Original-Owner 1990 Mazda Miata Is Today's Bring a Trailer Pick

a red car on a road
Original-Owner 1990 Mazda Miata For Sale on BaTBring a Trailer
  • The first Mazda Miata felt like a breath of fresh air in the auto industry. Thanks to our ever-larger and more complex modern cars, driving one still is.

  • This example is a rare base version with manual steering.

  • This one has low mileage and is being offered by its original owner.

When the original Mazda Miata launched for the 1990 model year, Car and Driver's editors were immediately smitten. "This time we're going to reveal our frank and impartial assessment right up front: if the new Mazda MX-5 Miata were any more talented and tempting, buying one would be illegal." Happily, it's still perfectly legal to get yourself into one of the most effective mood-altering little cars ever made. Why, here's one right now.

1990 mazda mx5 miata side
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Up for sale on Bring a Trailer (which, like Car and Driver, is part of the Hearst Autos), is a highly original, low-mileage, basic-spec 1990 Miata. This is the MX-5 at its most elemental: no power steering, no air conditioning, just cloth seats and pure joy. This one-owner car has had the alloy "Daisy" wheels fitted as a weight savings over the steel originals, so this is about as light as a Miata gets. With just 30K miles on the odometer, it's as appealing now as it would have been in a Mazda showroom in the late summer of 1989.

1990 mazda mx5 miata rear
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According to the seller, this was just the second Miata sold out of a dealership in Orange County. California is, of course, the Miata's spiritual home, even if the little roadster's birthplace is actually Hiroshima. The postwar sportscar boom took root here, and the Miata's origin story famously includes Irvine-based Bob Hall pleading with Mazda's execs to build a car that embodied the spirit of the Lotus Elan, MGB, and Triumph Spitfire. Thirty-five-years worth of feisty little two-seaters later, kudos, Bob.

1990 mazda mx5 miata engine
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This car is identifiable as a very early Miata via its smooth rear differential, and that does come with a little more due diligence required. Early NA-chassis Miatas can suffer mechanical failure when changing the timing belt if the mechanic doing so is incautious when inserting the woodruff key. With just 30K miles on the odometer and a single owner, this shouldn't be a problem here, and the transparent number of early Miatas still whipping around racetracks shows that the short-nose crank issue is less of a problem than its reputation.


That 30K mileage is right in the sweet spot between collector-grade and weekend driver. Remove the vinyl seat covers, and these flawless-but-basic cloth seats are part of a time-capsule experience. The Miata has no touchscreens, few creature comforts, and only a modest 116 horsepower from its 1.6-liter four-cylinder. Obviously something like a CX-90 would be better on an Interstate, but for any other kind of driving? Sometimes less really is more.

1990 mazda mx5 miata interior
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The refreshed paintwork just adds to the charm of this wee popup-headlight rascal. Other notable mechanical work includes a new battery, refreshed fluids, and replacement of the distributor, spark plugs, ignition wires, and various accessory belts. The KYB adjustable shocks are new as well.

The auction ends on May 28.

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