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XCAR: Mazda MX-5 Miata: 25 years of the world's favourite sportscar
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XCAR: Mazda MX-5 Miata: 25 years of the world's favourite sportscar

12:42 /

The MX-5 Miata is one of the most recognisable sportscars in the world. XCAR finds out how Mazda managed to create this all-time classic.

[MUSIC] Go, Go. This year sees the 25th anniversary of the launch of the world's favorite sports car, Mazda's simply brilliant MX 5. The [INAUDIBLE] Go Go was Mazda's [INAUDIBLE] It was their secretive R&D department. In 1983 it was tasked with the Mazda light weight sports car project. But really, the credit for the MX 5 should go to a guy called Bob Paul. And he was a Japanese speaking American. American motoring journalist who had floated the idea to Mazda's top brass that they should perhaps build a small, reliable, classically styled roadster way back in 1976. The first concept for the MX-5 was actually penned at Mazda's brand new, in house design studio in California, and given the code name Project P729. [MUSIC] So what was the inspiration? Well, Mazda really appreciated the driving dynamics of classic British sports cars. Sports car, so they bought a Lotus Elan to evaluate. And then they bought a second when it broke down. The bought an MGB, too. Took it apart, measured everything, even the way it sounds. See, Mazda knew there was a market for this classic sports car, but it had to be reliable. Of course, the British collection goes far beyond the styling. In fact, the very first prototype was built in Sussex, England by a company called International Automotive Designs, using bits from the master part bin, such as RX7, bits of 929 Saloon, bits of 323. They had a backbone chassis which. Which they closed in plastic panels to give it a perky little twin cam engine and they even had pop headlights just like the Elam. [MUSIC] Must talk about sue yet of mass technical research center. What did a judge, public opinion before starting to take the project any further? So they shipped the prototype over to California. The people of Santa Barbara went absolutely wild for it. People were stopping their cars to take photographs. There was one instance where they actually lost the cane and was actually being mobbed, because people wanted to see the car, work out what it was. So it was a great success. Lost the plastic panels to make it a bit more production friendly and the car went ahead, its production. The MX5 was born. [MUSIC] We knew it as the MX5, which actually comes from the prototype's destination as master's experimental vehicle number five, but you may better know it as the Eunos in Japan or the Mazda in the United States. And of course, the car was designed for the American market, because by 1981, all the traditional British little roadsters like their Triumph Smyth five, TR7, MGM Midget, and the MGB had all seized production. But it went on to be a global hit, and have sold nearly a million of these now, and it's a car that continues to evolve. [MUSIC] Well, that's the history. Here's the evolution. The [UNKNOWN] sell in 1989, powered by a 1.6 liter twin cam 16 valve engine delivering about 115 PHP. Naught to 60 takes about nine seconds, which isn't particularly impressive, but this car is all about how it makes you feel. It takes no gret commitment to drive it like this. So it's been some good fun. I think it's also worth mentioning this particularly. For example, is my own. And it might not impress the purists given the tatty, rotten state that it's in. But what I love about this car is just about everything can be fixed with a roll of duct tape and a 12 mil spanner. I bought this for a banger rally about six or seven years ago with the intention of killing it. And like a cockroach, it just refuses to do. But unlike a cockroach, I absolutely bloody love it. So there's plenty of potential for modifying these cars, and this one is actually standard. One thing you can do if you're a Mark 1 owner without an airbag is this. The steering wheel boss is pig ugly. Rip it off. Underneath is a really, really nice Momo wheel. [MUSIC] The Mark 2 was launched in' 99, a little wider and a little heavier. The pop-up headlamps no longer met crash test regulations, so in comes a more aerodynamic shape. The 1.8 gets a 140 BHP. [MUSIC] In 2003, Mazda made for Japan only, 179 examples of the MX5 Coupe, that's right, hard top. Very rare, in fact so rare we haven't got one here today for out photo lineup. [MUSIC] The Mark 3 was launched in 2005 with very little carried over from previous models. New engine's again a 1.8 and a two liter with 158 PHP. Again, not really about the stats. They're not particularly impressive numbers, but still a great, fun car to drive. The styling for this particular model was led by Maray Callum who is brother of Ian Callum, who designs Jags and Astons and the like. My geeky MX 5 friends will confer. Firm that the side indicator repeater lamps are pretty much the only part carried over. