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Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #103: How the Miata crashed its way to a bull market | Hagerty Media

Question of the day: When is a Miata worth more than a Corvette? Answer of the day: right now. Second question of the day: Should you ever listen to me, Jack Baruth, about future investments or career choices? Second answer of the day: Hell no. I'll provide definite proof for both answers below.
Intermediate Driver

Thank you Jack for confirming my recent suspicions. After reading an auction report on Hagerty's regarding a 100 mile first generation #1 condition BRG Miata going for about $14K, I began to worry about my own car's value. I have a 1993 Miata In #2 condition. The original plastic rear window is still crystal clear. I was considering making some modifications to make my car more "drivable". At the same time I have noticed the lack of sub $1000 cars on the market that would be more suitable as a project car. After reading this article I have to conclude that keeping my car as "bone stock" as I can is the way to go. The unmolested first gen Miatas are just starting to take off in terms of value. You talked me out of doing something stupid to my car like an engine swap or a turbocharger. I would rather get an ND.

You won't regret owning an ND.

I’ve done many dumb things in car buying (or not, mostly) over the years, but buying a C7 Grand Sport manual convertible has made up for all that. I love it so much I might look for a C7 coupe. The only other car I can think of that’s as well balanced overall would be a Miata. I just happened to do a search for a 30th Anniversary ND last week, and there are none for sale nationwide.

I'm not surprised; they were hard to get and most people aren't interested in letting them go --- at least, not yet.

I’m very disappointed in Mazda’s somber Miata colors, that’s what got me looking at the anniversary edition. It’s like they had the Germans choose their colors. If they won’t offer something like a Dodge Charger color palette, they should at least have a custom color option. 

New Driver

When I think of C4 Corvettes I always like to imagine a scenario where back in 1995 a pair well to do coworkers or friends each treated themselves to a new performance car. One bought a Vette and the other bought a twin turbo Supra. In my scenario they’ve both kept the cars in original shape, driving them sparingly and then checking their values today.

Actually this is probably the case for just about anyone who bought (and kept) a car the C4 competed against in the ‘90s.
Intermediate Driver

C4s are cheap because the C4 was a transitional car that doesn't get any respect. The C5 at least has the LS motor, and road-racing pedigree even if every conversation about a C5 begins with "sure, the interior's terrible." And the Miata has 30 years of the automotive world singing its praises, i.e. Miata Is Always The Answer. Because of this, and C4 sellers not having the brain damage that C5 sellers have, you can regularly get a nice 1989+ C4 for under $10K.
Community Manager

@Germanicus (and anyone else who cares), you've overlooked the C4s extensive road racing pedigree, but then again nobody cares to remember it. Forget that the 1984 model turned 0.9g in corners and had other performance specs that blew away its competition, and instead remember that SCCA kicked them out of their class because nobody (mostly Porsche) could beat them in THREE YEARS of competition. 


Let that sink in: for three years, Porsche couldn't beat the C4 Corvette, cried to "mommy" and got them banished to their own corner of the room. 


Google Corvette Challenge, and see how SCCA kept Porsche and Chevrolet happy by separating the two. You're never gonna get a story that juicy in a C5. 

Intermediate Driver

When I worked at the local auto auction handling inventory and assessments of repos and donation cars we received a 1994 Corvette ZR-1 as a repossessed tow in. It was very temperamental to keep going and the interior was in less than desirable condition, showing 150,000 miles on the odometer. We were shocked when it grabbed $12,000 at the dealer auction. We looked them up to find out why when most cars sold there as non-driveable, including miatas, were lucky to fetch 10% of that. Apparently Chevrolet only made 500 ZR-1 C4s each year for the last three years of production (93-95) and this one was black on black with a six speed manual. It had the DOHC LT-1 which was built to a 425-hp spec when new (undoubtedly lost a few steps in the twenty five plus years it was abused). Hopefully it has found a loving home and is being refurbished, not too many of them around and quite powerful for its time.

C4's are underappreciated but they are certainly not perfect. The convertible top operation on the roadster is complicated, manual only, and not user friendly. LT-1 engines were a giant step forward for GM in the early 90s but they don't hold a candle to the absolute indestructibility of the LS.

I fall into the camp that looks for a fun car to drive. For me condition and value for investment take a backseat to my familiarity with the vehicle, ability to perform repairs, and most importantly how much time I can spend behind the wheel.

