Part 1 | Passion Project
Mazda's side project to bring a new roadster to market turned into the creation of the best selling sports car worldwide. The MX-5, stigmatized as feminine or silly for some time, became respected for its driving characteristics and is now, and has long been the most frequently raced car in the world. The Miata's journey is one of passion and triumph, transcending uncertainty, opinion and expectations.
Part 2 | Becoming A Classic
The early Miata is on the path to becoming a real classic. Many have been modified beyond what can easily be returned to stock, and others have fallen into disrepair. However, because a large number of Miatas were made, good condition, factory spec examples can still be found. These examples sell quick when they come up, and values are rising. An increasing number of Miatas are on collector plates, indicating more people are enjoying these cars as a weekend driver, or a weekend escape. The MX-5 has played the role of the hairdressers' commuter, the weekend racer, and the modified street machine, among many other things, over the years. All the power to people who have used these cars for those purposes, the car is outstanding for each one. This versatility and approachability is part of what makes the MX-5 so great. It is new for the Miata to be celebrated as a classic, in period-correct form with collector plates. The more classic car enthusiasts I meet, the more I find out how many have a Miata in their collection as well. Many have owned one in the past and love to reflect on the joys of driving it.
The Red 1990 pictured above is my wife and I's weekend car. We've had collector plates on it since 2015. Each year, driving it around attracts more attention. Adults double-take all the time. We especially love the third head turn to check if they really did see collector plates when they last looked. It happens all the time; many have told us they remember when the car originally came out and will usually have a story or two to share. Kids walking by get excited seeing it, some have enthusiastically yelled "cool car," others point at the pop-up headlights with big smiles. Familiar ground to those with pre-1970 vehicles. It gives us hope for the future of these Miatas, and that the enjoyment of classic cars will live on in the coming generations and progress to a more inclusive state across different automotive interests.
Part 3 | Jinba Ittai
In 2014, I heard Tom Matano, part of the original MX-5 design team, speak about the design ethos for the original Miata. He appeared at the Miata 25th Anniversary Celebration at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He said the team designed the car using some specific themes, all of which reminded me what it is about the Miata I enjoy.
"Less is more" was one of the design team's key elements. Simplicity and balance are why the MX-5 is a great driving car, and throughout the creation process, the team veered from any details that would stray from this rule.
Mazda adopted a concept from Japanese mounted archery for the creation of the Miata. Jinba Ittai is the idea of the person and horse as one. Everything about the car is designed to be a natural extension of the driver. This is evident immediately when you sit in the driver's seat, one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the shifter. Instead of the vehicle being a way to carry a driver from place to place, it feels like the whole car is designed to naturally extend the driver's capabilities.
Lastly, he touched on how the car had to have a cheerful outlook, that it had to be approachable. This design element isn't brought up as much in conversation about these cars, I think because it's one of the main reasons many people don't like the Miata. It isn't an outwardly aggressive vehicle. For me, this is actually one of the things I love most about it. It's unpretentious, not out for prestige, not bought as a means of conspicuous consumption, or to overinflate anyone's ego. The MX-5 is simply here to have a good time and put a smile on people's faces. I think this is something we could all use more of in the world today.