Live Auctions

The 6,686 Mile Miata


The seller of this 1990 Miata purchased the car back in 2013 from a craigslist ad. The original owner had put fewer than 1k miles on the car and was keeping it in tip top shape in anticipation of it becoming a collectable. Apparently their patience ran out a few years short of that happening so they decided to sell it to someone who might enjoy it. The story is a good one, but the new owner committed one major sin. Take a look at this pristine roadster here on eBay and I bet you will spot the mistake immediately.


There it is, with purple and green buttons and all! Oh, the sacrilege! Who in their right mind would take delivery of a 23 year old car with under 1,000 miles on the odometer and immediately proceed to install an aftermarket stereo in the dash? Sure, they could have done worse, but if you have been reading Barn Finds for any length of time, then you know that this is a major offense in my book. Perhaps we need to compile a ten commandments of what not to do to a survivor. I propose that “Thou shalt not install aftermarket stereos” as rule number one! All in favor, say aye.


If we can forgive that youthful indiscretion, we will see that this is truly an amazing time capsule. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes for an astronomical amount of money at auction because there can’t be many low mile Miatas still out there. It is just too bad that the guy who spent all those years collecting Mazda Magazine instead of driving the car won’t even get a piece of the pie. I have a feeling he cut this one loose two years too soon because there is no argument in any automotive journalist’s mind that the first generation Miata has now reached iconic status.


This may not be our standard fare around here, but we are always on the lookout for all original cars no matter the era. We are here to to preserve and protect, so if I can give any advice to the seller of this Miata, it would be to pull the listing immediately. After that he should start looking for a mint condition OEM head unit and install it very carefully before relisting the car again. It might not raise the value that much, but he could continue on his journey through life with a clear conscious.


  1. Richard

    The car still has the two original tie-downs inside the front grill. They are NOT tow hooks, they are only mean to be used when the car is first transported to the dealer. The first time you try to use them as tow points you rip off the front end.

  2. Al Member

    I guess the Miata can be called an icon now, have heard several people tell my how Lotus copied their Elan after it! LOL I tried telling them it was the other way around but to no avail. Have to say it was one of Japans better jobs of copying other products.

  3. jacdaw

    I could have forgiven a n.o.s. Nakamichi cassette deck, but that is an abomination.

  4. David

    As nice as it may be, I wouldn’t get it because early Miatas have a crossbar in the top that hits my head, no matter how i adjust the seat. I am not a small person. Later versions were a bit better, but not by much.

    • jacdaw

      Yes – only drive top down? But my left knee got stuck between the door and my hand on the wheel during the highway portion of my test drive (when shifting wasn’t needed). There was no comfy place to rest my left foot w/my 34″ inseam. My MGB had loads of leg room.

      • Brian

        Jacdaw – I have to agree with you about the leg room issue. I also went to check them out at the local Mazda dealer when they first came out, but I never got as far as a test drive because my knee was hitting the bottom of the steering wheel when I needed to press the clutch. I just couldn’t find a comfortable driving position. I encountered my next Miata some twenty years later when I replaced a fuel filter in one. With my back problems, it was no longer comfortable to enter and exit the car. I’ve always seen these as nice little cars and can appreciate their appeal, but it’s hard to get excited about a car that is uncomfortable to drive.

        As a fan of the MGB (especially the GT model), I’m encouraged to know there is more leg room in there. Hopefully, someday, I’ll get the opportunity to sit in and maybe drive one. If I can fit, I know I’d want one!

  5. Jim

    I was thinking the bra.

    • Jim Simpson

      Agree with both the bra and the radio… the paint under the bra will be scuffed for sure…


    OMG, lighten UP!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      The stereo does bother me, but I was being a bit sarcastic here in order to entertain. Guess I didn’t do a very good job…

      • Other Josh

        Technically THIBEAULT would be the one who needs to lighten up since it was sarcastic. But I agree with Jesse, original radios down the road can be hard to find and these flashy aftermarket radios stick out like a… well a flashy aftermarket radio.

      • JMB#7

        I guessed the radio was the major offense. Likewise, I put a radio that works in my ’82 RX7. But I kept the original just in case someone else wants to put it back in some day.

