Carve The Canyons, Stir The Soul: <br />The Perfect Miata
Gotta Get That Feeling

To me, automobiles might be the most emotional objects on the planet, and if you are reading this I’d say there’s a good chance you’d agree. For us, cars are much more than just devices to get from point A to point B, and the emotional responses they bring out in us can be overwhelming.

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What kind of responses do they trigger? Well, that depends on what type of car it is. Some vehicles can blow our minds while simply standing still. A Lamborghini Miura for example, is an automobile so beautiful that it need not move to make us fall in love.

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Other cars win our favor through incredible feats of engineering – whether it’s a modern race car designed in a high-tech laboratory, or something created by the hands of a skilled backyard fabricator.

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A classic car might appeal to our interest in history, and then there are those cars that are so fast that they instill genuine fear in us. The point is, cars aren’t just machines to us – they are objects that produce powerful emotional reactions.

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And of all these emotional reactions, none is more powerful, or more basic, than the one that says, ‘I want to drive this!’ The car in question might not be the most beautiful you’ve ever seen, nor the fastest, but it makes you want do nothing more than hop behind the wheel and drive it. It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words, but you certainly know it when it happens.

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This brings me to a car we recently had the chance to spend some time with in the mountains above Los Angeles. It’s a 1999 Mazda Miata built by Jeremy D’Ambrosio, and I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that this one of the coolest and most well-rounded Miatas on the planet.

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Jeremy picked up the NB-chassis Miata four years ago when he relocated from Pennsylvania to Southern California for school. USC? UCLA? No, Jeremy came to SoCal to attend the Art Center of Design in Pasadena – a educational facility that’s turned out some of the world’s best automotive designers.

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It’s reasonable to say that many of the students that pass through the halls of the Art Center are huge car enthusiasts and Jeremy is no exception. He chose a Miata not only for its renowned handling, but because the simple and attractive aesthetics of the car allowed him to go in any direction he wanted.  A true designer indeed.

An Exercise In Design
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In fact, a big part of Jeremy’s goal was not just to have a car that he could take to local track days or SoCal’s great mountain roads, he wanted to use it as a test subject for various styling ideas that passed through his mind.

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A big part of his inspiration came from vintage Japanese race and street cars – namely the distinct look of wide fenders and fat tires. Combine that with the Miata’s original goal of being the modern British roadster, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of Jeremy’s theme with the build.

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In terms of styling, the most outstanding feature is the roof line. The car is running an Autokonexion fastback hard top that gives the car a completely different look from the standard Miata. There’s certainly some Datsun 240Z and maybe even a little Corvette in there…

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With its unique, sweeping roof many people mistake the car for being something other than a Miata – and it’s only the true Roadster nerds that can quickly identify the car’s origins.

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Aside from the altered bodylines, the once feminine NB Miata shape is made more aggressive through a set of Autokonexion fender flares, Project-G G-Fuser side skirts and Project-G vented quarter windows. If you needed a refresher on Project-G and what they do, make sure you check out Taryn’s story from last year.

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Other details that add to the retro racer look include a set of Garage Vary nostalgic tailights, a Garage Vary front lip and a set of carbon staggered mirrors from Japanese Roadster speciality shop Zoom Engineering.

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Jeremy says he’s completely okay with having an overstated car, and other exterior touches – like the polished aluminum hood and oversized rivets – help give the Miata a rough, in-your-face look.

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As for wheels, the car is running a set of R-Type RS Watanabes measuring 14×8-inch in the front and 14×8.5-inch in the rear with sticky Toyo Proxes R888 rubber all around. In my mind there’s just no beating the look of 14s and meaty tires on a Miata.

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Today’s Miata scene is full of people that build their Roadsters simply to look cool and cruise at a leisurely pace. But Jeremy is not one of those guys. This becomes immediately apparent when you open the hood and find that the Mazda’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is fitted with a Rotrex C30-74 centrifugal supercharger.

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Other engine work includes a Mazdaspeed intake cam, a Racing Beat header and mid pipe, along with Mazdaspeed engine mounts. As for electronics there’s a full Megasquirt DIYPNP engine management system along with an AEM UEGO wideband controller. When everything is dialed in, the set up sends an impressive 235 horsepower and 183lb/ft of torque to the rear wheels – more than enough to allow the featherweight NB to keep up with more powerful modern machinery.

