My midlife crisis has been a lifelong affair. With 25 different cars under my belt in 32 years of driving, I’m about to turn 50 knowing I’ve been faithful to my wife but not a manufacturer. And for those contemplating purchasing the quintessential midlife convertible, read on.
My grandfather owned 17 motorbikes in his life and the challenge to beat this number in any form of vehicle was an early goal. The handful of motorbikes I owned ended with a sequence of BMW's. however the notion of a father of two coming off second best on a weekend ride was playing on my mind. So I managed one of my most brilliant negotiations and swapped out the last two-wheel Beemer for a 2007 NC Series 1 MX-5 Roadster.
“We can go on drives together”, I said as I convinced my wife that this was a good idea - and at only 399cm long the car could be tucked away and ‘easily’ fit in to my 4 metre workshop, turning our two car garage into three.
Nearly four years later, the ownership experience has been even better than expected.
There’s been plenty of column centimetres devoted to reviews of each generation of the MX-5, so I won’t waste time recounting its handling (sensational) or reliability (perfect). But revisiting the value-for-money equation is worth some analysis.
Originally retailing at close to $50,000, the retractable hardtop version (pictured) was not cheap. It drew attention from an increase in weight from the NB Series and some questioned whether the Jinba Ittai (rider and horse as one) philosophy was lost from the original NA series.
But as I enter the over 50’s club, I am more than satisfied with the handling, acceleration, braking and smile factor you can now have for under $15,000. Our kids are still at home but most weekends my wife and I manage to get out for a short ‘date drive’. Perhaps for beer or glass of wine under the Story Bridge or a quick wander amongst the antique markets in Paddington. It has been a car for two and simply a lot of joy for both of us, and for different reasons. For me as driver and her as passenger.
With nearly 90000km on the clock, the short-throw, six-speed manual transmission needs some understanding when cold, but reminds me what fun and control most of our new drivers today are missing out on. A suburban left hand turn in second gear is both legal and a joy. An after-market stainless steel exhaust provides just enough presence to heighten the whole driving experience.
Most mechanical workshops understand the underpinnings of the car and consumables (brake pads, oil, filters) are all available from your local auto store. eBay provides hours of entertainment if you are keen to customise the car for not a lot of coin.
Four airbags, ABS, stability control, leather interior, cheap servicing and an easy conversion to the Bose sound system for music streaming, the car has kept up with the times. Its depreciation curve has just about run out, and you can pick and choose from the many on sale until you find The One. Sure, a 1969 MGB sounds nice in theory but the Japanese reliability, lack of rust and better than 100kW per tonne equation bring these vehicles to fore.
As a passenger, the experience is unique and a change from the weekday traffic snarls many of us experience in our tin-tops. There is something quite uplifting about a short evening drive by the river or simply through the suburbs with the roof off and heater on. The length of drive is never the determinant of value, simply the number of drives – however short.
Whilst the new ND MX-5 provides a source of some intrigue, I find it hard to consider anything else as a second (or third) car if you have the space and want the enjoyment a convertible brings to the driving experience. There is no doubt this car is fulfilling its intended purpose 12 years and I have no plans to change.