Sweet Jesus, has it been 20 years already? Yeah, yeah I guess it has. I remember in 1989 I was working for an aircraft manufacturer. There were four car guys in the office, including me. At the time, an ongoing topic of conversation was something along the lines of: “Why doesn’t Honda/some other Japanese car company take one of their four cylinder engines and sit it in a two door convertible body?”
And one day I walked into the office with the latest AutoWeek in my hands, dropped it on the conference room table and said, “Bob, Ernie. Take a look at this!”
There on the cover was a red, two-seat convertible that looked a LOT like a Lotus Elan. It was called the Miata, and would soon be hitting the showrooms of Mazda dealers throughout North America. A quick read of the captions told you all you needed to know:
Rear wheel drive
Two seats (and NO back seat, not even a jump seat)
Disc brakes all around
1.6 four cylinder with four valves per and fuel injected
Folding top with a zip out rear window
“What’s up with the name?” asked Ernie
“Dunno. Old German word meaning something or other.”
“How Much?” asked Bob.
“Really,” they both said in unison.
“Yeah … really … “.
And that was it.
A little over two years later, I was in a red 1990 package B Miata on my way rapidly south, down the Pacific Coast Highway, with a group of five other Miatas from the local chapter of the Miata Club of America. We were invitees of Mazda of North America to attend the Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca, a track I hadn’t been to since I was 11 years old, when I saw a Can Am race with my dad & brother.
On Friday night we were on our way back to the track from an early dinner at the Hog’s Breath Inn in Carmel (great French onion soup BTW), and up and over the twistys from the coast inland, the group of us happened upon a long white limo. I was number three or four in line, and about a quarter mile after he came up on them, the limo pulled over and we passed, each of us waiving our hands in thanks.
We get to the track, and head to the infield tent that Mazda had set up. They were showing their up-coming third-gen RX-7 to the press and the car crowd over the weekend. We were there for about 20 minutes when I noticed Bill, the guy who was our point driver when we passed the limo, talking with 4 Japanese guys, so I wander over.
“Hey Tony, these were the guys that were in that white limo,” Bill said.
“Oh really? Thanks for letting us by.”
“It was no problem,” said the youngest of the bunch in Japanese-accented English. “It would be a shame to slow you down on a road such as that.”
“No kidding. So what are you guys doing here?” I motioned to include the tent.
“We are the design team for the new RX-7” he said, gesturing to the white, pre-production model RX sitting next to one of the original Mazda Cosmos.
“You ARE? That’s great!”
“How do you like our Miata?” he asked very politely.
“Like it? I love it! I grew up in a British car family and-” he cut me off with a half-suppressed laugh.
“Ah, I to had MANY Austin-Healy Sprites when I was young man,” he said with a grin, half shaking his head.
Sweet Jesus, has it been 20 years already? Yeah, yeah I guess it has. I remember…