Just like the classic roadsters it aimed to evoke, the Mazda MX-5 was born to be modified. It was a light, small, simple rear-drive sports car, with a twin-cam four-cylinder up front. The possibilities were endless for owners, the base car a blank canvas for them to do pretty much whatever they wanted with. Over the years we’ve seen turbo and supercharged MX-5s, crazy high-revving MX-5s, rotary-swapped cars and even V8s. The fact they respond so well to tuning is just another reason why the little Mazda remains so loved. Whatever your vision is for a dream MX-5, it’s possible.
The Rocketeer V6 swap isn’t quite as well known as some others, but there’s a huge amount going for it. As discussed in our video feature on a Mk2.5 conversion, the key benefit of the AJ-30 Jaguar V6 is weight: its aluminium construction means no more kilos are added to the front end, and therefore the balance is unaffected. But you get roughly twice the power of a standard Mazda engine, plus the considerable added benefit of a glorious six-cylinder soundtrack. Rocketeer has been around since 2018, and became founder Bruce Southey’s full-time occupation in 2021. Back then around 100 cars had been V6 swapped in one form another, either as full turnkey builds or with the engine supplied to an owner. It’d be no surprise to find many more having been converted by now.
This Mk1 is one of the earliest Rocketeer cars, the 3.0-litre having first gone in five years ago. Amazingly, the donor Jag only had 13,000 miles on it, so it was a remarkably fresh engine. It has since returned to Rocketeer for some additional work in 2021, which included its own throttle bodies - so it’s going to sound even better than expected. Keeping a c. 270hp MX-5 under control are a few bits from a later MX-5 (including brakes, diff and gearbox) plus things like Meister R coilovers, some upgraded bushes and that chunky roll bar.
It ought to drive just as well as it looks, basically. We’re so used to modified MX-5s coming in lurid colour schemes or with slammed ride heights that it’s a surprise - a welcome one - to see such a drastic overhaul applied and so much of the original spec retained. Once a Neo Green V-Spec, this car still has the lovely BBS rims, biscuit leather and wooden Nardi wheel that marked them out. An old-school colour combo with modern performance is a really cool pairing - a budget restomod, if you will.
There’s more good news, too. Having been kept inside for a lot of its life (and only now used on dry days), this MX-5 has never needed any welding. It’s been with the current owner for over a decade, who knows it both pre- and post-conversion, who purchased it from a man in their village back in 2012. It’s now done a little over 100,000 miles (the original shell, that is), which isn’t bad going for more than 30 years of use. For any MX-5 to have survived this long this well is usually a good sign.
Purists and collectors now want untouched MX-5s, of course, and seem willing to pay for them. As is the case for almost every Japanese car that was loved by the tuning community. Those who actually want to drive them, though, are still best served by getting a really good upgraded example, of which this Rocketeer definitely seems like one. There isn’t an NA MX-5 to buy right now for less than £5,000, and this is £15,750. Making something like this from one of the cars currently for sale will take more than £10k, for sure. It’s very far from original, but it promises to be a huge amount of fun. And isn’t that the point?
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