MX5 Vs Chris Harris


Harris recently released a video on Pistonheads as to whether he might have been ‘wrong’ in his harsh criticism of the MK1 MX5. He claims that the response to his opinion in the infamous blog written years back led him to believe that you can be rude about anything in this world but not the MX5. He is right.

Let’s set one thing straight. I am an avid follower and admirer of Chris Harris’ articles (and videos). He is an authority on anything Porsche related and his series of ‘Drive’ videos are entertaining and informative (though the sound can be improved by investing in better microphones and some proper editing).

The man has style. And as he himself would put it… but… there is always a ‘but’…

The issue is that Chris Harris seems to isolate ‘driving’ a car from ‘owning’ a car.

Some of the MX5 owners who took it against Harris for criticising the car so harshly have owned the car for 24 odd years. Their vociferous defence of the car stems from the fact that unlike Harris, they have not driven the car once and compared it to a 1.6 205 GTI or a used Elise as it were (which are both reputedly unreliable cars not coincidentally). This is precisely what Harris does which I cannot agree with. Driving a car for the sake of writing an article is one thing. Owning and living with a car is an entirely different story. And while the rationale behind journalists driving a new car once and having to form their opinion about it in a few hours is entirely understandable in todays fast moving world – you cannot justify that method to review a 24 year old car.

I have owned a MK1 Mazda MX5 for seven years. On the plus side, if you have a family and kids it is cheap enough to own as a second car, so any practicality issues are sorted. Reliability? It is close to bullet-proof as long as service intervals are respected. It is economical to run, own, insure and enjoy. It is a modern classic. It doesn’t look ‘old’. And it most likely never will.

And talking of modifying the MK1 is not as unfair as Harris makes it out to be. He himself points out that the car is worth 2,000 pounds and that at that price he doesn’t think you can match it. But keep in mind that unlike most other cars worth 2,000 pounds the internals on this car are forged. The engine was taken from the then Mazda 323 turbo – less the turbo.

Anyone within a 3,000 pound budget should in fact strongly consider the MK1 MX5 and should also consider modifying it. One can very easily increase the power to 180BHP on stock internals and with that power and improved torque I challenge any used Elise or 1.6 205GTI on any track in the UK (within a 3,000 pound budget) to a 20 lap race. And I shall put another 3,000 pounds on the fact that not only shall I win the race but I shall also most likely be the only one finishing it.

Add to the above the fact that quite a few post 1993 Mk1 MX5’s have a limited slip differential as standard and sideways fun is your guaranteed bonus from any speed.

And I cannot disagree more with Chris Harris than when he makes the under-powered and hairdresser car image comments. First of all owners will by time learn to drive the car within its power band. Shifting at 6k RPM kills the car. A friend of mine recently complained about the lack of power in his MK1. I took him for a drive in his own car and he kept telling me to slow down. Redlines are there for a reason. Secondly distinguish between straight-line speed and maintaining speed through corners. The stock MX5 might not be impressive at the former but believe me it excels at the latter.

Lastly, looks are entirely subjective and sometimes when you least expect it, the opinion of those who count most surprises you. I was recently out for a coffee in my MX5 and a Spanish girl looked at my car and told me ‘I love your 911’. Also, a few weeks back I had this Italian girl sitting next to me on a plane and she saw the photo of my Lotus Exige on my phone and told me ‘now that’s a car the chavs in Italy would own – I hate it’.

Chris Harris might know cars, but it’s not him I want to sleep with.

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