What is the MX-5 Miata?
Launched at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show as a 1990 model, the MX-5 Miata is a small, light weight roadster in the spirit of British roadsters of the 1960’s and 70’s, like the Lotus Elan, the MGB and the Triumph Spitfire. From the outset it sold well and simply became the best selling two seat roadster of all time achieving a production of more than a 1,000,000 (million) cars by April 22, 2016. Over the twenty seven year period between the introduction of the first car and attaining this record breaking benchmark four generations of what has become an iconic brand have been produced. All four have maintained the original light weight sports car concept that inspired the first generation’s car and are all greater than the sum of their parts.
Although built in Japan, and inspired by British roadsters, the original was designed at MX-5 Miata’s design centre in Irvine, California following a suggestion by automotive journalist Bob Hall. Three MX-5 Miata Design Centres developed different concepts; one mid rear engine, one front-wheel-drive, and the front-engine rear wheel drive version that was adopted after presentation to MX-5 Miata’s management.
Three prototypes of the design configuration adopted were built in England and were evaluated against existing much older British sports cars as part of the car’s pre-production development. Much of the success of the design can be attributed to its being an almost “clean-sheet” design. It used an existing engine and transmission; a DOHC 1.6 L four from the Mazda 323, a five speed all synchromesh transmission from the Mazda 626 and other Mazda components but the chassis configuration was all original. Fully independent suspension and 50/50 front rear weight distribution contribute to the cars excellent handling.
Let’s have a look at the four generations of this iconic almost instant classic roadster.