Miata parts supplier has transformed into a one-stop Spec Miata shop
“Planet Miata has been in business since ’05,” explains principal and Spec Miata racer Marc Cefalo, fresh off a double victory at the SVRA Mazda Miata Heritage Cup race at Road Atlanta. “We started off as a parts supplier for Mazda Miatas; we specialized in all the generations. That morphed into motorsport.
“I’ve been racing Mazdas all my life, since ’97,” he says. “I started with RX-7s, both first- and second-generation cars, then moved into Miatas – I did my first build of Spec Miata in ’02 and haven’t really looked back since. And as the popularity of the class has grown, so has the business. What started off as small little company in a two-bay garage has grown into a campus of a few acres and four large buildings; if you added them all together, we’re probably just shy of 30,000 square feet. It’s been one heck of a ride.”
Planet Miata stores and maintains about 30 cars, most of them Spec Miatas, but also a few track-day machines. They’ll take care of four to eight customers on any given race weekend, whether that’s club racing or vintage, and they still maintain a hold in the road car side of things, doing a lot of upkeep on daily and – being in Pennsylvania – summer drivers. But motorsports is the biggest part of the business.
“The motorsports aspect has increased probably tenfold over the last five or six years,” Cefalo explains. “Basically, it was a hobby, now it’s a fulltime gig. We’ve expanded the services to our spec Miata customers, [building] the cars in-house. We have the luxury of having our own paint booth, so all paint and body repairs are done in-house. We try to keep as much internal as possible, always trying to find the better way to put the cars together and make them faster and more competitive.”
Planet Miata typically builds 10 to 12 cars a year, sending them all over the country. They do everything with the exception of engine builds, which are handled by X-Factor Racing in Texas. But one thing that Planet Miata does in-house that many don’t is blueprint transmissions – it’s something Cefalo is proud of.
“We’ve sold just shy of 30 already this season,” he says. “One thing that’s unique to us is that those are broken in and dyno tuned. No need for worrying about the gearbox working right out of the gate.”
The shop has a trio of rental cars, but most of the business is arrive-and-drive for customer-owned cars. And while Spec Miata is the biggest chunk of the work, Planet Miata is also looking down the road at what comes next.
“We work on the first-generation cars with SVRA, and I’ve been fairly successful with the NA chassis at the [SCCA] Majors level,” says Cefalo. “But we work on all four generations [of MX-5]. I’ve personally started working with McCumbee-McAleer Racing in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, because eventually that is going to trickle down to the club level. While we’re always trying to evolve and do new things with the current Spec Miata cars, there’s also T4 with the NC MX-5, and gaining knowledge on the current ND. Past, present or future, we make it work.”