Congratulations to Skip on the selection of his 1992 Sunburst as the January Miata of the Month!
After owning and totaling the only factory Orange Miata named Sunkist I quickly bought a red '91 Miata. It was very nice but just seemed to be lacking something. There were a lot of red Miatas around, I wanted something different. Thus began the search for a Sunburst Yellow Miata.
I had contacts at Mazda Irvine from researching Sunkist after the crash and I asked them if there were any leftover Sunburst Miata in the country. When they were new, the Sunburst Yellow Miatas were not hot sellers and there were a number of them still in the port long after the '93 models came out. I was informed that a dealer in Santa Barbara, CA had taken the last few in inventory. My contact set up a deal to sell me the last unsold Sunburst at a discounted price. When I contacted the dealer he reneged on the deal, wanting to keep the hardtop but not discounting the difference in the pre-arranged deal which made it a full price car. I passed.
I bought, drove and sold another red, two whites and a Mariner blue Miata in the next couple of years, loving the cars but still not satisfied. I decided that I would have to find a good used Sunburst and began a search.
I found one in California and bought it sight unseen based on a third party inspection. When it arrived in Colorado I knew before it was even off the transport that it was not as advertised and was not a keeper. Fortunately I was able to sell it quickly and covered my costs.
Another Sunburst showed up for sale in Boise, Idaho. Learning my lesson from the California Sunburst and after extensive phone conversations with the seller, I hopped a flight to Boise where the owner met me at the airport. Once again, the car was not as advertised and I rejected the sale. Back on the airplane and home again, sans Sunburst.
Someone put me in touch with Bonnie Lutz who was the keeper of a registry of Sunburst Yellow Miatas and asked her to let me know if she heard of a good one for sale. A few weeks later she gave me the name and phone number of a fellow in New Mexico whose wife had owned a low mileage Sunburst. She had passed away and he had decided to sell the car. I contacted him and he sent me many pictures of the car. The price was high but the car looked good and was well equipped with hardtop, LSD, A/C and a few other items. She had also had the black rocker panels painted to match the car and added a set of Sunburst yellow factory splash guards. We came to an agreement on price and I was ready for another flight. At the last moment he called me and backed out of the deal. He said he just wasn't ready to part with a car his wife had loved so much even though he couldn't drive it himself because of back problems.
A few months later I saw that there were several Sunburst Miatas for sale in the Los Angeles area. Another flight to search some more. I looked at three of them one of which was actually a red car that had been repainted. None were good enough. I wasn't looking for perfection but I wanted a car that had been well cared for and unmodified. I bought a very nice white Miata and drove it home after deciding I had spent too much time and money chasing my dream.
A week after I got home with the white car I got a call from the New Mexico seller. He was ready to sell the car. I told him I had just bought a Miata and couldn't afford his high price. We negotiated a much better deal, although still top dollar and I hopped on another flight to Albuquerque.
The car was exactly as described and I knew right away it was the car for me. There was only one problem. The car absolutely reeked of mothballs. I asked him what that was all about and he said his wife was deathly afraid of mice and believed that mothballs would keep them away. He said there were mothballs all over the house. His wife was a heavy smoker and neither he nor she had enough olfactory sensors left to be able to smell them. He assured me that she had never smoked in the car. The lighter and ashtray condition backed up his claim. I decided to go ahead with the sale hoping I could get the smell out of the car. We exchanged paper and I headed off to Colorado.
Although the weather was great, the car had the hardtop on and the smell soon started to get to me. I had the vents pointed at my face and the fan on 4 but the smell of mothballs was overpowering. About 50 miles out of Albuquerque I pulled off the freeway and went on a search and destroy mission for mothballs. I found 13 of them in the cockpit and 10 more in the trunk. I thought this would make it livable for the rest of the trip. I was wrong.
When I got to Trinidad, Colorado I was quite sick and getting worse by the mile. I pulled into a self serve car wash and stripped out the floor mats, the carpeting in the trunk and all the other items that came with the car which were stored in the trunk and had at the car, mats and trunk contents with the power washer. The fresh air during the car wash revived me somewhat and I got back on the road. I drove well over the speed limit the whole trip just to get it over with. By now I was wondering whether I was going to be able to keep the car.
Once I got the car home I removed the hardtop and let the car sit in the sun for several days while I recuperated from the mothballs. When I was ready to tackle the smell again I removed the seats and the rear carpets. The seats and carpet got shampooed twice and the rest of the interior cleaned and cleaned again along with the trunk. I found a few more mothballs at this point but was relatively sure I had finally removed all of them.
I was finally making progress and the smell was far less noticeable. It took nearly a year before the smell went away completely but finally I was able to drive my car without being bothered by the smell.
I suffer from a common disease called CLIS (Can't Leave It Stock). Soon after I got the car home I started planning the modifications. First came FM springs and Illumina shocks along with sway bars. Now it was time for more power. I had driven FM's Whoosh and Poki, the one turbocharged and the other supercharged and knew I was sooner or later going to have to have forced induction.
There was a waiting list for FM turbo kits in those days and I paid my 50% deposit and waited, and waited and waited. One fine day I got a call from Bill Cardell informing me I had made it to the top of the list. They were about to transition from the FM turbo kit to the FMII system. There was one of the old FM systems left and I could have it or I could wait for the FMII. I elected to wait and while waiting for the kit to arrive I added an FM single turbo exhaust, ACT clutch and an FM radiator to the car. The sound of that exhaust without the turbo was the best exhaust note I have ever heard on a Miata. After a few more months four big boxes showed up on my doorstep. I got the second kit, Bill Cardell got the first one. There were no instructions for the FMII kit.
I had ordered the kit with un-painted plumbing as I wanted to paint mine yellow to match the car. It took me about 20 hours, not counting prep and paint of the plumbing, to install the kit with only a few calls for help from Bill. About the time I was close to starting the car for the first time, Bill and Teri came to Denver for a club event at a Mazda dealer, the highlight of which was to preview the first NB Miata. Bill helped with the last details of the install and did the first tuning. At that time the Link software was very crude and Lab Link did not exist. Bill drove the car and tuned it using the narrow band O2 sensor and the autotune feature of the Link. Then it was my turn. The first wide open throttle event was a revelation. It was Miata bliss.
This car and I have had an eventful life together. I caught the track day bug and she has more than 7,000 track miles on her. Along the way I have blown up three engines, one transmission and planted her on a tire wall and outhouse at the track. I have added 100,000 miles to the 24,000 she had on her when I bought her, the most I have put on any car I have owned. She has been repainted twice and almost every moving part has been replaced at least once. I have owned a number of Miatas along side her including one of the 2002 Vivid Yellow Miatas. Same color, just a different name. A total of 24 Miatas have now been under my ownership and care but the Sunburst is the one I just can't sell. She has been retired from the track and track duty has been assumed by my Caterham SV which is powered by a turbocharged Miata engine - the Miata of the Month from January 2008.
Will you be next?