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 12 Sep 2011

    This is what makes me laugh about "bargain" MX5's, you'll end up spending the same money again on the car. Just buy a decent one in the first place.

  • Ex Boy Racer 12 Sep 2011

    It's called being a car enthusiast. All of the sensible things you tell yourself about value for money and common sense evaporate when it comes to going that bit faster and better.

    I find it's best just to accept it and enjoy the drive!

  • thewheelman 12 Sep 2011

    Ex Boy Racer said:
    It's called being a car enthusiast. All of the sensible things you tell yourself about value for money and common sense evaporate when it comes to going that bit faster and better.

    I find it's best just to accept it and enjoy the drive!
    Erm...i am a car enthusiast, still makes more sense to buy a good one to start with, then improve it.

  • ZOLLAR 12 Sep 2011

    I predict Jonnyfive will be along shortly biggrin

  • Jack_and_MLE 12 Sep 2011

    it's called upgradetidus or something similar this disease.

    I've got it and my Caterham 21 is now a lot more powerfull than before (about 40bhp)


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