The Miata of the Month from

January 2009

Alan and Kate Claffie and their three Miatas

Congratulations to Alan and Kate on the selection of their Miatas as the January Miatas of the Month!

I was not completely unaware of Miatas before November 2007. I watched as they were about to debut and dealers advertised their stocks in Autoweek with thousands of dollars added to MSRP back in 1989. My dad bought a Sunburst fresh off the lot, a friend bought a used '90 and another friend bought a '94 R new.

I'd always liked my cars on the small, fun side. I'd progressed from a string of late '70s Civics to a CRX Si to a Mazda MX3 to a Hyundai Tiburon. But my automotive pride and joy was a clunker of a '71 MGB I bought in 1987. It was patched, repatched, crashed, and rebuilt yet again. It was put in winter storage in 1999 and is still there; at least it was the last I checked.

Since getting married, my wife Kate has been overly generous in enabling me to have nice stuff, including the aforementioned Tiburon. After we found a house with a garage, I started looking at Miatas on Craigslist and other sites, just out of curiosity mostly. I could live without one but Kate kept telling me I should get more serious, or at least take one out for a test drive.

It didn't take long to find a decent one, and after a brisk November test drive we struck a deal to buy Skippy, a '96 base model. It had some upgrades but my most important criteria were met: it was a rust-free body, black interior, and its maintenance was up to date.

I'd had the car for a few months and joined the local club, Chesapeake Area Roadsters. With their help, I learned about how the car ticked and how much fun stuff there was available both to put on it and to do with it. The club hosted a tech day on a sunny Saturday and while I was there to try and be useful helping other guys out with their projects, Kate took my car for a spin to the mall. She returned raving, loving the feeling of top-down driving that reminded her of when she lived in San Diego and went to the beach all the time.

At "Miatas at Myrtle Beach II" she talked about having a Miata of her own. My '96 was a fine car, but she preferred the looks of the NBs. Her choice bounced between a 10th Anniversary edition '99 or a Mazdaspeed Miata. While that debate went on, a club member was selling his '99 Sport Package. It wasn't a special or limited edition, but it was a low-mileage garage queen that was impeccably maintained and super clean. We picked that up and Kate used it to go to work as well as weekend duty.

We were in Miata bliss with his'n'hers cars until July 17, 2008. On my way to a club dinner meeting, I was rear-ended and pushed into the minivan stopped ahead of me. The '96 was totaled but I escaped without injury. We bought it back from insurance to make sure as much of the car could be used to keep others alive.

I had decided early on in Miata ownership that there was no way, no how I was going to be without one of these cars if I could help it, so the search for a replacement NA started up pretty quickly. But mid-summer choices weren't that great, and Kate volunteered that I take over her '99 and she would start the hunt for another car for herself. I agreed with the stipulation that, if at any time she wanted 'her' car back, all she had to do was say the word. It' would be hers again, and I'd be the one shopping for the next one. The '99 was definitely an upgrade over the Spartan, high-mile '96 but I still liked it. The tonneau cover fit, which was a nice surprise, and the car became my garage queen.

Since nothing about our story makes sense, naturally the next Miata to show up would be my second before Kate got her replacement ‘first’. She was still adamant about finding one of the limited edition NBs or a MSM while I still had a soft spot for the older cars. A nifty little white '90 showed up on Craigslist in September and again it passed my criteria. It also had most of the mods I'd have done already installed and the price was right. While I had a hard time justifying another car, especially in light of the fact that Kate had not replaced the one she gave me, she said if I didn't pick this one up, the odds that I'd find one this good for decent money down the road weren't good so I might as well get this one while it was still available. It came home in October and became pretty much a daily driver.

After the '90 arrived, Kate got serious about her shopping, making up her mind that she was going to get an MSM. She scoured Craigslist, Autotrader, classifieds, etc looking specifically for a black '05, eventually finding one a couple hours from home in Delaware. She made me do the initial contact as well as the wheeling and dealing, but she found the money and exactly one year and one day after I brought that first '96 home, Miata No. 4 was in our driveway.

The cars are special in their own way, and we knew this before we had our first. What we didn't know was that these cars came with a large community of like-minded enthusiasts willing to help and socialize. I chuckled at the thought of Miata clubs at first ("how cute!") but Chesapeake Area Roadsters has enhanced the ownership experience in know-how, hands-on help, and friendship.

The highlight of last spring was MAMBII. Seeing a couple hundred Miatas in one place at one time was something else. Every event was a blast and we enjoyed putting faces to names. We'll definitely go back in 2009 and we're planning on being at other gatherings within a reasonable drive, including MiataWorld II in Texas.

Previous Miata of the Month Winners

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