We’re kicking off a new monthly series here that highlights some of our favorite LS-powered builds with Flyin’ Miata’s most recent marriage of Bowtie muscle to Mazda’s diminutive sports car.
The rollout of Mazda’s all-new fourth-generation sports car was an exercise in patience for the Miata faithful. Literally years of anticipation drawn out by vague teasers that offered very little in terms of specifics showed promise but were light on details. But when the ND finally debuted, it was clear that the Japanese automaker’s engineering efforts were focused in the right places – designing a great chassis, getting the car’s weight down as low as possible and, perhaps above all else, retaining the core values of what made the Miata such a sensation to begin with.
With a curb weight roughly on par with the original MX-5 at just over 2,300 pounds wet, the ND Miata’s light weight seemed a miraculous feat in an era typified by excess mass in cars across the industry. But there were a few numbers that Mazda wasn’t particularly forthcoming about, and most were related to the output of the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four cylinder under the hood, which generates 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. While it’s enough grunt to get the MX-5 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, some enthusiasts were understandably left wanting more. And that’s where companies like Flyin’ Miata come in.
V8 swaps into Mazda MX-5s aren’t a new concept by any means, but Flyin’ Miata has built a reputation as one of the aftermarket tuners that can actually get the conversion done right, bringing eight-cylinder power to this small chassis without ruining the car’s dynamics or drivability. For their latest trick, the company stuffed a warmed-over LS3 into the ND Miata, giving Mazda’s drop top supercar-like performance in the process.
Doubling The Cylinder Count
Flyin’ Miata got their start as a European car repair shop called The Dealer Alternative, but began to turn their attention to bolstering Miata performance in 1989. By 1996 the repair business was spun off, leaving the company to focus their efforts specifically on hopping up MX-5s. Perhaps best known for their turbocharged and supercharged builds, the company now offers everything from exhaust systems to suspension packages.
While V8 conversions aren’t a new thing for Flyin’ Miata, this latest iteration is interesting not only because of the power it delivers but also due to how sanitary the transplant is, not to mention the fact that it retains both the weight distribution and tossable nature of the stock ND Miata.
The heart of the conversion is an LS3 in either 430 or 525 horsepower tune that’s paired up with a six-speed Tremec T56 manual gearbox and an LS7 clutch and flywheel. As you’d expect, there’s no shortage of custom work required to get all the components to play nicely with one another, including a new GM-built engine wiring harness and engine management system that’s tweaked to ensure that all of the dashboard readouts remain functional and accurate.
Flyin’ Miata also applies a custom tune to the ECU to improve both power and drivability in this application, and there’s even some tweaks the company can make to ensure the car is compliant with California smog laws.
Of course if you want the package to actually be usable, it’s going to need adequate cooling for the amount of heat that big V8 makes, so Flyin’ Miata installs a custom-built dual pass crossflow radiator and dual Spal fans on a custom shroud to keep the engine temps down.
And with more than three times the horsepower of a stock ND Miata on tap, you better believe there’s some chassis upgrades here too. A custom aluminum driveshaft and new half-shafts ensure that the LS power gets to the rear limited-slip differential, the latter of which is pulled from a fifth-generation Camaro for the build, while suspension upgrades include Flyin’ Miata’s adjustable front and rear sway bars and a Fox Racing coilover setup.
Flyin' Miata Conversion Parts List
- 430 hp 6.2L LS3 V8 engine with a two year warranty – a 2015 Camaro SS engine
- 6-speed T56 Magnum transmission with a custom shift lever
- FM spec Moroso steel oil pan with baffling
- LS7 clutch and flywheel
- AAM differential from a 2015 Camaro
- custom-built dual pass crossflow radiator
- dual Spal fans on a custom shroud
- new aluminum driveshaft
- heavy duty halfshafts
- stainless steel headers and dual exhaust
- Magnaflow high-flow dual catalytic converters
- upgraded fuel system
- new GM-built engine wiring harness and engine management
- Flyin’ Miata custom engine dyno tune
- OE-style motor mounts for good NVH control
- custom air intake system with hot air baffle
- rear mount Odyssey battery with kill switch and
- engine bay jump start terminal
- Corvette C6 starter
- fully functional stock gauges
- FM sway bars front & rear with adjustable end links
- Flyin’ Miata FOX Racing suspension
- FM four wheel little big brake kit
- Hydraulic steering conversion
- Flyin’ Miata alignment
- LS3 E-Rod engine (emissions compliance)
- LS376/525 (525 hp, 489 ft-lb)
- carbon fiber driveshaft
- aluminum oil pan
- 6-piston front, 4-piston rear brake upgrade
- Swain Tech White Lightning ceramic coating for the headers & cat pipes
- Hot Rod Therapy DBW cruise control
- Hard Dog roll bar
While the stock ND Miata’s 5.8-second sprint to 60 miles per hour from rest is admirable considering it’s got 155 horsepower to work with, Flyin’ Miata’s 525hp LS3-powered car does the deed quite a bit quicker, offering supercar-like acceleration that equates to 3.5 seconds to 60 mph, 0-100 mph in 7.8 seconds, and a quarter mile ET of 11.7 seconds at 123 mph.
But the Miata has never really been about straight-line speed. Many autocross and road course junkies bemoan swaps like this because they assume that the balance of the car has been ruined, and the handling in turn.
That’s not the case here though, as the entire conversion only adds about 250 pounds to the car, bringing the curb weight up to a still-featherweight 2600 pounds. Crucially, the weight distribution is also largely unchanged, with a slightly more front bias of 53:47 as opposed to the stock car’s 52:48. Flyin’ Miata also says that with the 245mm tread that fits under the stock ND fenders, this car will generate 1.07g on the skidpad too.
What’s more, one of the few gripes that have been leveled at the fourth-generation Miata involves the steering feel – or lack thereof – that’s delivered from its new, electrically assisted rack. Well guess what – that rack is nowhere to be found in the Flyin’ Miata LS3 conversion, as a hydraulically assisted rack takes its place here.
“If Caroll Shelby’s name were on the car, it would be a bargain,” said John Pearley Huffman of Car and Driver after some time behind the wheel. But as it stands, the one thing holding Flyin’ Miata’s LS3-powered ND MX-5 from truly legendary status is the expense involved in this conversion – all in it’s going to cost you north of $80,000 (car included), depending on options.
While that’s to be expected considering the performance capability on offer here, along with the meticulousness of the conversion process, there’s another LS-powered two door that occupies a similar space, and we know it as the C6 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. While it doesn’t have the outright charisma of a build like this, at roughly half the price on the used market, you can also afford to buy a whole lot of aftermarket charm if you want it.
Still, it’s hard to deny the lust factor involved here – what should be a circus side show of car is actually a balanced, usable package that retains all of the functionality it had when stock. And while C6 Corvettes are commonplace these days, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to come across another V8-powered ND Miata at your next cruise night, track day or autocross event.