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HomeClassic Car InvestHow no power steering and no A/C made me love driving again...

How no power steering and no A/C made me love driving again | Articles

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My 99 NB Miata has AC/Power Steering but it also made me love driving again.


calteg


calteg


SuperDork


4/12/23 9:07 a.m.

I felt like the r-package miatas I’ve owned had better steering feel than my Elise. Absolutely perfect for backroads driving in the real world, but for a track toy, power steering equipped units are a bit better

Every time I drive a Miata I get the urge to buy one. Congrats on the new car Katie! 

ChrisTropea said:

Every time I drive a Miata I get the urge to buy one. Congrats on the new car Katie! 

Driving the one we had at the FIRM for our AI versus human comparison made me itching for a Miata, too.

Luckily, I can’t afford any car right now so the temptation isn’t too bad.

It’s actually very simple.  Pick a day with decent weather.  Locate a Miata.  Put the top down.  Find roads with less traffic.  Go for a drive.  Have fun!

If you hated it, congratulations, you hate cars.  Buy an appliance type car.  

My first car was a massive 1960 Plymouth wagon with no power steering. I did have the advantage of a large steering wheel, so I had more torque to rotate the wheel with.
One of the tricks I remember for low speed maneuvers in parking lots was to slip the clutch just enough to move the car, barely an inch or two, when having to turn the wheel hard. Even the littlest bit of forward or backwards movement will make the steering wheel much easier to turn.

Edit: sorry for forgetting to compliment you on your writing. Well done!

My 91 was specced the same way. I remember my friend teasing me once when I told him parking is a bit of a pain without PS. So I tossed him the keys and said “ok you try” and he immediately was “how do you live with this every day?!” My 99 has PS and I was shocked how easy it was to steer when I test drive it.

The same car also had a clutch slave issue visiting the same friend so I ended up being stuck at his place over the weekend waiting for parts to show up to replace it. 

L5wolvesf said:

MGB

An MGB that starts up every time and goes without having the warm up first. 

I’m still not sure about driving a car in Florida without functioning A/C.  I know it was common for decades, but these days we have options.

Ian F (Forum Supporter) said:

L5wolvesf said:

MGB

An MGB that starts up every time and goes without having the warm up first. 

Yes, I had 2 of them for street use. Both were daily drivers at different times. No oil drips either. I maintained them. 

The NA manual rack is not great. It was developed on a short timeline because some purists decried power steering in a sports car. They were wrong 🙂 The manual rack has a slower ratio that dulls the cars reflexes and the lighter effort of the PS rack does not mean less feel, just less work.

It’s an easy retrofit, just swap the rack and install the pump and associated parts.

I own two Miatas without PS. One is factory delete. And the other is too leaky. They are both easy to drive. Like others said it just has to be rolling a smidge.


Berck


Berck


Reader


4/12/23 8:53 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Maybe I’m just a ham-fisted gorilla, but after decades of hearing how terrible the NA manual rack was, I eventually bought a ’90 with the manual rack. I love it.  I’ve turned it into a street-legal track car, and I think the steering rack is a great. A de-powered manual rack is too much steering effort for me, but the manual rack feels great.  I find that it’s more communicative in the way it gets light at the limit of the front tires, something I often steer right past with the power rack.  And even on the street with 205-50 NT-01’s, I don’t have any trouble parking it.  So, at least some of us like it, even if we’re wrong:)

 

Of all the cars I’ve ever let go my 94 R package in white with AC is one of the two I miss most.  I even tried to buy it back once.  If you ever see a 94 R in white for sale in the DFW area, I need to know. 

I don’t remember the lack of power steering being an issue at all.  It was so light and nimble, it always seemed really good to me.  The only cars I’ve driven with better steering feel than a Miata are a Boxster and my new Civic Si… feel.  The steering on the Si feels all that weight on the front tires and I can feel the forward weight bias a lot when driving it into corners.  I guess that’s just FWD, so I still prefer a Miata by a lot.  Miata’s just feel right when tooling around town running errands, or blasting into corners at speed.  Miata’s communicate so well back to the driver, I’m usually shocked when people spin them.  I bet when I get mine on dirt I do it a few times though…. I’m bad about overdriving.

A depowered PS rack is really only for reliability in a track car, it’s not that nice otherwise. It’s high effort at slower speeds. 

The information is all there in the PS rack, it’s just lower effort. The steering still tells you what it’s doing, but if you have a death grip on the wheel you won’t notice. Take a lighter grip and let it talk to you 🙂 

 I’ve never been able to make friends with the NA manual rack. The NB version is much better but really rare. 

My CRX has manual steering, it works pretty well on that car. I don’t think there was a power option.

I’m kind of looking for an NB manaul rack…. I’d love to give one a try if I could source one. 


brownb


brownb


New Reader


4/12/23 11:14 p.m.

I compared an NA manual rack to the PS and I had to eat crow at that point and pick the PS version after years of poo pooing PS version cars.  Way faster and allowed me to steer the car with a light grip.  It just felt so much more precise to me.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) said:

I’m kind of looking for an NB manaul rack…. I’d love to give one a try if I could source one. 

1999 base model and the 50 2003 Club Sport cars, that was it for the US supply. I think Mazda Motorsports had them for a while, not sure if the supply has dried up. Rare, rare beasties. 