      • Boggs52

        With a car like this, putting a after market stereo is just fine. As long as you put the original in a box for anyone you may sell the car to later.

  7. paul

    Don’t laugh, there will come a day.

  8. Jay

    Why is it that some people cover up the plate on the car when they take a picture?
    Is it covered when they drive down the road? People can see it then can’t they?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Good question Jay. People do this all the time on craigslist, but then they invite you to their house to take a test drive. I’m sure they think they need to cover it up but don’t really know the reason why.

  9. Mike

    I love a survivor, but this is a miata. It’s about as bland as styling gets, and with a gutless drivetrain. It’s a poor copy of better sports cars and it’s a mazda. It will never be very valuable. This cars’ only merit is it’s low miles. Putting an aftermarket Japanese stereo Into a Japanese toy intended for midaged ladies to persue a midlife crisis, and certainly not a sports car built with the spirit or intentions of true sports car enthusiasm. I do hope this car ends up in a museum or prominent collection, or at least enjoyed. Too bad it’s not something interesting, like an early 911 or a lotus or something.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Have you ever driven one Mike?

    • jim s

      or watched a SCCA spec miata race or solo event. mazda RX anything bring good money and there is a 323awd that is at $4500 right now.

    • David

      Clearly you have never owned nor driven one. I find it very sad then people knock what they have no knowledge nor understanding of. I’m personally not a lover of many American cars – but I’d never knock one in public – bad form sir ….

  10. Phoghat

    ” this is a major offense in my book.”
    But that’s just you

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      True, it is my opinion. You are free to disagree. I just have never seen a custom stereo job that has actually added value to a car though. No one wants to deal with amateur installations. I have seen too many wiring messes behind those shiny face plates and too many holes cut in perfectly good dashes.

      • Brian

        I’ve never had a problems with aftermarket stereos in cars made post 1975 IF the dash and, preferably, the wiring has not been hacked up to install it. Too often they have been, so I’d prefer to find a car that still had the factory sounds and add my own stereo to insure that the original can be replaced and no one would ever know the difference! On a car this new and with this much popularity, there should be no excuse to hack in an aftermarket stereo – there are plenty of installation kits and snap connector wiring harness-to-stereo kits available for this car at reasonable prices. I can understand wanting to keep a factory look, but modern blue tooth techology for both music and phone is nice to have too!

  11. Tim H

    I have not had much luck guessing which cars are going to be valuable to collectors. But my guess is it will take a long time for this one to bring down big numbers. A lot were sold, they last a long time and many were bought and garage keep from day one. If you have a place to correctly store it for 20 years it might be a good car to buy. I have a 89 build date with 104,000 and plan to keep racking up the miles. I guess I am not good at delayed gratification. It will be interesting to see what the final bid is on this one.

  12. Doug M. (West Coast) Member

    Commandment no. 2: Thou shalt not lather up everything that is black vinyl with Armor-All! The clean look you’re after is achieved, but it goes over the top… and screams out: “I stopped at Auto Zone and bought everything cheap I could find to help me sell this car!” It says “I ran out of time or I would have put on the black and white fuzzy seat covers, the blue plastic floor mats that say “Corvette” on them, and the thick rubber steering wheel cover with the hand-massaging rubber nubs that stick up on them kinda like a ….well, …you know!?” Anyway, this car is pretty nice, but the Armor-All thing would be a “don’t” in my book. (there are other things you can do to restore the color and clean look without the shine).

    • Dan h

      I totally agree about the Armour All. It is one of the cheesiest things you can do to a car, not to mention destructive. Who’s idea was it to make a car’s interior shiny anyway?
      When you buy a new car from the Dealer,is the dash shiny? – NO.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I second this one. I test drove a used car at a new car dealership the other day and the rubber floor mats were so slathered in the stuff that I literally slipped into my seat! It was humorous, but didn’t make me want the car more.

  13. Pete W.

    I don’t blame them for swapping out the radio as the early Miata am/fm/cassette unit had a chronic circuitry problem which made them hard to live with ( I’ve owned a twin of this car for the past 20 years).

