Ask Bob!

April 2001


Color blinded

I recently purchased a 2001 LS. The instrument cluster is now white faced gauges with chrome rings which is really nice. At night with the lights on, the dial faces appear dark gray which is also cool. The background lighting is red. All the dash and instrument lighting is now red to include the CD player. I really don't like it. I would like to change it to blue. It appears that the red comes from an actual red bulb and not a filter or cel. Could you direct me in the right direction, as I can't seem to find any info on it. (probably cause it's so trivial) I also don't know if its a good idea to try to find the bulb or light source. Do you have to take apart the dash? How involved is it if you know?

Larry, Ft. Lauderdale/FL/USA

Well, removing the instrument cluster isn't tough at all if you have a service manual. A piece of cake as such things go. Removing the red bulbs is easier yet, as they just screw in to the rear of the instrument cluster. The clear bulbs used in the standard cluster will fit the same sockets, but I do not know of any blue bulbs which use the same connector. Perhaps as a kid I should have hung around Marvac electronics instead of George's British Car Repair.

If you're a whiz with wiring, you could track down suitable blue LEDs and hardwire 'em into the cluster. Blue LEDs look cool and are REALLY blue, but I'm not sure how bright they might be. they sure make the 'eject' button of a Playstation 2 standout however.

Once that's done, changing the rest of the lighting will be quite a fascinating exercise. Most new radios use LEDs for illumination rather than incandescent bulbs, so you'll have to track down LEDs that will be compatible with the radio's internal power and current requirements. Lighting for the HVAC controls is probably simpler to change, as the bulbs will be the same as other Mazdas without red interior lighting. the only hassle will be removing and replacing the controls (which requires a bit of deconstruction of the center console and IP center. Again, not really tough with the shop manual at your side, just a lot of work for a relatively small item. All quite doable, however.


The care and feeding of plastic

Bob...Just read about keeping up the plastic window. Do you recommend anything to keep that plastic window pristine?

undean parshey, Ripon,CA,USA

Don't fold or crease it, NEVER lower the top without unzipping it, get a REALLY good quality all-cotton thick terry cloth bath towel to lay below the rear window, then fold the leading edge back across the upper (facing) side as it's sitting on the rear shelf. Other than this towel, don't touch it with anything you wouldn't touch your eye with.

That'll take care of it.


Don't go in the garage without one

I'm trying to change my exhaust manifold due to a crack. I was wondering what sequence I should remove and replace the header bolts ?

Jeremiah Cummings, modesto/Ca/Usa

Do like me and RELIGIOUSLY follow the instructions in the shop manual. If the owner's manual doesn't say how to do it, then I always use my shop manual. No Miata owner interested in doing anything more involved than changing a flat tire should be without one.


Horses for courses

My 90 miata I just purchased has a very stiff ride, but the suspension is stock. What can I do to soften the ride as I use it for everyday and I love the little car. 

Ron Bougher, San Diego,CA,USA

How 'stiff is 'stiff'? Unless something is very wrong with the suspension or the previous owner replaced springs and/or shocks with something from the Aftermarket and/or swapped the OE wheels and tires for something 15-inches or larger, the Miata is renown for having an exceptionally pliant ride as sports cars go. A 2200lb sports car isn't going to ride like a typical America car or the even more popular American truck. Weight is a factor as is the setting of the suspension (sports cars aren't supposed to ride and handle like Detroit Iron usually does - it's why they're sports cars). This all raises the question 'well Ron, what type of American car or truck have you come from?'

As for what you can do, it depends upon what's been done to it, if anything. If the previous owner or owners replaced the OE shocks and/or springs at some point in time, you might want to put it back to stock for a 1990 and see if that isn't any better. In any event, I certainly wouldn't want to imply that the Miata, even in original state of suspension tune, is a smooth rider if absolutes are your guide. It's a delightful-riding lightweight sports car, which would make it a damned stiff American vehicle. Nature of the beast I'm afraid, and one reason it's become the best selling two-seat sports car in history.


To hot to be cool?

I have a '91 Miata Turbo. It has no AC, and I wish to retrofit it. Can you give me an idea of how difficult it is to retrofit it? How expensive?

Ivica Tolich, Monte Sereno, Ca

In a stock Miata it's not especially difficult. After all the a/c was a dealer-installed item. However, the exact costs are heavily dependent upon the labor involved in installation of the system. Since your Miata has been modified, it's possible the standard air conditioning kit may not fit without modifications. The extent of those will depend upon the complexity of getting the air conditioner to fit in the underhood real estate available and work with the plumbing of your turbo set up. Sounds like it's time for a trip to a really good a/c specialist.


