Moss Miata
The Miata of the Month from

June 2012

Albert Rizos and his 1990 "color car"

Congratulations to Albert on the selection of his unique 1990 as the June Miata of the Month!

My half brother, Peter Montero, is an auto designer and product planner currently with Hyundai. Back in 1990, he worked for Bob Hall in Mazda's R&D studio in Irvine, CA. He and two other recent Art Center graduates were the first Americans employed in the home design studio in Hiroshima before he returned to the states to work for Bob.

When the Miata hit the market, I read all about it and was very interested, glad I'd held off on buying anything else. Peter borrowed a regular production Miata from the studio's fleet for a weekend so we could take it for a spin around Rancho Palos Verdes. I had also very recently test driven a friend's pristine, very low mileage Turbo Supra and after a couple full throttle blasts found it just plain boring, boring, boring, and impractical, to boot, much to my surprise. I returned it within about 30 minutes.

Peter and I told our wives we'd be back in 30 minutes while they sipped coffee and chatted that perfect Saturday morning. We returned two hours later. Maybe more. What a hoot, top up, top down. I was sold.

Some short time later he told me about six Irvine clinic cars that the studio had commissioned from the home factory in Hiroshima, Japan, painted one-off colors prior to assembly. Such specially commissioned clinic cars were normally disposed of after the R&D staff evaluated them for production potential. However, in this case, these Miatas would be made available to staff to buy by raffle.

He and I went in on one, Peter putting his name in on the blue one and the misty green one, as I recall. They would be sold at dealer cost plus $500. I had to promise I would NOT turn around and sell it to make a fat profit, as Miatas were commanding a nice premium above sticker in those days and the R&D staff would not appreciate that.

I kept my word; that was over 21 years ago. As luck would have it, Peter's name was picked and we selected the blue one, a metal flake medium blue B package with a manual transmission. Everything but the color was regular production stock.

I was notified that it was shipped to Westcott Mazda in National City, a suburb of San Diego, as I had requested, since I live in Eastlake, just east of Chula Vista proper. I went to the dealership to pick it up and saw it sequestered well out of the way. The sales manager told me in no uncertain terms that it was NOT for sale, that it was a factory custom one-off for display purpsoes only and that it belonged to the General Manager. I produced paperwork that said otherwise and that was thankfully settled. I bought the car. Hallelujah.

It came with the factory window sticker but stating an experimental paint code on it and on the door sill stickers where the VIN is found. It was painted prior to assembly, which is evident wherever one looks, e.g., the trunk area, engine compartment, under the carpeting, etc., etc. It came with a small can of the paint for touching dings, which I still have. It would come in handy!

I've never had the luxury of allowing it to be a garage queen, and have thoroughly enjoyed driving it anyway, so I have regularly commuted in it to work and did a couple 2,000 mile skiiing road trips with my wife, plus a few back country rallies with the local Miata Club. It's lined up with other clinic cars in the 1992 photo at the San Diego auto museum. It now has over 200,000 miles!

Unfortunately, I discovered very quickly after buying it that the color coat was chipping away at an alarming rate. I appealed to Mazda for help, who determined that the color coat had not bound properly to the primer. Peter contacted his friends back in the home Hiroshima studio and they provided the necessary one-off paint formula, which I still have. Mazda had all the external surfaces repainted with a very high quality paint job, including clear coat, as done in Hiroshima. As it has since been garaged approximately 2/3 of its life, and I've kept it polished and waxed, etc., it has stood up very well over time except for the clear coat on the trunk lid which started peeling along the forwardmost edge last year. The paint along the door window moldings has also very slightly peeled (about 1/16 inch) in a couple small places, exposing the original metal flake blue paint.

Last month John Hine Mazda in San Diego repainted the trunk lid, the panel between the roof and trunk lid, and the rear fenders (standard practice to blend it in, I was told) with an absolutely perfect match. All other surfaces are as repainted 20 years ago, including the bumpers, as is evident in a couple scuff marks and and minor chips that should be expected over such mileage. There is a minor ding in one door. The engine suffered one of the thankfully well publicized 1990 crankshaft failures at 108,000 miles (several months after the timing belt replacement), so again I appealed to Mazda for help, resulting in a fresh factory long block replacement, cost prorated for mileage. Mods include only a Jackson Racing CAI kit, an aftermarket exhaust system, two chassis braces, adjustable Koni's, lighted rear view mirror, and Mazda steel door sills. The factory top required replacement with an OEM Robbins top several years ago.

It's been an interesting conversation piece. Most of all, it's just been a very fun car, being a Miata.

Read more about the six color cars

Previous Miata of the Month Winners

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