As promised in an earlier post, the Spotlight now gets pointed at Steve’s Chaste White 96, a car named Rooster. You might recognize the car from a few earlier blog posts and think there’s not much more to see. Trust me. There’s a lot more. Rooster is up there in my personal top 5 favorite Miatas on the planet.
Steve goes by r2limited and mk2tmr2 on the various Miata forums. He also runs R2-Limited.com, the source of the lovely side stripes Rooster and Sharka both wear. I’ve been privileged to call him a friend for a couple of years now. So, with that small build up, I present the interview.
rev: Tell me about the MR2.
Steve: Wow. Well…this is actually the perfect place to start. There were actually 4 MR2′s in total. But “the” MR2 that started it all was a Super Red 1986 MR2. It was awesome. I bought it in 1996 (little did I know the significance of that year at the time) with 114k miles on it. It was pristine. It was as nice as any 10-year-old sports car you could find. Interior and exterior were in really great shape and the engine was well maintained. It ran like a top.
It was the car of many “firsts” for me. First time wrenching. First time participating in “club” activities. First time joining an online community. (At the time it was done via email lists instead of forums or message boards.) It was also my first small Japanese sports car.
About a year after I got it I needed to borrow my parents’ car for its back seat and ample trunk space. They hopped in my MR2 to go to the gym, got about 2 blocks away from our house and promptly got T-boned by a lady who thought that the stop sign was just there for decoration. The bad news was that the car was in really bad shape. The good news is that her insurance company decided to pay me the full value of the car, let me keep it and NOT give it a salvage title. So I got it completely repaired and repainted – good as new.
After almost 5 years of ownership I found myself no longer a poor college student and with a bit of a nicer income. It fueled my desire for a MK2 Turbo MR2. I got one and it was a complete polished turd. The body was straight and clean but the engine was rough. Bad rings…blew tons of oil. It was the year 2000 and the MR2 Spyder had just come out. So I traded my first Turbo MR2 in on a MK3. I kept the Spyder for 10 months and then bought another MK2 Turbo. The Spyder was easy to get rid of. I didn’t lose a dime. They were really popular and really limited production. My 4th MR2 was probably the best one of the bunch. Nicely modified, fast, gorgeous. I still get comments from people telling me they miss that car and it’s been gone for almost 10 years now.
(rev’s side note: Back when I was originally shopping for a Miata, an MR2 was the other car in my sights. Well, that and the Celica 4 All-trac. I never found good examples of either and ended up with Sharka.)
rev: How did you come across your NB?
Steve: I’d gone from my well-modified MK2 T MR2 to a 300whp WRX to a Mercedes C32 AMG. The AMG was a gorgeous luxo-rocket. In 2003, when it was on the dealer showroom floor, it was the fastest production car Mercedes had ever made. It was under warranty so I never modified it. Not that it needed it. 0-60 in under 5 seconds….in style. But I grew bored of not ever having grease under my fingernails. I longed for something I could wrench on again.
I started looking for a car that I could buy straight cash. Back when I had my WRX a guy showed up at a local meet in a turbo Miata and I thought it was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. Bear in mind…to an MR2 enthusiast, the Miata is like the enemy. Every comparison test in 2000 pitted the “new” 1999 Miata against the 2000 MR2 Spyder. Even in my MK1 MR2 days, the comparisons to the NA Miata were stark. Similar power, similar size, similar price range. But when I saw that turbo’ed NA with the hood up it just looked so delicious.
I was at an autocross with my cousin in my C32 (he won Novice class that day and actually beat my raw time in my own car) and I told him that I was going to buy a Miata. His response, “There better be room in the trunk for your balls.” The chick car stigma preceded it.
I did my research and started hunting for a ’99 or ’00 Miata in either white, black or silver. My only requirement is that it have a manual gearbox and Torsen diff. (The Benz had an open diff and 350hp. Never again.) I found one on Autotrader down at a used car dealership in Austin, TX. I drove down with my wife and my checkbook and drove back with a Brilliant Black 1999 Miata with the Popular Equipment/Leather Package. It was all downhill from there.
(rev’s side note #2: The wheels on Rooster are SSR Watanabe RS8s. Yes, they’re both SSRs and Watanabes. A while back, Watanabe found themselves in financial straights and were in danger of not being a company any more. SSR either purchased a controlling interest in or agreed to make wheels for Watanabe. This lasted until Watanabe were back on their feet and could again produce their own wheels. In the meantime, some wheels were produced with the Watanabe logo on the front and SSR stamped onto a spoke on the back. Rooster wears one of these rare sets of wheels.)
rev: How does Rooster compare with your old NB?
Steve: This is a really difficult comparison for me to make. The NB was a journey of discovery for me. When I got it I knew relatively nothing about Miatas. I knew that I liked the platform and generally that I wanted to boost it. But I didn’t have any semblance of an upgrade path in mind. Discovering what I was going to do with this car was a blast. I changed my mind and the direction I was taking the car several times. I discovered several inspirations within the Miata community. I learned that this little roadster of ours is a canvas that people from all types of car backgrounds can express themselves on. No other platform is nearly as flexible.
