Why the Mazda MX-5 should be your next project car

Where Can I Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.

The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration certificate

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1 Feb 18

If you're on the hunt for an affordable, exciting second-hand vehicle, you would be hard pressed to find many better options than the Mazda MX-5. Does it expertly navigate difficult roads? Top Gear says yes.1 Is it filled with fun and personality? It's packed with both. Is the Mazda MX-5 a good project car? Absolutely.

The Mazda MX-5 is a sports car for the everyday driver. It's a dream to drive - lightweight and well engineered. It doesn't need to be modified, but if you do want to upgrade it with new features, it makes a wonderful car to modify.

What makes the Mazda MX-5 such a good project car?

The Mazda MX-5 is a great car to modify due to its affordability and the range of after-market parts that are easily accessible. 

Used Mazda MX-5s are quite affordable compared to other sports cars, so you may have a bit more room in your budget to make the modifications you want. A brand-new 2018 model starts at $33,340, but used models range anywhere from as low as $3,190, depending on the year and model.2

Don't forget to factor in the costs of modifying your vehicle, though. As Motoring.com.au points out, a good track car doesn't necessarily need to be expensive - you can get one track-ready for around $10,0003 - but you will still need to account for modification costs when you're buying yours.

As mentioned, the second reason a Mazda MX-5 makes such a great project car is the extensive range of after-market parts available that make it easy to modify and upgrade. There are plenty of YouTube videos out there that show you how to outfit your MX-5 with powerful features like coilovers, turbochargers, and performance clutches and exhausts.  

What to look for when buying a used Mazda MX-5 to upgrade

As with any pre-owned vehicle, a Mazda MX-5 will require thorough inspection before purchasing to look out for any visible signs of damage or lack of maintenance. CarsGuide.com.au4 recommends that it pays to check the following things in particular before you buy:

  • Evidence of competition: If the vehicle is a locally-produced turbo-charged SP model, it's probably been taken for a ride or two. If the car has been regularly serviced, some competition shouldn't be an issue, but it pays to check whether it's incurred any damage in the past.
  • Engine sludge: If there's sludge inside the valve covers when you lift up the oil filler cap, this could indicate the car hasn't been serviced well.
  • Wear on tyres: Tyres on Mazda MX-5s can sometimes be quite worn, so inspect them to see whether they need replacing.
  • Disc wear on the brakes: If there's evidence of this, the brakes may need replacing, which can be very costly. 

Of course, it is also a good idea to get a Car History report before you part with your hard-earned cash. A Car History report provides the reported history of a vehicle and can tell you whether the vehicle has been written-off in the past, along with other telling information about the car's history that may not be evident from a physical inspection, such as whether there's finance owing on it.

1 Top Gear. The Top Gear Car Review: Mazda MX-5. Accessed January 2018.
2 Motoring.com.au. Project Miata heads to the track. Accessed January 2018.
3 CarsGuide.com.au. Mazda MX-5 Pricing and Specs. Accessed January 2018.
4 CarsGuide.com.au. Used Mazda MX5 review: 2002. Accessed January 2018.

View a sample report >