    Moisture would get into the power circuit, and the thing won’t turn on for at least a half hour after the car is started, if not longer. There is a hack for it, but it’s rather involved for those unfamiliar with electronics, so the easier solution is to just upgrade the head unit.

    The original can be repaired and reinstalled if necessary. but there’s no C/D player, nor MP3 connection.

    As far as left leg room goes, simply removing the floorboard footrest buys you an additional 3+ inches of space. I’m rather long legged, and I can stretch my left leg out almost straight.

    The right leg is a bit cramped because they put the handbrake on the wrong side of the console and the handle is too long. There’s a fairly simple way to fix that problem by shortening the handling, if it becomes an issue.

    Living in the Northeast, mine spends 1/3 of the year in the garage (it’s showing a little under 90k miles) but it’s still a blast to drive and I have no plans to get rid of it. Mine’s been so cheap to own, that I have no problem spending a bit on toys for it every now and then.

  14. Paul B.

    Series 1 Miata prices have pretty much bottomed out and are starting to climb, even though they’ve dipped slightly over the past few months. It may be awhile before these cars achieve cult status and the bring the corresponding prices, if they ever do, but that’s not the point of these little buckets. They were designed and marketed as affordable, reliable interpretations of classic British roadsters. They are those things, but they’ve become more in their own right. They’re immensely popular racers, and they bring lots of joy to lots of people. So their value? It’s what they’re worth to the people who like them. As for me, I like to just drive the somewhat beat-up ’97 I bought recently. 155,000 miles. I turned down a couple of low-mile primo-condition garage queens because I wanted to use my car and not worry too much about it. I’m refurbishing it mechanically and maybe someday I’ll do all the bodywork and other cosmetics. This little red 6,686-mile ’90 Miata is a beauty. I might love to own it to admire and polish, but I’d be afraid to drive it. It’s a potential investment if you’re into that, and that’s a valid thing to be into, IMHO. But this is probably not a car to have a ton of carefree fun with, top down, blasting down a country road or around town or around an autocross course listening to that wonderful exhaust sound and clicking another shift home. Look elsewhere for those types of joy.

  15. sunbeamdon

    OK guys and gals – “hear” it is – particularly in my neck of the woods – it is illegal to cross a double-yellow line. Two lashes with a wet noodle to the seller/photographer!

    OK ’nuff said – I haven’t driven a Miata – so question – with a 29″ inseam would I be comfortable driving one?

    • jim s

      time to drive one then let us know what you think of a miata.

  16. achmam

    Having owned two NA’s I will always have a soft spot in my heart for them.

    This looks nice, however there are lower mileage more original cars out there. This car has too many miles to be a true collector item, and not enough so that you can drive it without depreciating.

    The flaw in the story? First owner said it was the second Miata in Oregon, and that he didn’t buy the first one only because it was yellow and he didn’t like yellow.

    Wrong. Yellow Miatas were only made in 1992.

    Yes there were some prototypes (color cars) and one of them was metallic yellow but it was a 1991 model.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I noticed that too. Weren’t red, white, and blue the only color choices when they first came out?

      • jim s

        yes, i think so

  17. jim s

    when i saw this car on Ebay instead of sending in i put in my watch list for some reason! now that it is getting a lot of attention the price will go up, thanks. on the aftermarket radio it is the wiring issues and cuts to dash that are a worry. my first miata came with just 2 extras, floor mats and a limited slip diff. no power anything, a/c or radio and i liked it that way. great find

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Sorry Jim!

      • jim s

        while i am watching it i am glad you did the write up on this car which is good for both the seller and buyers. it is a very interesting miata and it will be fun to watch the bidding. but i would have to see it in person and do the research before i bid and shipping cost would be high.

  18. Bernie Reutemann

    This is a very nice early Miata with an unfortunate sound system change. The best sound system for these cars is the grunting engine, whistling wind and transmission whirr. What’s under that shiny bra? With so many detail pics, couldn’t the seller show us the front end too? Too bad this car wasn’t driven more as these Miatas are such a blast to drive. These are pleasure machines, not investments.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah it is like a kid who bought a new toy only to leave it in the wrapper in hopes that it will be would be worth something someday. The other kids ripped that puppy open and had a good time creating some memories. So, who made the better choice?

