Ask our Experts, we're here to help!
Yes, that’s a Miata. It’s hard to tell, as this LS-swapped Mazda has lived a very different life than what was initially intended. A modest, budget-friendly two-seater sportscar has now evolved into a track-attack machine with a pushrod V8, bent on straightening every last corner it comes across.
The car seems chaotic from just about any angle, but every detail has its purpose. There’s the fuel cell where the passenger used to sit, and a new front nose for increased downforce and aerodynamic smoothing. What about the rust, you ask? Well, that’s just natural weight reduction.
“Well, it was a Miata,” said driver and builder Johnny Cichowski when we met him. The car started life as a 1999 Miata, but now the little Mazda features a custom tube frame and an LS1 swap. The 5.7L was built with upgraded rods and pistons, PRC ported heads, and an MSD Atomic AirForce intake. The LS1 still runs on pump gas, even though the Miata is now a track-only machine. With the help of an aggressive cam and Holley HP ECU, the car makes 450 horsepower at the rear wheels. It’s backed by a Rankin 4-speed, a dog-box transmission used in the NASCAR Cup series in the 1990s. A “tiny” Quarter-Master clutch helps with shifting duties.
The custom tube chassis ties the top eyelet mounts for the AFCO front coil-overs. The suspension still retains its Miata geometry with OEM lower control arms. The rear suspension is 8.8 independent rear suspension out of an MN-12 era Mercury Cougar using parts from V8 Roadsters, a company that makes Miata LS and IRS swap kits.
Johnny has a strong tie-in with Nine Lives Racing, who develop aero parts like wings and front splitters. He spent most of his time on the NCM road course, but always makes it to LS Fest.