Live Auctions

My Sun Valley Ranch Find

The Ranch

Since posting a photo of a 300SL, a few of you have been wondering what I bought while I was over in Sun Valley. Well, a few days before that trip I had stumbled upon a classified ad for a 1990 Miata with only 6,000 miles on the odometer. I’ve been a big fan of the early Miatas for a while now, but all the ones I’ve owned have been high mileage examples so this listing really caught my eye. There wasn’t much information provided, but a call was made and a viewing date scheduled.

The Barn

I didn’t know what to expect when my wife and I started the 150 mile journey to the famous ski destination. The seller was going to text me the address when we got closer. So, after lunch we received our coordinates and headed out. After driving a few miles we came to a dirt road and a ranch sign. A few more miles brought us past a nice home and onto a paved section of road where a few metal buildings were situated. One of the overhead doors was open and I could barely make out the front of a shiny red sports car inside.

1990 Miata

It was just how I expected a brand new Miata to look. Stunning! The red paint had a glow to it that none of my cars had ever exhibited. The paint on the bumpers and top of the mirrors was still shiny! If you have ever owned a first gen Miata then you know that is a rare thing. We were greeted by a friendly looking gentleman and his two dogs. He let me look the car over for a minute and then he started to tell me the story of how this little car had only managed to travel 6,000 miles in 25 years.

Perfect bumper

Turns out he was the ranch manager and the ranch where the car resided was owned by a wealthy family. They would fly in each summer to visit the ranch and he was in charge of making sure the cars were all clean and fueled up when they arrived. The Miata had been purchased new as a 50th birthday gift for the ranch owner’s wife. She wanted a Miata because her friend had just taken delivery of one. So, her husband ordered one from Mazda, put a big red bow on top, and had it delivered to their ski condo.

Family photo

She loved the car, but decided to leave it at the ranch so she could enjoy the mountain roads up there. Over the years she was able to introduce the thrill of sports car driving to her daughter and then her granddaughter, but it just wasn’t being enjoyed as much as it had once been. The ranch manager would still get it cleaned up and park it in front of the house every summer, but now that the owner is 75 years old, she decided that it might be a good idea to move it on.


That’s where I came in. Cash was handed over and all the paperwork was returned. We have featured a few freakishly low mileage Miatas over the years and I’ve been wanting to experience one for a while now. You can’t buy a new 1990 Miata anymore, so this was a close as I was going to get. After sitting down inside the car, the first thing I noticed was how firm the foam in the seat was. Mine never felt like this! It was great. There wasn’t any wear on the seats and the brake pedal felt firm. As I shifted into first, I was surprised by how tight everything felt. The journey home was as pleasurable as a convertible without cruise control can be.

Headed out

The few twisties encountered were very entertaining and quickly revealed where the Miata really feels at home. I took it pretty easy though because the car is still riding on its original factory installed tires. This journey was like a blast from the past! The car performed like it was brand new and the seller even threw in the cassette tapes that were with the car. Some selections included Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, and even a Beach Boys tape that I actually owned back in the nineties!


That drive home was memorable, but honestly I felt sort of guilty putting miles on the car. I have no problem flogging high mileage Miatas, but something like this is special. Apart from not having A/C, this is my dream spec Miata. It’s a base model, so that means no frills – manual steering, no radio, no cruise, and steel rims. Just the way I like it! A few people have told me I should use it as daily transportation, but I personally think it should be preserved. My current plans for it include removing that aftermarket tape deck and changing all the fluids. Beyond that, who knows…


  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    But Miata’s were made to enjoy! Don’t feel guilty driving it!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Oh, I do feel guilty! Watching that odometer go from 5,999 to 6,000 was painful.

  2. Jeff Staff

    Wow, I’m guessing you snared a car not many people had a chance to check out. Good to pay attention to the classifieds. My aunt had an M-Edition that remained a stock, low-mileage example: birthday present from my uncle, used on nice days, then gradually not used at all. Congrats!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I dont think anyone had looked at it yet. The price was higher than most people would want to pay for a play car like this. I think it was still a good buy though.

      • al8apex

        PLEASE, get rid (save if you wish) of those ancient tires. a FRESH new set of shoes will enhance your driving enjoyment of your red roadster (an identical version of what we bought new in June 1989)

  3. Cory

    tires would be a good investment. Maybe even wheels. Throw the originals on a shelf. They are worth something for history, but worthless for driving. And keep the factory finish fresh on those wheels. Good score. Some of my best finds have been the shortest descriptions, the quirkiezt owners and the scariest situations.

