Photo: Alanis King

I never meant to go to a car show and fall so deeply in love. I am, after all, married. But we can’t control what life presents us with sometimes, and this time, life walked right up and handed me the bright, shiny gift of the most incredible 1993 Mazda Miata I have ever seen.

It was an unseasonably warm February day, even for Texas, and both my mom and I had long ago stripped away our retro black jackets dotted with fake pearls. I’d seen most of what I thought I would see that day—the Ferrari F40 at the top of the hill, the groups of old BMWs and Porsches parked together on display like high-school cliques, the elusive clean fourth-generation Toyota Supras.

Still, we turned the corner and walked down the last row of 1980s and ‘90s cars parked along the edges of the Driveway Austin race track to celebrate the era at Radwood Austin, knowing there would be some good stuff down there but also knowing that it probably couldn’t top what we’d already seen.

Cars trickled off as we neared the end of the display area, becoming slowly more spaced out as we went. The end of the line transformed into a congregation of first-generation Mazda Miatas, both with and without their original inline-four engines. It was a fitting way to end our tour, given our fondness of that car, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before.

That is, until we got to the last one.

It looked like just another red NA Miata from that angle, aside from a lower stance, fender flares, swapped body panels and blindingly gold wheels, and I didn’t think much of it—until I saw past those red doors. All of the cheesy love advice says beauty is on the inside, after all.

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Photo: Alanis King

There, inside of the last car on display at Radwood with nothing but empty pavement behind it, was that very beauty. Its wooden steering wheel shone in the sunlight, basking in the 70-degree weather without a care in the world. Its diamond-stitched interior was better than real diamonds, to me. Its chrome accents tied the look together as seamlessly as they had tethered my heart to this car, which was the product of someone else’s dreams but looked as if it had materialized directly from the deepest corridors of my soul.

I bent over the driver’s door in the most calculated move I could make, trying not to graze the car with my unworthy arms—or faux pearl jacket I’d taken off earlier—as I photographed its interior.

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I stood, in awe, while my mom continually exclaimed that she still had a hard time believing this was a Miata. But it was, and we were standing before it.

Photo: Alanis King

You, like many people on my social channels, might think this is a little much for a 1993 Miata. You might think some of the modifications are silly, useless or excessive, and that, with this kind of intricate interior swap, the owner should have chosen a car can’t be found with a four-digit price tag on Craigslist.

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But you would be wrong, because the root of this situation is a simple question: What really is a Miata? Is it a mid-range roadster with the perfect formula for fun but the looks of a car anyone can swing by a dealer lot or a Craigslist meeting place and buy, or is it whatever we want it to be?

The answer is simple. The Miata is whatever we want it to be, whether that’s a lifted battle car, a supercar impersonator with diamond quilting all over the interior, or a bone-stock little roadster that’s never needed tweaking—only allowed it.

For that, we’re all better off, including my heart.