This Duratec-Swapped Mazda MX-5 Drifter Battled The V8s At Ford Festival 2022


This Duratec-Swapped Mazda MX-5 Drifter Battled The V8s At Ford Festival 2022


In a world of V8-swapped drift cars, Jason Melius of St. Charles, Missouri took a different approach – dropping a 2.5L Duratec engine in his 2006 Mazda MX-5.

Miatas and MX-5 have been a popular drift platform for years, especially the NA and NB generations. Their light weight and low prices, plus an astonishing amount of aftermarket support, further solidify their popularity.

The NC (third) generation, however, seems to not be as popular. Melius said he got the idea for using the platform at a Lone Star Drift event, where a little red MX-5 was keeping pace with a 2JZ-powered car that his friend David Mesker was driving.

Melius Miata head-on

“I ended up getting in his MX-5 with him (Dillon Tonsi), and decided this was the car I wanted,” Melius said. “That really motivated me to do with swap with his help.”

Some of that motivation also came from the failures of previous engines. Melius said he went through five engines in eight years until he came to the current configuration. He purchased it from a dealership and used it as a daily before blowing up the original 2.0L MZR LF-VE. The first and second Duratec swaps were catastrophes, as he had used the same oil pickup from the original engine twice.

“I didn't notice until I was putting it back together,” Melius said. “I looked at the pickup on the bench and it looked like aluminum foil was stuffed to the brim in it. Once I fixed that, we've been on this motor for three years on this setup.”

Melius Miata engine bay

The donor car for the current engine was a 2016 Ford Fusion, now boosted by a Garrett 2871 Gen 2 turbo built by Midwest Turbo Works. Assisting that combination is the factory intake and a custom-built manifold, with Mustang GT500 injectors. Helping to cool everything is a Chrysler Conquest/Mitsubishi Starion TSi intercooler and RX-8 oil cooler.

“I'm not a dyno guy because I don't want to chase numbers,” Melius said. “But from a butt dyno it makes a good 300-320 wheel horsepower.”

Melius Miata interior

Power gets to the ground via a factory MX-5 transmission out of a 2015 ND MX-5, and everything rides atop a set of BC Racing Coilovers with factory arms in the rear aside from camber and toe adjustments. Factory brakes help bring everything to a stop while a prototype angle kit from Destroy or Die from the UK aids in the steering.

“They sent me a kit to test out and it's unreal,” Melius said. “It's transformed the car big time.”

Melius Miata front quarter

Melius' MX-5 is the only 4-cylinder car involved in the drifting exhibition, dwarfed in size by Mustangs of various generations. He said the car is practically like driving a go-kart, and the mods didn't all come at once, noting that the progressive buildup to the final product helped him to improve his driving.

“I drove it factory, then lowered it, then welded the diff, then cut the knuckles then added the turbo, so I worked myself into it,” Melius said. “I didn't throw everything but the kitchen sink at it out of the gate.”

Melius Miata lights on drift


15 Posts