Miata Starter Car Recommendation

Published: December 12, 2016; updated: February 7, 2017

Looking to buy a car for track duty? A Miata is a great choice. Miatas are some of the more popular cars at track days, and with good reason. Here is what a Miata offers:

Purchase And Preparation

Assuming you are convinced to track a Miata, this is what you will need:

The above will set you back anywhere from $4000 if you get a cheaper Miata and do all of the prep work yourself to $9000 if you get a 99-05 and pay for labor.

Upgrades

The first upgrade on any track-driven Miata should be a track alignment. On a reasonably stock car you will probably not be able to get enough camber; my suggestion is to max out the camber, foregoing left to right equality. Unless you are preparing the car to a particular race or time trial class, get extended lower ball joints.

Tires are the easiest upgrade to perform, make a big difference in the car's performance and - with good alignment - will last for a while, thus offering a good bang for the buck. For a dual-purpose street/track Miata, look into high performance street tires with treadwear around 200. For a dedicated track car, Maxxis RC-1 and Toyo RR are my current HPDE favorites. You'll want to have a track alignment done prior to or at the same time as putting high performance tires on your Miata.

If your Miata is a track-only machine, get fixed bucket seats and harnesses - they make a huge difference in the driver's ability to control the car, and hence make the track days way more enjoyable.

My favorite seat is Momo Daytona Safari which is also pretty close to the largest seat that fits in the car. Installation will require massaging the transmission tunnel to make more room as well as custom mounting brackets for the best fit.

A Miata's strength is its handling. Shocks and springs are next on the list; my strong recommendation is to get Xida club sports. Every person I know who bought them has been happy with them, and the few that had other aftermarket shocks wish they got Xidas sooner. This is a great handling coilover and again built as a race part, designed to withstand the rigors of track duty day after day.

After getting Xidas, install the 949racing recommended sway bars and their adjustable end links.

OEM brakes are fine for stock power levels, as long as the brake system is in good condition. 1.8 (94-00, 01-02 non-Sport) brakes are an inexpensive upgrade for 1.6 cars, and Sport brakes (01-02 Sport package, all 03-05 cars) are even bigger but again, neither is required.

If you are looking for more power, intake, header and exhaust are affordable options to get more oomph out of the car.

Data Acquisition

Want to get faster as a driver? A data acquisition system will tell you where you are fast and where you are leaving time on the table. A great choice is an AiM Solo. It is more expensive than a smartphone but also more accurate and is designed as racing equipment - Solo will not run out of battery in the middle of a day and can be easily operated with gloves on, for example. A Solo costs about 1/4 to 1/6 of a full data acquisition dash like Racepak IQ-3 or AiM MXS.

See you at the track!