PH Fleet Update: Mazda Eunos Roadster


Bloke logic, meet financial reality. Nope, you never were going to get along were you? Let's stick with bloke logic then, the same that dictates I always boast of my Eunos as being brilliant for a £1200 car.

Yes, my Eunos was a brilliant £1,200 car. But it's now a considerably better one and, I think, still a bargain even with the investment of its purchase price over and again on a few tweaks. (Tell yourself something often enough and you start to believe it, eh? - Ed)


Last time I left you the car was with Phil at Performance 5 for its SportDrive suspension kit. But Phil's something of a perfectionist and I was soon staring at some fairly extensive work. The SportDrive dampers use different top mounts to allow more travel and Phil replaced the worn rear anti-roll bar bushes too. Once installed it was off for a full geo set-up to Phil's preferred settings.

And while he was at it he fitted a set of his chassis reinforcement rails too, these bolt-on stainless box sections stiffening the body considerably. £120 very well spent on any MX-5 or Eunos and thoroughly recommended.


I got the car back 24 hours ahead of an appointment in Anglesey to drive the MX-5 GT race car but, never one for an easy life, decided now was the time to pair the suspension with a loud exhaust for the full effect. A Moss stainless system rejected by my brother for being too loud had been knocking about in the garage and, for a few quid at the local fitters, it was on.

A family engagement meant forgoing the hotel the evening before the MX-5 drive and doing the trip to Anglesey in one hit. The 8:30am track briefing meant hitting the road at 4am and as I droned bleary-eyed up the M6 I kept telling myself it'd be worth it for a crack of dawn rendezvous with the Welsh roads. One thing was clear, with the new exhaust nobody in North Wales was going to be getting a lie-in.


Even on the motorway it was clear the Eunos had been the recipient of some serious work. The ride was noticeably firmer, as you'd expect with a near doubling of spring rates, and perhaps a little harsher at lower speeds than I'd been expecting. Not unpleasantly so - firm but fair would be an accurate description. Clearly the chassis rails were making a big difference too, the improved bump absorption and stiffness meaning even big expansion joints were shrugged off without even a trace of the previous judder.

The succession of roundabouts on the A5 past Shrewsbury and Oswestry were a good transition from the motorway to the 'proper' roads beyond Llangollen and by now the 4am start was forgotten and I was really starting to enjoy myself. No longer was the front end flopping down onto the outside wheel on turn-in, there was now the bite I'd been craving from the front axle, combined with a more settled rear-end.


As Phil promised, the SportDrive doesn't isolate you from what's going on but nor do the shocks punch through. Over rapid bumps it was clear the dampers were moving very quickly but the body control was night and day better, dips and compressions seeing the body move as a whole, all four dampers working in unison with no trace of the floating or porpoising that had been present before.

By the time I'd reached Betws-y-Coed the grin was even bigger. I'd driven these same roads in it just a few months before and enjoyed it but now I was really able to attack them properly. Fabulous stuff.


At the track I twisted a few arms to see if I could put in a couple of cheeky laps, this being where I'd taken the Eunos pre suspension mods and therefore an ideal before-and-after test. The infamous Tigars limited the outright speed but the more neutral stance and significant reduction in roll brought about by the dampers' firm low-speed damping meant a ton more confidence on turn-in.

Bona fide driving god/top bloke Mark Hales was also there to drive the GT but I couldn't resist asking him for his tuppence worth on my Eunos too. "It's stiffer at the front," he spotted after a couple of corners.


He reckoned it might not be quite as pointy as the current-shape MX-5 he'd arrived in so we did a couple of back-to-back laps to test the theory. In the end the two behaved in a pretty similar manner, my Tigars perhaps at the heart of the issue but the Eunos still showing a lovely neutral balance and smooth transition into oversteer when required.

On the way home I couldn't resist a slight diversion off the A5 to take in two of the three sides of a certain triangular collection of roads...


By now my confidence was sky-high, the Eunos rewarding a serious increase in commitment with utter composure. P5 seems to have really hit the sweet spot here - grip and balance doesn't come at the cost of feedback and seat-of-the-pants fun. Later excursions have revealed a slight issue of increased NVH from the passenger seat, but I think this is more down to the chavvy overtones of my rude 'zorst. Irritating background noise is, on the whole, successfully drowned out, though.

True, doubling the original expenditure on any car is a big step. One that I haven't regretted for a moment, though. Cheap thrills? Perhaps less of the former but plenty of the latter.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (61) Join the discussion on the forum

  • thewheelman 15 Sep 2011

    Beanoir said:
    thewheelman said:
    Does his have a hard top, low miles & a turbo conversion? I've already turned down £3500 for it. As for limited editions, they did hundreds of different "limited editions", only a few add any value to a standard car.
    No it doesn't have a turbo conversion, I didn't realise yours did, so that means you're not comparing apples with apples...

    No but then not all good condition mark 1 examples are that much money, a friend of mine picked one up last week with 50 odd thousand in the clock, great condition, genuine hard top, FSH and 2 owners from new for about £1800 - mine cost less than that, and my brother paid even less than me for his, all in the last 6 months.

    The trouble with '5s is they vary greatly in price, its down to the prospective buyer to know what is and isn't worh the money really.
    You're bang on about how they vary in price for used examples, a minefield for those that don't know what to look for. And a pain in the arse if you have a good one for sale, & you get the usual phonecall from "noncar guy" quoting "i've seen them cheaper than that....." Trying to explain that to those types pisses me off!

