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The Origin of the Mazda MX-5

9th March 2016

The Mazda started AS an idea in the early 80’s when Bob Hall ( who was a motor journalist at the time)was asked a very pertinent question, which was “what sort of car Mazda should build in the future??” by Kenichi Yamamoto and Gai Arai.

“I didn’t even work for Mazda when I first suggested the idea for Mazda to build a two-seat sports car to Kenichi Yamamoto, Mazda’s head of research and development.” Bob Hall

Hall responded with an answer that would not be forgotten, he explained the market needed a classic British sports car because they just don’t make them anymore. This conversation led to the first sketches being produced in 1982.

The Mazda was in design and production for 9 years which is in actual fact rather long as most cars have a 4 year cycle, from sketch, to model then to reality.

“I spent a year working with Masao Yagi, a designer in our California studio, outside of our normal office hours sketching early themes for the MX-5. At the end of that year another designer, Mark Jordan, joined us. It was his job to finesse the design so that it would be feasible for production. Virtually everything in the finished MX-5 can be found in their designs.” Bob Hall

Hall and his California team began the offline sketches and where they proposed a front engine with rear wheel drive, this concept was not thought of very fondly by Mazda at that time.

Bob Hall and other teams were given the go ahead to research and sketch the vision of a new Mazda, and Bob’s team won the race. A clay model concept called “The Duo 101” was presented to Mazda and this was to be the foundation of the MX-5. They presented a clay model of the MX-5 with a removable hard top and won over Mazda head of the Tokyo design Studio.

The concept for the MX-5 was the least favoured when going to present their proposal, and it has eventually come to be one of the most popular and affordable roadster’s that have ever been produced.

“Our clay model had a removable hard top roof attached using tape. By the time we stepped up to present the car, we thought: ‘What the heck’, pulled the tape away and lifted off the roof. At which point the head of the Tokyo studio stood up, pointed at our car and shouted: ‘Build that one! Build that one!"

When the car was released in Japan 1989 they were only expecting to sell around 200 units a month, in the end they were reaching nearly 4000 MX-5 ‘s sold per month. The thought that the Mazda MX-5 would be unsuccessful may sound absurd now, but the idea of a 1960’s inspired two seater convertible seemed old fashioned to Mazda in the early 80's. This just goes to show that classic never goes out of style!

(Source:: Bob Hall &Dean Case talk Miata Heritage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwtHqc1vZCI)

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