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. in 2006, Mazda launched a folding metal hard top coupe convertible which only weighed an extra 36 kilos. So, it's quite an impressive piece of engineering. Mazda really trying to keep the weight down and stick with that Jim Batty tie, horse and rider as one. Nonsense. [MUSIC] But that's not the whole story, there's been numerous special editions from the master factory, but the MX-5 also being a massive favorite of most people that like to improve their cars, modify them, customize them. And this is a brilliant example. This is a Mazda MX-5 speedster, inspired by a one off concept car that Mazda did build, but never put into production. Production, it's been slammed and spent and the screen has been cut down, the seating position is right on the floor pan. And these beautifully engineered, cut-down windows. It really is a thing of beauty. This detailing is absolutely spot on. They've actually put a a Jackson racing supercharger kit on this as well, which puts about 170 brake horsepower. And it feels absolutely fantastic. It's a shame he never did build it. [MUSIC] So [INAUDIBLE] speed, there was probably the ultimate modification in terms of styling. This car has got the engine the MX5 probably always deserved. It started life as a, an M edition. A California import with quite a few toys on it. But it's now got a 1.3 rotary engine from the RX8 under the bonnet. Putting out about two 240 break horsepower. So that's the twice the power it would've had out the factory. But also the Wankel engine being much lower, much lighter and much further set back has given it almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution and it handles much better cuz of the lower center of gravity. And the thing just loves to rev, it is absolutely fantastic. They should've built this. [MUSIC] But in terms of being big supporters of the MX 5 race series, first in the Mark 1 and now in this modified Mark 3. Regulations are strict, but around 180 break horsepower is being liberated from this ex road car thanks to its custom exhaust system. Its stripped interior and Kevlar body panels have also shaved about 200 kilos from its current weight. This MX 5 is definitely no hair dresser's car. The beauty of the MX 5 is its balance. It has one of the beset gear changers you'll ever [INAUDIBLE] experience. It has decent brakes, it has delicate steering. And performance that anyone can enjoy. Because you don't have huge [INAUDIBLE] of power or grip, you can drive it, flat out, pretty much all the time. These cars get raced in [UNKNOWN] series. They get drifted, they get tracked. And they even have their very own class in hill climbs and sprints. They're affordable, robust, rewarding, and just, well, massive fun. So with the [INAUDIBLE] 4 MX5 on the horizon, you can bet that they won't change that winning formula too much. I mean, it's one a million fans across the word, hasn't it? And, we're definitely fans of the MX5, I own one, I own one, that's yours. I own one. Very good, and he owns one, and I'm sure there's plenty of you here that, that have owned one or would like to own one in the future. But what happened to the competition, I mean, it is, I won't say it's the world's best sports car, but I think it's safe to say Not fair either. Yes, world's favorite. We want to be clear about that. What happened to the S2000. Oh, it was a great car, wasn't it, it was a big way word early versions and of course they don't make it anymore now, do they? They don't make the MR2 anymore, and a lot of them have fallen by the wayside. And Jeff, do they still make them? I think the Shanghai auto. Demoted ear wax company might make you one if you ask them nicely. I'm not sure [CROSSTALK] Bits of back to front metro, yeah. [INAUDIBLE] engineering but yeah, very, very dated now. And of course, you can look at the natural successor to the Elan being the Elise which You can. is a car we all absolutely love. But they're not cheap to buy and they're not cheap to own. [INAUDIBLE] Which is a great car as well. But you really are struggling to get any you know, anything close to this, the bang for the buck. They are brilliant little things, aren't they? What do you love about them? I like the gear box. To be honest, it's my favorite bit. It's a little snickety. Gearbox which apparently was based on on the E-Type Jag. I also like the wheels, which are to me, smack of the 60s Mini line. So there's little British sports car touches, I really do like. And the fact that it starts every morning and doesn't leak like a sieve is also [INAUDIBLE] Because what's not to like? It really is. [INAUDIBLE] word, isn't it? It's a real pity that Mazda didn't persevere with the plastic panels of the prototype. Yeah. Like the LM, because really, rust is the killer. In fact, Unos is the Japanese word for rust or ferrous oxide. I'm not quite sure that that's correct, I will. [CROSSTALK] When I get home, but even if you do rust away like yours is about to, they do live on as kit cars, don't they, I mean Westfield, I've got a single donor kit and I know the gearboxes are used in the new Morgan three wheeler and ironically the engines are quite often finding their way back into MGBs. Is that more, you know, reliable and less agricultural replacements of the 1800s that they have. Some things come full circle. Are you a fan? Did we miss something? Tell us what you think and thank you for watching. [MUSIC]

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