A free session with Doctor Bwob

Ok Bob, I have got to take you to task on this one. Its all YOUR fault! You, great mind that you are, created the Miata, which, in and of itself is a wonderful thing. But, this is where the madness begins. The Miata is successful, takes over and becomes the best selling sports car of all time, which causes other manufacturers to attempt to duplicate its success, creating the BMW Z3, the S2000 and a host of others. So, in a roundabout way, me having to look across to my neighbors driveway and see that stupid little Toyota MR Spyder that he just bought is ALL YOUR FAULT.

In all seriousness, my 97 black Miata keeps me sane, and for that, I should be sending you 50 bucks an hour (that's what a shrink goes for nowadays, right?)...thanx tons for all your work, your an inspiration

shawn denman, upstate ny, usa

Well, I shall waive my usual fee under these circumstances. But don't tell anybody, okeh? However I will give you this final prescription. Please follow it to the letter: don't raise the top unless it is absolutely necessary, NEVER drive with the top down and the windows up, and never fit any sort of wind blocker.

I declare you cured...


(PS - Uncle of the Z3 and MR Spider/MR2? Some days you just can't win.)

Have you ever heard of someone moving the hand brake handle? I'm getting tired of reaching over mine to get at the shifter.

Fred Dentel, Viewtown/Virginia/USA

No I haven't. But if you find it tiring to reach for the thing, I suspect you'd be exhausted - or worse - after all the rejigging and fabrication that would be needed to swap sides for the e-brake. Why, just removing the console and carpet might cause you to pass out.


I've got this friend with a problem...

My brother owns a Mazda Miata and is having trouble locating where to put the power steering fluid in. So as you can see, he sent me to find out because he didn't want to ruin his man hood by asking someone else for help. He has a 1993 model and any information would be greatly appreciated and a picture of where it is would be even more appreciated.

Megan McElwee, cumberland/Md/US

I seriously doubt that your brother's manhood would be diminished in the slightest by a look inside the owner's manual. However if he's still worried, he could stuff the manual into his trousers, go into the bathroom when nobody's looking, lock the door and look at it in there. No one would be any the wiser. And I won't tell a soul.


Would you drive without a gas cap?

Will putting in a regular battery without vent tubes hurt anything or is it just a liability measure with Mazda?

Andrew T, Taylor MI U.S.A

It's primarily a safety issue, not one of liability. Batteries can give off hydrogen gas which, as the occupants of the Hindenburg will tell you - well, could have told you - can be explosive. Inasmuch as a trunk is not as well ventilated an the engine bay (where batteries usually live on lesser cars), you want to vent any possible build-up of hydrogen which may form. Well, at least I do.


Go right to the source and ask the horse...

Why do you cut the rear bump stops (shock boots). When installing Flying Miata springs and KYB AGX shocks? What does this really do for you? Don't you you need the accordion part of the bump stop to keep the dirt out of the shock piston?

Kevin, Calif

Well I don't, but then I prefer Konis with Jackson Racing springs for my own car. I'd suggest your question be posed to the people making the springs. Contacting the manufacturer or retailer of the component(s) is always a good place to start with aftermarket items.


Shredded Wheat contains cure for all diseases

I heard that the Miata was designed by college students at MIT and that Mazda bought the plans from them

Leonid Vainshtien, phoenix.arizona/usa

You heard wrong. Unless, of course, conference room 301 at the Mazda design building in Hiroshima was a satellite campus of MIT in the Spring of 1979. Of course the production design was penned somewhat later (circa 1984-87), but Irvine, California is still a LONG way from Bean town. In fact I was the only person on the development team who'd ever so much as visited the MIT Campus. To visit a then-girlfriend only, mind you. I'm a Bruin escapee (UCLA), myself.

I've heard things too. For example the Air Force has been testing flying saucers and entertaining the one-time occupants in a motel outside Soda Springs, Nevada since 1947 . Though I've never head that from anyone who was actually there. A small difference, but a telling one.


A brilliant Miata observation by a truck owner

Bob, First I want to thank you for such a great forum. It is indeed a good thing for the lovers of the Miata. I am on my second Miata and will probably own one till the day I die. Anyway, I was recently at a convenience store and was approached by the standard Texas "cowboy" type in the jacked up 4x4 and was informed that I was driving a "girls car". I asked him if what he was driving was a "mans car" and he said "hell yes". At that point I told him that "You are correct, it is a girls car and I have attracted many with it. How many men have you attracted with with yours?" Of course he was very red in the face and spitting mad but I proceeded to go into the store to get my drink and left in my car with the top down. It was a good day.

Steven Dawson, Pflugerville, Tx USA

Thanks for the observations Steven. Gee, I wonder if the 4x4 truck owner you chatted with managed to get lucky with his 'man's car'? Better him than me.


