles from Peter’s place so that might have made it an easy worthwhile trip. Peter and a few motorcycling friends were due to come to Orkney for a visit, so perhaps I could ride back with them, drop the bike off and drive the MX-5 back - all yet to be arranged.

    This particular Icon came with a factory hardtop and Fondmetal wheels, otherwise it’s pretty much standard with around 84k on the clock. The specification was quite good back in 2000 and they came with a price tag of £19200 - quite a lot for a small 2 seater sports car. The cream coloured thin tonneau cover was missing but I found a really nice one on eBay.
Plans changed nearer the time as there was a possible buyer for the bike here in Orkney, so no point in riding 500 miles for someone else to kick the tyres. I checked with Loganair and found a direct flight from Kirkwall to Manchester plus a train to Southport for well under £90 all in and could leave Orkney at lunchtime and be in Southport at 6 pm!

    In the event, the trip by public transport went very well and I arrived at Peter and Jill’s place at just on 6 o’clock for a welcome drink and more food - I seemed to have been eating all day! Later in the evening we went out to the car for a quick look and I was certainly not disappointed with my first up close impressions. I had put the Mazda on our everyday Honda Jazz policy as a temporary additional vehicle and taxed it for a full year to avoid the 10% extra theft they impose for 6 months only. It appeared very quickly on the DVLA site as taxed and tested but even after a week did not show up as insured on the Askmid insurance database site. This was alarming as I didn’t want to get stopped driving for more than 500 miles if it pinged an ANPR camera. I rang the insurance company (I had printed out the certificate already) to be told that temporarily insured vehicles do not appear on the database. I would not dare vent my spleen if stopped on the way home, even though I would have been annoyed while the Police checked details - a total waste of Police time if information was kept up to date and accurate; and what if for some reason there had been a typo somewhere? This is just unacceptable - wake up you numpties, we have computers now!!

    Peter and I went out in it to fill up with fuel, checked all tyre pressures, fluid levels and I slackened and re-tightened the wheel nuts just in case. One thing which did concern me was the slow turn of the starter and on checking the battery it showed a ‘weak battery’ on Peter’s test unit. I ordered a new Yuasa battery from Halfords that evening and collected it the following morning. I think these cars can be quite unkind to batteries as the ECU itself does the regulation and the normal charging voltage is above the gassing threshold, so there are vent tubes taking the fumes out and under the car. Don’t discard a cigarette butt under the back of an MX-5 that’s just stopped at the motorway services - you might not live to light another one!

    We had a relaxing day and went out for a meal that evening, driven by Peter in his Japanese import Honda Elysion 8 seater blunderbus with a V6 power plant that drops to 3 pots when cruising - what an impressive machine! It looks like new but is 15 years old.  I left sunny Southport just before midday the next morning and cautiously made my way out through Parbold and on to the M6 for my long drive North, frequently checking all instrumentation and listening for anything untoward.  I stopped at a few service areas just to check that everything under the bonnet was OK and had a steady pootle up and around Glasgow and on towards Perth but in no real rush to get back, I took the very pleasant detour through Crieff and onto Pitlochry to by-pass Perth. I called it a day - a rather good one in fact and turned off the A9 into Newtonmore. The Balavil hotel had a good room with breakfast and the car fitted easily in between the other weary travellers vehicles.
    After a great nights sleep and a well presented breakfast, I wandered down to reception to pay and packed the adequate boot once again. I wanted to visit Inverness to collect a few things and then had the idea of going west to Ullapool and then back east through Strath Oykel and on to Lairg where I had stayed on my End to End pedal trike ride back in 2004.  Leaving Lairg, I had a rather spirited drive through Rogart as the car seemed to be settling down well, nothing had dropped off or gone bang after having had very little recent use - and I joined the A9 again just south of Golspie, a place we have stayed many times before and a visit to the excellent cafe in the Main Street seemed a great idea.  It’s only an hour or so to the ferry in Scrabster from there and in spite of the persistent rain was accomplished with ease and I was in the queue well in time for the 7 pm sailing.

    So what are my first impressions of just over 600 miles in an unfamiliar, bought without an actual viewing, MX-5 NB Icon? Well it’s certainly better to drive than the MG RV8 - chalk and cheese as you might expect. A lot of fun and easier over a long distance, very light clutch, good gearchange with well spaced ratios in the 6 speed box and obviously handles well, being fitted with a Torsen limited slip diff and a front/rear weight distribution very close to 50/50. It has Fondmetal wheels, rather than the original 5 spoke and is fitted with Yokohamas, which are rather noisy on all but the smoothest of surfaces. Better visibility for me at 5’ 10” - the top screen rail can be rather intrusive on the MG unless the seat is reclined a bit.
There are lots of things to attend to before this car will be used for shows and long continental trips, mostly cosmetic but it certainly has the makings.....    Christine has had a couple of drives in it and can manage it far better than the MG muscle car. I suppose it could have all ended in tears if it had gone bang in the first hour of use but for the money these things are now it was not really that much of a gamble. We’ve also had a short trip out with the hardtop removed and the tonneau fitted and much like the MG it is much better topless! The hood is far easier to put up and stow than that on the MG and also has the benefit of a heated glass rear screen but we’ve yet to drive it with the soft top up.

    All in all, good value now and might even be a keeper now that I’ve had a good look around it and underneath. One rear sill has been sorted, the other looks original and good but the front chassis rails are showing very small signs, so I’ll probably attend to those this winter. Nothing shows on the MOT history in those areas but some testers miss them, I know. The hardtop has been badly stored and handled, with chips and scratches all over - looks like someone has turned it upside down on gravel after removal; the colour is not quite right either but no problem to rectify and I might just see what the top looks like in Mazda Sonic Silver (45P) I can always do it in the body colour later to match the car if we don’t like it. I remember years ago seeing a Lotus Elan plus 2 in burgundy with a silver roof and thought it was a great combination.  We joined the owners club and forum and are looking forward to a few runs out with fellow members to a show or two next season.




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