MK1 MX5 Custom Project

As one half of Skull & Pistons Garage and Goblin Works co-conspirator I have a lot to do, so I should probably be asking myself why I’m taking on another project. The thing is, I’m a proper petrol head – obsessed on another level – I just can’t help it! Now my excuses are out-of-the-way let’s talk about the latest custom lunacy I plan to create. I have a MK1 MX5 which will become a fast road car that I can hoon around a track in as well. I’m throwing in a touch of custom design for good measure, some mods, upgrades and a bit of attitude to turn this little sports car from cute cabriolet to track ready hellion.

There is actually a reason behind this plan, obviously it’ll be damn good fun, but my main aim is to improve my driving skills and an extremely well-balanced, rear wheel drive MX5 is the perfect way to do it. Launched in 1989 before going on sale in 1990 this lightweight, affordable sports car went on to become the best-selling two-seater convertible of all time. Going through extensive testing for seven years before it was allowed out in public the “Mazda Experiment Project Number 5” or MX5 is a cracker of a vehicle. The handling is super sharp, it’s ridiculously fun to drive and I love that gear box! It’s so compact and pert, snapping through the gears with perky precision (dreamy sighs). The whole package is bang on and that’s why I chose it.

I could’ve gone for a later model but I’m a classic girl so it had to be the MK1 for me; I love the overall design, especially the pop-up headlights and the fact it’s the first one makes it extra special. So after a few weeks of searching I found a relatively low mileage car, registered in 1996, 1.8i engine, lots of paperwork, well looked after and a good runner. It has a little rust on the arches – show me an MX5 without rusty arches and I’ll eat my trucker cap – but overall it was a really good find. As soon as I drove the little car away I fell in love and the design cogs started turning in my head.

The general plan with this car is to keep it practical – the MX5 is now my daily driver so I can’t go as crazy as I’d like, also budget is minimal so as much as it pains me I have to reign in the custom craziness. My aim performance-wise is to improve suck, squeeze, bang, blow so I’ll upgrade the radiator, induction, exhaust and pop in a cheeky turbo. To match that I’ll be replacing and improving suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres – then it comes down to visuals, I want this car to be an extension of me so it needs to look meaner, dirtier and scarier. With a low, wide, hunkered down stance, body kit, hard top and wrap – I think this little hellion will look the part. I’m also going to add a spoiler for a bit added downforce and racing seats, harnesses, racing steering wheel with quick release hub and a roll bar for safety. 

Helen-Stanley-MX5-design

I couldn’t just shoot this car anywhere – I love abandoned buildings so sought-out a derelict petrol station to exhibit the origin of my latest project. I simply had to give my basic Mazda Experiment Project Number 5 a good send-off before things get interesting. 

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MK1-MX5-build-project

MK1-MX5-side-viewHelen-Stanley-MX5

MK1-MX5-nose

Derelict petrol-station-sign

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MK1-MX5-black-interior

Well that’s it in a nutshell but we all know custom builds are never as easy as all that. I’ll be documenting the project every month in Retro Cars Magazine, on here and though my social media channels. I’m also having some friendly banter with my Goblin co-stars on YouTube as part of our GWG Build-Off – so you can watch me wrestle with the good the bad and the ugly side of custom classics.

When it’s all done and dusted I’ll be taking the MX5 out on the track with the legendary Paul Bailey, he’ll be putting me and the car through our paces and we’ll see what this little monster can do after it’s overhaul. There’s loads to do before that however, so I’d better crack on… 

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Photos by me.

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