I've had quite a few questions from people about why I chose to use an MX5 Miata for the video series. Was it sponsored? Am I an expert with them? Because I love them? The answer is... it just seemed the best choice at the time. Now, with hindsight, I realise it was the best possible choice in the world. Here's the story...
The whole plan with this course was to fully dismantle a production car, and then rebuild it from the parts. It's something I've not seen done before. It seemed this would be a great way to explain how everything works together, without missing any parts out.
And since most people are working on ordinary production cars, I thought this would be a lot more useful than talking about a kit car, a racing car or something specialised like that.
My first thought was to use a Toyota Corolla. Universally available, with the highest sales of any car in the world. But, let's be honest, it's not the most glamorous of cars and it has four doors instead of two, and a roof to get in the way of filming. It was a serious contender for a while though.
When I actually got to thinking about filming (and bearing in mind I didn't know much about filming) it seemed like having a roof would make shots of the interior much more difficult. So a convertible seemed like it would make more sense, and also be lighter and easier to deal with - this turned out to be a massive blessing because we had to carry around the MX5 bodyshell by hand at least a dozen times. It's about 250-300kg I'd guess: A heavy lift for five people.
So I turned to convertibles - and the moment I did that the decision was basically made. The only other contender was the BMW Z3 but prices were high, and it had a far narrower distribution than the MX5.
There's nothing on the Miata that you don't need. Two doors, two seats. It's the MVP of the sports car world. It's a bundle of pure automotive engineering - suspension, steering, engine, ECU it's all basically textbook stuff.
There's not much abstraction, and everything we talk about on the Miata is basically applicable to every other car on the road.
When I started on this project there was a lot of uncertainty. I didn't know if people would be willing to pay for quality content. I'd never made a video in my life. I've never done any teaching. And also, I didn't have a huge budget to commit to this. So I looked around at my list of potential cars (and where I've been filming in Hungary, they are seriously expensive compared to the UK/US/Western Europe) and the Miata seemed the most affordable.
I paid €2,000 for the car without it being registered and not being able to legally drive it. The seller delivered it to the garage, I drove it the 10m inside, and that was the first and only time I drove an MX5 until a few weeks ago.
Discovering the community
The Miata is the Lego of the car world. It's a vehicle that appeals to a lot of people, and they tend to be interesting, friendly and decent people too. And Mazda... they're cool too. I don't have any official relationship with them, but I've had contact with various people there and they've always been super supportive and helped any way they can. I like that Mazda are a little crazy too.
They've got to run a commercial enterprise there - and niche cars like the MX5 just can't survive outside of a big company delivering mass-market products. But there's a streak of creativity and adventurous in the company that you don't really see from their core business or marketing. The rotary engine, the rear-facing suicide doors on the RX8, the variable intake on the Le Mans-winning 787B - all bold decisions. And the MX5 project itself - a massive gamble that paid off and brought two-seater convertibles back into the mainstream.
My feeling is that Mazda is a company secretly run by engineers.
Downside: The name
Probably the biggest hassle is in the fact that the vehicle is roughly equally known by two names. For those who don't know, Mazda called this vehicle the Miata in the US, MX5 in Europe, and the Eunos Roadster in Japan. Sorry Japan, but almost no-one calls it a Eunos Roadster in English so I've never used that name. But it's known 50/50 as MX5 and Miata. Whichever name I use, I get people complaining. So that's mildly annoying but frankly I don't care - if you can't mentally substitute the two model names when you're watching the video then you've got bigger problems. I try to use both names equally but I'll be damned if I'm going to refer to it as an "MX5 Miata" every time.
We've been filming and releasing videos every week since getting into the new studio. The course now has 9.5 hours of pro-quality video, fully subtitled and I'm really proud of what we're producing! We're using CGI anywhere it helps understanding, and the general quality and feel of the videos is at an all-time high.
We finished the first episode in the new studio and to celebrate I've put it up on YouTube so you can (hopefully) learn something new and also see the massive improvement in quality that we've made. Also.... shiny new CGI is working!
Now that we're almost finished assembling the engine, I spent a couple of days last week fabricating a new stand so that we can start to assemble the other engine bay systems: coolant, ignition, intake and exhaust. Most of these are mounted to the bodyshell, but if we drop the shell on now then it's much, much harder for you guys to see - not to mention harder for us to film. So I hit on a better solution