The Miata Earns Its Repeat HPOF Award in Saratoga

A recent blog post summarized the June 2021 AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) National show in Saratoga Springs NY, with a follow-up post about some of the owners I met and the stories behind their show cars. It’s now time to tell the story of my own car which was on the show field that day, and I’m referring to my 1993 Mazda Miata. Yes, it qualifies as an AACA show vehicle, as the AACA runs a rolling 25-year rule, meaning that in any given year, vehicles 25 years old or older can be entered. My Miata became eligible in 2018.

When I showed this car for the first time at a National event, it was Hershey, and I chose to enter it in the HPOF (Historical Preservation of Original Features) class. When I purchased the Miata in August of 1996, it was a gently-used three-year-old car with 34,000 miles on it. I promptly put another 10,000 miles on it before the year was out, but then turned it into a toy for fair weather use. Still, I could not have seen the day when a car which still felt new to me would be eligible for a Hershey event! Thankfully, during those years between 1996 and 2018, I avoided all temptation to modify or ‘improve’ the car, and maintained it to stock specifications.

The view from the owner’s folding chair

I was a proud papa when the car earned its first HPOF badge at that 2018 Hershey showing. The pressure only increased to maintain its originality, and in 2019, when the NJ Region hosted its own National event in Parsippany, I decided to try for the next level, which is “Original HPOF”. (Without going into too much detail, it means that a greater percentage of the vehicle, including paint, upholstery, and mechanicals, are “as built” by the factory). The Miata did win its first Original HPOF in Parsippany, and that was its most recent National event until this year.

Post-judging, hood and trunk are now closed

Of course, 2020 was a washout, but with Covid restrictions easing in 2021, I’m making up for lost time. So it was off to Saratoga Springs with the Miata vying for a Repeat Original HPOF award. I attended the Saturday evening awards banquet, and was humbled and elated to receive my repeat award (actually a chip to be mounted to a wooden display board). The car managed to do this, by the way, with over 107,000 miles showing on the odometer.

A morning-after beauty shot; yes, that is original paint with 107,000 miles on it

What’s next? The remainder of the Nationals for 2021 are too far away, so I will wait and see what the calendar holds for 2022. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the car, and will do everything I can to maintain its originality. I plan to drive it in the NJ Region’s Summer Tour coming up at the end of this month, which will take us as far north as Rochester NY. The miles will pile on, but the car is up to it!

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The ’93 Miata earns its AACA HPOF award

A frequent question I get is “what makes a car a classic?” There is no one right answer. The definition of such a car can be up to you! If you think your vehicle is “interesting” on some level, and the car is used more for special occasions (anything from Sunday drives to cruise nights) than as a daily driver, then it fits the bill. Who am I to say that a 3-year-old Camaro which is only driven in dry weather to GM-themed events isn’t a collector car?

Attending various shows around the Northeast bears this out. The variety and quality of vehicles at a Boonton NJ cruise night is certainly different than what’s seen at The Greenwich Concours. Driving events run the gamut from our own Sunday breakfast cruises (featuring a “run what you brung” mentality) to the million-dollar cars in the New England 1000 rally. Sometimes there are no rules, and other times the rule book is voluminous.

Attendees at Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) shows typically see cars which have been restored to the highest professional standards. A true “#1 condition” car is rare, but you’ll find them in the AACA. These cars are almost never driven on the road; the engines are run long enough to move them into and out of an enclosed trailer to preserve their perfected state, and that’s it for the driving.

My first AACA experience was Hershey in the early 1980s. As a young man not yet 30, the rows of perfect Mustangs and T-Birds depressed me into concluding that I’d never have a vehicle which could qualify there. These owners’ cars were judged by arbiters who would dole out trophies and bragging rights, so there was no such thing as “too nice”.

Except, there was. The Overseers at AACA began to realize they had a problem: strictly speaking, their own rule book said that cars should be restored to be as close as possible to “factory new” condition, when in practice many of these cars were better than new. Trim which the factory buffed was now chromed; single-stage paint now wore a clear coat; and unpainted surfaces were now sealed. It’s a condition called “over-restoration”. Some owners complained that their ultra-low mileage never-restored cars were losing out to restorers with deep pockets and questionable taste.

To its credit, AACA created a new judging class: the Historical Preservation of Original Features, or HPOF. The concept was simple: reward vehicle owners whose steeds still were screwed together as the factory did it. Dull paint and worn upholstery didn’t matter, but original equipment and fittings did. The goal was to encourage the preservation of cars in their original state for future generations to observe, study, and learn from them. HPOF has become a very popular category for owners and spectators alike.

As a separate class, there would be no clash in trying to judge an HPOF car against a fully-restored one. An obvious example from the HPOF rule book is paint: a car must wear all or almost all of its original paint to be eligible in this class. In fact, a car which wins an HPOF award and is subsequently repainted will lose its HPOF accreditation.

Aug. 1996: me with my newly-acquired Miata (no SUVs on the streets yet!)

When I purchased my 1993 Mazda Miata in 1996, it was a gently-used 3-year-old car with barely 30,000 miles on it. The first-generation “NA” models were still in Mazda showrooms. The Miata got driven a lot, but never in the winter. I kept up with all maintenance on the car, and I can count the total number of repairs on one hand: a clutch slave cylinder, a power antenna, a heater core, and one headlight bulb. (Service items such as hoses, belts, fluids, brakes and tires are all part of routine maintenance.)

Oct. 2018: the same car on the Hershey show field

Perhaps the most difficult part of owning this car for 22 years (it now has 104,000 miles) has been avoiding the temptation to modify it. The aftermarket business for the Miata has always been strong and keeps getting stronger. I’ve been tempted to add a turbo; replace the stereo; reupholster the seats; install bigger brakes, wheels, and tires; and add interior wood trim. While a few small changes have occurred (I upgraded the floor mats and replaced some lighting with LED bulbs), the car appears the same as it did when I got it in ’96.

Wearing its new badge

This year, the car turned 25 and became eligible for AACA events. I was excited to enter it into the Hershey show in the HPOF category, and last week, the package arrived informing me that indeed, my 1993 Mazda Miata had earned its HPOF badge. I’m a proud papa, and plan to continue to enter this car in HPOF, notably, in the June 2019 National meet which the NJ Region is hosting in Parsippany NJ. There will be plenty to talk about between now and then.

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.