Carroll Shelby, so the legend goes, would tape a hundred dollar bill to the dashboard of his Cobras when taking a client out for a test drive. If the passenger could reach the bill when the Cobra accelerated, he got to keep it. Guess what? Nobody did. It’s a fun gamble, this principle: a big honkin’ V-8 in a body the size of the Jolly Green Giant’s driving moccasin. Are you feeling bored and restless? Is there a slump in your life that only big, effortless horsepower can fix? Try stuffing a V-8 engine in your Mazda Miata, as this week’s episode of The Downshift will convince you.
Certainly Martin Wilson gets it. The founder of Monster Miata, he grew up around the principles of the Cobra—his dad had Shelby on the 1960s equivalent of speed dial—and learned to weld, grind and fabricate at a young age. (A steady diet of car magazines, including our fair colleagues at Motor Trend, certainly helped.) When a customer came to him one day with a new Miata, he said, “I want a Ford V-8 put in it.”
So Wilson “immediately started tearing into this car, hitting it with a hammer, cut it with a saw,” and in a series of manly mechanic’s understatements, threw a Ford 5.0-liter V-8 in it. Engine swaps are definitely a lot easier when you’re sticking them in with a forklift. But Wilson’s passion is evident across the entire episode, and his rationale of V-8 engines—against turbo- and superchargers, all of which he’s tried—makes far more sense when the car’s out for a drive.
How does it fare? A Monster Miata hits 60 under 5 seconds, which is a fair improvement over the first-generation Miata’s time of around 9 seconds. And yes, it’ll fit: by shoving the engine all the way back somewhere so that oil sprays onto the driver’s loafers, weight distribution stays even at 52/48. The car won’t shake like a Magic Fingers bed in Texarkana. There’s plenty of room in the engine compartment. When Mazda engineers came down to look at what the mad scientists were doing, Wilson handed them the keys, they went for a joy ride, and when the engineers came back they told Wilson, “you haven’t taken away anything from what we had originally wanted, but you added so much more.”
It’s almost as if Mazda—and bear with me here—secretly engineered the original Miata to accept a Ford’s heart. No? OK.
Still, a new Miata is coming soon. Note to Mazda engineers: you may have gotten a divorce from Ford, but I’m sure they’ll lend you a couple V-8s. It’s time to make a special edition Miata that’s truly, well, special.
But until then, if you want to give Monster Miata a call, budget around $17,000 with your old hooptie for a new lease on life. You’ll be granted one too, yourself. Horsepower does things to people, wonderful things.
Additionally, if your brand allegiances extend to General Motors, and its lineup of excellent Corvette LS-series engines, the aptly-named Flyin’ Miata offers a do-it-yourself kit (extensively researched by yours truly) for all the bits you need to put an engine in, sans engine—or if you’ve got One Life To Live reruns to catch up on, you can haul your Miata to their Colorado-based shop and they’ll perform all the surgery you need with a 480-horsepower LS3 crate engine. The princely sum? $29,940—which, at these horsepower exchange rates, is probably still the bargain of the century. Wheee, indeed.
Source: You Tube