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25 Years Ago – Summer 1992

Several times in my extensive readings concerning the origin of the design of the MX-5 Miata, I came across references to one of the goals of the design phase of Project P729 was to create a shape so that a drop of water placed on any surface would simply roll off. This would not be an engineering test for aerodynamics but a measure of how well the surfaces literally flowed together in harmony as well as function. Considering the aerodynamic shape and overall results of the design, I didn’t give this a second thought….at first.

As time went on, the notion that an automobile could be shaped so that every surface would shed water started to arouse my curiosity. Actually it was worse than that. An architectural engineer by profession, one that combines aesthetics and advanced engineering technology, I actually started to worry about this idea. After all, let’s get real, a car that sheds all water? No way!

Other engineers out there should already see this coming, the “OBSESSION SYNDROME”, that is. A statement such as the one in question cannot be left to stand without a thorough and complete scientific investigation of the highest standards. Alright, at least an experiment that could be carried out in the driveway in front of my garage using sophisticated measuring instruments. OK, OK, in front of my garage with a few crude devices starting with a garden hose and a plastic bucket.
With that resolved, the next step was to make a list of the actual items needed to conduct the experiment. Here’s what I came up with for starters:

  1. A Miata. Fortunately, I happen to be the proud owner of a Special Edition BRG Miata No. 1579 which I was willing to wash and rinse for the sake of scientific discovery. ( Not to mention that I was not yet ready to let my 13 year old wash the Miata since I was still recovering from the time he washed the family sedan in frill sun with dishwasher detergent.)
  2. Garden hose. No problem, my kids quit using it for a rope to the tree house last week when they discovered Mom’s clothes line works much better. Finding dry towels could be a problem however.
  3. Water. Check! When we built the house, the well tested out at 65 gallons per minute. That’s enough water to wash every Mazda at Rider Mazda, the dealer in State College, Pennsylvania who sold me the “test vehicle”.
  4. Towels to dry the Miata just in case the water doesn’t roll off. Check the clothes line. No, better make that the dryer.
  5. Scientific Fluid Measuring Device (ie. wash bucket).
  6. Carpenter’s level. To check for flat part of driveway.
  7. Notebook.

For recording the measured data and results. With the necessary equipment assembled, I gave the Miata a close inspection looking for obvious locations where “ponds” of water were sure to develop. After all, you don’t really think I believed all that “shed water” stuff; did you? This task soon became much tougher than I had originally anticipated. How about just behind the crest of the hood bulge? Or, the spot in front of the gentle tail rise on the trunk lid? Maybe it would puddle on top of the front fenders where they begin to flatten out to meet the windshield assembly. These were my best possibilities? This was going to be one tough experiment. Not one to accept defeat easily, I considered leaving the window down a little as I was sure the floor pan would hold….Wait a minute, this is MY Miata!

Finally, I found it, the Achilles heel of Miata water shedding. The spot on the door between the back of the outside mirror base and the “snap” assembly for the tonneau cover. It literally screamed out to be wet down.

So elated was I with my find that I almost forgot this was a “scientific” experiment. Before claiming victory, it would be necessary to actually complete the tests. Okay, let’s get started.

To be fair, I started by giving the Miata a good wax job with Meguiar’s. In order to be totally impartial and not prejudge the results, I convinced my teenage son to wash the car for me by promising him he could ACTUALLY DRIVE THE MIATA when he turns 16 and gets his license. Right…he probably still believes in the Tooth Fairy too. At this point I made a mental note to lock up all the dishwasher detergent in the hall closet and told him to fill the bucket with plenty of cold, dear water.

I found a “perfectly level” spot on the driveway 89.2 inches long, equal to the Miata wheelbase, pulled the Miata out into the sunlight and grabbed my test equipment.

I filled the bucket with water and found a measuring cup from a shelf in the kitchen. Next, I began “stalking” the MX5 from end to end. Working quickly, I poured a few drops on all the obvious locations: the hood, the trunk, the fenders, the top of the rear bumper. They all yielded the same incredible results.

The water rolled off faster than you could say “Bob Hall”! I even tried the spot behind the mirror only to watch it drain forward and then slip away in a trickle.

Discouraged but not defeated, I resigned myself to go to “the next level of scientific inquiry”. That is, just how much water really slides off a Miata anyway? After all, a few droplets always remain even on the somewhat vertical sides of any car door. Not wanting to take any chances this time, I decided to really wet down the mean green machine and measure how much water remained (as opposed to trying to actually figure out how much drains oft) after a randomly selected time of say three minutes.