  19. FRED

    at 6ft 4in 235lbs with a 36in inseam i could never get in the damn thing without needing a crane to get me out. my ’69 mg midget had more leg room and i could drive with the top up if caught in the rain.

  20. z1rider

    I’m 6″3″, 195 lbs and 36 inseam. I found I could get into a 2004 and be surprisingly comfortable if I took off my shoes. It allowed me to put my feet behind the pedals (between the pedals and the firewall) when on the highway with the cruise set.

    First time (one time) seat adjustment was critical. I found that I needed to first let the seat back come as vertical (un-reclined if you will) as the adjuster would let it. Then I shoved the seat as far rearward as it would go. I would then bring the seat forward just one adjustment notch. Then I would recline the seatback against the back of the parcel shelf. When you do that the recline adjuster will allow the back to come back a bit before the ratchet catches and there will be a small gap between the seatback and parcel shelf. To take care of that, the last step was to then push the seat rearward again that one last notch so as to jamb the seatback as hard against the shelf as possible. Result; the seat bottom is as far back as it will go and the back is as reclined as it can go. You won’t be able to get that last little bit of recline if the seat is at its rearmost point when you lean it back. That was the most optimal way to allow myself to fit in a Miata.

  21. ConservtivesDefeated

    This car is between a rock and a hard place. That is between being practically new and not worth what one might think a practically new 1990 MX 5 would be worth. Whatever that is.

    ts worth is in its driving fun factor but then it’s “worth” whatever that may be gven the value to someone of a practically new 1990 Mx 5 is less once you drive it………..

    And after all thats what it’s for. Seems like other than the curiousity factor you would be better off buying one in sterling conditon that has been well taken care of and driven.

    My guess is that it will sell for a small premium over an excellent condition 1990 but not as much as one would think.

    And then what do you do with it?

  22. Charlie Huntington

    I don’t have a problem with an aftermarket stereo as long as nothing gets cut in the installation. Personally I like good tunes in my cars but refuse to hack them up to get to that point.

  23. Pete W.

    For the record, first year Miatas were also available in silver.

    @ Mike, who, (for some reason known only to himself) chose to disparage what is commonly considered a benchmark automobile as some blandmobile designed for old ladies, it’s painfully obvious that you’ve never driven a Miata, or if you have, don’t understand the philosphy behind it.

    And keep in mind, opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one.

    Miatas were designed to recreate the lower priced British roadsters a lot of us grew up on, only with typical Japanese reliability and durability. It also was designed with additional features that most of those old roadsters lacked, including 4 wheel independent suspension and disc brakes, a slick shifting 5 spd tranny, twin cam engines, a top you could raise with one hand that actually kept the rain out, a heater worthy of the name.
    Throw in an engine that doesn’t leak like it was assembled without gaskets and an electrical system that doesn’t take rainy days off and you’ve got a winner, IMO.

    There were a few cars you could buy with some of those features, but none came with all of them. And none which would be as easy and inexpensive to live with. That’s why Mazda has sold a million of them.

    If that’s not your cup of tea, that’s fine. Not everybody gets it. You’re probably more of a Corvette guy, anyway.

  24. Dolphin Member

    Just to get it on the record:
    — I test drove a Miata in 1989 as soon as they were available. I thought it’s a great fun car then and I still do now.
    — I have opposed the ‘chick car’ put-down of the Miata, in print, everywhere I have seen it. It’s not a chick car. It’s a great fun car.

    But, as far as a collectible……..

    — If someone is trying to pitch this car as a low-mile collectible, which the seller is doing, the last thing you want to do is modify it in any way, especially with a jazzy purple sound system. That’s an instant turn-off for any collector, even if it can be changed out. It raises the question whether anything else was changed in the car. For the price this seller is likely looking for the car needs to be totally original.

    — Like any other car made in the multi-thousands, the Miata will only ever be a great fun car. It will never EVER be “collectible” in the world of cars. Heck, high production for top collectibility is 500 units or less, usually much less. I think the Miata is already over 1 million, and climbing.