The only regret that I have from my Exocet build (using a ’91 NA as the donor vehicle) was to de-power the standard PS rack, especially when I run the 0 offset / 205mm wide tire and wheel set.  It’s now an arm buster at slow speeds, with no perceptible increase in steering feel at speed.  Bad choice on my part.

Yeah, we de-powered the PS rack on our NA when it was a turbo 1.8, then re-powered it when we did the LFX swap. Way better.

Nice job on the story, Katie!

My first fun car was a 92 NA base model. I spent a few years “upgrading” it, changing out suspension, brakes, supercharging, then eventually turbo and ECU.  I’m thankful for the experience I gained from it, but I liked the car less and less with each upgrade. If I were to do it over I would have kept it bone stock down to the steel wheels and skinny bicycle tires. I guess I would still throw a Torsen in there, but that’s it. 

I did like the manual rack, although the power steering on NA’s is also quite good. 

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) said:

My first fun car was a 92 NA base model. I spent a few years “upgrading” it, changing out suspension, brakes, supercharging, then eventually turbo and ECU.  I’m thankful for the experience I gained from it, but I liked the car less and less with each upgrade. If I were to do it over I would have kept it bone stock down to the steel wheels and skinny bicycle tires. I guess I would still throw a Torsen in there, but that’s it. 

I did like the manual rack, although the power steering on NA’s is also quite good. 

I think all of those upgrades are great until you increase the power too much. The fun for me with this car is that its direct, engaging and most importantly, I can wind it out without breaking the law.

The manual steering isn’t a problem at speed, and Miles doesn’t have any trouble with it at all (when I let him drive it). My biggest problem is that I’m still not 100% back to full strength in my left arm after having surgery last summer, so a tight parking lot is pretty hard.

But that doesn’t mean I love it any less, just means that driving to work is daily PT, haha.

Yes, fun piece and welcome to the Miata club. 

In reply to Katie Wilson :

A/C compressor went out on my NA last summer.  Pulled it off to replace it and that is a really heavy component. 

Doesn’t make the Miata any faster.

Would Colin Chapman have equipped the Series 1 Elan with A/C?

The TR4 and Datsun 1600 and 2000 roadsters my Dad would occasionally drive home as demonstrators didn’t have A/C and 12 year old me thought they were pretty neat.

Since the compressor came off I have been pondering the need for power steering.  

Decisions.

In reply to SuperDave :

I’ll take that compressor and all the other AC bits, I can provide the bypass duct that replaces the evaporator. Sweating in 100F heat doesn’t improve the experience for me, I’ve done my time 🙂

My NB1 has had a slow leak, would hold a charge for about 9 months. I couldn’t find the leak until recently when I had to replace the clutch slave cylinder. While I was under the car, I used the UV flashlight to check the drain hose. Looks like I need an evaporator. Good news is that it is reported to be possible to change by only removing the glove compartment.

I have the vacuum pump and a set of gauges, but it’s going to be my first time replacing any AC parts. Still looking for a good miata specific video, and AC season is upon us here.

This story sparks joy on several levels for me.

First…love hearing Katie’s voice on a topic this community holds dear.

Second…it brings back memories of my zero-option 92 base model.  Ran it in C Street autocross, then CSP, and finally STS.  It’s the subject of a GRM project car series. 

But more importantly… I drove it *everywhere*.  Top-up, rear window down in the sun was tolerable in CenTex summer heat (when I was younger).  But also on trips up/down the Cali coast, various national parks, etc.  So…much…fun.

It’s why I was so thrilled when Mazda recaptured that same feeling with the ND Miata, which is my new love.  My biggest beef with the new car?  The overboosted steering.

And just today I scored the unobtanium manual steering rack off my old K-swapped NB Miata when the new owner went to electric PS.  Stay tuned for yet another new build…

In reply to Andy Hollis :

I think I’ve come up with a way to drop the boost level on the ND rack. I’ve come up with an approach to try, anyhow…


Toot


Toot


Reader


4/13/23 10:03 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

What you waiting for ………

 

In reply to Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) :

I’m an automotive tech and have been working on A/C systems since the early 90’s – including installation of countless systems in new Toyotas when A/C was a dealer installed option only.  Lived through the R12 to R134 conversion era too.  Feel free to send any questions this way if you wish.

The principles remain the same regardless of vehicle – that makes it simpler.  In addition to the tools you have you’ll need a vacuum pump to evacuate the system.  If your budget oriented (like me) you can pirate one from an old fridge or freezer.  They work well.  Keep in mind the tubing is aluminum (= somewhat delicate), don’t overtighten fittings, use new R134 compatible o-rings, and begin with the factory fill quantity of refrigerant (don’t use hydrocarbon based blends).  Use the operating pressures to guide your action from there.  Good luck

Revived some nice memories Katie, thanks

Back in 1990, I put in orders for a base car with AC and limited slip with 2 dealers and sat back to wait (and wait some more) as Miata mania was in full swing and the cars were difficult to come by (esp in import starved Detroit).  Picked the car up Memorial Day weekend.  Driving a new launch year Miata was like being a celebrity and the car itself did not disappoint.  The steering was telepathic even if a tad slow and heavy.  As the car aged, I think that the manual windows began to give the steering effort a run for its money though!

Never missed the PS but sure was glad I had the AC!  Had the car for 27 glorious years and after the kids were through college I replaced it with a 987 Cayman (launch year, of course).  Still have the hankering for another Miata though, however I’ve found that the NC has really grown on me so that might be the one (w/ 2.5 swap).



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