And why it's still around now.
The guys at Savage Geese have dropped the first episode in a documentary series on the Mazda MX-5 Miata. It comes in celebration of the little sports car's 30th anniversary and kicks off in Mazda's heritage collection stored at its R&D facility in California. The rest of the videos will concentrate on each of the four generations of cars, including the overlooked NC generation, but this one focuses on how and why the Miata came into existence.
The story is well known. The Miata started as a spiritual successor to the British sports cars of the 50s and 60s, drawing most of its inspiration from the Lotus Elan. Essentially, Mazda took the joy of driving small roadsters and put it in a reliable package before setting about perfecting the mass-market enthusiast's car. Or, as James Kilbourne, who was working for Mazda in product planning and advanced engineering in the 1980s, explains, the idea was to make "the ultimate lightweight sports car." That meant taking "the passion of the old British sports cars but apply the Japanese DQR, which is durability, quality, and reliability."
Back in the day, British sports cars were famous for just about everything but their durability, quality, and reliability. Particularly, as the video notes, their electrical systems. The result of injecting the Japanese automotive ethos of the time into a car Mazda wanted to be small, light, dynamically balanced for the driver, while minimizing complexity, has led to the best selling sports car in automotive history. The love for the MX-5 Miata is captured well in interviews with members of the San Diego Miata owners club. While it's a hyper-local look at the people that built a long-running community around the car, it's far from unusual on a global scale.