It looks like a Honda S800 – It is a Honda S800, except underneath the skin is a series 1 Mazda MX5. There’s a bit of Fiat, a bit of Ford, some electronic witchcraft and a touch of Yogic calm thrown in to create Miss Fire the Mazonda, a road legal trackday racer that was meant for hill climbing but no one will let it play.

Purists may cringe about modding such a rare car The reason is simple. Miss Fire had a mishap and was going for scrap until its new owner, James, saved it

‘My dad knew I was looking for something classic to go hill climbing with.He told me about a crash damaged Honda going cheap. When he said, S800 I was thinking “Oh yeah 10000RPM red line… I was in.’

Trouble was the Honda was properly pranged, with heavy damage front and back. It needed a rear quarter, and a lot of metal north of the firewall To rebuild it it to original spec would have taken hundreds of hours of professional body work to get it right.and as James points out ‘genuine parts for these cars are rare and expensive’

Instead, he chose to build a modern racer utilising the original shell ,repaired and adapted where necessary to play host to modern underpinnings, A rusted out series 1 MX5 donor car for £800 provided a healthy 1.8 engine and famously tough gearbox. James utilised as much of the MX5 as he could. To make it fit the S800, James, an IT project manager, cranked up his CAD skills for a reworked chassis. He funded it by selling original parts from the S800.

‘I thought I would get lots of abuse from S800 owners for breaking up the car, but to be honest they were grateful to get original parts’

The engine and transmission went to a chap who was deep into a project He had a mint restored shell but his engine was junk. ‘It made sense he got my useable engine and transmission for his show car as opposed to me destroy it racing’ Wheels, axles ,trim and interior were snapped up by S800 owners around the world. ‘The dashboard went to a guy in Pakistan for his restoration’

The money flowing in from his parts sell off meant he could build up his project with minimal financial outlay. ‘It’s the only car I own that pretty much paid for itself’

Rebuilding the shell was a mix of pattern parts and creative fabrication. The rear hatch was repaired with fibreglass, The bonnet was adapted to fit the MX5 lump by James replicating the original tear drop bulge from the S800 and doubling it. A hole for a sunroof was filled in with steel from a dead Fiat.
‘The wings front and rear are pattern parts, Fit with the old shell isn’t perfect but as a racer that doesn’t matter so much, besides I didn’t want to cut up original wings when I was adding arches.’

‘We changed the MX5 heads a bit and added a custom made ECU’ The exhaust was hand made. ‘I have to keep it quiet for track days, Bedford Autodrome is tough on noise levels so there’s a Focus back box in there.’

The suspension replicates that of the MX5 with custom fit rear wishbones complemented by GAZ coilovers. Wheels and gauges are from the donor MX5 although the steering wheel is Honda mated to the MX5 rack. Save for a passenger seat the interior is gutted, bar safety essentials. ‘
My Dad made the fuel cell. I think the steel is from a surplus army tank’

The car weighs in around 800 kilos ‘ I say its a 900 kilo car with me in it’ As James is a big chap driving a very small car there is no driver seat as such, just a strip of foam padding.
‘For bolster support I cut a Yoga brick in half, it works really well.’

Hillclimbing rules are however proving a pain.
‘It’s not so much the S800 being an MX5 under the skin, as it is the regs around the modified chassis track width. It means I have to race in a class I have no chance of winning for two years before I can move up to one where I might have a shout.’

So it’s track days for now, and the open road- The S800 is road legal so no trailer sagas getting to the track. Like any build there are always glitches, hence the name, “Miss Fire””
‘We keep thinking we’ve fixed it but it keeps coming back’

Is the Mazonda a Honda or a Mazda? Miss Fire is both for the price of one, Retro style with modern mechanicals you can abuse without feeling guilty, or costing you a hefty ransom to repair. You could track something cheaper, but it won’t be half as cool.

About The Author

Steve Swanson

Steve turns any opportunity to write about cars into a roadtrip. It's seen him ride shotgun in a Bentley Blower with Clive Cussler, and cross paths with automotive YouTubers in Canada and the US. His work has been published in Magneto, Classic Cars, Classic American and some magazines that no MotorPunk reader has ever heard of. When he's not writing or driving you can find him kicking tyres at seedy auctions and hawking junk optimistically described as Automobilia

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