February in Chicago isn’t normally what you’d call convertible season, but on a cold and blustery morning almost 30 years ago to the day, Mazda took ragtop fans and, indeed, the rest of the auto industry, by surprise with the debut of the original Miata roadster.
While never a major seller, the pint-sized two-seater also known as the MX-5 captured the hearts – and checkbooks – of those who wanted something that put the emphasis on pure driving fun, inspiring a wave of imitations from Mazda’s Japanese, German and U.S. rivals.
On another cold and blustery day in the Windy City, Mazda pulled the wraps off a special, commemorative edition of the fourth-generation Miata Thursday. And to mark the occasion, it brought to its Chicago Auto Show news conference not only some of the roadster’s most loyal fans, but some of the folks who helped create the little car.
Key to the concept was breaking with the auto industry mindset of the day that bigger meant better, explained Bob Hall, a senior product planner with the Japanese brand three decades ago. The Miata was conceived to be “everything you need and nothing you don’t need.”
(Mazda shows off “matured” design for new Mazda3. Click Here for the story.)
“I was looking for something fun, and this was it,” said Linda Johnson, proudly holding up a framed photo of she and her husband, Steve, at a much younger age, sitting in their original MX-5. “I have driven a Miata every day for 30 years,” she explained, adding that, “Until it came along, cars were a way to get from Point A to Point B. This car is a dream. It just makes you feel free.”
Though Mazda has given the latest version of the roadster a 26 horsepower bump up in power for 2019, to 181 hp, it’s never been the monster in its segment. The automaker leaves that up to the competition. The focus, said Hall, was on intuitively nimble driving dynamics – something that his Japanese colleagues referred to as “jinbai iai,” essentially “horse and rider as one.”
That clearly resonated with the Johnsons, who were among the first Miata buyers, placing their orders as soon as the original model – known to aficionados as the NA – went on sale in the spring of 1989. They have since bought three more, one from each new generation, including the latest series known as the ND.
Throughout the years, Mazda has sold a bit over 1 million Miatas. But while that clearly doesn’t make it one of the brand’s best-sellers, “Miata is the heart and soul of Mazda,” proclaimed Masahiro Moro, president and CEO of the automaker’s North American operations. That can be taken as a clear indication the little car will remain in Mazda showrooms for years to come.
To mark Miata’s anniversary, in fact, Mazda announced something new and something old.
(Click Here for TDB’s first drive in the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata.)
The automaker will expand the availability of factory parts for the original NA model which is still easy to spot thanks to its pop-up headlights.
“Each model is part of the same family,” said Moro, adding that Mazda wants to “prolong the life of the NA” models still on the road.
For those who want something new, however, Mazda is launching a limited-production, 30th Anniversary Edition Miata. It should be even easier to spot thanks to its carrot paint scheme – which Mazda prefers to call Racing Orange and says is meant to “evoke the breaking dawn of an exciting new day.”
The color is repeated everywhere you turn, including interior stitching and even the brake calipers.
There are no mechanical updates, Mazda apparently figuring the current, 181 hp output is more than enough. But the special edition – which is available in both ragtop and retractable hardtop bodies – boasts other unique features. There’s now Alcantara trim on the doors, dash and Recaro sport seats, and the 30th Anniversary models get 17-inch forged aluminum wheels modeled after those used on the MX-5 Cup racer. Of course, there are the requisite special badges and serial number plaque, as well.
(No more what if: Mazda bringing out a faster Miata. Click Here for the story.)
According to Moro, Mazda plans to produce just 3,000 of the Miata 30th Anniversary models, with 500 earmarked for the U.S. The ragtop version will start at $35,915, while the RF will have a base price of $38,515. Mazda is now accepting online orders with a deposit of $500. If you’re interested, go to this special website: https://www.30th-anniversarymiata.com/#preorder.