• Feb 2nd 2010 at 4:20PM
  • 44
Twenty years of motoring goodness - click above for high-res image

Twenty years. Can you believe it's been two decades since we first heard the Japanese phrase Jinba ittai (meaning "rider and the horse are one")? To catch you up, way back in 1976, some Mazda engineers asked American auto journalist Bob Hall what they should build next. Mr Hall, who later wound up working for Mazda, mentioned the bugs-in-the-teeth British roadsters that every gearhead both loved and loathed. Their reputation as great driver's cars was only preceded by their rep for breaking down and stranding you on the side of the road.

If Mazda could engineer a tight, compact, great-handling roadster that didn't dump all its fluids every other Wednesday, they'd surely have a hit. Back at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the world met the MX-5, much, much better known as the Miata. Since then, nearly 1,000,000 Miatas have been built, with just under 400,000 of them getting snatched up by American consumers. In other words, the Miata gambit worked.

To commemorate twenty years of building such great sports cars, Mazda will be introducing a 20th Anniversary Limited Edition MX-5 Miata at next month's Geneva Motor Show. Pay special attention to the "Limited" part of the name, as only 2,000 anniversary cars will be built, and they'll only be available in Europe. One reason for the latter might be that the 20th Anniversary cars are based on the smaller displacement 1.8-liter car, a version of the Miata not sold in the States, or it could be that we may get our own commemorative edition to be announced at a later date.

Like most anniversary packages (see the big four-oh Nissan Z), nothing too exciting is happening to this Miata. There is, of course, the requisite numbered plaque. There's a chrome grille surround, chrome door-handles and chrome headlight surrounds. You also get "silver-look" fog light surrounds, plus special 17-inch wheels with "20th Anniversary" logos. The 20th Anniversary cars are available only in red, white or a new Aurora Blue, which we find rather sharp looking. And lest you think Mazda's not tossing a bone to performance enthusiasts, the car comes with a strut-tower brace.

[Source: Mazda]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      More fun than any other car at three times the price. As Clarkson said, "it's more alive at 30 mph than other cars are at 100." No hyperbole about it, he was absolutely right.

      Anyone been to a track lately? Last track day I went to we counted 'em: 48% Miatas. That says a lot.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @tarheel91: S2000's are virtually undriveable in daily traffic. GREAT track cars but those engines are no more powerful than a Miata at normal operating revs. At well over 400 pounds heavier (published weights are a good bit off), they're just completely exhausting.

        Again, great car at the track but they oversteer terribly (particularly the AP1) and have known brake rotor problems that require $$$. Though not as fast in a straight line, there's just no replacing the bulletproof, predictable nature of a Miata.

        • 5 Years Ago
        And to quote Jeremy Clarkson again:

        "The fact is that if you want a sports car, the MX-5 is perfect. Nothing on the road will give you better value. Nothing will give you so much fun. The only reason I’m giving it five stars is because I can’t give it 14."
        • 5 Years Ago
        Open top or not... what else is as purely built?

        What else is a similar size, and properly rear-wheel-drive, and well balanced?
        What else has a robust inline 4 that is mostly bulletproof. (especially NA-NB cars)
        What else has front and rear SLA suspension?
        What else has such light weight?
        What else did that at an appropriately affordable price to get into, for both the car, and the parts, and ease of serviceability.

        Due to those benefits, what other car enjoys such a wide marketshare, and aftermarket support... Cars like MR2-Spyder never caught on to get the marketshare, and aftermarket support.

        Cars like Elise/Exige, and Corvette, and others cost significantly more to buy, and to run.

        There are so few cars that really compete with miata as a no-brainer transition from fantastic road car, to effective and inexpensive race car. It deserves it's iconic status. It doesn't deserve some of the more idle stereotypes.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Honda S2000?

        -Similar size, rear wheel drive, well balanced.
        -Incredible 4 cylinder engine that puts out 120HP/L NA.
        -Double wishbone all around.
        -AP1 can weigh in right at 2800 lbs, AP2 ~2850.
        -All that at just above 30k new (although they can be had new for much less now if you can find one), and used prices are dipping under $9k.
        -Finally, it's another great DD to track car.
        • 5 Years Ago

        2800 pounds puts the S2K about 400 pounds over the weight of the NC Miata (according to Wiki).

