mazda miata cover design

Mazda Miata, the convertible that occurred to a journalist

Few cars have the distinction of having been designed by a journalist, and when it is also the Mazda Miata or MX5, the best-selling convertible in history, the story becomes even more interesting.

History Mazda Miata or MX5 began commercially in 1989 with the introduction to the market of a new two-seater convertible. retractable headlights which took as inspiration the great English roadsters of the sixties such as the Lotus Elan or MG B. Like these Its mechanical layout was front engine and rear propulsion, which together with a very light body was a formula for guaranteed fun.

But before its launch, this Mazda model that would end up becoming an icon had been in the making for nearly ten years. The person who came up with the production of the car was Bob Hall, a young American journalist who worked for Motor Trend magazine, and who had spent a lot of time in Japan as a teenager., learning the language, in addition to having grown up among emblematic European sports cars of the sixties thanks to the cars that his father bought in those years.

His position as a journalist earned him a visit to the Mazda offices in Hiroshima in April 1979. During one of the meetings with the brand's executives Bob Hall was lucky enough to meet Kenichi yamamoto, the then director of research and development at Mazda. During their meeting Hall drew his dream car on a whiteboard, adding little clues about his design.

bob hall mazda mx5 sketch
Bob Hall's sketch of his dream sports car for Mazda.

Bob Hall stressed how easy it would be for Mazda to produce a vehicle with these characteristics, which could also share many mechanical components with other existing models such as the 323. After the meeting the idea of ​​this light sports car was not mentioned again, but there were a dinner between the journalist and the manager in which Hall told Yamamoto that he had to try driving a Triumph Spitfire one day to see how much fun they were.. This ended up happening, and perhaps at that moment was when the project that Bob Hall had proposed was really born.


After Yamamoto's driving experience with the Spitfire, the Mazda design team got to work developing future models. Among them was the OGG (Offline Go-Go) what It began in November 1983 as a very experimental design that, if released, would be positioned one step below the Mazda RX7. which until then were the company's flagship sports cars.

At this moment Mazda decides to do a battle of designers between the research and development teams that the brand had in Japan and the United States. The Hiroshima department was tasked with working on a two-seat, mid-engine, rear-wheel drive coupe, while the design of a two-seat, front-engine, rear-drive convertible was handled in America.

The North American team was captained by the Japanese Tom Matano and its prototype, for which a full-size model had been made, won approval from Mazda in 1984 to continue its development. This way The future car would continue the tradition of very light two-seater roadsters, but would use the most modern and cutting-edge technology.

The next step took Tom Matano's team to the United Kingdom where they supervised the creation of a new working prototype at the company IAD (International Automotive Design). The car was mounted on the chassis of a first generation Mazda RX7 and the mechanical components came from a Mazda 323, a model at that time still used rear propulsion.


Already in 1986 Kenichi Yamamoto even said that the car they were working on emanated the aura of a cult vehicle. In order to perfect the prototype until it became a pre-production car, they had engineer Toshihiko Hirai. His job was none other than to maintain the spirit of the brand with its motto “jinba ittai” of rider and horse as one in the new model. For these reasons, he wanted a practically perfect weight distribution for this light sports car, as well as a center of gravity as low as possible.

With the dynamic qualities being perfected, the Hiroshima design team put the final aesthetic touches on the car to bring it closer to an international audience, with very modern shapes that would serve as an advance to many of the automobiles that would be presented in the nineties.

Although they had a practically perfect vehicle in their hands, Mazda was still not sure whether to launch the convertible on the market. They cleared up doubts in the spring of 1987, when the car, which was already in its final stages of development, It was presented for the first time in Los Angeles before an audience of 245 people who evaluated it very positively.

In this way, the green light was given to the launch of the small Mazda Miata, for the American market, and MX5 for the rest of the world, a vehicle that has become a global icon and that It has the honor of holding the record for the best-selling convertible in the world with more than one million units manufactured since 1989 and counting.

Images: Mazda, Tom Matano

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Written by Javillac

This thing about cars comes to one since childhood. When other kids preferred the bicycle or the ball, I kept the toy cars.
I still remember as if it were yesterday a day when a black 1500 overtook us on the A2, or the first time I saw a Citroën DS parked on the street, I have always liked chrome bumpers.

In general, I like things from before the time I was born (some say I'm reincarnated), and at the top of that list are cars, which, together with music, make the ideal combination for a perfect time: driving and a soundtrack according to the corresponding car.

As for cars, I like classics of any nationality and era, but my weakness is American cars from the 50s, with their exaggerated shapes and dimensions, which is why many people know me as "Javillac".

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