Bauer Catfish front 3/4 view

Bauer Catfish is Ready to Swim with Sharks [w/ Video]

Bauer Catfish front 3/4 view

When Mazda introduced the MX-5 Miata in 1989, it reintroduced the world to the idea of the small, agile and affordable roadster. However, unlike the MGs, Alfa Romeos, Triumphs, Fiats and Austin-Healeys of yore, the Miata started more than 50% of the time, didn’t turn your garage floor into a Superfund site, and didn’t have more electrical glitches than an iPhone that did a Greg Louganis impression right into the crapper. In other words, it actually worked on top of being fun to drive.

As a result of serving you sports car cake that you can also eat, so to speak, Mazda sold first- and second-generation Miatas (codenamed NA and NB, respectively) by the millions; in fact, the MX-5 has long since surpassed the MGB as the best selling small roadster in history. Which means there’s no shortage of donor cars to be converted into the machine you see here: The Bauer Catfish.

Bauer Catfish rear 3/4 view

The Bauer in the car’s name comes from California-based Cord Bauer, a holder of 10 patents and the founder of the Catfish’s builder, Bauer Limited Production. He’s assembled an all-star team of designers, engineers and fabricators to make his dream of an early-Miata-based track special a reality. But while the Catfish is Miata-based, it’s not a simple re-body. The Miata’s front and rear subframes are removed from the stock unibody and attached to a custom tubular steel spaceframe designed and built by Ron Hemphill, who has built chassis for Baja 1000– and Dakar Rally-winning vehicles. The new chassis includes a single roll-hoop for the driver and front and rear firewalls (allowing the Catfish to meet SCCA and NASA safety regulations) plus a full flat belly pan with a removable center panel for drivetrain access. And the suspension has been set up by Spec Miata guru Tony Woodford.

Covering this mixture of stock and custom parts is a stylish composite body that offers up a modern take on the lithe, uncluttered 1950s sports racing car silhouette. Curvaceous character lines on the hood and side panels (There are no doors on the Catfish.) add some visual interest, and the stubby tail can be fitted with an optional diffuser. We like it. We like it a lot, in fact.

Bauer Catfish interior view

We also like the drivetrain options. Standard Catfish power will come from either the stock 1.6L or 1.8L inline-four, while a GM LS-Series V8 will be available later. The stock Miata four-bangers might not be strong, but with a claimed curb weight of 1,500 lbs. (about 700 lbs. lighter than a bone stock MX-5), you won’t be wanting for oomph. Unless you really, really want to scare the poo out of yourself, then you’ll want to step up to the LSX.

And you won’t have to spend a fortune to scare yourself, either: Catfish prices start at $13,900, plus the cost of an NA or NB (1990-2005) Miata donor car. Can’t get your hands on a donor car? Bauer will source a clean, rust-free California Miata for you and put it on the same receipt as the Catfish conversion. And it’s not like early Miatas are pricey: Bauer grabbed the donor car for the Catfish it brought to last year’s SEMA Show – a 1990 example with 177,000 miles and a few worn-out engine parts – for $800! So for less than $20,000 you can have a stylish, flyweight corner-carver that uses proven mechanicals. How great is that?


Source: Bauer Limited Production