On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
I HADN’T THOUGHT of the Miata as a “Classic Bit” until I unearthed a photo from its Japanese introduction. (If it’s not a classic photo of the car, it certainly is of me.)
In fact, the Miata and I go way, way back. I was the R&T guy selected for a one-on-one preproduction clinic held at Mazda’s Hiroshima headquarters in 1987. They sat me down and began with a multimedia presentation focusing on English sports cars—MGs, Morgans, Triumphs, Austin-Healeys, Lotuses, wind-in-your-hair elemental open sports cars. Then we turned around to a curtain that opened to reveal Mazda’s “lightweight sports car,” as yet with no name disclosed. I recall being struck by its resonance with sports racing cars of the 1950s. Last we moved to another room where several prototypes in different stages of assembly gave engineers opportunity to show me the car’s design and construction. I didn’t drive one at that visit.
This came in October 1988 when photographer John Lamm and I ventured to Hiroshima for the long-lead introduction of the now-named car. This time I got to drive several MX-5 Miatas—including a Mariner Blue one around Mazda’s Miyoshi Proving Ground. Known for its Global Road Circuit replications from around the world, this venue was perfect for exploring Miata virtues. I recall savoring lap after lap until they flagged me in (so these nice people could go home). Lamm caught a particular nice cornering shot; me, wearing my proper English stringback driving gloves.
The car had its world introduction at the Chicago Auto Show in early 1989. By mid-year, R&T got a Long-Term Miata, another blue one, VIN …0100348, which is still in the family. This is in both the extended sense (Andy and Patty Bornhop drove it on their honeymoon) and otherwise (ditto, Dottie and me). In fact, Dottie and I have owned this Miata since early 1992.
For a long time, it has been my favorite sports car. The Miata’s limits can be explored without earning points on one’s license or scaring hell out of the populace. It’s nimble, with excellent communication and predictable response. All of its attributes are balanced, in concert.
Our Miata has a bit less than 90K miles, a low-mileage 1990 example indeed. However, inevitable age—especially of its rubber insulation bits—has resulted in a fair number of rattles. There are things like the (rollup) windows, the hardware of the top (still one of the world’s best to raise or lower) and a few other rattles of untraceable variety.
As a last fillip, our Miata is autographed—in the glovebox—by Toshihiko Hirai, project chief of the original MX-5 program. In fact, several months after he autographed our car, Hirai-san sent me another glovebox from Japan, this one with a note saying the new signature might be more clearly rendered. I still have it as a spare. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012