When the Mazda MX-5 Miata was introduced in the early 1990s, conventional wisdom was that nobody wanted a small two-seat convertible sports car. The British sports cars that had defined the genre had all ceased to exist a decade earlier. Most of the remaining sports cars had evolved into luxury cars, or powerful supercars, and all of them were priced out of reach of the average car shopper.
There were affordable small, sporty two-seat cars. Honda had the front wheel drive CRX, and Toyota had the rear-engine MR2, but the Miata stood out in the market, even before you turned the key. Those who initially liked the look quickly discovered there was also more to like. It was not fast, but it had almost perfect balance, cornering that rewarded skillful drivers, and a light, open design that made it feel fast even at normal traffic speed.
1990-97 Mazda MX-5 Miata NA
The original Miata had a 1.6 liter 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder engine with just 115 horsepower, but they weighed in at less than 2200 pounds and had a 0.38 coefficient of drag. Because of the lightweight and slick shape, it managed to get from 0 to 60 mph in just a little over 8 seconds (manual transmission), and top out at over 125 mph. Suggested sticker price was about $3,000 more than the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic, while getting similar fuel economy and more smiles per gallon.
From the first day, people were autocrossing, racing, and tuning the Mazda MX-5 roadster. Engines were swapped, turbos and superchargers were added, and every other method of boosting power was applied. For 1994, Mazda gave is a small boost by expanding the engine to a 1.8 liter with 129 horsepower (133 from 1996). The team at Wilwood began racing a Miata about that time and still takes the first generation NA to the track.
1999-05 Mazda MX-5 Miata NB
There was no 1998 Mazda Miata for the United States market, but the new for 1999 model went on sale early with just a few month gap. Styling was modernized, removing the pop-up headlights, but the car's exterior dimensions hardly budged. Weight increased by about 200 pounds with the addition of more modern conveniences, but it was still less than 2500 pounds total.
Power still came from a 1.8 liter four-cylinder motor, but tuning revisions and a variable volume intake manifold brought power up slightly to 140 horsepower (143 from 2001). With the (optional) six speed manual transmission, 0 to 60 mph runs now took about 7.5 seconds. For 2004-05 Mazda introduced a factory turbocharged Mazdaspeed Miata, boosting power to 178 horsepower and dropping 0 to 60 mph times to 6.7 seconds.
Over the years there were variations in suspension and brakes, but they are all similar enough to make fitting aftermarket brakes easy. ABS equipped car or not, the Wilwood kits work with the factory master cylinder.
Wilwood Brake Options for 1990-05 NA and NB Miata
Mazda gave the Miata decent brakes from the factory, with front and rear discs, but there is always room for improvement. For performance driving, a good set of fade-resistant pads and an adjustable proportioning valve can optimize the stock rotors and calipers. Wilwood has dual purpose street/track compound ProMatrix brake pads to fit stock 1994-2005 Miata calipers (part number 150-D0635K front, 150-D0636K rear) which improve the braking as easily as replacing worn out pads.
The problem most drivers eventually face, is that early Miata front discs are only 9.25" in diameter, growing to 10.00" for 1994, and either will become overheated with hard track use. Wilwood solves this with 11.00" x 0.81" rotors for more brake torque and greater thermal capacity, mounted to an aluminum hat to keep rotational weight down. Calipers in all of these kits are sized to be fully with the stock master cylinder and ABS, but require Wilwood braided stainless Flexlines to mate to the factory hard lines.
The most affordable Wilwood NA/NB Miata big brake kit (part number 140-11704) combines motorsports-proven forged aluminum four piston Dynalite calipers and a 30 vane ventilated rotor. Get them with the high-performance look of drilled and slotted rotors, or plain, smooth faces. Calipers come finished in red or black gloss powder coat.
The next kit (part number 140-13379) uses the same calipers but upgrades to GT slotted rotors of Wilwood's proprietary Spec37 iron alloy, with 72 internal vanes for better heat management with less distortion. For track oriented cars, the race version (part number 140-14316) combines those same high heat capacity GT72 slotted rotors with race spec, stress flow forged aluminum DynaPro calipers featuring four Thermlock pistons and internal anti-knockback damping springs. Aggressive race only SmartPad BP-30 compound brake pads are included, but are easily swapped for street pads when you leave the track. You'll need to check the wheel clearance diagrams and compare to your wheels, but all of these kits fit most 15-inch wheels.