  • StressedDave 15 Sep 2011

    Herman Toothrot said:
    Well increased grip at the price of progession due to body roll is how I view the Puredrives (P.S. Wheels in Motion Fast road / track geo). I know someone else didn't keep theirs for long for the same reason.
    Therein lies the problem - the issue is that the changed alignment settings aren't compatible with the amount of suspension travel that you're using. It's a common issue that tends to be coupled with 'well, you need stiffer springs then' arguments. With standard geometry settings, this snappiness simply doesn't occur. Or to put it a different way, you don't need anything other than OE settings to get the kit to work properly. Without wishing to denigrate Tony's work in any way, my experience of many calibrations is that while they may improve things away from the limit, they often make things worse at the limit that can only be cured by fitting stiffer springs and ARBs, but if you're going to do that, you might as well buy a go-kart.

    Herman Toothrot said:
    So how have you improved the Sport Drives over the Pure Drives?
    1. Changed from twin-tube (as per Gaz and Koni to name just a couple) to monotube (like Bilstein). It's a big advantage in terms of damper response on uneven stuff and on-track.
    2. Large piston rod and high gas pressure to take some of the load support out of the spring and into the damper.
    3. Completely different valving, especially in low speed bump to better control the contact patch loads. One of the things that drove the change was that using someone else's design, you get what they think you need. This way I get to give you what I want.
    4. Adjuster on the top so it's not out in the mud and corruption and liable to stick.
    5. Hard anodised aluminium bodies for corrosion resistance.

  • Herman Toothrot 14 Sep 2011

    StressedDave said:
    There's nowt wrong with roll... the issues you may have with what you're proposing are that:

    1. Going for a stiffer ARB means that the amount of roll damping relative to the roll stiffness you now have goes down. So often you get worse roll control than you had before the swap
    2. Unless you know what you're doing, you won't get better handling as a result - I know for a fact that your current combination will pull 1g lateral (unaided by camber) while running on Yokohama S-306 185/60 R14, so the issue may be more to do with how you want to drive the car rather than the capabilities of the car. I recommend training long before I recommend fiddling further with the handling balance.
    3. More ARB means more interconnection between the wheels on either side of the car. If you don't know what the term 'head-toss' is, you'll probably soon find out. I've driven PD on proving ground with stiffer ARBs - the handling was significantly worse because the increased interconnection would lift the inside rear wheel just at the point where you were trying to get the power down.
    4. While lowering the car is a good thing from a load transfer point of view, lower c of g = less load transfer = less grip deterioration, the analysis I've done suggests that the geometric load transfer (i.e. that transmitted along the suspension linkages and is undamped) goes up, so you actually get less control as a result.


    Edited by StressedDave on Wednesday 14th September 17:22
    Well increased grip at the price of progession due to body roll is how I view the Puredrives (P.S. Wheels in Motion Fast road / track geo). I know someone else didn't keep theirs for long for the same reason. So how have you improved the Sport Drives over the Pure Drives?

    I'd describe my MX5 with Pure drives as snappier after breaking traction than a mk3 MR2, Exige or VX220. I guess they all have superior chassis to start with, however they are normally described as snappy and the MX5 dosile, which it was on Bilsteins (just horribly crashy and rubbish on bumpy stuff) and KYBs / Eibachs.

    Edited by Herman Toothrot on Wednesday 14th September 23:32

  • Itsallicanafford 14 Sep 2011

    SimonSaid said:
    Incidentally, this seems like a good thread to ask - any of you lot going to the big MX5 national rally this weekend?

    I'm in the process of making a 'shopping list' for the stalls there...
    ...that would be good...however, with a 1 year old, weekend jollies are on hold, according to the wife...have a good one...

  • StressedDave 14 Sep 2011

    Herman Toothrot said:
    The pure drive I thought were perfect for the road. My car is only track now and on track I felt they allowed too much roll - I spoke to Phil about this. Thing is they are like new as my car was always garaged so don't really want to pay to change them - they do the job well enough. I know Phil advised against it but I may go for a stiffer arb, drop it a bit more and use helper springs.
    There's nowt wrong with roll... the issues you may have with what you're proposing are that:

    1. Going for a stiffer ARB means that the amount of roll damping relative to the roll stiffness you now have goes down. So often you get worse roll control than you had before the swap
    2. Unless you know what you're doing, you won't get better handling as a result - I know for a fact that your current combination will pull 1g lateral (unaided by camber) while running on Yokohama S-306 185/60 R14, so the issue may be more to do with how you want to drive the car rather than the capabilities of the car. I recommend training long before I recommend fiddling further with the handling balance.
    3. More ARB means more interconnection between the wheels on either side of the car. If you don't know what the term 'head-toss' is, you'll probably soon find out. I've driven PD on proving ground with stiffer ARBs - the handling was significantly worse because the increased interconnection would lift the inside rear wheel just at the point where you were trying to get the power down.
    4. While lowering the car is a good thing from a load transfer point of view, lower c of g = less load transfer = less grip deterioration, the analysis I've done suggests that the geometric load transfer (i.e. that transmitted along the suspension linkages and is undamped) goes up, so you actually get less control as a result.


    Edited by StressedDave on Wednesday 14th September 17:22

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