Excellent article though, always an enjoyable read.
Intermediate Driver

Dear Jack,

Your Ferrari 250GTO witticism made me think of the analogous saying from the collector-violin world: Antonio Stradivari made approximately 600 violins, of which, 1200 remain.

I actually played a genuine certified "A., S., and O. Stradivari" once, briefly and long ago. It was one of the six violins he was working on in parallel, when he croaked at his workbench, aged 92. His sons completed them.

The analogy I have always used for that experience--I was faking my way through the second movement of Sibelius' violin concerto--was that I had gotten out of an Olds Cutlass Station Wagon and into an Indianapolis car, which I was totally unprepared to drive.

In my hands, that 1737 Stradivarius produced a few "Dying Peacock" squawks, before I adjusted my bowing pressure. Astonishing responsiveness and tone. A priceless memory.

Great article, thanks.

john marks

So, Jack...

One of my brothers owns an early Miata. He doesn't drive it much... I have all the parts to build a really fast 351W engine. I also know where I could lay hands on an aluminum block for that Windsor... Hmmmm... Are V8 Miata's allowed in SCCA racing? How about in the Enduro's?

Your best bet for a V8 Miata is in NASA's ST series, where it would be an ST4. Another good choice: GridLife Touring Cup (GLTC).

I don't think the SCCA has a road race category that would cover the car at any kind of reasonable weight.

It's always an educational treat reading your work. Not only do you quote Galileo, but also reference whomever said that about Ginger Rogers. My brother has an underappreciated '93 40th Anniversary C4 and he's perfectly content with that, not to mention thrilled by it, and glad that he can get parts at any auto store, unlike those of us with flfc's (funny little foreign cars).
Intermediate Driver

I have a 2002 NB, in factory special order Laser Blue Metallic. It's a very easy car to live with, runs and performs well and delivers the fun every time I use it, and (at least until now) was pretty much invisible at the curb and parking areas in my city. A Corvette, on the other hand, attracts all sorts of flies, and seems to be a source of anxiety for owners. I can park where I find a space, they feel compelled to park "someplace safe". Score 1 for the Miata.
It's a very well worn out phrase, but it's still more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.

True, but the real joy is in driving a fast car fast.
Intermediate Driver

Personally I prefer slow and light to fast and heavy when it comes to sports cars. The new 911’s I used to lease as daily drivers were awesome on the occasional track day but not nearly as much fun as their slower, lighter air cooled predecessors on curvy two lane backroad weekend drives.

Before I signed the lease on each of those new Porsche’s I tested a Corvette. I’ve wanted one since I was a kid. But compared to even the ever bloating 911’s the Vette’s always felt...big.

Which brings us to appreciation. I don’t like it. When it comes to toy cars I’m buying to drive, not profit. A decade or so ago when I transitioned from new water cooled daily drivers to old air cooled weekend playthings, the latter were comfortably affordable. But after my last SC tripled in value over five years I got out. It simply became too valuable for me to feel comfortable keeping it as a toy.

Its replacement? An ‘04 Mazdaspeed Miata. Faster than most Miata’s but coming after half a dozen 911’s still satisfyingly slow and light. But if the numbers I’m seeing on Bring a Trailer for comparable low mileage examples are any indication, my Miata appears to have begun appreciating in a distressingly familiar way. Still a ways to go before it gets into serious capital gains territory but I don’t like the trend line.

Maybe I need to start thinking about that old Corvette I keep telling myself I’ve always wanted.
New Driver

The C4 Corvette is quite possibly the worst style design to ever leave a GM plant (2nd only to the Pontiac Aztek). I remember when they announced there wouldn't be a Corvette for 1983 and my first thought was the new vette was going to be great.....what a disappointment! Granted the advances in the suspension and handling were a huge step forward, but the body was absolutely horrible. I would expect the value to stay flat a few more years and then start a decline.

“This bodes well for the NC Miata, which is now becoming a very popular “track rat” and club race car, and for the bulk of McLaren supercars, which are crashed with mind-numbing regularity by people who have difficulty making the mental adjustment between their daily-driven Land Cruisers and a 600-plus-horse supercar with a polar moment of inertia on par with that of a child’s spinning top made of magnesium.”

Pure gold!

