Is the Mazda MX-5 Miata a Trail-Rated Roadster?

A new and unexpected player threw down in the battle between the Big 4x4s to see which one rules the off-road. The Mazda Miata (yes, you read that right) got down and dirty on a challenging trail. Let’s see how it went.

Because it’s There

That, of course, was Sir Edmund Hillary’s answer when asked why he climbed Mt. Everest.

The Richmond Trail along Imogene Pass Road (near Telluride, Colorado) is no Mt. Everest. Still, it does pose a challenge for even Jeep and Ford 4x4s.

Talking to Grassroots Motorsports, there was never any question that Gat would go off-road in his Miata.

“Miata is always the answer,” he told Grassroots Motorsports. “I travel to a lot of mountain events and trailheads, and I prefer to have something fun to drive. What good is a fun Miata for 90% of the trip if it won’t take me the last 10% of the way, though?”

How do You Mod a Miata for the Trail?

If you’re going to tackle a challenging trailhead, you’d have to mod the MX-5 beyond recognition, right?

Well, maybe not.

In a conversation with The Drive, Gat said his modifications to his Miata were minimal. The only swaps he made were some 27-inch Falken trail tires and Weathertech floor mats. Beyond that, he rode the Trail on stock parts (even the shocks were OEM).

Gat did make some minor body modifications. “[I] removed the side skirts, cut away [the] fender liner, and a little love with a hammer to clearance some metal on the chassis side of the wheel wells.”

That’s it! No kits, no additional parts, and his MX-5 Miata retained its gorgeous roadster aesthetic.

Next Stop: Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge

Sporting its new kicks, the Miata was put through its paces along Imogene Pass Road with a curious driver at the wheel. The destination: Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge, nestled 11k feet up in the mountains along the challenging Richmond Trail.

How did it do? With a fair bit of finesse and a lot of determination, the MX-5 made it to the lodge and left a lot of Jeep drivers doing a double-take.

“Off-roading a Miata requires a little finesse—and pre-walking river crossings to make sure they’re not too deep!” Gat told Grassroots Motorsports. “When I’m off-roading, I have to balance the need for momentum —because the rear-wheel-drive doesn’t have great grip—with the need not to slam the bottom of the car into every rock and hard surface.”

Aiming Higher

Now that Joel Gat has conquered a tough trailhead in his Mazda Miata, what’s next? According to a comment left at Grassroots Motorsports, there may be more wild rides ahead—with one significant modification.

“Joel, Joel, Joel. I’ve known him for a long, long time. He’s a nut. You should hear the eventual plans for that car…He really wants a set of Fox for that car. We’re just waiting for a shipment.”

We can’t wait to see where that takes him!

Until then, don’t forget to head into your local Mazda dealer and see what Mazda can offer you!

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