In all the car magazines, every once in awhile a story pops up that starts with a writer waking up early, hopping into an exciting car that needs to be reviewed, and then taking a spirited drive on some twisty roads. One recent Saturday morning, the rest of the family was away and so I decided to just that.
The driving force behind this decision was 2-fold. First, I own a 2001 Mazda Miata Special Edition in lovely British Racing Green. Second, a short time ago I replaced the worn out suspension with upgraded parts from Flyin’ Miata that included new springs and Koni adjustable shocks. Also, gone is the rusty old exhaust and, replaced with another upgrade from Flyin’ Miata.
Starting with the suspension, the kit included new springs from Flyin’ Miata with adjustable shocks from Koni and new bump stops. The company also sells a more comprehensive upgrade kit that includes anti-roll bars, but I didn’t go that far. The new parts were intended to improve the ride and handling but it’s important to keep in mind that I can’t comment on how this suspension setup compares with the stock springs and shocks because I’m replacing worn out parts. However, I’m sure a lot NB owners are in the same situation and so my comments should still be relevant.
As for the exhaust, the kit from Flyin’ Miata replaces everything under the car. The header comes from Racing Beat, the catalytic converter is from MagnaFlow, and everything else is bespoke Flyin’ Miata. And, as with the suspension, I can’t comment on it as an improvement over stock but I can certainly share my thoughts as a standalone product.
And so there I found myself, looking for nice curvy roads early on a Saturday morning to see how it all came together. Before setting out, I decided to adjust the Konis, which is accomplished by putting a knob on top of each shock and turning it. This may sound simple, but it fact it’s a little bit of a pain to do. In the front, you have to thread your fingers through the strut tower brace. In the rear, you have to pull back the upholstery and (on the driver’s side) remove the metal plate that covers the fuel-filler pipe (three 10-mm bolts, of course). It’s a process, but it’s not like you would be adjusting them very often as I would imagine most drivers leave them in a softer street setting most of the time, only stiffening them up for track use. However, adjusting them a few times made me really appreciate the technological advancements that allow my father’s Lexus to adjust ride stiffness with the press of a button.
Of course I had to find out what these Konis all about by setting them to full stiff. With the shocks set to the extreme, the ride was firm and cornering was flat at normal road speeds. Overall I found it to be too stiff though, as you might expect. At one point, I found myself on an unpaved road in the Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge and actually yelled out loud, “OWW MY BONES!!!” before I realized that with the top down anyone around would be able to hear me.
I’ve experimented a bit more since then and found that the ride is firm but not harsh on the other settings. Body roll is minimized and the car feels very agile. The car also sits slightly lower, but not so much that I worry about bottoming-out on bumps or pulling into the driveway. If you are looking for a good street setup, this could be the way to go. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on track use, but if you’re serious about racing or autocross you will probably want coilovers anyway.
As for the exhaust, there are claims about increased horsepower, but what you will really notice is the sound. It’s not really louder, but the sound is deeper, more rumbley. It car sounds… classy. This is definitely not a fart can. Even though it’s a cliche to compare a Miata to a British sports car, the sound kind of reminds me of an MG. Just check out the sound in this before-and-after video I made:
All-in-all, I am very impressed with both the Flyin’ Miata suspension and exhaust. Both have made considerable improvements in the way the car drives. The only open question is, what do I call the car? In the past, I’ve thought of my Miata as “The BRG” but now it feels like it’s more than that. I’ve thought about “BRG-FM” but that sounds like a light-rock station. Maybe “BRG by FM?”
Anyway, hopefully I’ll have many years of happy motoring to figure it out. I don’t think of myself as Super-Car-Modding-Guy. Rather, I’m more interested in replacing worn-out parts with things that are better than stock. In keeping with that philosophy, I am very pleased with my new Flyin’ Miata upgrades.