The NB was angry, modern, smooth, and fast.
Rooster, on the other hand, was a finished painting in my mind waiting to come to life before I even laid hands on him. I literally photoshopped every detail of the car on my computer before I’d even committed to buying it…and it looks exactly the same. So this car is a little bit less about the journey and a little more about the destination. That’s a dangerous position to find myself in because, as an artist, I tend to be more about creating. Once it’s created, I feel the need to move on to the next creation. I’ve struggled with this feeling with Rooster. But lately he’s taught me that he has some more tricks up his sleeve to teach me and he’s rekindled my interest. I’m in it for a while longer and have some plans which I’ll hopefully be able to bring to life in the next few months.
Rooster is classy, sophisticated, JDM, and refined.
(rev’s side note #3: Before Sharka, I had one great automotive love. In college, I drove an 87 Jeep Wrangler. The YJ had the 4.2 straight-6, carbs, a Peugeot transmission, white paint, black accents, and the spice colored interior. I installed a billion KC Daylite lights on my pushbar and lightbar and 33″ tires on the stock phone-dial wheels. Together, we crawled over many rocks and splashed through many mud bogs. I named that Jeep after a character in an old Zelda game called The Flying Rooster. The Jeep wore the name proudly on the side of the hood as many old CJs did in the 80s.
A few months ago when Steve named his car and emailed me about it, I was floored. An incredible coincidence. The name contributes to my love for Steve’s NA in a not-insignificant way.)
rev: What are your future Roadstering plans?
Steve: Power. I know that Rooster can handle better than I can drive. And I’ll work on that. But really what I really have a sore tooth for is power. Here in north Texas there are no twisty roads that can entertain me with Rooster’s scalpel-like handling. All we have are straight highways and I long for a sledgehammer. I’m going to start with a built ’99 head and ported intake manifold with a Megasquirt calling the shots. That should give me a nice power bump in the short-term. After that it’s on to the boost. And I want transmission-smashing power. I want Rooster to be as much a kick to drive as my WRX was. That had 300 all-wheel-horsepower. I figure Rooster needs around 250whp to make the grade. I’m going to build for 300 and dial it back. (But you better believe I’m going to get that near-300whp dyno chart)
Also – more driving entertaining roads with good friends. The recent trip out to ABQ was not just a Roadster awakening but a general car enthusiasm awakening. I need a more steady diet of that good stuff.
rev: Any new products on the pipeline from R2-limited?
Steve: I’ve got some limited edition keychains coming out….eventually. Thought they’d be out by now but my day job and family has occupied much of my R2-L time. Other than that, I may have something big up my sleeve. Something that nobody would expect. But it’s not anywhere near a sure bet right now so I’m not even going to hint at what it is. I’ll just say that the prospect at being able to provide it is very exciting and I know people will love it.
rev: Anything that I forgot to ask that you’re dying to tell the world?
Steve: I’ll just reiterate that, to me, the beauty of the Miata is that it’s good at so many things. It’s a classic car in bone stock form. It is a monster with an engine swap. Its engine loves to be force-fed. It looks great laying frame rails on the pavement. It can entertain so many silhouettes – roadster, coupe, fastback – with just some snap-on parts. It inspires innovation – even at 23 years old new products are constantly coming to market. Bikini tops, fastback tops, gauge faces, vinyl products (not so shameless plug). It’s equally at home at a classic car show as it is on track with Porsches and Corvettes.
My point is that this car defies niche. It is as close to everything to everyone as a car can be. That’s what makes it special, I think. And it’s why every car guy….every REAL car guy…has either owned or wanted to own a Miata at some point.
Lightweight flywheel (unknown brand)
Heavy-duty clutch (unknown brand)
Header (unknown brand)
Mazdaspeed short shifter
Integral Kobe cat-back exhaust
949 Racing Xida CS coilovers
Hawk HP Plus dusty squeal-makers
SSR Watanabe RS-8 wheels. 14×7 +12. Custom bronze color with Falken Azenis RT615k tires. 195/55-14
Rota K7 wheels. 15×9 +36 with Hankook Ventus RS3 tires. 225/45-15.
Chaste White exterior with OEM Mazda 1993 LE red interior inspired by the extraordinarily rare R2-Limited Eunos Roadster
1995 M-Edition seats reupholstered in ’93LE red
Nakamae door cards
Nakamae carpeted center console
Revlimiter gauge faces
Revlimiter vent rings
Revlimiter power window switches
M2 Incorporated 1028 MOMO steering wheel
Garage Vary Nostalgic Tail Lamp panel
Bellof low-profile headlights
R2-Limited.com vintage rocker stripes
Eunos Roadster R2 Limited floor mats
Eunos Roadster door sills
Eunos finish panel badge
Club NA Eunos nose emblem
Runabout M2 mirrors
Mooneyes chrome rear view mirror
Robbins 3-window top
Mazda MSSS2 head unit