Ever heard of the Gambler 500? In case you haven’t, here’s a quick background: Also called the ‘OG500,’ it’s an annual event in Oregon where anyone with a $500 car can join and see if their “cheap and impractical” beaters can reach drive for 500 miles (805km).
What’s the point, though? Well, other than joining for the sheer fun of it, the thousands of people with enough time and money to take part in such a wackadoodle event also clean up the deserts, mountains, and public roads they drive through. Now, with this year’s Gambler 500 right around the corner, we happened to come across one rather unique vehicle that recently popped up on cyberspace: an off-road-ready Mazda Miata.
Whether you like it or not is up to you, but you have to admit it’s really a one-of-a-kind vehicle. In fact, it was even featured on the late Jessi Combs’s The List. Hoonigan AutoFocus recently picked it up and featured it on its YouTube channel—they got to interview the founder of the OG500 himself, Tate Morgan.
“I bought the Miata with the intent of just slapping on some big mud tires. But as things happened, it just got out of hand and then we ended up with a fully-built, long-travel Miata. It looks like a million bucks, [but] it actually runs terribly,” Morgan said.
This ’91 Miata was originally picked up with 250,000 miles (more than 402,000km) on it. As absurd as it looks, it surprisingly has a lot of its original parts. It still has the bone-stock 1.6-liter engine, which pretty much explains the “it actually runs terribly” part that Morgan said himself. He says that it puts out 50hp “on a good day.”
The only parts that were modified were the upper and lower control arms, the coilovers, the tie-rod extensions, and the custom driveshafts. As an added bonus, there’s a spare tire holder at the back with an antique plate slapped onto it.
“That’s when you know you do anything right, when everybody screams at you. Gamblers say, ‘That’s too nice to be a Gambler—it didn’t cost $500.’ And then other people on the other side might say that I ruined a Miata, which is just a stupid thing to say—you can’t ruin a Miata,” Morgan added.
As we said, it looks absurd. Really absurd. You can just check out more photos of it below and see for yourself. Do tell us what you think about it in the comments, too—we’d love to hear your take on it.