How To Build A Cyberpunk MX-5, Computer-Free

Once upon a time, automobile concept design was strictly an analogue art form, brought about by pen on paper. The digital era has changed things significantly, and while you can’t fake talent, the latest 3D rendering software is bringing ideas to life in the most convincing ways.

It was while poring over realistic, cyberpunk-style automotive renders that Chris Watson was inspired to create his own four-wheeled piece of sci-fi automotive art. But instead of doing it pixel by pixel on a computer, the 24-year-old did for it real inside a small garage in rural New Zealand.


“I’ve been working on cars since I was 13 years old,” says Chris. My previous build was an S13 Silvia with a one-of-a-kind FJ22ET engine swap. It was a pretty challenging sleeper build where I focussed entirely on the engine and chassis, but after five years working on that, I wanted to try my hand at custom bodywork. Among other things, I’ve been a big fan of the cyberpunk genre and grew up with films and shows like Bladerunner, Akira, Ghost in the Shell etc… so a lot of that influence motivated this build.”


Using the venerable first-gen Mazda MX-5 as the base for the build was a no-brainer for Chris. “There are a lot of people doing renders of cyberpunk cars, but I wanted to actually give it a shot in real life. I went for an MX-5 because it’s the perfect rear-wheel drive, ’90s-era sports car, and because it has pop-up headlights.”


By contrast, Chris’s previous builds, which on top of the previously mentioned ’88 Silvia have included a ’93 Honda Integra and a ’96 Mitsubishi Lancer GSR, have all been quite tame. With the MX-5, the idea was to think right outside the box and experiment with new things, and Chris hopes that his build will encourage others to not be afraid to do the same.


A huge amount of work has gone into the Mazda’s exterior, and for anyone interested, there’s an entire build thread where Chris updated progress on a regular basis. You can check that out here, and also his new YouTube channel here.

The defining feature of the bodywork is the the +100mm fibreglass overfenders, which Chris built from scratch. That is, by pouring foam to form the initial shape.


Other modifications and custom touches included cutting and welding the original fenders to accommodate the wheels and tyres, and creating a GV-style front lip, custom-moulded bonnet vent, and front canards. F1-style fender mirrors were also added, along with a custom 3-piece ducktail and roof spoiler, and 1,450mm wing with custom 6mm clear polycarbonate struts. The list goes on with custom low-profile headlights and a high-power LED light bar, an external oil cooler (cosmetic only), LED under-glow lighting, and custom paint, wrap and decal work.


There was only ever one direction that Chris could go with the wheels, and these custom creations have been perfectly executed. They’re 15×10-inch -50 offset steelies, built using Suzuki Swift factory wheel centres pressed and welded into speedway barrels, fitted with Toyo Proxes R888Rs in a 225/45R15 size. Chris says that his handmade fibreglass aero covers were inspired by turbofan wheels from ’80s and ’90s race cars.


The cyberpunk theme carries through to the interior, which was stripped and resprayed silver before being pieced back together. Here, Chris has added a custom smoked acrylic (and backlit) switch panel, LED lighting, and gauges among other details. The highlight, however, is the custom-mounted ‘cyberdeck’.


You might be wondering what’s under the hood of this unique creation, but don’t get too excited because right now it’s the MX-5’s stock B6ZE 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, enhanced only by a Yoshimura motorcycle muffler. Chris has some plans though, and they fit perfectly with the theme of the build. “Once I have the money for it, the [Mazda] engine will be swapped out for an electric motor,” he says. The conversion will likely feature a Hyper 9 120V AC motor kit good for 120hp and 173ft/lb, and a custom ‘hot swap’ battery layout.


It’s taken 18-months to get the MX-5 to this point, and credit where credit is due, because Chris has done an awesome job of it. On top the EV conversion and a few other small changes, the future of the car will include ditching the wrap for a full exterior respray, a Ver.2 wide-body with side skirts, and hopefully road legal status once again.

And then there’s Chris’s ’00 Mitsubishi L300 van, a future bosozoku-themed project. But that’ll be another story…

Brad Lord
Instagram: speedhunters_brad

Build & Photography by Chris Watson
Instagram: tofuautoworks
YouTube: Tofu Auto Works


How To join the IATS program: We have always welcomed readers to contact us with examples of their work and believe that the best Speedhunter is always the person closest to the culture itself, right there on the street or local parking lot. If you think you have what it takes and would like to share your work with us then you should apply to become part of the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program. Read how to get involved here.



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one simple word- awesome !!!


love this, nice one Chris!




woah! this thing is proper rad!


I've always been in love with the cyberpunk genre, including seeing modern cars be transformed into something we've never imagined. Great build!


Hmm .. Why not a hybrid conversion, electric motor at the back for a theoretical +120 HP and AWD?


So glad to see Miata content on speedhunters. A lot of people go the tried-and-true methods with these cars, using all the same parts. Awesome custom fabrication and execution, especially on the wheels. Overfender customization is cool but very, very few venture into making their own rims!

I have one nitpick for this article though,
"creating a GV-style front lip" is mentioned. We should be using the full name: Garage Vary!

A lot of ebay sellers use the words 'GV style Miata front lip' as a way to say 'hey we're basically ripping off Garage Vary but we can't call them out by name because then it'll make our theft of their design obvious'


"The conversion will likely feature a Hyper 9 120V AC motor kit good for 120hp and 173ft/lb, and a custom ‘hot swap’ battery layout."

so it will quite literally make less power than stock? we have reached peak ricer levels with this one.


FRickenguy (can I call you Frick?) - Whilst it's not something I see myself owning, it's utterly awesome and I love it. Whilst it may not be to your tastes, do you have to be so salty? Can you not understand the level of effort that's gone into it? We're all friends in here and in this day and age, I think we should be encouraging people rather than slamming them for doing something different.

FRick - lets all be friends and get along eh? And if you need me to supply you with a little silicone gel to stop your shift key sticking, let me know.



I hate rice as much as the next guy, but when its literally a themed build such as this I don't think it classifies. I feel like the owner had a vision (one that is guaranteed to not be to everyone's taste, and he executed it.) Takes hard work and vision. True to his own vision and not what's popular on instagram. I respect that, whether or not its what I would personally do. Sometimes you just gotta have fun with life.


Close to double the torque. Depending on the gearing it could be a hoot to scoot about in or just an awesome cruiser.


This. This x 1000. This is the kind of content that keeps me coming back to this site.. Sick build, great idea. Looks great. Different always wins in my book.


This makes me want to spray the owner with a water bottle. No.


Keep the water my friend, stay hydrated. These are trying times.

Mark WiseCarver

Senior Mazda employee, former design tech, here to give two thumbs up.


Hell to the yes! den outta den


The execution is what makes this build. Phenomenal devotion to the cause!


The electric plans too. All out cyberpunk awesomeness! Just imagine this visually deafening thing cruising around so audibly quiet.


I have to say this build is really cool!
The devs from Cyberpunk needs to see this!


Very cool. Lots to like here, for example, the stepped graphic on the rear wheel stripe and the O X taillights. I'm a bit concerned about the longevity of the parallel 6mm polycarbonate uprights, that's pretty thin.


Amazing! It's so good to see something new and fresh. Good on ya, Chris!


That's a real deal !


Please no. You're just encouraging bad behaviour at this point.

Vladimir Ljadov

Yoshimura muffler was something I'm planning to put on my project cr. Nice touch!


I wanna see some themed wheel skirts on this! love the creativity.


Not what I would do with a Miata at all, but it's well executed.


I love the ref to F&F on the computer :D

Daniel Huneault

I really like the turbo fin covers on the wheels! well done!