mgmike69 New Reader
10/13/09 5:21 p.m.

i have a 91 mazda miata se(brg w/tan leather.i do not plan on modifying the car other than some bolt on improvements,any suggestions as to what mods are truly headers and aftermarket exhaust help if so what ones are recommended,does a strut tower brace improve handeling,any other handeling improvements that work .does upgrading to 15" wheels improve handeling.what about improved intake what are the recommended ones.the car currently has 26,000 original miles.

Keith SuperDork
10/13/09 5:31 p.m.

Give me a call at Flyin' Miata and I'll help answer those questions.

1 800 359 6957.

Tom Heath
Tom Heath Marketing / Club Coordinator
10/13/09 5:56 p.m.

What he said.

skeeler New Reader
10/13/09 8:02 p.m.

Calling FM is indeed a good place to start. I've found them to be very knowledgeable and helpful. You can also find some good parts and know-how at 949Racing and Good-Win Racing.

You'll also want to spend some time at Additionally, try finding your local Miata club and check out the other owners' cars in person.

Woody SuperDork
10/13/09 9:46 p.m.

Warning: You can't just call them once! FM is addictive.

10/13/09 9:52 p.m.

FM is not a bad idea, but before you call, think about three things; your budget, what you intend to do with your miata (daily driving, street driving with perhaps an occasional autocross, maybe a track day once in a while, driving school, or a garage queen that only sees the road once a month, etc.) and -be honest with yourself here- the level of your driving ability.

Don't be self conscious about an honest appraisal of your driving ability; it's a continuous curve, and you'll always be improving. Build the car to suit you and your abilities, and you'll be happiest with it long term.

I drive my latest, a '92 two/three times a week, and (now) autocross it infrequently. . .maybe three times a year. I suggest:

First, take care of the brakes. Install a set of Hawk HPS pads (or an equivalent that you like) and stainless lines. I wouldn't bother with switching to '94-'97 (bigger brakes,) since the stock set up with the aforementioned upgrades is good enough for Spec Miata; they'll work for hard street use, autocrossing, an occasional short track day. If you take it to a driving school, get some race pads, depending on the track time involved.

Install front and rear control arm braces. If you're a cheap bastard like me, make your own out of 1" tubing. (Google it/check

Next, if you want bigger rims/tires, get those. I wouldn't go larger than 15". When I bought my first miata,l a '96, it had 17s and very low profile tires (35s) on it because the PO thought they looked cool. It rode pretty hard, but had excellent turn in feel, and rubbed the fender wells a little. Tires were $$$ to replace; they were easily damaged when hitting railroad crossings/potholes. My wife killed two in one week. Ah. . .blissful matrimony. . .

The bigger the rim, the lower profile tires you will have to go with to make them fit within the wheel wells. Low profile tires equal stiffer side walls, which equals crisper feel, but less compliance in bumps and most importantly, you'll get less warning when they're about to break loose should you choose to drive spiritedly. 15s with some good 50 series sticky tires are the best compromise in my opinion, but go to a local miata club gathering and try to ride with people that have different setups before you choose.

What made a BIG difference for my car was a set of urethane suspension and differential bushings. WELL worth the $$$ (about $350) and trouble to install them.

Consider a Flying Miata butterfly brace. They can really make a difference in terms of chassis rigidity and therefore the effectiveness of your suspension. Keep in mind that you have to drill holes in your car to install one. They also may not be legal for the autocross class you might want to run in, so check rules first.

Now, this is where you driving ability really starts to factor in:

If you want to have your car corner flatter and faster, get a Racing Beat 7/8" front antiroll bar, and a 5/8" rear bar. Consider also getting a Racing Beat Sway Bar kit. Keep in mind, like the tire changes, your car will corner flatter, and therefore faster, but you'll get less warning when the rear end starts to come loose. If you want better corner carving, and can handle a car that oversteers more quickly, but at a greater limit and with less warning than the stock set up, then go for it.

If you can handle a stiffer ride, consider getting stiffer springs. For me, 30% stiffer fronts and 20% stiffer rears are still reasonably comfortable for street use. FM and Racing Beat both make springs that fit these criteria.

Get KYB (I like GR2s) or Koni shocks as well.

As far a intakes, headers, etc., you're going to get fairly modest gains, about 10% max. I put a Jackson Racing stainless exhaust, about $500, their high flow catatlytic convertor, about $250, one of their 4-2-1 headers (can't remember price,) their cold air intake $300, and some high end plug wires, and advanced the timing a bit on my '92 and saw a gain of about 10 hp if I remember correctly. The difference in acceleration was noticeable, but given the amoun of money involved, I feel a greater impact was made by the suspension upgrades I've done. Also, with the Jackson Racing exhaust, the exhaust note was noticably louder, but still liveable.

