Becoming One with the Roadster
One aspect of the Miata which I like quite a bit is the unprecedented harmonious balance of the car. I have learned long ago through what I though was right for tweaking a cars suspension, was completely wrong. In some cases, I went a bit too far and destroyed the feeling one has with a car when it comes to suspension set ups.
With the Miata, the danger is still there but what a difference only a few mods makes in tweaking your Miatas suspension. I am in no way a suspension expert, but since owning two Miatas, I think I have found the right formula for my 95 Laguna.
The Iron Horse shocks still hold true to my heart Adjustable Koni shocks are without a doubt, one of the best shocks you can equip on your Miata. Bang for buck, these shocks have given me years of wonderful touring and daily driving fun. While there are other shocks available that allow you to adjust dampening and a million different settings, I tend to lean in the Koni direction over and over again. My Konis were originally installed with the factory springs and was quite pleased for a couple of years.
Soon afterwards, the heavy factory sways were toss out for a lighter and thicker set of Jackson tubulars. The weight difference was quite noticeable when removing the OEM sways. The settings on the Jackson sways stays pretty conservative with medium settings on the rear and front and has not changed since. I also have had zero problems with any squeaking noises from the sways and have been fail safe since.
Back when the Konis went it, there was a slight lean to my car. The car tended to lean about .25 lower on the left than on the right. For several months, I made measurements to see if this changed due to driving, temperature, or even the stars being in alignment. A quick call was placed to MCA HQ (back in 1999) and we talked with Mazda direct about this issue and it came down to possibly being bushing related but my car was relatively young still.
Regardless, it was time to take the suspension to the final step. I made the decision to go with a set of Ground Control Coil Overs specifically made for Koni Adjustable shocks. I decided on a softer spring rate than what was recommended by Ground Control and couldnt have been happier. The ride with the Konis is superb and very comfortable for every day use. This set up even allowed to tweak the suspension a bit more by allowing me to slightly lower the right hand side a wee bit more to compensate for that phantom lean. The cars ride height measurement is now 100% accurate with no noticeable driving quirks. As of date, the cars sits about 1.5 lower than stock.
When I first bought the car, I knew there was only one set of wheels I wanted to spice up the look. In my mind, I had the look of the car down based on this retro vision I had lingering in my mind. Since I have had my ups and downs with heavy 16 rims in the past, I went with 15x7 Panasports that were relatively light-weight and chock-full of retro looks. To this day, I still love them no matter what kind of wheel discussions come up on the net concerning un-sprung weight vs. performance. Whatever makes you happy should be the only factor in finding the right wheel for your car period.
Lastly, tires tires tires. I have had good luck with all sorts of tire for the Miata. From Yokohama AVSis to Michelin SX-GTs. Dunlops have been great in the past, but have not found a rival to the D40 series back in the late 80s early 90s. I have had a set of Toyo FZ-4s with so-so performance and have heard good things about the T1-S line, but tires almost become relative after a certain point. Tires come and go like the wind and there is always a new design that take the spotlight in the Miata community it will always happen. The best advice is to budget yourself for a tire and talk to as many people as you can in your area about which tire you are looking into. Right now, I am using a set of 195/50 Michelin SX-GTs and love them. I also use 195/55ZR Toyo RA-1s on the track on my OEM 14 alloys when possible.
UPDATE: It has been awhile since I have last updated the suspensions page and will have all new info with the web site relaunch including a refurbishment of the RS-Eight II Watanabe's. Stay tuned.