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25 Years Ago – Summer 1991

If It Can’t Be Done on Wheels…

By Member Terry Carr, Memphis, Tennessee

I had been reading about the Miata since they were first offered for sale in this country. I knew I wanted one, but probably for many of different reasons than a lot of your readers who apparently have a long relationship with sports cars.

I grew up in the Fabulous Fifties – you know, sockhops, car dances, drive-in movies, and hamburger joints. We were a more mobile society back then. We felt that if you couldn’t do it on wheels, it probably wasn’t worth doing at all. It was about the time I fell in love with the 1955-56 Ford Thunderbird. I pressed my nose to many a showroom glass until the fog from my heavy breath obscured my view. The idea of a lift-off hardtop for a convertible was more than I could deal with at the time. I swore that one day I would own such a car.

Well, that was a long time ago and though I have owned many convertibles since I was sixteen, I never got my T-bird. A few months ago I finally sold my classic 1968 Pontiac Bonneville convertible complete with a 400 cubic inch engine equipped with tri-power (that’s 3-deuces or a six-pack to you younger folks). I bought that car new at the insistence of my bride. Kay and I stood in the empty second garage we had built to house my toys (the other, a classic mahogany planked inboard motorboat) and cried when that car left. We get attached to things. I know it’s silly, but that car had a lot of memories attached to it.

My wife informs me that afterwards, my lip stuck out a lot, I got moody and became somewhat disagreeable. You see, that was the first time I had ever been without a ragtop. It was terrible. And, since I had given up motorcycles some years before, I had no panacea.

That sets part of the stage. Now, for the other part of the story. As I said at the beginning of this article, I had been following the progress of the little car from the start. I must confess however that my initial preoccupation with the Miata was the lift-off hardtop. I find it interesting that a recent Miata Magazine article eluded to some initial discussion regarding whether to even produce a hardtop. I’m glad they did, as I am sure Mazda is now.

I have been dickering with car salesmen all my life. Heck, I can even remember when buying a car used to be fun. That’s how old I am. I know what a car costs the dealer. Consequently, I try not to pay too much over dealer invoice when I buy. When the Miata first came out, I went to a local dealership and made an offer on a 1990.

At the time, I think they were selling in Memphis for about $3,000 over the window sticker price. The salesmen rolled around the floor, giggled, guffawed, and generally cut up when I told them I’d pay a thousand dollars over dealer invoice for a new Miata. The sales manager even came out of his office to get a look at the “weirdo.” He said it would be a cold day in you-know-where before I would buy one at that price. I remarked that it probably would, remembering how few convertibles are sold in that kind of weather, and left.

Over the ensuing months, I made periodic stops at the dealership and kept hammering away at the sales price. You see, the secret to buying a car is to make sure that they want to sell it more than you want to buy it. If and when the pendulum swings the other way, you are a goner. Once I walked out of a showroom over a hundred dollar difference just to make a point. Steve, the young salesman whom I had thoroughly frustrated over the months and felt truly sorry for, followed me out into the parking lot exclaiming, “Mr. Carr, you know you want the car. It’s only a hundred dollars!”

I looked at the young man and said, “When you get to be fifty years old, you learn one valuable lesson if you’re lucky, which will extend your life and end most frustrations.”

“What’s that?”

“You can’t always have everything you want.”

It wasn’t enough that I wanted a particular price – there were other considerations. It must be RED, have limited slip differential, and have a hardtop. Everything else was negotiable. Well, almost everything. There was one other small detail. Demand was fairly great in Memphis, so dealers were driving in cars from outlying dealerships. I once test drove a Miata that had over 300 miles on the speedometer. When I buy a new car, I expect it to be new; NO MILES and as few people under the steering wheel as humanly possible. Yea, I know, weird — but my car had to have less than 12 miles on it.

The phone rang a few weeks before Thanksgiving, just a month after I sold my classic Pontiac convertible. They met my price and the car was being off-loaded in California. It arrived at the dealership about three weeks later (on a transport truck) and I took delivery with just nine miles showing on the speedometer. It was a “B” package, which suited me just fine. I would have lived without the air conditioner, but Kay couldn’t have.

To say I love my car would be a gross understatement. I have experienced none of the problems mentioned in your magazine columns. Of course, I still have less than 1,500 miles on it; the hardtop is still in place, and the cloth top has never been out of its boot. But, I have put it through its paces. I am impressed, to say the least. I have a hard boot coming from Rod Millen and have already installed mud guards and door sills. When I first got my Miata, I couldn’t wait to have one like everyone else’s. Now I want mine to be different from everyone else’s. As time and money permits, I will continue to add trinkets.

My last teenager leaves home in a few months. Then Kay and I will strike out for parts unknown, taking advantage of some of your travel tips in the magazine. Until we see you on the road, take care and drive safely. You can find my red 1991 Miata easily. The Tennessee license plate reads, “TC’S MX5.”

Terry Carr is a clinical counselor working at a state college in Memphis, Tennessee. His wife, Kay, is an elementary school teacher.

Summer 1991 photo

Copyright 1991, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

27 Years Ago – July 1989 Motor Trend

All of the July issues of the mainstream auto magazines in 1989 had a cover article on a brand new car model from Mazda. After thumbing through all of them I could find on the shelf of the local Food Lion, I chose the Motor Trend to take home and read. I still have it.

I’ve included the add for the BMG Compact Disc Club for an additional bit of nostalgia. At one time I was a member (probably in tandem along with the Columbia House one too.)

