Dan Trent profile picture Dan Trent a year ago 35
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I Secretly Tuned My Mother’s MX-5 And Now She Wants A Turbo Conversion

From responsible parent to go-faster granny - how my mum corrupted my taste in cars and I repaid the debt with some stealth mods to her Mazda

Remind me later
I Secretly Tuned My Mother’s MX-5 And Now She Wants A Turbo Conversion - Blog

Potty-mouthed poet Philip Larkin once said something very rude about how you inherit hang-ups from your parents. But in my case I’ve nothing but gratitude for the influence of my mum’s impulsive car-buying habits. It’s certainly seen some interesting and eclectic machinery pass through her hands and given me licence to pursue my own vehicular adventures without the usual parental tutting. After all, the mum who once took her Fiat Tipo in for a service and came back with a brand new Cinquecento Sporting can hardly scold you for blowing inherited money on an Eunos Roadster. Despite specific instructions not to.

"The salesman was a very nice man." No kidding mum!
"The salesman was a very nice man." No kidding mum!

The Cinquecento remains a high point in her car-buying history though, my brothers and I owing a huge debt of gratitude to the salesman who convinced her she’d be better off with that than a new clutch in her Tipo. Many of us start our driving careers in our mums’ cars, the freedom of gaining a licence set against the indignity of bimbling about in a base-spec Corsa or similarly uninspiring shopping trolley. But my mum had a hot hatch. If she wonders why one of her sons turned car geekery into a career and another just blew a chunk of cash on an Evo IV, she only has herself to blame.

After an Alfa Romeo 145 Cloverleaf that mysteriously came and went without me ever seeing it (I still don’t know what happened there), a bright yellow Punto Sporting, an NB MX-5 and a succession of smartly-specced modern Minis, she more recently celebrated retirement and becoming a grandmother in suitable style. Yes, faced with a new range of responsibilities including helping out with shuttling babies and toddlers she did the only sensible thing. And bought an ND MX-5 the day the car launched here in the UK.

I Secretly Tuned My Mother’s MX-5 And Now She Wants A Turbo Conversion - Blog

She’d had her order in for a while without telling any of us. And on the day of delivery I was actually in Japan, driving the new MX-5 in its first motorsport outing in the annual Mazda Roadster media race at Tsukuba. I was chuffed to be the first Westerner to race the ND MX-5. And then the picture appeared on my phone of my mum taking delivery of the same on the other side of the world. Suffice to say this went down very well with my Mazda hosts.

My Eunos is the four-wheeled expression of "I blame the parents"
My Eunos is the four-wheeled expression of "I blame the parents"

She even got the right spec, that being the revvier, lighter 1.5-litre version in signature Soul Red metallic and on the dinky 16-inch wheels. The fact this car weighs barely a passenger more than my own 25-year-old Eunos and has comparable power-to-weight is nothing short of remarkable and one of the many reasons I admire Mazda’s dedication to keeping it real. Saying that, there’s no harm in a bit more power, so when UK Mazda tuner BBR announced its Super 160 upgrade for the 1.5, my step dad and I hatched a plan.

2.0-litre performance in a lighter, revvier 1.5 - result!
2.0-litre performance in a lighter, revvier 1.5 - result!

With a few hundred quid and a simple plug-in remap the BBR StarChip upgrade takes the 129bhp of your 1.5 up to the same 158bhp as the 2.0-litre while – obviously – maintaining the lighter, revvier nature of the smaller engine. Win-win. My stepdad met me at BBR’s Brackley base, the update was installed and my mum had – unwittingly – entered the world of aftermarket tuning.

“My car feels perkier than ever!” she beamed in the weeks following, the rasp of her Mazda pulling away from outside my house sounding just that bit more purposeful and committed. Finally my stepdad and I confessed to what we’d done and the BBR sticker we’d been supplied was fitted.

Go on mum, you know it makes sense...
Go on mum, you know it makes sense...

She pretended she was cross. And then within five minutes was asking “do they do louder exhausts?” And now there’s a 210bhp turbocharged BBR conversion for the 1.5 too. Turbo granny? Now she’s got a taste for it I wouldn’t rule anything out.