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Thread: Old And New Mazda Miatas Demonstrate Why Driving Matters

  1. #1
    Events Manager minuteman048's Avatar
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    Old And New Mazda Miatas Demonstrate Why Driving Matters

    The fourth generation still looks bigger and bulkier than the original to me (MM).

    In the span of my time so far on this planet, I’ve seen a lot of “sporty” car models come and go. Few have lasted for more than a couple of product generations and they have often evolved into something far different than the original design brief as manufacturers have tried to appeal to a broader market. For many, the carmaker simply couldn’t make the business case to justify the engineering expense to keep it around. The one exception that has somehow stayed remarkably true to its original premise despite coming from a comparatively small brand is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. I recently got to spend time with the latest Miata iteration and compare it to one of the very earliest examples, a low-mileage 1990 that I personally own.
    These days, relatively few new cars get their public introduction at the Chicago Auto Show and even fewer of those go on to become icons. In February 1989, Mazda chose one of the coldest major cities in America in the middle of winter as the venue to debut the original MX-5 Miata. I was still in college at the time, but I was a subscriber to all four of the major automotive magazines and I remember reading about this reincarnation of the classic British roadster.
    As I came of age there were plenty of cars that I really liked but two types in particular that really grabbed me and I felt I had the opportunity to own. One was the Ford Mustang. The other were those little two-seat convertibles from brands like Triumph, MG and Austin-Healey. By 1989, those British brands were all either largely defunct or well on their way to that fate. For all their driving appeal, British roadsters also had a nasty and well-earned reputation for fragility and unreliability.

    However, by the late 1980s, the Japanese brands had developed a sterling quality reputation and while many were still prone to premature corrosion on salty American roads, they tended to run reliability for many years. So the appearance of a tiny two-seater with a soft top and styling that clearly paid homage to the 1960s Lotus Elan mated to modern Japanese mechanical systems was bound to grab some attention.

    Interestingly, the Miata was not the only Mazda powered sporty convertible to arrive in 1989. At the time, Ford still owned a controlling interest in Mazda shares and its Australian division wanted to build such a car that would eventually be exported to America as well. The defunct Capri nameplate was brushed off for this new model and on the surface it seemed to be a direct competitor to the Miata. But Ford made the same mistake as so many others and opted to base the Capri off an economy car platform, in this case the Mazda 323. The 323 wasn’t a bad car, in fact it was quite competitive in the compact segment. As a hatchback or sedan. With a new open-top body it was hopeless. The one time I drove one in 1991, it struck me as one of the most flexible cars I ever drove and it was discontinued by 1994.

    In mid-1990 I possessed a freshly minted mechanical engineering degree and was getting ready to head into my first new job working on anti-lock brake systems. I’d gotten through the previous four years of alternating between school semesters and co-op work terms at GMI (since re-branded to Kettering University) with a GMC S-15 but I decided it was now time for a new car. My final choice came down to the fresh on the market Miata or a Mustang 5.0LX. Since I intended to use this as a year round car in Michigan, I opted for the Mustang then, a car I drove for the next eight years. I’ve owned other cars including another Mustang in the intervening years, but the Miata always called to me
    Now, all these years later with our kids grown and out of the house the opportunity came to revisit go back on my 27-year-old choice. A friend had a lovely 1990 Miata that had never been exposed to road salt and somehow only had 56,000 miles on the clock. It now shares the garage with my wife’s brand new Civic hatchback.

    While cars like the Capri, Toyota MR2, Honda S2000, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Pontiac Solstice and countless others have come and gone, the Miata remains with us, having crossed the one million sales milestone in 2016. Following the launch of the fourth-generation soft-top Miata last year, we also now have the retractable hardtop Miata RF which arrived in my driveway to spend time with my original.

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  3. #2
    Individual-1 ☚☻☛ Agent☣Orange's Avatar
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    Re: Old And New Mazda Miatas Demonstrate Why Driving Matters

    That rear window frame on the Targa does add to the appearance of bulk plus the whole car is three inches too high.

  4. #3
    ✨ Senior Gearhead 3K+ SmileyFace's Avatar
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    Re: Old And New Mazda Miatas Demonstrate Why Driving Matters

    That is not a fair comparison MM, The RF is in fact bulkier and weighs more. What they should have compared was the ND Sort model with the NA. It's like comparing a 1936 Ford convertible with a Mustang Fastback.
    Mario E Ordonez
    SmileyFace is a 2014 MX-5 Miata NC dressed in Black Mica and Coco cinnamon leather seats.

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