The ultimate front brake set up on your NA/NB Miata (part number 140-13380) keeps the 72 vane vented 11.00" Spec37 rotors, but uses DynaPro six piston calipers with a central stiffening bridge. These calipers are differential bored to produce more even clamping with better pad wear and easier modulation. Even with six pistons, they still fit under many 15" diameter wheels.
2006-15 Mazda MX-5 Miata NC
The NC generation Miata was a clean sheet design, with no major parts except the differential carrying over. The wheelbase grew by about 2", as did the overall length, while the width added about 1.5", but it was still a small roadster. It did gain more than 100 pounds, or 200 pounds with the new retractable hard top, but the interior was nicer, with options like heated leather or Alcantara seats, and driver aids like traction and stability control.
The motor was new and slightly bigger, with U.S. models receiving a 2.0 liter with 170 horsepower when paired with the five or six-speed manual transmission, or 158 horsepower with the new six-speed automatic. Soft top cars with the manual six-speed are estimated to get to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. Factory brakes were upgraded as well, with front rotors nearly 11.5" in diameter (more than an inch bigger) and new five-bolt wheel hubs.
Wilwood Brake Options for 2006-15 NC Miata
With Mazda upsizing the brake rotors for the Miata NC, and increasing the weight and power only slightly, most street driven cars that never see the track will be set with just performance brake pads, like Wilwood's ProMatrix (part number 150-D1179K front, 150-D1180K rear) compound. An adjustable proportioning valve properly installed and adjusted can also help optimize the brakes you already have for sticky tires and better brake pads, and is a must if you delete the ABS.
If you are adding force induction, swapping the motor, or going to the track, you are going to need one of Wilwood's big brake upgrades. You can upsize by more than an inch for more brake torque and better thermal management with 12.88" rotor kits featuring six piston Superlite calipers in the front (part number 140-12907), and rear four piston DynaPro calipers (part number 140-15034) with mechanical parking brake calipers. The dedicated race version of the 12.88" Superlite kit (part number 140-16093), upgrades to Thermlock thermal control pistons with anti-knockback springs. For the ultimate tuner car look and braking worthy of high powered LS swapped cars, pair the Superlite calipers with huge 14" diameter rotors with thermal capacity to spare (part number 140-12911).
2016-2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata ND
With the latest generation of Miata, Mazda did the seemingly impossible - they made it smaller and lighter while meeting all modern crash standards. The wheelbase was about a half inch shorter, but overall length shank by nearly 4". Weight was down more than 200 pounds, making it almost as light as the original. Much of the interior is borrowed from the Mazda3, as is the engine, which meant the sticker price was still affordable.
The SkyActive, direct injected 2.0 liter four-cylinder motor made 155 horsepower with either the manual or automatic transmission, both with six speeds. For the 2018 model year, the motor received improvements which increased output to 181 horsepower. New for the ND is the option of a fastback coupe body style with a power retractable central roof panel which stows behind the seats. Wheels and hubs reverted to a four bolt design, and a limited slip differential was standard equipment with the manual transmission.
Wilwood Brake Options for 2016-23 ND Miata
As part of the weight loss program, Mazda downsized the brakes when developing the ND Miata, and moved to lighter 4 bolt hubs and wheels. Even the optional factory brake upgrade package from Mazda (which lists for more than $4,000 and requires 17" wheels) uses the same 280mm/11" diameter rotors and only upgrades the calipers. The Wilwood DynaPro kit with Spec37 rotors, in street spec (part number 140-17363) or race spec with dynamically mounted rotors (part number 140-17362), is a bargain by comparison and fits under most 15" wheels.
The Wilwood Dynalite big brake package (part number 140-14233), also fits behind many 15" wheels, uses 12.19" diameter rotors, in plain face or drilled and slotted, and increases both brake torque and thermal capacity. For even more, upgrade with an even bigger rotor kit (part number 140-14234) which still fits under most 17" wheels, featuring DynaPro six piston calipers and 12.88" slotted or drilled and slotted rotors. All the street kits are available with red or black powder coated calipers. A call to our tech line can special order most kits with upgraded race calipers including Thermlock pistons, anti-knockback springs, and a hard anodized finish.