The Story Of The One That Got Away, And How I Got It Back

April 2012 was a good month for me. I had just purchased my first home and still had a little cash left over that I used to buy a 1994 Miata on a bit of a whim. My new townhouse had a two car garage and since it was just me living there at the time, I figured I should treat myself to a little something fun to fill up the garage. After about an hour on Craigslist, I found a guy in St Paul selling what looked like a really clean, well-sorted Miata. I didn’t really picture myself as a Miata owner but if I were to picture my perfect Miata, this would be it. It was jet black with a tan leather interior and matching tan top. It sat low on a gorgeous set of dark bronze BBS wheels and it had a racy looking rollbar inside that completed the look. I reluctantly went to test drive it, not really expecting to like it but figuring it would be a good place to start my search for a fun summer car. It took me less than 500 feet to decide that I had to have it.

The weather in Minnesota during the month of April can be iffy at best. It’s often cold, sometimes rainy, but luckily we didn’t see any late snow that year. It didn’t matter what the weather was like to me though. With my new-to-me Miata, it was always top-down weather, much to the anguish of my then-girlfriend, now-wife. I’d talk her into wearing ten extra layers just so we could drive top down to run errands any time it was even slightly above freezing. She’d often complain about having to balance multiple bags of groceries in her lap as I’d fling the little roadster through corners on the way home from our local Target or Cub Foods since the minuscule trunk didn’t hold very much. Those complaints went in one ear and out the other for me though. Nothing could put a damper on how much fun I was having behind the wheel of that car.

I spent the next four months driving the Miata everywhere, often at full throttle, listening to the blaring 4-cylinder howl through the ceramic headers and Racing Beat exhaust. The harder I drove it, the more the plucky little car cemented itself a place in my heart. I told myself I was going to keep it forever and took care of it as such. Then, just a week or two after the car’s new title with my name on it showed up on my doorstep, the whole dream came crashing down, literally. On the way to work one morning on one of my favorite back roads, I was t-boned by someone who ran a stop sign. My beloved Miata took a direct hit to the driver’s side door, shattering the window into my face and just generally ruining my day. Within a day or two of the accident, I heard back that my insurance company would be totaling out the car and would be sending me a nice, fat check for my troubles.

Although I had turned a 25% profit on the car with the money from the insurance company, I spent the next 6 years missing that car and often looking for something else to fill that void. A 2013 Subaru WRX. A 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo. Even a 1985 Alfa Romeo Spider. None of them were good enough. I still spent countless late nights browsing Craigslist for Miatas like the one I had. I wanted one with around 100k miles so I wouldn’t feel guilty driving it, but I also wanted it to be well-maintained, tastefully modified, and rust free. It couldn’t be red and a leather interior would be preferred. In those 6 years, I never found another Miata that I liked enough to pull the trigger on. Even when I found some potential candidates, there was something else in the way. Either a lack of space or I didn’t have enough money at the time or there was a foot of snow on the ground. I was starting to become convinced I’d never find another Miata as nice as what I had. My then-girlfriend, now-wife who was so sick of me obsessing about my old car urged me to consider something else instead, or at least focus on the other fun cars we already had.

Then, just a few weeks ago, the guy I had originally bought the car from sent me a message with a link to a black Miata located just 8 blocks down the road from where I currently live. He was convinced it was the same car we had both once owned, and we both now lusted after. Sure enough, after browsing the photos and comparing them to some old photos I had of the car, it looked like close enough of a match to convince me to go take a look. I called up the owner’s neighbor who was helping him sell it and offered to come by that night to take a look. Just in case, I dug through some old boxes in the garage and found a spare key I had hung onto as a memento. I figured if this was really my old car, this key would prove it.

Sure enough, with a twist of my old key in the ignition, the car came to life. All the old details were still there, it even smelled just like I remembered it. It was like putting on a perfectly broken in baseball glove. It turns out that the current owner went through a phase where he collected Miatas and he bought mine at a salvage auction and managed to get it fixed up with a new front fender and door skin, and repaired the rear quarter panel and had it painted, all for roughly $1,000. Luckily, the frame checked out as straight so all the new panels lined up like they should and he didn’t need to do anything there. It even got a new coat of black paint and a new tan top in the process! I was worried that he had brought some of the suspension bits back to stock, but it turned out he just raised the expensive aftermarket¬†coilovers to their highest and softest setting so his wife wouldn’t mind driving it. A quick test drive around the block confirmed that the car was every bit as fun as I remembered, and I got back to the owner later that night saying I had to have it. It was serendipity at its finest. Heck, it might even be fate. But I knew I’d never get another chance to own this car again if I passed up this opportunity. Surprisingly, even my wife was 100% on board with the plan. I didn’t know what I’d do with the car or where I’d put it, but I just knew I had to bring it home once again.

About a week later, I came back and purchased the car and I haven’t stopped smiling since. I spent the following weekend tinkering with it in my garage and even sourced the old wheels I used to have on it. It’s now back to its proper ride height and I had our Morrie’s Minnetonka Mazda shop give it a thorough inspection, replacing all of the fluids, the timing belt, a wheel bearing, and some leaky seals, on just my second day of ownership. With all the maintenance done and up to date, I can now drive it guilt-free. The guy I most recently bought it from only managed to add 5,000 miles to it in the 6 years he owned it and to me, that seems like almost a bigger shame than me losing the car after only 4 months the first time around. My goal is to put at least that many miles on it each year from here on out and enjoy every single mile I put on the odometer!

By | 2018-08-21T15:37:35+00:00 August 21st, 2018|Cars We'd Like to Own, Projects|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Richard Wright August 23, 2018 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Great story.

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