Cranking up the garden hose, I proceeded to flood the car with water. Yes, I did remember to roll up that window. The Miata was soon drenched. Determined to give the Miata the full three minutes required by the parameters of the experiment, I stared intently at my watch. After what seemed like an eternity, I glanced up at the MX5. Eureka! There were actually tons, well OK, some water droplets beading on the various surfaces.

Now the work could really begin. I started with a highly sophisticated weight measurement device, a “talking” bathroom scale given to us last Christmas by Uncle Fred. Placing several dry cotton towels on the base, I listened quietly as the scale called out…. “one pound, two ounces”. How these towels had managed to escape cleaning up the “Super Blaster” squirt gun battle held earlier in the day by my two youngest boys, I’ll never know.

Working quickly, I dried the Miata from top to bottom. As each to became too moist to efficiently soak up water, I tossed it in a “zip lock” bag to keep it from loosing moisture by evaporation. Finally the job was done. The Miata stood gleaming in the sunlight looking every bit as good as before it had been subjected to this grueling battery of tests. Unlocking the plastic packages, I took the contents over to the scale, dumped them onto the platform and listened. “One pound, six ounces”. “That’s it?” I blurted out in disbelief. Four lousy ounces of water! All that scientific effort and all I got out of it was a brilliantly clean and shining sports car along with a few ounces of water?

Well, that’s science. Tough work, but someone has to test these theories. I decided it was time for a break. Besides, my eldest son Mark was looking at me like he was going to ask to drive the Miata up and down the driveway for practice. Lowering the top, I jumped behind the wheel and told him to get in and buckle up. Within minutes, we were cruising down my favorite section of the Julian Pike. With a sly grin on his face, Mark slipped a Nelson disk in the CD player and punched up track three. “After the Rain” echoed appropriately out of the speakers as I blipped the throttle and downshifted for the next bend.

Copyright 1992, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

25 Years Ago – Spring 1992


Each Spring we print our recommendations for cleaning and caring for your Miata. Since we have eleven thousand new members since last Spring, we wanted to update and reprint our procedures. If you remember last year’s article, skip to the glass and rubber sections which have some changes.

We have found that a genuine sheepskin wash mitten works extremely well for gently cleaning your car’s surface. They are readily available at auto parts stores and hold plenty of water to help float the dirt off the painted surfaces.

Start with a three gallon bucket filled with cool (not cold) water. Add one tablespoon of baby shampoo to the water. Then add one teaspoon of salad oil (yes, that’s salad oil) to the recipe. The salad oil adds some lubricity to your wash mix helping the grit to slide from the surface onto the wash mitt. Drop in your recently laundered sheepskin mitten (wash in nonphosphate based detergent in hot water, rinse twice in hot water and machine dry.)

Place the vehicle in a shady spot, out of direct sunlight (but not under a sap-dripping tree!). Make sure that the body surface is not warm to the touch.

Rinse the car off with copious amounts of cool water from a hose and nozzle, making sure to hit the rocker panels and lower front and rear panels.

Check the water drop formation on the hood to verify your wax protection level. The droplets should mostly form circular shapes with well defined edges. If the water “smears” across the surface, you definitely need to wax the car.

Take your soaped-up sheepskin wash mitten and, starting on the convertible top,. gently wipe down the surface, turning the mitten often. Clean the soft window very gently while rinsing with water, then move to the rest of the car. Occasionally hose off the mitten with a hard stream of water. Then return the mitten to your wash mix for a fresh charge of soap and salad oil. By rinsing the mitten outside of the bucket, none of the car’s dirt will be introduced to your wash mix.

Wipe one quarter of the car at a time and rinse immediately afterward. Soap drying on the paint can cause permanent spotting. Work from the top portions of the car to the lower areas where there is the most dirt. Don’t forget your headlights.

Lightly rinse the mitt, and wipe the wheels and tires down. The brake dust will load up the mitten pretty quickly, but another hard stream of water will rinse it clean.

If you have any tar or bugs to remove, do it now. Use one of the over the counter products or a mixture of 25% Kerosene and 75% water on a cotton terry cloth rag. These areas will need to be re-waxed. For hardened bug and bird dropping stains, try rubbing with a gentle paste of baking soda and water.

For drying, many enthusiasts like to use a chamois or some new-tech cloths (i.e. The Absorber), these work fine. Just make sure to launder them often. Otherwise, find some thirsty, all cotton beach or large bath towels that have been through the wash many times (no lint) for drying the car. Use the same laundering procedure for these towels as was recommended for the wash mitt. We like to start with the glass areas first, before they spot. On the soft rear window, simply blot the water so as not to scratch the surface. Do not rub hard while drying the car this will scratch the paint.

