We have compiled the following guide specifically to assist potential buyers of used Mazda MX-5 and Eunos Roadsters. Our experience mainly covers the Mk1 and Mk2 versions, NA and NB respectively, and our advice is inevitably geared towards the specific characteristics of the earlier models. It’s easy to forget that the very earliest MX-5 or Roadster is now nearly 30 years old and the approach to purchasing such a model is clearly different to that required by a 5 year old Mk3 for example. Having said that a lot of the following advice is pretty standard common sense, generic even, and is thus applicable to any age of vehicle.
1. Why are you buying an MX-5? Seems like an obvious question but it is relevant. You may simply fancy a bit of top down affordable fun during the summer months or you may be more interested in the investment potential of an earlier MX-5 – or perhaps both. Even in the first case you probably won’t want to swan around in a shabby looking car but buying an MX-5 with one eye on its investment potential then condition and provenance become far more significant and the purchase of such a car requires a more considered approach. By the way if anyone out there is still sceptical about the investment potential of the MX-5/Eunos Roadster then you may be interested to learn that in early March 2018, a very clean and original 50,000 mile 1997 G-Limited sold at auction in Japan for the sterling equivalent of £6,500 fob (free on board) – this would equate to nearly £10k landed here in the UK. I’m sure from the auction description it would have been a very nice example and not in need of much – but bear in mind that that ten grand is before any prep work or UK conversion.
2. Do Your Research. Once you have decided upon your budget and the distance you are prepared to travel then it’s strongly recommended that you do as much research as possible into the various specifications and options of any vehicles of interest. Check out the various information pages of this website and/or employ your favourite search engine. The internet is awash with websites, owners’ club forums and social media pages – admittedly some are better researched and therefore more reliable than others. Get the registration number from the seller and using this DVLA link you can check the MOT history of any car. This check can be revealing in a number of ways. Firstly you can check that the car does indeed have a current MOT but you can also see any historical failures and/or advisories going back to 2005, which is as far back as the current database permits. The DVLA database can also contain mileage data from previous tests and can thus be used to confirm the current advertised mileage.
3. Vehicle status check. Often known generically as an HPI check, a number of different companies offer vehicle status check which apart from confirming the registration details of the car, also cover such items as outstanding finance liabilities, any recorded accident or theft history, colour changes, registration number changes, import status and mileage discrepancies. If you are seriously considering purchasing any used car then we strongly advise that you carry out such a check before travelling. We use the RAC Car Passport facility which we find is a very comprehensive service at a reasonable cost. RAC Link
4. Documentation. Before traveling to view any car, you need to be satisfied that all documentation is in place, such that if you decide to buy then you can take the car away there and then. There should be a V5 registration document in the seller’s name, or if not in his/her name, then a very persuasive reason why not. Don’t accept any cock and bull story about a missing V5 – if it’s not there don’t even bother going to look at the car. If you are travelling any distance, as an extra safety check you may want to ask the seller to send you a camera phone picture of the V5. It would be nice to have a current MOT certificate, but as you can check a car’s test status online, it’s not essential. For anything other than a summer runabout a bit more paperwork is very desirable, if not essential – anything that will tell you more about the car. For a UK car then a stamped service book is worth its weight in gold and old MOT certificates provide a handy validation of annual mileage. In the case of a Eunos Roadster you’re looking for any Japanese service history (pretty rare in our experience, not to mention largely incomprehensible), a Japanese de-registration document or an English translation, the original sales invoice from the importer and of course any UK service history in the way of a stamped book or just invoices. If you study all of these items carefully in conjunction with the DVLA MOT link then it is possible to build up a decent picture of the history of most cars. In the next section we cover what areas to look out for when buying an MX-5 or Eunos Roadster
5. Help! If you are going to have a look at a potential purchase then, if at all possible, take a mate with you. Be honest with yourself. If you’re not mechanically confident then it’s pretty important that your mate should at least know one end of a spanner from the other. Pay him beer money if you have to – if he helps you to avoid buying a complete lemon, it will be money well spent.
6. The car itself. The Mazda MX-5 is the most popular 2 seater sports car ever - 27 years after its introduction, production passed one million units in 2016. The car’s popularity is no accident or coincidence, but more a testament to the ground breaking basic design, superb build quality and class leading performance. These cars, if well looked after, are virtual sewing machines, even 10, 15, 25 years down the line. Yes, age can take its toll, particularly on body and chassis, but the enduring appeal of the Mk1 and Mk2 versions, apart from comparative affordability, is the fact that, compared to many if not all other alternatives, the MX-5 is virtually bullet proof. We list below the main areas that you need to look out for.
7. The Achilles heel - rear. Without doubt this is corrosion and this is why we would choose a JDM Eunos Roadster imported from Japan almost every time over a car that has spent its whole life in the UK. It’s been repeated so many times now that it’s becoming a cliché but it is still a truism that the Japanese generally don’t need to use road salt and thus even pretty geriatric cars suffer from very little corrosion. A 1990 Eunos Roadster imported in say 2000 will have endured 10 fewer UK winters than its British equivalent. Unless the UK MX-5 has been wrapped in cotton wool and dry stored every winter, we can guarantee that the JDM version will be magnitudes better underneath. The single most important area to check out is the rear of the outer sill and rear wheel arches on both sides. The sill section is the most vulnerable, often as a result of the rain water drain pipes from the hood becoming blocked and allowing said water to enter the sill instead of draining safely away underneath the car. If and when you get to try your potential purchase out on the road, have a listen inside the car and if you can hear a sloshing sound then a pound to a penny one or both sills will be full of water. It’s pretty easy to rectify this by opening the drain or vent holes in the sills either side of the jacking points to let the water out and of course unblocking the drain-away pipes either side of the hood and checking/repairing the rain channel (see images), but from a rust point of view the damage may have already been done. You need to get underneath the car – a decent sized old mat or blanket comes in handy here and have a good look at the outer sill just forward of the front of the rear wheel arches. You’re looking for paint bubbles, flaking rust or even holes. If you’re really organised then you’ll have remembered to pack a working torch – suitably illuminated have a look further underneath where the outer sill meet the inner sill. Check out the jacking points. Signs of damage may be just be due to clumsy jacking up but it may indicate corrosion induced weakness. Have a good look at both wheel arches – but be careful if you’re feeling for rust by running your fingers around the arch – even good metal can have sharp edges and rusty metal definitely will have. Any swelling of the metal at the spot welded joint where the inner wing meets the outer wing is a sign of corrosion and if left will only spread. Minor surface corrosion in either the sill or wheel arch area can be rectified but as this will require painting then it will be at a cost. More extensive corrosion is often best tackled by completely replacing the affected areas and aftermarket inner and outer sill and/or wheel arch sections are available to achieve exactly this. But be warned, cutting out the affected areas on one or both sides, welding in the replacement sections, priming and final painting is a labour intensive job and thus will not cheap. The cost varies from car to car, but you should budget for at least £400.00 per side and we’ve heard of owners paying up to £1500.00 for proper repairs to both sides.
8. The Achilles heel – continued. The next vulnerable area for corrosion are the front wings. Have a good look at the bottom of the wings immediately in front of the doors. Again paint bubbles indicate rust which, unless very minor, will almost certainly develop into holes with a little prodding. Corrosion in this area is usually the result of mud and debris collecting in the gap between the out and inner wings. In a few cases we’ve seen rust holes in the inner panel which required cutting out the affected and a welded patch. If there is also evidence of rust around the actual wheel arch then the wing is probably beyond economic repair and it will be more cost effective to replace the whole panel, either with a good used part or brand new wing.