10 Years Ago – June 2006

Peach Festival Parade

Date: Saturday, June 17th
Time: 9:00 AM
Attending: Brian & Donna Bogardus, John & Jackie Nicholls, Denny Smith, Stacey & Cindy Timmerman, Lester & Janeth Welsh, Rudy Wilmoth & Patti Letizia and Dave Winkler.

We all met up at Billy’s Super Store and did the usual pre-event thing – chewed the fat. After everyone had a chance to buy some refreshments and/or use the facilities, Stacey rounded us up like a border collie does wayward sheep and led us over to the parade line-up area.

We were assigned spot #34 and the parade marshal had told Stacey that she had set aside enough room for 10 cars, so our seven should have had no problem fitting. Unfortunately she must have thought we were Shriners with go-carts or something because there wasn’t enough room between the pie plate markers to fit all of us. We stretched one car past the beginning marker and several past the ending one. There of course was a simple fix, being as there was no one lined up in front or behind us yet, we just moved the pie plates. 🙂

We then had about another hour to kill waiting on the actual parade to start, so we chewed some more fat and hoped that nothing loud would line up behind us and nothing equine would line up in front of us. It is primary/run off season in South Carolina, so the local politicians were thick as mosquitoes on a summer’s eve shaking hands and smiling.

When the parade finally did start it was kind of anti-climatic. It does seem like every year the crowds lining the route get bigger and bigger and the trick is to meter out your candy tossing so as to not run out before the end and not to end up with a lot of starlite mints and yellow lollipops.

Afterwards most everyone walked into the festival grounds and eye-balled the crafts or ate some nutritious fair food like an elephant ear or a corn dog before heading home.

This is the last of the 10 Years Ago posts, because the July 2006 newsletter was the last one I produced. Someone volunteered to take up the job, but never did. I had been doing a web site along side of the newsletter for almost a decade at that point and by then nearly everyone in the club had internet access. Five years after it happened, we moved into the 21st century.

10 Years Ago – May 2006

Time Speed Distance (Trivia) Rally

Date: Saturday, May 20th
Time: 9:00 AM
Place: Sportsman BBQ
Attending: 30 Members and Non-Members alike.

Thanks to all who competed Saturday. Hopefully you are all recuperated, had a good time, and are still speaking to one another! Here are some facts we think you might find of interest:
Of the 15 teams that competed, 6 actually officially completed the course. One team was MIA hopefully they made it home safe and sound and not still circling Aiken? Edgefield County?

There were 171 total points available. Here are the scores of the official competitors:
1) Bogardus – 134
2) Rushton – 89
3) Gray/Powell – 85*
4) Wilmoth/Letizia – 73*
5) Breitinger – 58*
6) Greathouse/May – 44*
*After a deduction of the 5 point penalty for late arrival

If run perfectly the course was by leg:
Time: 59, 98 & 157 min. total time
Distance 39.3, 74.9 & 114.2 miles total distance – some teams drove over 100 miles on leg 1.
Checkpoint came at 29 min, 23 seconds in.

Most frequently missed questions:
Count the Ponds–10 was correct
Pictures of chimney sweep and windmills=Connamara (we won’t be doing this again)
How long is the fence? 7716 feet

Submitted by Jackie, John, Gail & Miller

Today, May 20th, the MMC held it’s 3rd annual TSD Road Rally and Donna and I came in first. The first year we came in 3rd and last year we finished out of the money, but this year we knocked ‘em dead.

There were 15 teams that started and we were #13 out of the gate. When Donna and I arrived at the finish we were the 4th car in. We knew that there a few cars that probably got lost, we had seen a few going the other way as we did the run, but 6 cars had fallen off the course? Turns out it was worse than that because the 3 that were at the finish ahead of us had only made it there by opening their emergency envelopes…

I guess this must have been harder than it looked to us because only one other team besides us finished with an intact envelope before the cutoff time. Four other teams didn’t open the envelope, but came in after the time allowed. Everyone who made it in cleanly got to pick something from the prize table, the top two teams also got a little cash prize to go along with their T-shirt or hat. We got a crisp piece of paper with a portrait of Andrew Jackson and the second place team, Scott Rushton & daughter, snagged an Alexander Hamilton.

We received no points for time as we were over the limit for both legs. We were long on the mileages for both legs, but were inside the spread, so we did get those points. We got the checkpoint time points by a lucky guess. On the question portion, out of 24, we missed the 3 most missed ones from above, plus 2 more. The reason we were long on time and mileage is that we stopped or backtracked to identify the churches, and it paid off as we missed only one of the 20.

Submitted by Brian Bogardus

25 Years Ago – Spring 1991

Then & Now

1956 Porsche 356/1500S Speedster & 1991 Mazda Miata
The Second in a series of wheel-to-wheel comparisons

In purely technical terms, a comparison of the Porsche 356 Speedster and the Mazda MX-5 Miata doesn’t compute. How can you relate a horizontally-opposed, air-cooled, rear-engine car of the Fifties with a front-engine, twin-cam, 16-valve machine of the Nineties, one that we currently accept as the state of the sports car art? You can’t.

So forget the specifications for a minute and consider the generally accepted definition of a sports car: a small, two-seat roadster built for just one purpose, driving pleasure. Now, in that context, put yourself back in the Fifties, and into the Porsche.

For that time the Speedster was very light and simple but also extremely sophisticated, neatly detailed and well finished. Just like the Miata today. The Speedster had a tight structure, supple suspension and precise steering. Just like the Miata today. The Speedster had a very reliable engine, developed from a high-volume production unit to give substantially more power and brisk if not exactly neck-snapping acceleration. Just like the Miata today.

Continue reading: 25 Years Ago – Spring 1991