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Aside from the performance upgrades made to the motor, Jeremy has also approached the Miata’s engine bay with a similiar eye for aesthetics. Visual upgrades include a Garage Star cowl cover and Project-G Precision Series plug cover, oil cap and dipstick handle. In this shot you can also spot the Cobalt three-point brace.

Style + Function
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Having the right footwork is a huge part of having a proper Miata experience, and Jeremy’s car does not disappoint in this area. It’s running a set of XIDA Clubsport coilovers from AST, along with Flyin’ Miata sway bars and 949Racing adjustable end links.

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Braking ability is enhanced by a set Hawk HP Plus pads with DBA X-Gold rotors and StopTech braided brake lines.

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As with a lot of the world’s great Miata builds, the interior on this car is just as impressive as the exterior. Starting on the safety side, there’s a Blackbird FabWorx GT3 roll bar and Bethania Garage door bars.

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The seats are factory buckets from a Lotus Elise mounted on RyokuRob brackets – together a very popular retrofit modifcation for Miata owners around the world.

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The steering wheel is a custom-trimmed 375mm Nardi mounted with a Garage Star hub extender, which matches perfectly with the old school theme.

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Further retro style is added by a custom self-upholstered center console with RyokuRob trim rings. RyokuRob also provided the stainless steel shifter which lends a raw and functional look.

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Other little details in the cockpit include cool items like a set of revlimiter gauge faces and a rare Mazdaspeed lap timer.

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Overall, the design cockpit just begs you to strap in and find a cool road. This is something that goes back to that ‘I need to drive this’ feeling I spoke of earlier.

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Being a design student, Jeremy is always looking for ways to change and improve upon the car’s setup. At the moment he’s working on wider, more aggressive bodywork and also considering stripping down the interior even further.

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While this Mazda is no doubt impressive both on paper and when you see it in person, the car itself is just one part of Jeremy’s Miata experience. Even more valuable are the memories and the friends he’s made during his journey with this car. It’s a list that includes everything from late-night canyon sessions, to long road trips and lots of hanging out in parking lots.

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Jeremy’s Miata is a car that is fast, functional, cool and unique. More than anything though, it’s driver-oriented nature just makes you want to hop in and find an open stretch of pavement to wind it out on. The way I see it, there’s really no greater praise you can throw on an automobile than that.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike
mike@speedhunters.com

Photos by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

Bonus images
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39 comments

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1

Car of the month, hands down.

2

God I fucking love meaty tires.

3

I've honestly been waiting on this to pop up on here since the instagram post.

4

JakWhite  Yeah, it is certainly up there.

5

I have been dying for this article to come out. Thanks guys! It's fun seeing a car on SH feature some of the same mods I have on mine! I have the mazdaspeed miata and mazda positively screwed up putting 17's on from the factory, can't wait to switch into some 15's.

6

I'm loving the Miata (MX5 here in Oz) love on here, they get a bad rap here as being a hairdresser's car, but I'd love nothing more than a stripped out silver Mk1 with low back buckets, singing through open trumpets and some extractors, with a bolt in cage for some track day fun... Sounds like heaven.

7

Really cool to know that this guy goes to the Art Centre in Pasadena. As an aspiring designer currently building my portfolio towards undergrad, it's even cooler to see that someone has a passion for more than just the aesthetics of the car, also the engine and the culture revolving around it.

8

Swonz Jeremy and I discussed this after we cruised around Angeles Crest. It turns out he is kind of a rare breed. Most of the people in his class could care less about the culture. Most of them are just there to design things for transportation, not for the passion. Although he did mention that there are a few that understand his passion, but they just are not into it as much as he is.

9

robzor I love the Mazdaspeed Miata. Small car plus boost equals awesome.

10

Larry Chen robzor It's getting more awesomer! Maybe someday mine will be worthy of your lens!

11

+1 for yandere plate

12
Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

InnerToxicity +1 on that mate, Im from sydney and nothing brings a faster smile to my face than being in a friends NB and fanging up the Putty rd all the way to singo and back. Yes a bit bias in aus as a hairdressers car but thats the fun, seeing much more expensive machinery being pulled away on around the twistys. Cool stuff guys, this car rocks.