For an alternate drying method, many old-timers like the following trick: Take the nozzle off your hose end, and hold the open end close to the body surface at a shallow angle (almost flat to the surface). Using just a gentle water flow, the surface tension of the water will pull almost all the water off of a well waxed surface, leaving no droplets behind! It is the gazillion tiny drops that a nozzle makes that creates the need to chamois a car off. Try it. It works for most.

Wipe down the door jambs and under the trunk lid (unless these areas require serious cleaning). If you do this at each washing, you will never have to deal with permanent stains in these areas.

Never, under any circumstances, use a “drive through” car wash for your Miata (or any other car if you can avoid it). Even the “brushless” types can scratch your car’s finish and will definitely damage your Miata’s convertible top. Even with a hard top in place, don’t do it.

For small road debris that gets caught in your glass (they do, take a look), use a razor blade held at a very shallow angle to the windshield (nearly flat against the glass) and gently scrape any pieces off. Be careful not to scratch your glass or to cut yourself.

When washing your car, sprinkle some Bon Ami household cleaner on the glass. This cleanser is gentle (“Hasn’t Scratched Yet”) and will remove all the road scum that chemicals can’t get off. Using a wet rag, clean the glass as you would a sink or other surface. Then rinse the glass thoroughly with water, and continue to rinse until all trace of the Bon Ami is off your body surfaces. Do not attempt this with any other brand of household cleaner. They might contain heavy abrasives or bleach.

Touch-up Glass Cleaners
Mix one third white vinegar to two thirds water in a spray bottle.
Mix one ounce of Westley’s Clear Magic to seven ounces of water in a spray bottle.

For either mixture, use old newspapers crumpled up in your hand to wipe the glass clean. Turn frequently until dry. Use a glove if you don’t want your hands to get dirty. Make sure to clean the insides of your glass as well (the plastics in your interior release a gaseous agent as they age. This is why even non-smokers get scum on the inside of the windshield).

To begin with, you do not need a “cleaner”. type wax. Your Miata’s paint should not have any oxidation to “cut down,” so stay clear of these type of waxes. These will leave tiny scratch marks in your paint that reduce its shine. You want a pure polishing wax, such as one of these we have experience with:
Meguiar’s #16 Professional Paste Wax (or any other of this brand that are not “cleaner” types)
Zymol (smells like coconut tanning lotion!) Liquid Glass (way popular with the concours crowd for many years)

Make sure to apply any of these waxes in the shade and that the surface of your Miata is not hot. Use an old t-shirt or other clean cotton rag to apply the wax. Put it on lightly using swirling motions. Polish the wax once it dries to a white haze (except for Zymol: do not let it dry) using a clean cotton rag. Liquid Glass requires two coats.

Follow directions on the can. Turn the rag often and occasionally shake out the waxdust. Use an old toothbrush to get into crevices and joints. Make sure to wax your door jambs, etc.

Waxes generally last about six months. Check your water beading during washes to see where you stand on needing another application. Some members have had great success with Liquid Glass acrylic polish which seemed to last a little longer.

Your Miata’s alloy wheels are painted with a clear coat to keep the aluminum from absorbing stains (as untreated aluminum does). Most reputable aftermarket wheels are clear coated as well. The thing to remember is that this clear coat is similar to the paint on the car’s body and needs special care as well. We have had great success with just the sheepskin mitten used for the regular wash job, but if your custom wheel has intricate details, you may want to use a spray chemical to help things along. We can recommend two products:
Eagle 1 Special Finish Factory Mag Cleaner
P21s Wheel Cleaner

For either of these products, spray them on the wheels BEFORE you get your car wet. If you have some stubborn spots, use an old toothbrush to loosen the dirt. Make sure to thoroughly clean your wheels each time you wash your car, and you can prevent a nasty buildup of brake dust that may never come clean. The brake dust actually contains glue that is used as a bonding agent in the pad manufacturing (like particle board). This glue will set up on your hot wheels and form a permanent stain if not removed every week or so.

We DO NOT RECOMMEND THE USE OF DUST SHIELDS that install behind the wheels and keep the wheels clean of brake dust. They also block airflow that is essential to brake cooling, especially on a sports car. Save them for your dad’s Oldsmobile.

You should treat your tires and weather stripping (around doors and trunk) with some sort of a protectant each time you wash. This is particularly true in Southern California where the bright sun and smog can tear up a car’s rubber in three years. The cheapest way is to apply pure glycerin (available at pharmacies) or silicone to these areas.

There are many silicon based protectants on the market, the most memorable one is “Armor All.” Others include STP’s “Son of a Gun,” Meguiar’s #40, etc. All of them tested out to be the same as far as longevity goes.