Best of luck with your car, Steve450

unevolved New Reader
10/13/09 11:20 p.m.

I came in here to offer some advice, but after a post like that I don't think there's much I can add. That about sums it up.

That being said, if you're on any sort of a budget when it comes to Miatas, handling modifications have a much higher fun/$ ratio than powertrain modifications.

nderwater Reader
10/13/09 11:51 p.m.

Ditto that... but even a bone stock Miata on good rubber will be more fun to drive than most other cars on the road.

Dorsai New Reader
10/14/09 1:16 a.m.

Good post by Steve 450. I'd differ on a few things.

First off, do your routine checks and replacements - belts, fluids, filters and the like. Suspension bushings will help the feel a lot... you have low miles but the parts are all pushing twenty years old.

I'd then look at handling and braking, in part because that's where the fun is, and part because trying to up the power before you can handle and stop makes little sense to me. As unevolved says, it takes a good bit of money to increase the power very much, better bang for the buck in handling. That means tires, shocks, brake pads, and sway bars. Strut tower brace helps a bit, but I'd point you instead toward the FM Butterfly brace or their frame rails, which are a bit cheaper and still add a lot of stiffening. Fifteen inch wheels and tires are a sweet spot, probably 195/50/15. Note that Miatas are very sensitive to unsprung weight, light wheels make a noticeable difference.

Power side, you won't gain much cheaply. A cold air intake, exhaust header, high flow cat, and upgraded catback exhaust will likely net you five to eight HP for about a grand. The easiest road to higher HP on a Miata is forced induction via turbo or supercharger but you're looking at $2500-3,000 there, and if you go FI you'll want all the above to open up the flow through the engine.

Personally, I'd go wheels and tires, shocks, brake pads and metal lines, and a set of sway bars. Get a good performance alignment done, do a search on Miatanet for alignment specs. Engine side I'd advance the timing to fourteen degrees BTDC (note that you'll probably need to run premium gas if you do), put a set of Magnecor plug wires and the base NGK plugs one heat setting cooler than stock on it and let it go at that until I went FI.

I'd still say call Keith. I doubt there's a soul on this board who knows Miatas better than he does. He literally wrote the book(s) on this stuff.

White_and_Nerdy New Reader
10/14/09 6:56 a.m.

A year ago, I bought a 91 Miata. Made a few basic repairs over the winter, fixed some rust this past summer. I got some extra 14" wheels with used R-compounds. After they were spent in a single weekend, I got some Falken Azenis and ran the rest of the year. When the front brakes expired, I replaced them with Hawk HPS pads and stock rotors. Out of 13 local events in which I drove the car, I won E Stock 10 times and placed second once.

My point being, you don't need to make expensive upgrades to do well and enjoy the car. Yes, my car would seriously benefit from a set of good shocks. But they're not in the budget right now, and my results with the current shocks sort of speak for themselves. :)

If you do want to upgrade the car, I would recommend this: Drive the car as-is for a little while. Figure out exactly what area of the car's performance is insufficient for your needs, desires, etc. That will dictate what upgrades you should make. It's your car - set it up the way you want. If you do want to compete in a particular class, become familiar with the class rules so you don't accidentally make one tiny modification that will punt you to a highly modified class in an otherwise stock car.

Read this thread several times - great info here. Oh, and call Keith!

BoxheadTim Reader
10/14/09 7:29 a.m.

Another vote for HPS pads - I've had them on my Miatas and if I'll buy another one, those will go on there, too. Braided/Stainless lines are pretty much a must, too.

I'd address wheels and suspension next. First, get a proper alignment done by a shop that knows what they're doing. 15" wheels give you a nice tyre choice in 205/50/15, just make sure you get some light rims. Some decent shocks and springs can also make a massive difference.

I'd also be tempted to put in some decent seats, you'll be surprised just how hard you can corner in one if you don't get thrown around the cabin.

Autolex HalfDork
10/14/09 8:26 a.m.
Keith wrote: Give me a call at Flyin' Miata and I'll help answer those questions. 1 800 359 6957.

There isn't any way ever that THIS is not the answer when miata is the question.

skeeler New Reader
10/14/09 9:04 a.m.

As several folks have noted, 15" is the ideal wheel size for an NA or NB. The best bang/buck ratio in wheels, in my opinion comes from 949Racing's 6UL wheels. If you are in the market for wheels, I'd check them out. At stock-ish power, a size of 195/50-15 or thereabouts is probably best. Good-Win Racing sells them, and they have a good selection of tires, too. If you buy tires and wheels, Brian will mount and balance them for free. His turnaround time is pretty good, too.

