Automotive

I Fixed My Track-Prepped Mazda Miata’s Biggest Flaw


Ignore the janky angles of the seats, this was only a test fitting

Ignore the janky angles of the seats, this was only a test fitting
Photo: Steve DaSilva

When last we checked in on my track-prepped Mazda Miata, it was a great car with one big problem: I didn’t fit in it. To compound that issue, my press event schedule meant I’d have only two days to fix it, while flushing fluids and checking tires and generally getting the car ready for its first track day of the season. It was going to be tight.

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Both conveniently and inconveniently, my time in California for the Subaru Solterra was extended for a few days. That meant missing this past weekend’s track event, but it also took the time pressure off of upgrading the Miata — a very good thing, since I may have added more problems in my quest to fix one.


The original seat and harness had seen better days

The original seat and harness had seen better days
Photo: Steve DaSilva

To recap, I bought the car with a Corbeau seat and five-point harness on the driver’s side. The seat and its sliding base sat far too high in the car for me to use, putting my head well outside of broomstick test range, and the harnesses had expired six years ago. The Corbeaus had to go, and a new seat and harness had to replace them.

But that wasn’t the only issue. Some organizations in the Northeast require that your passenger seat be of the same style, and have a harness with as many points of contact, as the driver’s side. The idea is to make sure you aren’t subjecting an instructor to harsher driving than you’d put yourself through. It makes sense, but suddenly one seat and harness install became two.


This is what we in the biz call “failing the broomstick test to an incredible degree”

This is what we in the biz call “failing the broomstick test to an incredible degree”
Photo: Eric DaSilva

So I went hunting. I found a pair of FIA-approved Sabelt GT130 fixed-back seats on Facebook Marketplace, and the cheapest set of SFI-certified five-point harnesses money could buy. The Sabelts are, incredibly, some of the most comfortable vehicle seats I’ve ever sat in. No Escalade or Land Cruiser holds up.

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Of course, those seats still need to attach to the car somehow, and days of googling “Miata lowest seat rails” led me to Planted’s NB side-mount brackets. They place the driver’s seat a bit further back than I’d like, but they were in stock and could ship in time. Plus, Planted’s support was incredibly helpful — going so far as to mount the brackets to their own Sabelt seats before shipping, just to double-check that everything worked.


Image for article titled I Fixed My Track-Prepped Mazda Miata's Biggest Flaw

Photo: Steve DaSilva

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So, out came the Corbeau and the stock passenger seat, and in went the Sabelts. Then again. And again, and again, and again, until everything had been measured and re-checked and clearanced and made to work. One of the factory seat mounts on the driver’s side seemed to be bent, so nothing quite lined up perfectly.

But getting the seats to cooperate was only half the issue. The old Corbeau seat sat on a traditional flat base, which held the anti-submarine strap for the five-point harness. Without that bracket, the floor was going to have to hold the lower strap. That meant drilling.

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Test fitting the lower belts to figure out the proper arrangement of washers

Test fitting the lower belts to figure out the proper arrangement of washers
Photo: Steve DaSilva

If you’ve never drilled holes in your car before, heed this advice: Measure everything, way more than you think you need to. Do it from the top and the bottom of the floor, and make sure there’s nothing you’ll hit. Something may look clear from the top, only for the bottom to be a mess of hard lines with only a 0.588″ gap between them. This is the voice of experience talking.

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Pictured: Me, measuring

Pictured: Me, measuring
Photo: Eric DaSilva

But, with holes drilled and neon green backing plates installed, the hardest parts of the harnesses were set. To answer your question, I took the paint from my parents’ garage, and this was the only color they had. I cannot fathom why.

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Zero point five eight eight inches. I know it looks like the nut here is touching the hard line, but that’s just the angle of the photo.

Zero point five eight eight inches. I know it looks like the nut here is touching the hard line, but that’s just the angle of the photo.
Photo: Steve DaSilva

With harnesses placed, it was time to return to the seats. The passenger side fit up perfectly on the first try, but the driver’s seat needed some convincing. The Miata faithful call this a BFH treatment, though a regular-sized hammer works just as well.

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The idea is to bash in the transmission tunnel so a seat can move further in towards the center of the car. This is particularly critical with fixed-back racing seats, as their wide shoulder bolsters generally hit the door cards on a car as small as the Miata. Even after all that work, my bolsters still just barely touch the door when it’s closed. Maybe some extremely weeb-y custom door cards are in my future.


Gif: Steve DaSilva

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With clearances managed and the seats finally mounted, the difference was staggering. I not only pass the broomstick test, but do so with flying colors — all thanks to the lowered seats. But those seats, once mounted, showed an issue I hadn’t noticed before. Do you see it?


Image for article titled I Fixed My Track-Prepped Mazda Miata's Biggest Flaw

Photo: Eric DaSilva

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Maybe that angle makes it a bit tough. How about this one, taken from the front looking backwards?


Image for article titled I Fixed My Track-Prepped Mazda Miata's Biggest Flaw

Photo: Steve DaSilva

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The shoulder holes in these seats are too tall, and the belts hit them before coming back down to gently rest on my shoulders. Granted, I don’t yet have a HANS device to measure against, and that will help mitigate things, but I may need to do some more work before becoming track legal. Whether that means pads in the bottom of the seat or some sort of racing pauldron situation, I’m not sure, but something needs to change.


Image for article titled I Fixed My Track-Prepped Mazda Miata's Biggest Flaw

Photo: Steve DaSilva

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They do look damn good, though.

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