Civic vs. Miata: Meet the Cars of Driver Battles Season 2 Episode 1
When it comes to the car battles we most want to see, our minds often wander to the unattainable: Ferrari vs. McLaren, Shelby GT500 vs. Camaro ZL1 1LE or even Trackhawk vs. Urus. Rarely do we pick two cars that we see on the road every day, but there’s something equally intriguing about a battle between two cars we could go out and purchase tomorrow. These aren’t the battles of our dreams—they’re battles we can actively be a part of winning.
Such is the case with the rivalry between Civic and Miata fans, two hardcore groups of enthusiasts who both believe they drive the ultimate budget track car. In an effort to add to the debate, we hosted a battle between two very talented drivers, one from each camp, to see who really has the better setup and skill.
In the Civic corner, we have Duane Bada and his ’96 Honda Civic hatch. In the Miata corner, we have Chris Willard and his ‘99 Mazda Miata. Who will be faster around Chuckwalla? If you haven’t already seen the battle, watch it here, then come back to learn more about what makes these cars so special, and quick.
Duane’s ’96 Honda Civic
Up first is Duane’s Civic. You could call him a fan of the car, as he has already competed in, and won, the first episode of Driver Battles in a Civic. Now in his second appearance, he’s moved forward five years and a generation to 1996 and the EK chassis.
In the spirit of attainable cars, the engine has been swapped, but for one that is the height of cheap and plentiful. In place of the stock D16 is a non-VTEC B20. In his own words, it’s “an engine you’d find at the junkyard for $300.” That said, just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it can’t make good power. Getting the most out of that cheap engine is a Hondata S300 ECU and B16 transmission with an MFactory limited slip differential.
Underneath the car are a set of Koni coilovers with Swift springs and Volk TE37 wheels wrapped in 225/45R15 Nitto NT01 tires. To help the car slow down, he upgraded the brakes with NSX calipers, Winmax W3 pads and slotted rotors.
Inside, Duane has made some basic track-focused upgrades, including adding a Recaro seat, BattleCraft shiftknob and hub and Personal steering wheel. This car may not be too crazy, but that’s kind of the point. If you’re a fan of Civics, you could make this car and get in on the battle yourself.
Chris’s ’99 Mazda Miata
Chris Willard may be racing a cost-effective Miata now, but it hasn’t always been that way. He used to track a Nissan 350Z and Porsche Cayman, but they were just too expensive. He said that it was, “tires, brakes, rotors all the time.” Now with the Miata, he can take it to the track as much as he wants without it costing a fortune.
A great way to keep the cost of your build down is to keep your stock engine, which is what Chris has done. He has been able to squeeze 135hp out of the 1.8L BP-4W engine with upgrades to the intake, exhaust and headers and a tune courtesy of a Megasquirt ECU. The horsepower number may not be that high, but with how well the Miata handles, it doesn’t need to be.
To help it get all the grip it can in the corners, Chris has installed a set of Xida single adjustable coilovers, Indotech Motorsport wheels and Stoptech brake pads. He even added Nitto NT01 tires sized 225/45R15, the exact same size as his competitor. On the back is an APR GTC-200 wing to get some aero.
Like Duane, the interior has only seen a few basic upgrades, with a Sparco R 325 wheel and Ergo racing seat. This Miata is a pretty typical build, with a ton of grip and just enough power to get the most out of it.
Just because a battle is between cars you can easily go out and buy doesn’t mean it can’t be epic. It certainly feels more epic to the people involved, and the best part is, there’s no reason why that person can’t be you.