2015 Mazda MX-5 25th Anniversary Edition. Click image to enlarge
Preview and photos by Paul Williams
New York City, NY – 2014 is a big anniversary year for a few manufacturers (Ford, Dodge) along with several classic models. For Mazda, it’s the MX-5’s turn for the spotlight as 2014 marks the 25th year of production for the little sports car that could.
As you might expect, there’s a special 25th Anniversary Edition, but before getting into the details, one should reflect on Mazda’s accomplishment in creating, evolving and sticking with this affordable two-seat roadster for over a quarter of a century.
Its first model year – 1990 – saw what was called the Miata in North America and MX-5 in most other markets arrive to universal praise by the motoring press and brisk sales to sports car fans who thought their type of car was consigned to history. While inspired by European (British, really) sports cars, none of those models were available by 1989. In fact, open top sports cars were pretty much finished as a category of vehicles by this time.
Why? Well, a combination of factors contributed, including new and more stringent safety regulations, changing consumer preferences, fuel consumption and emissions concerns, convertible top issues and a more competitive global marketplace that combined in a perfect storm to wipe out sports cars, or at least, the affordable roadster variety.
All to say, all the traditional non-luxury sports car brands – Triumph, MG, Austin Healey, Sunbeam, Fiat, Alfa Romeo – were out of business or withdrawn from North America by 1990. So it was huge news to see an MGB-sized, Lotus Elan-shaped affordable sports car return to the market from any manufacturer, let alone one from Japan.
And Mazda really did its homework. The modern 1.6-litre twin-cam engine was just powerful enough to be entertaining, the car handled impressively and the gearshift was a dream. Raising or lowering the convertible top, always a problem with the old British cars, was a one-latch, one-hand operation. The Miata was, many observed, everything a British sports car could have been, should have been, but never was.
It represented the Mazda “zoom-zoom” philosophy before “branding” became so important to a company’s identity. In fact, Mazda engineers and designers had adopted the concept of “Jinba Ittai” or “oneness between car and driver” as a guide to developing the car. The key components were that the Miata would be “a lightweight, compact open-top two-seater body with a front-midship-engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration, a 50:50 front-rear weight distribution, a low yaw inertia moment and affordably priced.”
Twenty-five years and nearly one-million units later, the originating principles are effectively unchanged.
Historic Mazda Models. Click image to enlarge
At the Mazda stand an array of historic Mazda models were displayed. The first-generation cars were represented by 1990 models, the 500,000th and 700,000th cars were there, too, along with a unique MX-5 with a fixed roof and several race cars. One (the only) 1998 model was present, although it lacked an engine and was built as a styling exercise. There were no production MX-5s at all.
The 25th Anniversary Model, according to Mazda, “is culmination of everything we have learnt about open-top lightweight sports cars over the past 25 years.” It is, they say, “the best MX-5 yet.”
The signature colour is Soul Red Mica, which “symbolizes Mazda’s passion in the pursuit of driving excellence.” The A-pillars are painted in a contrasting gloss black and masked by hand before the red paint is applied to the body.
Mazda’s engineers were tasked to select only “lightest, best balanced parts for inclusion in the engine,” creating an engine that “revs even more freely, delivering extraordinary response” and a signature engine note.
The interior features a hand-painted instrument panel with black-to-red gradations that will vary from vehicle to vehicle, and special off-white leather seating surfaces.
MX-5 (FR) Skyactiv Chassis. Click image to enlarge
Specifically, the MX-5 Miata’s 25th Anniversary Special Edition features include:
- Pistons, connecting rods and flywheel which are carefully selected for the best balance
- Soul Red Mica body color
- Brilliant Black roof, A-pillars, seatback bar garnish, door mirrors
- Black front combination lamp bezels
- 25th anniversary badge (with serial number)
- Off-white leather seats and door trim (with 25th anniversary logo and contrasting red stitching)
- Piano Black steering wheel spokes
- Genuine leather steering wheel cover, manual transmission shift lever boot, parking brake lever handle and armrests which make effective use of contrast red stitching
- Hand-painted red decoration panel
- Stainless steel scuff plate (with 25th anniversary logo)
- Satin-chrome finished louver rings, meter rings and inner door handles
- Bright finished meter rings
- Aluminum pedals
- Bridgestone Potenza RE05A 205/45R17 84W tires and 17-inch Dark Gunmetal aluminum alloy wheels
But this won’t be a common car, built in numbers commensurate with demand. Only 100 examples will be available in Canada (along with 100 for the US). Availability will be summer 2014 and the announced price is $40,925.
Additional Mazda MX-5 news at the New York International Auto Show was the reveal of a new Skyactiv chassis, currently in development. It will form the basis of the next (fourth) generation MX-5, which will, according to Mazda, be lighter, stronger, smaller than the current model. Mazda is projecting that this new MX-5 will debut in 2016.
The chassis shows the engine farther back and closer to the centre of the car, and weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds) less than the outgoing chassis. Apparently the next generation MX-5 will be the smallest MX-5 ever.
This is the first rear-wheel drive Skyactiv chassis from Mazda, representing a long-term commitment from the company to the MX-5 and the roadster concept. Congratulations all around are in order, I think, and “thanks” from sports car fans everywhere!