The Mazda MX-5 is already a fine piece of machinery. It is balanced, nimble and is capable of making for quick laps on the most twisty of track. While the MX-5 is fun to drive, one thing that nobody will say is that it is powerful.

Flyin’ Miata, a top MX-5 Miata tuner, decided to change all of this with their Habu conversion kit. The Habu upgrade works on any 1990-2009 MX-5 with a big difference under the hood. They swap out the small four-cylinder engine for a fire breathing V-8.

If this sounds familiar it is because Carroll Shelby made it popular by putting a large V-8 engine into the small AC Ace. The result of this was the Shelby Cobra, a small roadster capable of scary performance back in the ’60s.

With an eight-cylinder engine in the small Japanese roadster, you get a high-powered performance car that can keep up with many of the high-priced supercars built today for a fraction of the cost.

The performance comes dangerously close to the 2014 SRT Viper and it is because of this swipe at the Viper that the kit is called the Habu, which is Japanese for a small venomous snake.

Hit the jump for more information about the Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin’ Miata

  • 1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin’ Miata
  • Year:
    1990- 2009
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    6-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    480 @ 5750
  • Torque @ RPM:
    475 @ 4500
  • Displacement:
    6.2 L
  • 0-60 time:
    3.8 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front engine rear-wheel drive
  • Price:
  • car segment:


1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Exterior
- image 502837

The outside of the Habu can be the same as the normal MX-5 for a sleeper look. Although, updated body panels are offered, including a front splitter, rear spoiler and racing side skirts.


The interior is the same as the standard MX-5, but Flyin’ Miata does offer aluminum pedals, a four-point safety harness, a roll bar and additional gauges.


1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Drivetrain
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This is where the Habu starts to really get good. The big change is the addition of a powerful V-8 engine.

The engine options include a 6.2-liter GM LS3 engine producing up to 480 horsepower on a street legal car. The larger engine only adds about 200 pounds to the car and is put as far back in the engine bay as possible to help with weight distribution. It keeps the weight pretty well distributed with about a 54-percent bias up front. The engine is mounted using a fabricated-tubular subframe that saves 10 pounds over the stock version.

The stock transmission can’t handle all of that power, so a T56 six-speed manual transmission is put into the little roadster. The transmission is mounted to the frame rails using a brace that also adds extra rigidity.

In order to make room for the engine and new transmission, it does require some modifications to the engine bay and transmission tunnel. In spite of all the modifications, the car retains the stock power steering and you can even have functional air conditioning.

All of the extra horsepower helps launch the modified MX-5 to a claimed 0-to-60 mph time of just 3.8 seconds.

Engine Option 6.2-liter GM LS3 V-8 Engine
Horsepower with Hot Cam 480 @ 5,750 rpm
Base Horsepower 430 @ 5,900 rpm
Torque with Hot Cam (pound-feet) 475 @ 4,500 rpm
Base Torque (pound-feet) 424 @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission T56 six-speed manual transmission

Brakes and Suspension

1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Drivetrain
- image 502843

With all the power added to a car that was designed for something around 150 horsepower, you wouldn’t expect the suspension and tires to hold up to a 400-plus-horsepower V-8. To compensate, a Getrag or a Ford limited-slip rear end is used. Either unit uses custom half-shafts and hubs to deal with the additional torque.

To keep it on the road in the corners, you can pair it with an adjustable sports suspension for the road or a more aggressive track setup that also allows for ride height adjustment. With the faster car you’ll need some good brakes and they offer upgraded brakes to help keep the power in check.


1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Exterior
- image 502849

The price for all this fun will come in starting at about $24,047 for a 1990 to 1997 MX-5 Miata and $23,844 for a 1999 through 2005 model (installation included), minus the cost of the donor MX-5. If you want to do the work yourself, you can build one starting at about $12,000 plus the cost of the MX-5.


1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Exterior
- image 502845

The Habu takes the small MX-5 roadster and adds more performance than you will likely ever need. In doing this it still manages to handle well and to not shred your tires, unless you want it to. The car can be built as a sleeper – until you start the engine – and can retain the original lines of the small Japanese sports car. While the purists would say that this Frankenstein’s monster of a car is just wrong, one has to admit it should be great fun to drive.

David Hurth
About the author

Press Release

Flyin’ Miata has been modifying Miatas ever since the little sports cars first appeared on the market. But it’s their latest creations that are really catching people’s imagination. Meet the Habu.

1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Drivetrain
- image 502840

Named after a small Japanese snake, the Habu is a Miata with Chevrolet’s famed LS3 engine stuffed inside. It doesn’t look plausible when you look at all the parts, but it fits as if it was meant to be there. The cars are built with warranteed crate motors from GM Performance Parts, with the 430 hp LS3 straight from the 2012 Corvette as the base model. It just goes up from there – a 480 hp variant is popular, and the company is currently building a 525 hp racer. Even the 7.0l LS7 from the Z06 is fair game.

The engine is mated to the Tremec T56 6-speed transmission and either a Getrag or a Ford rear end with custom half-shafts and hubs is used to deliver the power to the ground. Of course, every system in the car is altered to deal with the increased power and torque, from larger fuel lines to a custom-made radiator. The little convertible is also beefed up with under-car reinforcements to keep it from flexing under the assault of more than 400 ft-lbs.

A full range of options is available, including race-bred suspension systems, uprated brakes, safety gear, seam-welding and even creature comforts like sound insulation and custom seats. These are custom-built cars, so it’s up to the customer.

1990 - 2009 Mazda MX-5 Habu by Flyin' Miata Exterior Drivetrain
- image 502842

During the conversion, the car gains about 200 lbs. The weight balance is still very good, typically coming in with 53-54% of the weight on the front wheels. That’s right about the same as Mazda’s own turbo Mazdaspeed from 2004-05. Thanks to a good differential, the car puts down power very well, launching off corners in a manner that will leave even the most jaded driver a bit speechless. The car has been well tested in competition, as Flyin’ Miata raced one in the brutal Targa Newfoundland. The team was leading the fast Open Division on the fourth day when a stock Mazda relay failed, but the car still finished third overall after setting quite a few fastest stage times.

Prices for a turn-key Habu start at around $35,000 if you bring your own Miata. Parts are also available to build your own if you’d rather substitute your own labor. You could probably build your own for $12,000 or so if you’re good in a junkyard and able to solve your own problems – although Flyin’ Miata does offer a number of kits to that will let you sidestep any difficulties.

To contact Flyin’ Miata call:1 800 359 6957, email: or visit the website:

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