We have one rag dedicated to putting protectant on tires. Once a rag is “seasoned” it will not absorb as much protectant. The end result is that you use less protectant, and thus save money. It also serves as a quick “clean-em-up” dust magnet rag for the interior when we do not have time for a complete spray down.

There is a new product on the market call ed “NO TOUCH” which sprays on with a foamy consistency. As its name implies, you do not have to wipe it down. They recommend two initial applications, and we agree the first “coat” will be a little splotchy. After the second coat was seasoned overnight, the appearance was excellent. When tested against the traditional tire treatments, NO TOUCH was found to retain its sheen longer as well. Use it only on your tires.

We suggest wiping down the interior with one of the cotton towels you used to dry the car with, assuming it is still damp and relatively clean. If you have a spot or residue on your vinyl, use a mild soap and water mixture making sure that you rinse the area well.

Use a typical protectant (Meguiar’s #40, Armor All, Son of a Gun) for a final dressing on your interior vinyl surfaces. Use a Q-tip around the switches and knobs of the dashboard.

Special Edition owners should use Lexol cleaner and Lexol treatment for their leather seats.

Your carpet needs to be vacuumed with a strong machine, not the dust-buster variety. There is a lot of sand and small rocks hiding down in the pile of your carpet, and it acts like sandpaper to the fibers. If you have a place to store it, get one of the two horsepower shop vacuums from Sears, and use the crevice tools to get behind and under the seats.

If you develop any carpet stains, first try to rinse them out with a little bit of water on a rag or sponge. If the stain is stubborn, use a mixture of one third Westley’s Clear Magic to two thirds water to gently rub the stain out. This mixture also works well for stains on the Miata’s doth seats.

We have had good luck with Armor All and Meguiar’s #40. However, both of these products will leave a slight residue on your quarter panels after a rain where the product is washed off of the top. Use either product sparingly on the top to reduce this down-washing. Be careful not to lower the top while it is wet or if you have just treated it with a protectant.

Once you have washed the soft rear window and dried it, use Meguiar’s #10 Professional Plastic Polish exactly according to directions to clean up any hazing or scratches. Do not rub hard or you will scratch your window. To reduce usage scratching, never lower your top without unzipping your window first, and lay a cloth towel on the lowered window before laying your top down on it.

After a few thousand miles, your engine compartment may begin to get a little dirty. We recommend using Gunk Spray Engine Cleaner on a cold engine. Follow directions after putting a plastic baggie over the intake snorkel. Don’t neglect this import area of your Miata’s appearance.

Some tips in closing: 1) Do not tailgate (stone chips on your Miata’s nose and chips in your windshield); 2) Do not park under sappy trees; 3) Remove bird droppings immediately, no matter how disgusting; and 4) Repair nicks and scratches immediately (dealers have touch up paint).

Since the Miata is mostly too reliable to tinker with, consign yourself to keeping it clean. Go ahead and spend the few dollars to get the right materials and the job will become a labor of love. It is much easier to keep a new car clean than to reverse even one year of neglect.

Copyright 1992, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

25 Years Ago – Winter 1991

Ol’ Paint

By Vince Tidwell
Miata Club of America

I did an irresponsible thing the other night. No, nothing that I would regret the rest of my days, but the kind of act resulting from a poor decision that everyone makes at least once in their lifetime. I was fortunate in that the outcome was as planned, but it caused me to ponder and discard the editorial that was intended for this issue for what you are reading now.

I usually require at least 24 contiguous hours of tranquility to compile an editorial (hey, I majored in engineering and business, not English). In an effort to find that solitude, I decided to travel to a relative’s cabin high in the Tennessee hills, adjacent to the Smoky Mountain National Park near Gatlinburg. It was early November and the probability of any inclement weather at that time of year which could impede my arrival was slim to none – or so I thought.

Wrong – it snowed. I left the club’s office late in the evening and with excellent local road conditions, knowing that there might be scattered snow flurries near my destination. I congratulated myself for taking a generally lower altitude route and topping of the gas tank full of dinosaur juice. Even though it was a slightly different route than I usually take, it appeared to be the same distance, and I had arrived easily on one tank before.

Wrong again – I ran low on fuel well before I planned. There must be a law against gas stations being open past 9:00 PM in Tennessee. Either that or these good or boys figure that anyone with a lick o’ sense ought not be a drivin’ here late at night. Nonetheless, I was determined to get to the chalet and heat up some of the home-made Brunswick stew and country ham (no caviar dreams and champagne wishes for me, thank you) for what would inevitably be a midnight snack. Press on, Vince ol’ boy.