I keep thinking about buying a C4; and I’ll probably keep thinking about it till the prices go up. In contrast to one of the other folks here; I think the C4 is the last good looking Vette.
Pit Crew

So I have had a 94 C4 Corvette (Competition Yellow) and still have my 1990 MX5 Miata. The C4 was a low mileage clean clean clean example..was MINT..the Miata..well it has well over 250K on the clock and it sports a JR SC. I had the Miata way longer then the C4 and it was and is a bit LONG in the tooth but still looks decent enough and drives fantastic.

At the end of the day the Miata IS a drivers car..hands down! Fun to drive anywhere...great on fuel too (for long trips). The C4 even with the roof panel in creaked and rattled and was not that great TBH. Performance yes it would go quite well...but then oh those small bumps in the road felt like craters. You couldn't park it anywhere (it was bright yellow btw) and get a crowd so never drove it where I would leave sight of it...or come back and have to clean the windows....

Then there was the 1 BIG flaw with this car and all C4's the sill. Entry and exit for a 6ft guy was terrible. I mean really bad...and I have other small sports cars and I can get in and out of those a whole lot easier then this thing. It just was not a car I ever really felt GREAT driving. Hey even my little commuter SPARK is more fun with it;s manual gearbox then this thing. It really had no soul..sorry..some will argue that and fine by me. I wouldn't buy another but liked the shape..but I bought it to drive not just look at in my driveway. If a car isn't FUN to drive or rather it's not soul stirring get rid of it! I did and mine went overseas (the C4) so if your in Poland and see a bright yellow C4 Vette that was likely mine!! But my little first gen Miata will stay with me for a long time to come and it will put a smile on my face each time I drive it...regardless of what there selling for...

But drive both and see what you think....just don't drink the coolaid 1 side or the other....find out for yourself!!!

IF it has wheels I'm into it!!

I have no desire to get a C4 Corvette. Having said that the wider body ZR-1's do give me a certain "fizz" when I see the engine. What a great looking motor.

On Miata's the short lived turbo Mazdaspeed Miata is still my favorite. I don't care if the newer is faster, I think i'd still want the slower "turbo" car. But these kind of decisions aren't necessarily rational.
Advanced Driver

Great article and good insights. I owed a C4 Vette and 99 Miata at the same time. I loved both cars. The Vette shook, rattled, and roared just as it should have. The Miata was hugely fun an legal speeds and impressively comfortable on long trips. It's a lot like my Honda Nighthawk 700SC and Ducati 1000DS Mulitstrada. The Nighthawk is a blast without getting me sent to jail. The Ducati sends me straight to prison, no parole.

I have a Miata, and for many years the guy on the other side of the street from the out building where I deploy the Miata form had a C4 that was just a year older than my Miata. I'm here to tell you that the C4 spent more time broken, not running, on a lift, and not being used because it would not even start than the spent Miata being ignored because it was snowing. In over 20 years of ownership I had to have the Miata flat bedded once for a bad alternator, Corvette man across the street had his car flat bedded 3 times one week for three different and unrelated problems. When my Corvette selling neighbor asked me if I would be willing to trade him $2,500 for his Corvette I was tempted but I showed him this really cool trick that a Miata can do with the car turned off where you put your foot on the clutch and turn the key all the way clockwise and the engine starts every time as long as the battery is charged, his Corvette only had about a 40% success rate with that trick. Corvettes are great cars and a running Corvette can stomp a Miata every time, but it is that running part I have seen far too many Corvette owners struggle with.

Here is the secret to the Miata. Mazda built a reliable car with appeal and limited the sales as to not overload the market. They used a perfect formula to a low priced sports car.

The Corvette is this. One it has heritage unlike most sports cars. It also has been built in numbers much greater than most sports cars can afford to build.

Now we are into the modern times with the Vette being a really great car in C5 and 6. Many were sold and most were preserved in great condition. This makes them a sports car of choice for many as it is world class but affordable. Most are low miles and many never have seen rain.

You just can’t buy a better sports car used for even 3 times the price.

Add to this the durability and cost to maintain is cheap. No it will not be a car you will get rich on later like a Shelby but you can get a car you can drive and just flat out enjoy.


While many say the Corvette is the car old men buy and wipe with a diaper, some of that is true. But the aftermarket is seeded with these cars bringing them to a much younger market to enjoy. 


I agree.  I would happily take a C6 Grand Sport, Z06, ZR-1 any day.  Great cars.