PH Fleet: TVR Chimaera/ Lexus LS400/ Mazda MX-5

Times are a changing at the Garlick household and in a moment of frugal madness one evening I decided that running two V8 cars was ridiculous. Earlier that day I’d heard of a 1997 MX-5 1.8is up for sale and it got me thinking how much better off I’d be if I had that as our normal car. After a glass of wine or two while pondering the pile of cash (or lack of) we have saved for a house move, I decided that my glorious LS400 had to go and a hasty post on Facebook was made announcing that it was available. I went to bed, woke up and saw that three friends had expressed interest and one was very keen to view. And so the story begins…

Made for days like these
Made for days like these
Before any of these thoughts happened my focus was on the TVR as I had to get that cracked headlight lens replaced before winter. You may remember from a previous report a kind PHer had sent me a set of reflectors and lenses in the post and I was looking forward to replacing my dull reflectors with shiny new ones, but as fitment appeared to be tricky I decided to pass the job (as usual) to the chaps at Fernhurst TVR. While it was there I asked them to take a look at the stepper motor, as it was holding high revs for too long when at idle, and also to look at the heater which had gone from furnace levels to lukewarm overnight.

Shiny new headlights have not only improved the amount of light the headlights give after dark, it has also freshened up the front of the car too so I’ll mark that up as a success. Less successful is the fact the revs are still sticking, it’s better but not fixed, and the heater is still half the beast it used to be. These need to be looked at again when it goes in for a service and MOT later this month. Once that’s all done I look forward to crisp, dry winter mornings once more but now winter is here I will be avoiding salty roads when the weather gets too filthy. I still treat the car far too softly with lots of polishing and pampering, but how I adore the sound of that V8 and relish the thought of every drive long before I reach the garage.

When winter finally arrives the job of transportation will be down to the little Mazda. The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that I now have two green two-seat roadsters, similar in character but very different in basic ingredients. Having two single-minded cars is great as I don’t have kids, and I like the fact that I’ll never be asked to drive on nights out with friends and family again!

Chim roof cover fits MX5
Chim roof cover fits MX5
As mentioned earlier I happened to be chatting to a colleague who mentioned that he was selling his MX-5 and I found myself saying that I was interested before I’d given it much thought. The girlfriend had missed our Eunos S Special since we sold it, and I believed that running a simple little 1.8 on tiny wheels with basic mechanicals would be easier (on my wallet) to run than the LS400. Different beasts for sure, but as I say I really didn’t give it much thought before agreeing to buy it.

After a couple of days of discussion and negotiation I bought the car. It’s a 1.8is UK model with 93,000 miles, three owners, FSH with long tax and test thrown in. In addition it had been recently treated to new Dunlop rubber, a new (non-noisy) stainless exhaust, new audio and had been in for service at a Mazda main dealer only a few months ago. In exchange for £600 I was handed a comprehensive history file along with a complete handbook pack and spare keys. Nice.

Why so cheap? Well it was suffering from the dreaded sill rot and needed a new hood too. Fortunately I was able to swing by Claremont Coachworks on test drive and asked owner Will to take a look and send me a quote before buying, and a quick chat with friends resulted in me finding a replacement (used) hood too

The car was filthy when I got it and to kick things off I treated it to a wash and wax which resulted in dull paint shining once more. The very next day it was shipped of to the bodyshop for a week or so to have the sills cut out and replaced. A look at the photos below tells you all you need to know about the state of them and what a great job they did in fixing it. It really does look like new again, especially after they kindly machine-polished the sides too, and the paint match is superb. If you need sill work doing on yours, I can recommend these guys to do the job as their level of care and attention to detail is second to none.

Taking off the grime
Taking off the grime
From now on the drainage holes will be cleared regularly and I’ll be adding a covering of waxoyl too in an attempt to keep future rot at bay. The Claremont team may be seeing me again sooner than planned too.  A small dent in the front of the MX didn’t bother me that much until Mr Trent happened to mention that he has a replacement front end in his garage. It’s silver, but in good order so assuming the price is right I may well take that from him and get it repainted and fitted.