    Forget collectibility and just enjoy the Miata. If anyone needs more convincing to do that, just find the piece that Peter Egan wrote for R&T a few years ago on the Miata Club annual meet in Texas I think it was. I challenge any car guy to read that and not want to go out and buy one just for fun.

  25. Paul B.

    Just for the record, my beat-up ’97 also came with … a purple-screen after-market radio! Horrors! It works, by the way.
    And the car’s still a ton of fun.
    And I don’t care if anyone thinks it’s a chick car. That is such bogus thinking. It’s not a chick car or a butch car. It’s a fun car. Quit worrying about your identity and just get out and drive one. You’ll smile.

  26. Chris H.

    I never understood just how awful Armor-All is for a car until I owned a Miata. My 92 Miata came with a rubberized coating on the dash top from the factory, and the previous owner had been using Armor-All on it for years to the point that if it was remotely warm out, the coating turned to a tar-like goop. Heaven forbid a piece of paper land on that mess.
    The radio is an understandable mod, especially if you intend on driving this for any length of time as the factory units were awful in almost every conceivable way. As long as it’s easily changed back to stock though, who cares? Also, I absolutely love the constant derision these cars get from supposed “car guys”, it helps sort out who has actually driven one, and who just regurgitates what he’s heard others say. I’ve owned several British cars and can honestly say that this isn’t a copy, it’s a tribute. You get most of the intended experience without the constant fiddling with SU carbs or dodgy electrics.
    I’m 6’1″ with a 32″ inseam and mine fit like a glove, everything control-wise at hand. My only gripe was this: there’s a stud for the tonneau cover that would nail me in the shoulder blade if I plopped into the driver’s seat too quickly. That hurts like hell!!!

    • Rick

      I would think it must have been an aftermarket product Chris. I don’t recall Mazda ever offering such a product, though I could be mistaken. It may have been on of those “upgrades” dealers often put on vehicles so they could charge a lot more

  27. the chucker

    To go along with the commandment regarding the stereo:

    “Thou shalt not purchase a car designed and built for driving pleasure to be a static display.”

  28. Rick

    I had my NA (90) Miata from Jan 91 until earlier this year. I couldn’t get it running for what the car was worth. They guy I gave it to now has it running again. It burns rubber now, something it would never do before unless I was whipping the wheel and jamming the pedal down. He said the timing gear was off 1/2 tooth…1/2 tooth. He says it runs like a scalded cat now and he’s owned Alfas and other types. Anyone who says they are girls cars and don’t run worth a tinkers damn has either never really driven one (and doesn’t know how to drive them) and is regurgitating the crap he heard or is a V8 guy or both. He should be glad this is one place BS is still allowed by the leadership :)

    • z1rider

      Off 1/2 a tooth? Not possible. It could be off 1 or 2 or more but the timing sprocket teeth are not divisible.

  29. jim s

    the SCCA national runoff results are now posted to the web. please look at the results for all classes and count the number of miatas that were entered and see where they finished. seems like the miata is the real deal stock or not stock. ( also notice that non-stock midgets/sprites are still holding their own ).

  30. jd

    Ok~ I’ll tell you I know nothing about Mazda’s, so I looked at the ad~ What was I suppost to be looking for? I saw a service record for 30k performed @133 miles(Humm suspicious?)~ but being a unknowing fool~ so What’s up with the ad I suppost to see besides thats?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Any car that has sat for a long period of time, regardless of mileage, needs to be serviced. Fluids get stale and rubber belts crack, so it is a good thing that they performed a full service. Otherwise you would run the risk of damaging things when you go to start it up.

  31. AMCFAN

    Lots of good replys. Pete W, Dolphin Thanks Jesse this is again one of your many good calls. I too wince at the thought of the aftermarket radio as well. My thought that ANY change would include a picture of the original parts that were removed.
    It won’t be too long that we will be seeing a low mileage Civic SI or first gen Scion XB

  32. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    SOLD for $9,000 with 33 bids! With most Miatas trading hands for a couple thousand, this proves that low mileage examples have now reached collectible status. I bet if he hadn’t messed with the stereo this little survivor would have reached five figures. Let’s just hope the next owner has the sense to set it all right. Well sold!

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