Mazda borrows a page from Porsche's playbook

Mazda's MX-5 Spyder concept features a tent-style soft top that's similar to a biofuel engine.

Mazda MX-5 Spyder
The Mazda MX-5 Spyder eschews a conventional fabric or hard top in favor of a lightweight tent-style cover. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

LAS VEGAS--If I told you that a performance car manufacturer has developed a lightweight version of a popular roadster with a tent-style fabric roof, dubbed "Spyder," you might assume that I'm months late with my Porsche news.

However, I'm talking about Mazda, not Porsche, and the car in question isn't the Boxster Spyder, but the Mazda MX-5 Spyder.

The MX-5 Spyder starts with the MX-5 Miata and ditches the retractable roof in favor of a single-panel grenadine-red soft top made by Haartz. Additional weight savings come from the swapping of the lead acid battery for a lightweight lithium ion racing battery by Braille Battery. Lightweight Advan RS wheels and sticky Yokohama tires spin beneath the Stratosphere White fenders.

Beneath the hood spins Mazda's MZR 2.0-liter engine, but instead of burning pump gas, the MX-5 Spyder runs on BP's isobutanol fuel. Isobutanol is a biofuel that is produced similarly to ethanol and its role in this concept is another step toward Mazda's goal of "Sustainable Zoom-Zoom." (I'm still rolling my eyes every time I have to type that.) Supposedly, isobutanol makes few compromises where performance is concerned, but just in case Mazda has also added Racing Beat header, intake, and exhaust components to boost the output and a Mazdaspeed coilover suspension and Brembo brakes to boost the handling.

The odds that Mazda will put anything resembling the MX-5 Spyder into production are nil, but a Mazda representative hinted that we may see one or two minor elements on a future Miata. Personally, I'm hoping the dual humped rear deck that's hidden beneath the fabric cover will see the light of day at some point.

Mazda Turbo2 custom
Mazda somehow crammed the Mazdaspeed3's turbocharged engine under the hood of the smaller Mazda2. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Over in another corner of Mazda's booth, the diminutive Mazda2 hatchback gets a heart transplant from its hi-po sibling, the Mazdaspeed3. Yes, the Mazdaspeed3's 263-horsepower turbocharged, direct-injected MZR 2.3-liter engine fits into the smaller engine bay, but it took some doing. The upgrades don't stop in the engine bay. Mazda has also swapped in an HR coilover suspension kit and CorkSport sway bars. Yokohama performance tires wrap black 17-inch OZ Racing wheels which, in turn, wrap a set of Brembo front brakes (the rear grabbers are stock Mazda units).

Mazda also brought out a second, slightly less mad Mazda2 tuned by 3dCarbon and a repaint of its MX-5 Super 20 custom that's seen the floor of a few shows at this point.

Check out our photos from the floor of the 2011 SEMA Show in Las Vegas for a closer look at each of Mazda's unveiled customs.

 

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