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Is Your Car Slower than a Miata? Five Classic V8 Muscle Cars a New MX-5 Would Beat at the Drags

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is undoubtedly one of the greatest enthusiast vehicles ever built—beloved the world over by people who enjoy driving.

For more than 30 years now it’s been one of the funnest and best handling sports cars available at any price, but the Miata has never been known for its straight line speed.

Mazda MX-5 Miata White Rear View

The Miata is considered one of the best examples of the “slow car fast” school of thought thanks to its modest horsepower, light weight and razor sharp responsiveness. But is the Miata really that slow?

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Interior

After an engine upgrade for the 2019 model year, the Miata’s 2.0 liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine now makes 181 horsepower, and in a car as light as the MX-5, the result can actually be some pretty surprising acceleration figures.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Engine 2019

While a brand new Miata may still lose most drag races to high horsepower modern performance cars, it’s 0-60 and quarter mile times would have once been in the realm of serious muscle machines.

As proof of this, here are five classic V8 American performance cars that a 2020 MX-5 would beat not just around a twisty road course, but in an old fashioned drag strip duel as well.

1990 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

Few cars were cooler to be seen in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s than an IROC Camaro. And after a period of seeming dated and uncool to most, a clean third gen Camaro is becoming a lot more desirable to collectors.

Chevy Camaro IROC-Z Red

But had a brand new 5.7-powered IROC matched up with a 2020 MX-5 at the drag strip it would be looking at Mazda taillights. It’s 14.73 quarter mile at 93 miles per hour puts it well behind the new MX-5’s 14.4 at 95 miles per hour.

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Orange

1979 Pontiac Trans Am

Head back a decade earlier and the coolest car on the block was another GM F-body—this one the Pontiac Trans Am, as made famous by Burt Reynolds in Smokey & the Bandit.

1979 Pontiac Trans Am Black and Gold

Yet even with a 6.6 liter (AKA 400 cubic inch) V8 and a four-speed manual the the ’79 Trans Am’s 15.3 second quarter mile ET would put it nearly a second behind the little two liter Mazda. The Pontiac still as the cool Screaming Chicken though...

Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Side View

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

With its rev-loving destroked 302 cubic inch small block and racing pedigree, the 1969 Z/28 is considered one of the greatest and most desirable of the first generation Camaros.

1969 Chevy Camaro Z/28 Front View

But a race with a new Miata would show just how far sports cars have come in the 50+ years since. With a 15.1 quarter mile time the Camaro would be more than half a second behind through the traps.

Mazda MX-5 Miata vs 1969 Camaro Race

1994 Ford Mustang Cobra

Back in '94 the Cobra was the hottest Mustang you could buy—taking the basic GT and improving upon it in both horsepower and handling capability.

1994 Ford Mustang Cobra Front View

But even with its higher output version of the legendary 5.0 small block engine, the Miata still gets through the quarter mile quicker, beating out the Cobra’s 14.7 second ET.

Mazda MX-5 Miata 2019 Orange

1970 Pontiac GTO Judge

In 1970 at the peak of the original muscle car era, the Pontiac GTO Judge was one of the coolest machines you could buy. And it had plenty of performance to back up its loud looks.

1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Orange

While it would be a very close race, a new Miata would still edge out the Judge’s 14.5 second ET by a tenth of a second—although the Judge would be carrying more speed through the traps—showing how big of a factor traction was back then.

2019 Mazda MX-5 Orange

If going fast at the drag strip is your goal, then a new Miata still isn’t going to be near the top of your list, but its straight line speed is not to be under estimated.

The fact that a “slow” car could be so fast really shows how good we have it these days.

  • Want to restore a classic Miata to factory spec? Mazda is there to help you out.
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