I’m convinced the Mazda Miata is one of the most versatile platforms ever made.
Whether you want a gas-saving commuter that’s still fun to drive or a race car for the track, the Miata chassis can be a fantastic starting point for whatever the heart desires.
There’s a reason you still see them on the roads despite the Miata being 30 years old. They’re easy to work on, lightweight, mods are readily available, and there is enough room in the engine bay to swap in a variety of different powertrains. Depending on how crazy you want to go with it, the possibilities are endless.
Speaking of endless possibilities, that brings us to the topic of the day: the off-road Miata. Not as many gearheads take this path, but the ones who are willing to put in the work will end up with a unique off-roading beast capable of hanging with the best of them.
Let’s check out four off-road builds that are guaranteed to grab your attention.
4 Incredible Off-Road Mazda Miatas
Emme Hall’s 2001 Miata
Roadshow staff member Emme Hall has owned quite a few Miatas in her days, but she eventually purchased an ’01 Miata that was unlike any other.
It still sports the factory 1.8-liter engine with over 130,000 miles on it. What makes it so cool is the three-inch lift kit which allows for eight inches of ground clearance, along with the 27-inch General Grabber tires mounted on BMW wheels. And that’s not all! It also has a steel front bumper with skid plates underneath, while the trunk has been cut up for a tubular structure that’ll hold two spare tires.
Moving to the interior, the door panels have been replaced with sheet metal, and the typical steering wheel has been replaced with one meant for racing. Truth be told, the Miata has about the same travel as stock suspension, but Emma plans to upgrade quite a few things in the future.
Regardless, it’s an awesome build so far, and it should be interesting to see where Emma takes it from here.
Tate Morgan’s 1991 Miata
Tate Morgan from the Gambler 500 gets to claim what’s likely the most crazy-looking off-road Miata on this list.
A $500 purchase for this car with 250,000 miles turned into quite the project as time went on, and I’m not upset with the final result.
This ride is decked out with long-travel suspension, including upper and lower control arms, coilovers, and tie-rod extensions. Since it sits much higher than factory, the off-road ride also sports a custom rear driveshaft. The original road tires were swapped out for 28-inch super swampers mounted on spoked 14-inch wheels.
Morgan’s Miata also has a tubular bumper, skid plates, hacked-up wheel wells and fenders, a roll cage, and a spare hanging off the trunk.
It still uses the 1.6-liter engine, and if you can hear it in the video, it sounds like it’s running on two cylinders. Even Tate mentions that it looks great, but drives pretty terrible overall. With a little finesse, it’d still be a blast to have in a Baja environment.
Joel Gat’s MX-5 Miata
You may have seen this story pop up a few months back. Joel Gat took a brand new MX-5 Miata RF sports car and decided he wanted to tackle the challenge of Imogene Pass in Colorado.
You might think it has some suspension upgrades and maybe a lift kit. Wrong. More or less, it’s actually in factory form. The only real modifications done to it are the 27-inch Falken tires and removal of the side skirts. Just like that, you’ve got an off-roader.
It was actually really surprising to see just how capable it was with those minor upgrades. It didn’t make it through the entire trail, but he made it quite a ways. However, this is just the beginning. There have been rumors that he’d like to throw on some Fox suspension, and do plenty more in the future with it.
Who says you need to dump tons of money into an off-road Miata project?
Gingium’s 1993 AWD Miata
Finally, we’ve got one of the nicest off-road Miatas you will ever see. This one in particular has quite the story behind it. In 2017, it was a bone stock car. Today, it’s an absolute monster.
The rear-wheel-drive layout was ditched and replaced with a built powertrain from a Subaru WRX, which includes all-wheel-drive. It’s got a big turbo, suspension with tons of travel, stiffened chassis, and so many other goodies, including bigger tires, light bars, roll cage, tubular bumpers, and skid plates.
The folks at YouTube channel Gingium put together this video, which summarizes the building process in 10 minutes, and it does a much better job at explaining everything that’s been done to the car than I could explain here.
Not only does the engine produce tons of horsepower, but it can genuinely handle an off-road trail with ease. There’s no doubt this is my favorite of all the ones on this list.
So there you have it. Ditch that old Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, or Toyota Tacoma and get a Miata. You won’t regret it. Well, at least not if you’re willing to put in the work.
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