Mazda - Eunos/Miata/MX5
The MX-5, as envisioned by its designers, is a small roadster with minimal necessary weight and mechanical complexity technologically modern, but a direct descendant of the small British roadsters of the 1960s such as the Triumph Spitfire, Austin-Healey Sprite, MG Midget and Lotus Elan. As a result, the MX-5 was designed with a traditional front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout and four-wheel independent double wishbone suspension. It has a longitudinally-mounted four cylinder engine coupled to a manual transmission with automatic transmission s a cost option. The body is a conventional, but very light monocoque, with a (detachable) rear subframe. Referred to by its designers as "lightweight", the earlier MK1 cars weighed in at just over a ton, with engine power output usually 115 - 125 BHP. The later cars were heavier, with higher power engines. With an approximate 50:50 front/rear weight balance, the car has very neutral handling, which makes it easy to drive for the beginner, and fun for the advanced driver. Inducing oversteer is easy and very controllable, thus making the MX-5 a popular choice for amateur and stock racing, including, in the USA, the Sports Car Club of America's Solo2 autocross and Spec Miata race series.
Mazda MX5 Softtop
New South Wales NSW, Australia
Mazda MX5 1994
Mazda MX5 Mark 1
Villebon sur Yvette, Essonne
20 km South of Paris
GB (UK) Scotland
Glenisla by Blairgowrie
North Island, New Zealand
In 1976, Bob Hall, a journalist at Motor Trend magazine who was an expert in Japanese cars and fluent in the language, met Kenichi Yamamoto, head of Research and Development at Mazda. Yamamoto asked Hall what kind of car Mazda should make in the future:
||I babbled [...] how the [...] simple, bugs-in-the-teeth, wind-in-the-hair, classically-British sports car doesn't exist anymore. I told Mr. Yamamoto that somebody should build one [...] inexpensive roadster.
In 1981, Bob Hall moved to a product planning position with Mazda US and again met Kenichi Yamamoto, now chairman of Mazda Motors, who remembered their conversation about a roadster and gave Hall the go-ahead to research the idea further. In 1983, the idea turned concept was approved under the "Offline 55" program, an internal Mazda initiative that sought to change the way new models were developed. Thus, under head of project Masakatsu, the concept development was turned into a competition between the Mazda design teams in Tokyo and California. The California team proposed aN FR layout (front-engine, rear-wheel drive), codenamed Duo 101, in line with the British roadster ancestry, but their Japanese counterparts favored the more common FF layout (front-engined, front-wheel drive) or the MR layout (mid-engined, rear-wheel drive). The first round of judging the competing designs was held in April 1984. At this stage, designs were presented solely on paper. The mid-engined car appeared the most impressive, although it was known at the time that such a layout would struggle to meet the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) requirements of the project. It was only at the second round of the competition in August 1984, when full-scale clay models were presented, that the Duo 101 won the competition and was selected as the basis for Mazda's new light-weight sports car.
The Duo 101, so named as either a soft top or hard top could be used, incorporated many key stylistic cues inspired by the Lotus Elan, a 1960s roadster. International Automotive Design (IAD) in Worthing, England was commissioned to develop a running prototype, codenamed V705. It was built with a fiberglass body, a 1.4-liter engine from a Mazda Familia and components from a variety of early Mazda models. The V705 was completed in August 1985 and taken to the U.S.A. where it rolled on the roads around Santa Barbara and got positive reactions. The project received final approval on January 18, 1986. The model's codename was changed to P729 as it moved into production phase, under head of program Toshihiko Hirai. The task of constructing five engineering mules (more developed prototypes) was again allocated to IAD, which also conducted the first front and rear crash tests on the P729. While Tom Matano and Koichi Hayashi worked on the final design, the project was moved to Japan for engineering and production details. By 1989, with a definitive model name now chosen, the MX-5 (as in "Mazda eXperimental", project number 5) was ready to be introduced to the world as a true lightweight sports car, weighing just 940 kg (2070 lb).