        That 120 HP/L also is at screaming high revs. The Miata's engine (at least the NA I had) is nice because it is equally gutless at pretty much all revs. You can wring it up to the redline when you want for some extra power, but you don't *have* to.
      • 5 Years Ago
      God I miss my Miata... Stupid stop sign runners. :(

      (Also, I think "gambit" is the wrong word to use in the post... "gamble" makes MUCH more sense.)
        • 5 Years Ago
        I feel your pain--just sold my second due to an international move. These are fantastic cars. I drove the snot out of both my NA and NB, and being in school for both (undergrad, then grad), stretched every service interval to the limit. Neither one ever let me down.

        Lots of folks know how fun these cars are, fewer know that they're also built like miniature tanks, from a maintenance perspective.
      • 5 Years Ago
      ... and make it cheaper. 30k for Miata is... hard to stomach.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, but a $30k Miata is loaded with crap you don't need and, honestly, it doesn't sell for that. The 2009 hardtops with leather, Bose and all that "$30k" stuff were going for $24k.

        You could get a soft top with cloth (about 100 pounds lighter!) for well under $20k.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That Kenichi Yamamoto, the chairman of Mazda, the "father of the modern Mazda rotary" and a resident of the Automotive Hall of Fame is merely one of "some Mazda engineers" asking Bwob what to build is a rather poor representation of the Miata's genesis.

      Yamamoto-san was the guy who asked Bob that question and made a way for Bob to join Mazda to bring his vision to fruition.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Happy 20th Miata, thanks for all those years of fun. And here's to another 20 years, cheers!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I love my Miata, even though she's beginning to show signs of her age. Heres for hoping an ND is announced sooner, rather than later.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hurrah! for twenty years of fun. Thank you Mazda. Great concept, brilliant execution, and superb recognition of "what works" and continued support of the racers who try to have "excessive" fun with the Miata, MX-5, or Eunos Roadster (depending on your locale).

      Yeah, power is "mild" on an early model when stock - but there are many options to change that to "strong" or even "oh-sh** vicious" without a huge capital outlay. Amazing aftermarket with reasonable prices and attention to function. In the "moderate" power category, a GT2554 turbo ("small") with good management has been a reliable (and wicked fun!) commuter car for the past few years.

      I would have bought one many years earlier if it came as a coupe instead of a convertible only. As is, the hardtop almost never comes off.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Happy anniversary Miata. You have outlivied your competitors Solstice and Sky.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have always loved the Miata/MX-5s. If I never got hooked & baught my Evos, I would've most likely had an MX-5 instead.

      They're auto-X killers. When I had my 944, the only other cars that would come close at the time were RX-7s and Miata/MX-5s.

      My only gripe with them is that they should add just a little more power to them(30-40hp), but keep the wonderful gearboxes. Great cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Had one and auto-x'd it: The best thing about it was consistently blowing away more powerful cars. Nobody gets how fast these are on a road course.

        Yeah, a bit more power would be great. But honestly, part of the genius of these is that the power suits the chassis and doesn't upset the balance. Besides, when your laps depend on how you carry your momentum, you get to be a seriously good driver, quick.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Still loving my '99 Miata. Never owned a car before that felt like you wore it like a well fitted suit. Sometime I just stare at it in awe of it's beautiful curves...and wonder, how the heck do I fit in that thing? (I'm 6') Here's to 20 more years!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I would love to have one barring the fact that I am 6'2" and the stigma that goes a long with this car.

        • 5 Years Ago
        6'1" and 300 pounds here. The ONLY mod I had to do to mine was removing the driver's side door pull so I could have some knee room for clutching.
        • 5 Years Ago
        One of my brothers routinely takes my modded NA out for fun jaunts with his buddies, and he's about 6'3" and roughly 350lbs. He has to remove the driver's side door pull to fit, but otherwise does just fine. It LOOKS like a frickin' Looney Toons cartoon when he drives it, but he pulls it off just fine.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You need to get over it and just test one. I'm 6'1" and fit perfectly. The NCs have considerably larger cockpits and even my 6'3" brother fits in the passenger seat without complaint.

        Besides, no other car is built with fender wells ready to take race-ready wider rubber. Mildly lowered and sitting on some 235/40/17's, nobody will ever mistake it for a "girl's car."
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mike, once you drive one, you won't care about the stigma. Get one in a manly color.
      • 5 Years Ago
      +1. I'd trade my RX-8 in tomorrow for one. It would be Classic Red to match my 1990 NA. :-)
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