    • al8apex

      NEW TIRES are a MUST, thanks for commenting

  4. Another Bob

    I bought the best car I have ever purchased in Sun Valley, Idaho. Great place to buy anything timeless. I also journeyed to Dallas to buy my 1999 Miata 10ae. It also had 6,000 miles.
    Beat up on that car, that is what Miatas were made for!

  5. Dan

    What a great story. I hope I can find my dream car like you found yours!!

  6. jim s

    check to see if it has a limited slip diff. the hot setup for autocrossing back then was a base car with the only option being limited slip. you also need to know which your car has so you put the correct fluid in the diff.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I will check later tonight. I have a feeling this is a stripper though.

  7. jim s

    daily drive the car, that is what they were made for. without a/c the oil filter should be more easy to get at. the manual steering ratio is not that much slower then the p/s ratio. great find. now have fun driving it.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      The manual steering ratio is great! I drove a Miata that supposedly had manual steering a while back, but it was terribly stiff. I’m guessing that it was a power steering car that someone had tried to convert to manual. This one feels much better!

  8. Stuart

    You never said what you paid for it?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Let’s just say that it was substantially more than most people would pay for a 25 year old Miata.

  9. boxdin

    I sure hope that;
    1) I make it to 75 and
    2) I still want to drive.

    • Glen

      My Dad recently turned 91, and went and bought a brand new Altima.

  10. grant

    Awesome find. Very nice. Maybe don’t drive it daily, but don’t turn it into a paperweight either. What a nice car to take cruising with the wife on summer nights though.

  11. Al

    One thing I got a kick out of with some more recent Miata owners. When a friend of mine was driving us around in his Lotus Elan that he had looking near new the Miata folks accused Lotus of copying the Miata! Until he explained it was the other way around. But I must say the Miata seems to be much more reliable then the Elan.

  12. Brent

    I drive by that ranch every weekend during hunting season. Glad you had a good find there

  13. Steve

    Being an old school muscle car guy…I still appreciate all cars. Very nice find…wishing you all the best for fun and enjoyment!!!

  14. Billy

    As I car guy I happily say Congrats to you! – always fun to see someone find a grail from their want list!

    I get the Lotus inspiration, but I’ll never understand the appeal of a Miata…

    I used to tease my Miata-mad buddy but calling it a “Miata get a different car”.

    To each their own – that’s what make this hobby so fun!

    Seriously though, drive it like you stole it and have fun. =)

  15. Wayne

    I’ve never seen an MX-5 with steel rims. Is that common in the US? A low-spec model perhaps? They’ve all had alloy wheels in Australia as far as I’ve ever noticed.

    • jim s

      yes the early base models ( not sure when mazda stopped offering steel wheels ) came with steel wheels which some dealers used to replace with aftermaket wheels. the dealers would then make extra profit on the markup. i would buy the takeoff steel wheels, keeps some wheels for myself and resell the rest. i used the wheels i kept to mount my autocross tires on until i got tired of switching wheel all the time and went back to using street tires full time. everyone i knew who was racing a miatas back then had extra sets of steel wheels.

  16. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    You have the closest thing they’ve made since MG went out of business.

    Loved these cars, especially the first ones, they were MG’s that never broke down, like the ones in our dreams.

    Later ones gained a little weight, but still a nice car.


  17. Cat7

    Oh for petes sake…..go drive it! Whether it has 6,000 or 26,000 miles it’s still a low mileage Miata! And as far as not telling us the price? There’s a dozen guys on this list who would give you $1,000 more than you paid for it regardless of the number. So tell us.

    I’ve had a supercharged Bugeye, a couple Caterhams and now a ’69 Porsche in the last 10 years. Still want an early Miata….

  18. Magic Mike

    Why is the top up in all the pictures?

  19. Paul

    With only 6000 miles after 25 years – make sure the timing belt and water pump were done – or if not do them VERY soon!

  20. Doug M

    I’ve been searching for a low mile stripped Miata for track days, any chance you’d flip this one?

  21. Chris A.

    I’m thinking a Miata is a latter day Alfa Gulietta, but stronger and reliable. I still see the BRG special edition/tan interior Miata with the 5 speed as one of the best of the series.

  22. J Jefferson

    You may not be a Miata virgin, but second to getting new tires, you need to verify if it has the short nose crankshaft or not. I’m betting that has never been addresses.

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