Some would also argue that a functional rollbar is a good idea. Hard Dog and Boss Frog both make good ones. You can get them from the manufacturer or from FM or Goodwin. They each have versions that are designed to fit under hardtops and versions designed to fit a little further back to avoid head contact. Think about whether you'll ever get a hardtop before ordering.

Several folks have mentioned FM's butterfly brace as a way to stiffen the chassis. If you find the car still has too much flex for your liking, you might be interested in Boss Frog's Frog Arms fender braces. You can get them from BF, FM, Goodwin, or 949.

Welcome to the club. You may find that Miatas are addictive. I bought my second one 19 months after my first, and I know a husband and wife who've gone from 0 Miatas to 4 in about 2 years.

Keith SuperDork
10/14/09 10:01 a.m.

We're also a Tire Rack dealer, so I can help out with any wheel/tire needs. I think there are some better values out there than the 6UL wheels unless you need something wider than 7.5".

Just a correction to Steve450's post - the FM spring rates are not 30% stiffer than stock, they're about double. This actually gives a better ride as it's more effective at keeping the car off the bumpstops. Most aftermarket springs are too soft for their ride height.

kreb Dork
10/14/09 11:23 a.m.
I bought my second one 19 months after my first, and I know a husband and wife who've gone from 0 Miatas to 4 in about 2 years.

I've long found this (not uncommon) phenemenon to be odd. There's so many interesting cars out there. Why have four versions of the same one?

captainzib Reader
10/14/09 11:44 a.m.

I have nothing to contribute, other than welcome to a very strange group of enthusiasts and be sure to post pics when you get the chance.

Dorsai New Reader
10/14/09 12:27 p.m.
kreb wrote:
I bought my second one 19 months after my first, and I know a husband and wife who've gone from 0 Miatas to 4 in about 2 years.
I've long found this (not uncommon) phenemenon to be odd. There's so many interesting cars out there. Why have four versions of the same one?

Miatas are like rabbits. You start out with one guaranteed male and the next thing you know you have a whole litter in your driveway.

skeeler New Reader
10/14/09 12:28 p.m.
kreb wrote: I've long found this (not uncommon) phenemenon to be odd. There's so many interesting cars out there. Why have four versions of the same one?

Well, here's my justification for having two Miatas: After tracking my 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata a few times, I decided to get another, less expensive car to turn into a more dedicated track/autocross car. It seemed logical to get another Miata, since I already knew a bit about working on them and where to get parts for them, and since Miatas are pretty good cars with which to learn to drive fast. So, I bought a '95. My two Miatas are different enough to be interesting; One is a somewhat hard-core NA track car with a hard top only, and the other is a more relaxed NB street car with a soft top.

As for Alan and Kate, the couple I mentioned, they each have a black NB daily driver and a white NA being tweaked to compete in STS. Given that a Street Touring car can be pretty streetable, I don't see why they couldn't use their NBs, but they are DINKs, so they can afford 4 Miatas (and 2 Hyundais). Here's a story on them from not long after they acquired Captain Slow but before they bought the Duckling:

I certainly agree that there a lot of interesting cars out there. I have quite a few on my like-to-own list. (In particular, I'm liking the design and size of the new Toyobaru, except for the strut front suspension, and I'm going to have to see how it stacks up against the next Mazda RX when I have my second child and thus need a car with rear seats.) For now, though, two Miatas are keeping me entertained. (Of course, I would like to own an NC at some point...)

skeeler New Reader
10/14/09 12:36 p.m.

In reply to Keith:

I didn't know---or remember?---you were a Tire Rack dealer. What would you suggest as a good value in a 15x7 or 15x7.5?

I agree that the available widths are the standout feature of the 6UL. It seems like it would be very handy for those with heavily power-modded Miatas.

Xceler8x Dork
10/14/09 12:52 p.m.

I've got the FM stage 1 suspension kit on my car. I've done numerous track days on it and drive it whenever I want with my g/f in the car. It rides better than stock and handles the track very, very well for a street car.

Keith SuperDork
10/14/09 1:30 p.m.

Thanks Xceler8x. I'm pretty happy with how that suspension setup works.

skeeler, the TR Motorsports C1 (15x7.5, +42) and C1M (15x7, +30) are both right around 13 lbs and $99. Hard to beat that. There's also a 15x8 version at $109 but it's a +20 offset.

car39 Reader
10/14/09 5:12 p.m.
skeeler wrote: Welcome to the club. You may find that Miatas are addictive. I bought my second one 19 months after my first, and I know a husband and wife who've gone from 0 Miatas to 4 in about 2 years.

One to race, one to daily drive. They're cheap to keep.

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