A sign read “Gatlinburg 18 miles”. My fuel gauge then read WELL BELOW the empty mark tick. Average speed on the road ahead of me was 30 mph (great curves) at best, even when dry. My rear tires were showing their wear bar indicators, but I decided to continue. Oh yes, it was 12:30 AM and I had not seen a car for the last ten

minutes. I knew I wouldn’t seee any on the park road (no facilities or residences) I was about to enter either. Once in, there would be no turning back.

“Shouldn’t I stop and do something?”, I silently asked myself. “Why should I risk running out of gas 15 miles down the road in some pitch-black dark remote mountain hollow with only Cherokee Indian spirits and bears to converse with?” I still can’t answer that question. Maybe I’ve seen too many NIKE ads saying “just do it”.

I was ten miles deep into the park when I had to stop and gaze at a wonderment of nature. There was untrodden snow on the road and a thick two inches on the branches above. Absolute silence as well. Eery – very eery. The illumination provided by my megawatt halogen headlights caused a tunnel-like path. Maybe experiencing that was worth the risk. I turned my headlights off to see just how dark it was and quickly concluded that, “I shouldn’t be here – not now and not in these conditions.” Besides, I just knew there was some black bear bigger than the Miata out there that wanted my stew more than I did. Perhaps I should have put the hard top on before I left after all.

It was literally down hill from there as I put the 5-speed into neutral to conserve fuel. “Remarkable,” I spoke out loud to console myself. “This road has been so full of tourists at times that traffic often comes to a standstill”. Thankfully, no one answered.

Finally, I spotted some lights of civilization and once again the Miata’s fuel gauge fooled me. (The next day I filled the tank finding 1/2 of a gallon to spare – equating to another 15 miles.) Through judicious driving and reduction of the air pressure in the tires for better adhesion in the snow, I made it to the chalet without having to share my stew with Smoky.

I pulled my Miata into the garage at the cabin and, as I still often do, even after two years, went down to the garage to look at it before going to bed. This time was different, though. Instead of listening to it cool after a hot track session or admiring a recent wax job, I leaned against it like a cowboy would have leaned against his horse after crossing a high mountain pass. “A good horse delivers his master from his, own foolishness” is what clearly came to mind.

Copyright 1991, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I know it isn’t officially winter just yet, we’ve got about 10 days to go, but the recent colder temperatures has sure made it feel like it is already. So it got me looking at the Winter 1991 Miata Magazine looking for what I might use for the real 25 Years Ago post coming up.

On the back page of every Miata Magazine since the first one has been an ad for an official Miata Club of America charge card. Pictured on the card was beautiful Mariner Blue car that was just like the car Donna and I owned. I was tempted to get it just for that reason, but never did. There still is an application form right there, I wonder if I filled it out and mailed it in would they approve me?

25 Years Ago – Fall 1991


By Barbara Beach


Any Miata history buff knows the story! There were thousands of different exhaust sounds, listened to over and over again until the Miata hum was born.

There is, however, another sound less publicized that any Miata spouse or partner can identify. That is… the Miata “whine.” Beginning prior to the car’s purchase, when visions of little red sports cars still dance in our heads, the words, “I WAAANAH MEEEAHTA” are formed. Often accompanied by promises, bribes, and offers way too personal for us to describe, the Miata-stricken partner drags the other for a test drive. Husbands promise wives that a Miata will return him to that newlywed turbo-charged guy she once knew. Wives convince husbands that a two-seat car is the best form of family planning imaginable. The test drive does the rest.

So there it is, in the driveway, grinning its Miata grin. Do we drive it or put it in the garage until it’s a classic? Top down, boot in place, baseball caps on, buckles buckled, let’s go!!! And that’s when you notice it again. It’s faint at first…he comments, “I wonder what it would be like with a little extra power.” She muses, “A tonneau cover would be nice.” The sound grows louder. He says, “I think new wheels and tires would really be the ticket.” She says, “Leather on sheepskin, mmmmmm!” Finally, the sound is deafening…He proclaims, “A roll bar, 5-point harness turbo con¬version.” She shrieks, “CD player with changer, wood dash kit, mirror bras, sill plates…!”

Well, you get the picture. The Miata whine, “I wanna…” is every after-market manufacturer’s dream. We are obsessed with buying our little car presents and pampering it with wax jobs and orthodontics (You did pull its front “teeth”, didn’t you?).

What then does one do when you have purchased every accessory avail¬able? I don’t know about your household, but my new husband Phil has the perfect answer…”I wanna British Racing Green.” Here we go again!

Copyright 1991, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

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