Retro? Nissan was there first

Bob (Skippy),

When the Miata was first introduced in '89 it was seen as the rebirth of the affordable sports car. Now, 12 years later, do you think the Miata could also be "the" car that started this whole retro-car craze such as the New Beetle, Mini, PT Cruiser and the others?

Chris Lambert, Destin, FL

I don't think the Miata was a trigger, but then I don't consider the Miata as a retro car. While it is traditional in its concept and - at least partly - execution, we never were thinking of the Miata as a retro item. In fact while we were doing the car the whole retro thing started.

N i s s a n B e - 1

Nissan kicked off the retro thing with the Be-1 of 1987, the first of its so-called 'Pike Factory' cars, so named from the small volume outfit Nissan set up to do the Be-1 and it's successors.

The Be-1 was a small 1.0 litre sedan (based on mechanicals and platform components from the Nissan March) which harked to the BMC Mini more than a little. It sold really well in both 5-speed manual and 3-speed (!?!?) automatic forms with a choice of metal or fold-back canvas roof. 

When launched January, 1987, the Be-1 sold like hotcakes up to the 5000 car production cap Nissan applied to it.

N i s s a n P a o

After the success of the Be-1, Nissan followed the car up in January 1989 with a larger and even more overtly retro model, the Pao. Also based on the same 1.0 litre mechanical package as the Be-1, the Pao had a very French presence, with stiffening ribs pressed into the hood and bodysides, as well as flip out rear quarter windows which were hinged horizontally rather than vertically. There was even a metal-faced instrument panel and no interior door trims, with loads of body-color sheetmetal around you.

While successful, the Pao didn't sell as quickly as the Be-1 and took considerably longer to tickle the fancy of Japan's customers. The Pao, like the Be-1, was offered with the same basic mechanicals and even in a choice of metal or canvas roof.

N i s s a n F i g a r o

The third go was sort of like a sporty (and I use the term advisedly) coupe version of the Pao which had a strong taste of 1950s Morettis, Cisitalias and even Simca Sports which was named Figaro. If there was a concerted effort to make the Pao more retro, any attempt at subtlety in the area of retro cues went right out the window with the Figaro. The color scheme was very 1950s Euro (off white roofs and upholstery with a choice of pastel green, pastel beige-ochre, greyish purple, smokey blue or a sort of washed out tomato soup red for the lower - with the second color showing up for carpet, dash top and seat piping), the instruments really like something from the 1940s and it sold even better than the BE-1 did..

The Figaro also had a canvas roof section which went all the way to the base of the roof at the rear which could be unlatched and stowed under what looked like the deck lid (it was actually a cover for the roof storage area). There was a rear seat suitable for legless midgets, a CD player which looked like a 1947 CD player would have looked and a turbocharged version of the same all-alloy 1.0 litre four which had been in the Be-1 and Pao. Sadly, it was mated solely to the old 3-speed automatic which was an option in the previous cars. Still, the entire Figaro production run of 20,000 cars was sold out within 20 days.

Each of the Pike Factory cars appeared from six months to a year before the launch as concept cars, so designers world-wide were well aware of what Nissan was doing.

I strongly suspect that Japan was the most logical place for the retro car thing to start, if only because (unlike Europe the US and even Australia), Japan had no bank of its own automotive culture to dip into, so it looked at what had happened decades earlier overseas. Mainly in Europe. Back in the mid-eighties I suspect Japanese makers didn't have the self-confidence to do any retro cars based on local product (not to imply that anyone would lust after a 'new' version of a 1965 Toyota Tiara in any case), but the idea of a 'new' version of something with the character of a BMC Mini was not only doable, but to even be palatable. Now it's the west's turn with new Beetles, Audi TTs, new Minis and PT Cruisers.

But I still don't really consider the Miata as a genuine retro car, if only because we were trying to keep it from being retro, even though we wanted to give it a traditional sports car feel. That's a very fine razor blade to walk on.


Exceptions to the rule

Bwob, Great car! I just bought a 96 with only 34000 miles on it. Driving it is a blast. I keep 3 cats and an iguana in the trunk. My question is: How often should I clean the cat crap out of the trunk? Also, the iguana keeps bitching about the top being down. Should I ditch the iguana? The cats say yes, but I will wait for your input. Thanks

Andy, Huntingtown/MD/USA

As a rule, I answer all the questions sent in to "Ask Bob!", either here at Miata.net or directly via e-mail. However rules are meant to be broken.


Size Doesn't Matter

How should u have sex in a Miata it is so small

Jay, USA

Obviously size is extremely important to you. To some of us, finesse - as exemplified by the Miata in a world of lardy 4WD SUVs - is what counts.


Back to Ask Bob!

04 December, 2001

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