Next up was a replacement hood which came from another MX-5 being broken for parts that just happened to have an excellent roof. A drive down to Gatwick last Sunday saw MX-5 fanatics (and father and son team) Steve and James get busy on my car on a cold Sunday afternoon. These guys keep MX-5s and Eunoses on the road by buying all manner of cars from around the country which keeps them in all the spares an owner could need. Knowing the cars as they do the old hood was removed and the new one fitted within hours rather than the weekend a Haynes manual suggests, and a trip to the local hand car wash resulted in not one drip of water entering the cabin despite two guys aiming jetwash hoses at the roof. Result.

If you visit Steve and James for parts, take more cash than you intend to spend. While I was there I noticed a red Eunos with black leather seats, a short discussion later and my, slightly worn, cloth seats were out and the leather seats were in. As I was happy to leave my old seats behind we agreed on a swap plus a very reasonable amount of cash from my side.

Goodbye my love
Goodbye my love
So I now have a shiny, rust free and leak free Mazda with very comfy seats and I’m a happy new owner. Right now I’m grabbing the keys at every opportunity, relishing the zip of the 1.8 and the clickety gear shift. I like the fact that I can have fun at slow speeds (70mph feels like 100mph on the motorway) and the handling, even on standard suspension set up, is superb. It’ll never tempt me away from the Chimaera on a sunny day, but it’s a hoot of a car to use as sensible transport. The MX-5 bug has bitten and I’m a convert.

All that leaves is the Lexus. I love(d) that car, in fact it remains the best car I have ever owned. As I watched it drive away with the new (PHer) owner I felt more than a little pang of regret. It was superb in every way and the next time I need to blast up a motorway or find myself sitting in a traffic jam it will be sadly missed. Whether my rash car change decision will actually save me money remains to be seen, and whether I can resist an automatic saloon with armchairs for seats is another matter entirely.  


Fact Sheet:
 1997 Lexus LS400
Run by: Garlick
Bought: Jan 2011
Purchase price: £1,800
Last month at a glance: Sold, departed, missed

Fact Sheet:
 1999 TVR Chimaera 4.0
Run by: Garlick
Bought: December 2009
Purchase price: £12,995
Last month at a glance: New headlights, high idle, service due

Fact Sheet:
 1997 Mazda MX-5 1.8is
Run by: Garlick
Bought:November 2012
Purchase price: £600
Last month at a glance: New addition, new roof, new sills

Thanks to:
Claremont Coachworks: Call Will on 01932 253825
Steve and James the MX-5 guys
: Call James on 07564 644812

Previous reports

With guest appearances from a VW camper, a Hyundai and a 125cc scooter

Garlick tries to save fuel on his all-V8 fleet and Petrol Ted's legacy lives on

One barge and one sports means the perfect pairing for reformed car buying addict Garlick

Why reading up on your car's history is most definitely a good thing

Comments (59) Join the discussion on the forum

  • BeirutTaxi 30 Oct 2012

    Garlick said:
    I like the fact that I can have fun at slow speeds
    It's interesting how opinion differs between both Monkey (CH) and MX5 owners/enthusiasts.

    I would at this point slate the LS400 but I'm a skeptic who is (very) slowly turning.

    Good luck with the new purchase Paul smile

  • LesKellet 30 Oct 2012

    Christ. If I'd have realised the LS400 was up for grabs...
    I'd have another in a heartbeat. Best car I have ever owned for me, too.
    Drat, drat and triple drat. Feeling gutted and very sore, now.

  • Garlick 30 Oct 2012

    Sorry! It didn't even make it to the classifieds and was sold amongst my friend group.

  • Greg 172 30 Oct 2012

    How much are new sills to put in/paint? I really need to sort the other half's Copen out, but I'm too terrified of what it might end up costing....

  • Bargenosenti 30 Oct 2012

    Garlick said:
    Sorry! It didn't even make it to the classifieds and was sold amongst my friend group.
    Outrageous behaviour! There would have been a PH bidding war smile

    Will miss the updates on that beast, but adding an mx5 does make up for it!

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