I have a habit of writing stuff like “I’ve been meaning to post this for a while” or “A few months ago, I did this and never got a chance to post” but… well… this time I really mean it. I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. A long while.
Say hi to Bucky, my 2001 base model daily driver.
So… nine years. That’s a while. Man… the garage was really crappy back then before I finished the walls… Anyways, lemme back up a bit.
Bucky has been my wife Sarah’s car for eight years. I bought Sharka in the summer of 2000 and Sarah bought (leased) an MK4 Jetta about the same time. That one got tired and awful after less than three years and we were shopping for something new and thankful that the lease was about to run out. I loved my Sharka, but I didn’t try to nudge Sarah toward a Miata. I wanted her to have any sort of car she wanted. Anything we could afford.
To cut a long story short, we spotted a sad little green NB at one of those inventory clearance parking lot sales. Sarah drove it and was smitten. The car was ours that following weekend and we became a two-Miata family.
For the following eight years, I tried to keep my hands off Bucky. He was Sarah’s car and I wanted things to be that way. I didn’t wanna take over and force her to buy mods she didn’t really want or wouldn’t really like. I wanted her to choose everything and only lend assistance when requested.
It was really damn hard. I LOVE cars. I love modifying them. But this was my wife’s car. I kept my distance.
So, why the matching stripes? These cars are INVISIBLE. Emerald Green Mica is slightly more invisible than Montego Blue Mica. I originally striped Sharka to cover up some paint damage on his nose (true story). Bucky got stripes to aid in visibility.
Sarah liked the stripe pattern on Sharka, so I put the same vinyl on Bucky. And then I did it again. We’ve owned Bucky long enough to need to remove and reapply the stripes due to age.
Seriously, it’s awesome having other drivers in their huge moving planetoids be able to see you. I’d recommend stripes to anyone regardless of what they actually think of striped cars.
She wanted a little bit of noise out of the car, so I pointed her at a Monsterflow intake. Sarah bought and installed it herself. I was so proud.
She decided the factory ride height was ridiculous, so I found a used set of Racing Beat springs with KYB AGX shocks. Bucky rode on that suspension for about 30,000 miles before it got tired and was replaced with a set of TEIN Basics. I helped Sarah install all of these parts, not the other way around.
I did convince Sarah to get a rollbar after my big wreck in Sharka. She opted for the Hard Dog Sport without any diagonal braces. And a full covering of SFI padding of course.
I bet you’re asking “Why Bucky?!” Well… it was a name that the car claimed during the first month of ownership. In 2001, Mazda was having a hard time with their clutches and flywheels. It was called the “Bucky / bucking clutch problem” by Miata.net. There was something like FOUR recalls for it. If I remember right, the first was for a clutch bearing, the 2nd was for the disc, the 3rd was for the disc and pressure plate, and the 4th replaced the whole clutch/flywheel assembly.
Anyways, Bucky had the bucky clutch problem. And it really wasn’t that bad at first. It seemed worse in humid weather, but that’s not often here in New Mexico. But it slowly got worse and worse. Sarah couldn’t take off from a stop without looking like a student driver, so we broke open the transmission to see what was going on.
I’ll never forget figuring out what was wrong. We got the case cracked (car on jack stands) and something fell out and onto my chest. It was the pilot bearing. The bearing that’s normally pressed into the flywheel? It wasn’t. It was very very loose. The hole in the center of the flywheel was WAY too big for it. That was the whole problem.
Sharka’s factory flywheel was the solution. He had a superlight Fidanza at that point and the stock flywheel was sitting on a shelf. A quick refinishing and a Mazda Value Clutch Kit were all that was needed. Bucky didn’t buck anymore.
Bucky has had more than a few fun weekends over the years. Autocrosses here and there. A few road trips. The longest drive was to Indy to watch the USGP a few years ago.
Bucky has been a great car. But then our family grew by one and a child seat was called for. Bucky really isn’t child seat friendly. At least not rear-facing. Lots of forward-facing seats fit, but the rear facing config isn’t really optimal, if you know what I’m saying. So Sarah traded me cars. My 2008 Mazda3 daily driver (named Beep – yeah, they all get names) became hers and Bucky became mine.
I didn’t immediately go crazy with mods. I’m rather proud of my restraint. The truth is, Bucky is pretty awesome in his current form. The suspension is very comfortable. The seats are supportive, yet soft. The engine makes fun vrooming noises. And the car looks fantastic! Bucky is a wonderful daily driver.
The one thing I’ve wanted on Bucky for years is wheels. Wheels. WHEELS!!! I did a search through my gmail. I’ve been sending Sarah emails about “Bucky wheels” since 2004. That, apparently, is one place where I did try to convince her to do some modding. But she was always happy with the stock 15″ alloys, so Bucky always wore them. THEN I took possession.
I shopped for wheels for months. Every day. Every evening. I very nearly bought a set of 15″ SSR Reverse Mesh for Bucky just one day before Sharka’s Star Sharks came on the market for sale. I nearly bought multiple different sets of Rotas. Enkei 92s? I love those. Nearly bought them a dozen times. But when I added the Star Sharks to my collection, my funds for Bucky wheels got a little thin, so I decided to stay with the factory 15s as well.
And then I spotted the 14″ RPF1s on my tire rack. See, I didn’t want to sell them just because I had something different on Sharka. I decided to keep them for my collection. But then I wondered what they might look like on Bucky. Being a base model, the wheels would fit over the brakes just fine. It’s the sport model brakes that require 15″ wheels.
I mounted the Enkeis and that was it. Bucky had his wheels at last. And I had two Roadsters with 14″ wheels.
1: Upgrades performed to a car with the idea of taking every aspect (performance, styling, comfort) to the next logical level beyond OEM.
See Bryan’s build thread for more info.
As I said above, I’ve not wanted to go crazy. I want to keep Bucky as a comfortable daily driver. Air conditioning, non-slammed suspension, comfy seats. Mods with no down-side. Mods that enhance without detracting elsewhere.
Most of my work has been in the interior. The stock creme gauges were immediately dumped in favor of some nice black-faced OEM+ gauges. Those were swapped out for some F1 Stage 2 gauges a few months later. Some black vent rings and a Joyfast shift knob added a bit of metal to the otherwise-plastic interior. And then there’s the start button. I love the start button in Sharka. I’ve never grown tired of it. Now I have one in both cars.
But really, the wheels are the best mod yet. The stock wheel/tire combo weighs in at 32 lbs. The RPF1s? Only 27. That’s a difference I can feel on every bump. The whole car feels lighter. Best mod ever.
That brings us up to the present!
Sorry for the nine year delay in giving you the spotlight, Bucky. I hope it was worth the wait.
Now let’s go for a drive.