How to get one in your garage:
An expert’s view - Paul Roddison, Roddisons motorsport:
“The 2.0 Sport is the one to buy. I know from experience that the 1.8 is less popular, because whenever we stock them, they can hang around for months. Saying that, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the model, and if you’re on a budget, there’s nothing better. We’ve raced MX-5s for years and, in my opinion, the Mk3 is the best of the lot; better than the Mk4, in fact. Engine and diff oil are the two main issues. Regarding engine oil, there’s not enough spare capacity whentheleveldrops.Withthediffoil,the official change interval is too long. Change it every two years.”
ENGINE - Check the oil level is spot on, look for oil smoke and listen for a rumbling crankshaft. High-milers can suffer broken wires in the coil-on-plugs. It has a timing chain, not a belt, but the tensioner can fail.
GEARBOX - Expect the action on five and six-speed gearboxes to be stiff from cold but to loosen up. Listen for a noisy rear diff.
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES - Check the dampers. Listen for knocking from front and rear anti-roll bar drop links, which last around 40k miles. Inspect for irregular tyre wear. Brake hard to check for pulling since the calipers are prone to seizing.
BODY - Expect the underbonnet, boot and chassis to be superficially rusty. Check for uneven panel gaps, orange peel paint, overspray on rubbers, new wing bolts and a mismatched bonnet slam panel. Check the clips securing the plastic panel beneath the wipers. They can channel water into the interior. Ensure the hood drain holes are clear and feel for damp carpets. Check the roof operation on early coupés.
INTERIOR - Watch for warning lights staying on, especially DSC (dynamic stability control), caused by battery disconnection. It should go out when you turn the wheels from lock to lock. Ensure both keys are available since a new one is expensive.
Also worth knowing:
The Mk3 is highly sensitive to wheel alignment. On the test drive, check the car tracks precisely and feels pointy and alert. The seller will try to convince you all is well. Stick to your guns and negotiate an alignment (and maybe new tyres) as part of the deal.
How much to spend:
£2500-£3749 - Early (2005-2007) cars, including a 07-reg Sport with 75k miles for £3500.