Like a lot of you, I spent the rainy and chilly spring fretting about the amount of time my suddenly stay-at-home kids spent on screens. How, I wondered, could I get them into something else without feeling like a camp counselor and driving myself insane?
The oldest of our three kids, 17-year-old John, is not the car-crazy nut his old man is but has a burgeoning interest in driving and wrenching. I’ve been an imperfect mentor because I tend to be too precious about my own ragtag used-car fleet. For example, our 1995 Mustang might be a perfect canvas to let him tinker, but it’s a cream puff with only 40,000 miles that we can only make worse by ripping apart to cure boredom.
Miata to the rescue ...
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Bravo! Let him tinker at will. My dad was so adventurous that he allowed me to buy, believe it or not, a ‘66 Sunbeam Tiger project car. It took two years and a thousand lessons in patience and Lucas electrics, but it was beautiful when finished. He hated the way I left tools all over the place and often worked without enough light. Bondo dust wasn’t a big hit with my mom either. The whole thing helped me feel like a competent adult, and that in turned helped me make it through those rough years and go on to become a naval aviator. Mechanical skills are a blessing we can pass on, and I regret not letting my own kids do more than they did.
Your confused, Miata Is Always The Answer in that order always because MIATA, I have no clue what a The Answer Is Always Miata or TAIAM is. Replacing a head gasket at 17 is a great character builder and will instill the lesson that it is far better to take care of a car than ignore problems.
This is a great article. The NA and NB Miatas are wonderful, but undervalued cars. They are perfect for the novice home mechanic, because they are so beautifully designed and so wonderfully simple. Hopefully, your son will learn the joys of driving something that he has repaired.
Have patience with the boy, Larry. It may not be easy, because it takes a long time for a young boy to learn the patience and skills needed to be an adult and a mechanic. But my father taught me how to build things and how to work with tools and I am forever grateful. Hopefully, your son will be too.
Likely what I would have been searching for, if I were 16 in today's world. But in 1978 my dad bought me a new Scirocco, though a $1K Datsun 510 would have thrilled me. But beware where things can lead. Two years later I scrounged up a then 12 year old 911, ended up with a broken engine due to my bothering to tune it to factory specs, which propelled me into the SCCA racing scene and running two Porsche shops in/around college and law school. Now, I just screw around at a warehouse where I have way too much Porsche stuff stashed. Oh, and a Spec Miata race car.......
Character building is a wonderful thing, but we all reach the point where our cars are just "fun". I purchased my 2008 Miata in May and absolutely love the time I spend in the car and with my fellow Miata lovers with the Northcoast Miata Club - we get together every Wednesday night at Johnny's Diner in Hudson. When I'm not driving the Miata, I'm taking my '97 Trans Am (<53K miles) to car shows. I guess I did a good job - my son joins me at the car shows with his '79 Corvette and my brother shows up with either his '69 Skylark or '66 Fairlane. Guess it runs in the family!
There's nothing much to add, but when the head is going back on be sure to check the valve lash. It's a picky job and this is exactly the time to do it. The performance benefits of having it right are tremendous.
Looks almost identical to my 93. Love my little Miata, although my wife was mad at me when I got it. It had been sitting on a lot near our house for a little over a year and we were on our way home from a restaurant and I said see that little red Miata over there and she said yes and I replied "I want it" and she just said oh, so to me oh was not no so the next day I bought it. She was mad at me until the next weekend when I finally got her in it and after that she loved it and always wants to go out in it. Glad I got it, always brings a smile to your face.
Could not agree more. The Miata, any year, is a fun, exciting car to own, drive or work on. As President of Windy City Miata Club, I have to say we always find some great twisty roads to investigate. Own a '96 with a supercharger and a daily driver '08 that I drive year round. My oldest son bought an NB, because they where so much fun. Great car to learn and enjoy!
Miata IS Always the answer!
I bought my son a '75 Bronco when he was 14 years old. It was a decent but well used old Bronco and he piddled around with it 'til he graduated from high school. I told him several times that if he wanted to sell the Bronco now might be the time. He said, ' I'll never sell my truck Dad." Now he wants me to order a new Bronco, in a color scheme we both agree on, and he says he'll paint his to match. Sounds like a great idea, right?
I now drive a '67 MGB like I had when I was 19. MGBs were the Miatas of yesteryear.
I have a 1997 STO that is a great car but alas needs no attention. So my covid project is a total restore on my 1968 Volvo 122s that I got from my aunt in 1997 (hummm). She had bought it new at Martins in the Bronx and documented every gas fill from the time she bought it till the day she gave it to me. I'm just finishing the paint in the original "yellow" and can then start putting everything back together. Unfortunately, my sons never learned to tinker like the old man and have just learned (at 32 and 28 years old) how to jump a battery and change a flat. We are all built differently I suppose. My first car project was a datsun spl311 (1600 roadster) which spent plenty of time getting jumped and pumped.
I also have a STO (#651) that doesn't need anything but recently managed to finally get my hands on an early build (5/89) Mariner Blue package B car that I have been on the hunt for for over a decade. The car had sat in a garage for going on 20 years. Original as you could want with 26,000 miles. To say that I am stoked would be putting it mildly. It's taken a bit of massaging but now have it running and driving. I have a special attachment to Miatas as I was a salesman at a Mazda dealer in 1989 and sold some of the very first to come into our area of the panhandle of Idaho. This is the 5th NA that I've owned and I don't see myself being without one until I get to the point of no longer being able to get in and out. Miata is always the answer!
My son caught the car bug from me at an early age. We started out with muscle cars, mainly Mustangs. In fact, an '83 GT with a 5 speed was the enticement to make better grades. He brought home straight A's in high school to have that car.
Anyway, now that he's grown with his own family, we share a love of Miata's. I've had 4 now and sold a 2004 MSM to him that he's tastefully modified. We work on it together, when he lets me, and we go on drives often together. His mechanical abilities have far surpassed mine. But the father/son thing is strong built on cars and trust.