September Car of the Month
Gordon Kuhnley's Spec Miata
What got you into cars?
I got into cars in college actually. I mean my dad was a cheapskate, so we changed our own oil and stuff, but that was on the old family haulers, not fun or for performance. I got into cars because they are such interesting machines, and I was in engineering school. So I learned how cars work long before I learned anything about driving them.
Where did you start racing?
So, after college, I did what any young, now with money in his pocket engineer does … I bought a Porsche. And then I what any self-respecting car kid in the age of the internet does … I watched a bunch of videos of my car racing other cars.
And I thought to myself, I’d have crashed that car about 5 times that lap alone. I should really learn how to drive fast instead of spending a bunch of money to make my car faster. That got me out to an autocross driving school, and then I started doing track days, and then I realized track days where only fun when I was racing other folks, so I better just you know, go racing.
Is it true that you have a Miata for every day of the week?
Almost. I have a Miata for almost any purpose, both competition and sports car wise. I have an off road one, I have an autocross one, I have a road racing one, I have a winter/snow one, and I have a road trip, old man, style one. So 5. I'd like to get a dedicated ice racing Miata next.
Why spec Miata?
Spec Miata is a pretty obvious class for a few reasons. The first and most important is competition. There are a lot of racing classes, and nationally or at huge events you might have a pretty fun field of talented drivers. But locally, divisionally, without having to drive thousands of miles, there are not a lot of subscribers to many of these classes. Spec Miata is probably the most popular road racing class in the country, and wherever you show up, you’ll have folks to race with. Racing is the fun part, if you want to run track days, that’s fine, but Spec Miatas are for racing. And that means you need talented and fun competition.
There are plenty of reasons for that, the cars are cheap, cheap to run, cheap to maintain, easy to work on. They are small and light so tires are cheap, brakes are cheap, so per event costs are pretty reasonable. Something like a corvette will have double the tire costs, double the brake costs, and more wear and tear on everything else, and that means you can only attend half the number of events you could with a Miata. They also drive really well, the fundamentals are all correct, double wishbones, RWD, 50:50 weight distribution, and a good LSD [Limited Slip Differential]. The specifications we have to follow in the engines and suspension keeps folks from being able to buy a win by just building a more expensive car. So the racing is fair, and driver based.
What is special about your Miata?
Which one? I think all of them are a bit special to me in there own ways. I am particularly proud of how old the chassis is in Spec Miata though. The logbook dates back to 2002, which is right around when Spec Miata was getting started. It's probably one of the first hundred or so Spec Miatas ever built. Of course it's like grandpa’s hammer at this point, the heads been replaced twice, and the handle three times, but it's still grandpa’s hammer right?
Is Miata is always the answer?
Without a doubt I couldn’t do what I love with cars, without the Miata. They really are the best cars.
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