13
Cranky old fart

What? Rear GV lights look like they are going to pop out any second. And that horrible center console cover! Please, something else than bolt on and end up here.

14

Larry Chen Swonz My friend went to Art Center as a product design major and he said that he knew much more about cars than the vast majority of people in transportation design.  It's pretty sad because my friend isn't really a car guy, so I can only imagine how little car knowledge is possessed by the people that are supposedly studying to be the car designers of tomorrow.  I also heard that transportation design placement rates are pretty horrible; something like one in ten graduates get a job in the industry.

15

Love that hardtop look....

16

LionZoo Larry Chen Swonz
It was my dream to go to Art Center :(

17

Larry Chen Swonz I know a few Industrial Designers and the theme I see in all of their work is that they are too focussed on making their products look futuristic. 
One of them is designing an urban transportation vehicle but the design looks like a blob. Lots of plastic, complex shapes and LOADS of computer controlled features. He also doesn't have a car himself so no point of reference.

I'm worried for the car of tomorrow if it's designed by someone that is too busy with applying theoretical human-interface theories and making the car look like the new iPhone rather than looking at why people choose to drive a certain vehicle.

That said, I think Jeremy is on the right track. The Miata was made for one purpose: to drive well and further enhancing that without losing the original essence gets nothing but praise in my book. Jinba Ittai: Horse and rider acting as one.

18

car of the month, hands up(in praise).....Now go find garage Woolery's NA! haha

19

Love cars with beefy tires. So sick.

20

Jeremy's near OCD level of attention to detail really shines through in all the best ways in his work, and this car is no exception.  I'm always amazed in the presence of Jeremy's art and handiwork, and it really shines through in every single centimeter of this amazing car.

In many ways, I'm much more impressed by Jeremy's work than other impresarios in the car culture such as Magnus Walker.  Many of these people can through virtually unlimited amounts of money at their projects...however, Jeremy was able to pull off something every bit as awesome as those six figure cars with little more than a student's income (or rather, lack of it) and vast amounts of passion.

Good form, Jeremy, good form!

21
CarlessHoonigan

The 'Yandere' License plate also tells me that he's aware of a thing or two about anime character archetypes :)

22

nice look! but, you could just buy an old TVR and be ready...

23

This car is on point. The center console cover is the only thing that looks bad on this thing. (I may have chosen a different color for the roll bar, too. But I don't hate it.) It's come such a long way in the last couple of years. Love it!

24

I hate seeing great looking miatas. the reason for this is because I am 6 foot 3 inches and there is no way in hell I could roll around in this and fit or be comfortable. I have an S14 and its not hard to get in and out but it definitely could be easier if my car was bigger. For the longest time I have always wanted an NA Miata and seeing this is just AWESOME!! GOOD JOB covering this car and GREAT JOB to the owner of this car.

25

@tom Just roll round in summer with the roof off! You could look over the top of the windscreen? ;)

26

I love everything but that polished hood. Glare ain't never good. ;)

27

The side profile of the car is just awesome!

28

thats what i like! still stock radio? put a mini ipad there

29

Slick.. Love the seats too

30

Looks like it took inspiration of th Triumph GT6...

31

@tom Be prepared to be elated, because using Lotus Elise/Exige seats plus RyokuRob seat rails will give you all the head and leg room you need.  I'm 6'2" and I have over 4" of head room and more legroom than I need with this setup.

32

Love this article. Plenty of inspiration for my Racing Silver NB8 Mx5! So much stuff I love, and so much stuff I would do differently, but that's the whole point! I'm really liking that cage, not sure if you can get Blackbirds stuff in the UK though.

33
mbretschneider

Really inspirational, if i wasnt myself some 20.000 km from the art college center of pasadena, i would have completed my design degree there, most certainly!
I too want a set of watanabes with chunky tyres, but for the big 626 i would go with 15 or 16 to keep the chunky tires in an easy to find measure around here...

34

Robo_No1 No problem getting a Blackbirds to the UK, you'll just have to bite the shipping cost.

35

GMR is such a bland location to shoot. Switch it up, everyone and their mom goes there.

36

CarlessHoonigan Tsundere is much more kawaii hahaha

37

By for one of the coolest Miatas I have ever seen.

39

@Jason R thats not GMR

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