The Mazda MX-5, also known as Miata in North America and Eunos Roadster in Japan, is a lightweight two-seater roadster with a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. Manufactured by Mazda in Hiroshima, Japan, the model debuted in 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show. The MX-5 was conceived as a small roadster – with light weight and minimal mechanical complexity limited only by legal and safety requirements; technologically modern, but philosophically descending from small British and Italian roadsters of the 1960s such as the Triumph Spitfire, MG MGB, Fiat 124 Sport Spider, Alfa Romeo Spider and Lotus Elan.
The second generation MX-5 (NB) was launched in 1998 and the current (NC) model has been in production since 2005. It continues to be the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history and by February 2011 over 900,000 MX-5s had been built and sold around the world.
Since the launch of the third generation, Mazda consolidated worldwide marketing using the MX-5 name with the exception of North America where it is marketed as the MX-5 Miata. The name Miata derives from Old High German for reward.
The MX-5 was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show on February 10, 1989, with a price tag of US$14,000 (US$25,400 in 2011 adjusted for inflation). The MX-5, with production code NA, was made available for delivery to buyers worldwide in the following dates: March 1989 in Japan; May 1989 (as a 1990 model) in the US and Canada; and 1990 in Europe. An optional hardtop was made available at the same time, in sheet moulding compound (SMC). Demand initially outstripped production, fueled by enthusiastic press reviews.
In Japan, the car was not badged as a Mazda, as the company was experimenting with the creation of different marques for deluxe models, similar to Nissan's Infiniti and Toyota's Lexus (both brands of which launched at the same time as the Miata). Instead, the Mazda MX-5 was sold as the Eunos Roadster in that market. The body shell of the NA was all-steel with a light-weight aluminium hood. Overall dimensions were 3,970 mm (156 in) in length, 1,675 mm (65.9 in) in width, and 1,235 mm (48.6 in) in height. Without options, the NA weighed only 2,150 lb (980 kg). Drag coefficient was indicated as 0.38. Suspension was an independent double wishbone on all four wheels, with an anti-roll bar at the front and rear. Four wheel-disc brakes, ventilated at the front, were behind alloy wheels with 185/60HR14 radial tires. The base model came with stamped steel wheels from the then-current 323/Protege.
The original MX-5 came with a 1.6 L (98 cu in) dual overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine, producing 86 kW (115 bhp) at 6,800 rpm, and 136 N·m (100 lbf·ft) of torque at 5,500 rpm. The engine employs an electronic fuel injection system using a vane-type air flow meter and an electronic ignition system with a crankshaft angle sensor instead of a distributor. This engine, codename B6ZE(RS), was specifically designed for the MX-5 and featured a lightened crankshaft, flywheel, and aluminum sump with cooling fins.
Standard transmission was 5-speed manual. In Japan and the US, an optional automatic transmission was also offered but proved to be unpopular. The Japanese and American markets also received an optional viscous limited slip rear differential, although it was only available for cars with a manual transmission. To achieve the low introductory price, the base model was stripped. It had steel wheels, manual steering, roll-up windows, and no stereo or air-conditioning. Power steering, air-conditioning, and stereo were added as standard equipment in later years.
The NA could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.1 seconds and had a top speed of 126 mph (203 km/h) although Japanese market Eunos models were limited to 112 mph (180 km/h). This first generation of Miata (often referred to as the NA) included a special edition in 1991, produced in British Racing Green with the first use of tan interior.
1500 LE (Limited Edition) cars were produced in 1993. This model featured red leather interior, upgraded stereo, Nardi shift knob, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise, limited slip differential, power windows, power mirrors, power steering, air conditioning, BBS wheels, Bilstein shocks, front and rear spoilers, ABS brakes, stainless sill plates, and Harley style peanut tank door speaker trim. All 1993 LE cars came in black.
For the 1994 model year, the first-generation MX-5 was freshened with the introduction of the more powerful 1.8 L (110 cu in) BP-ZE engine, dual airbags and a limited slip differential in some markets. The chassis was substantially braced to meet new side-impact standards, most visibly by adding a "track bar" between the seatbelt towers inside the car, but also to the front and rear subframes. Also, 1994 and 1995 were the only years in which Mazda offered a light metallic blue paint (Laguna Blue Mica), making these cars rare collectors cars to some. 1994 also saw the introduction of the "R" package, a sport-themed package with Bilstein shocks and subtle underbody spoilers, in addition to the removal of unnecessary items such as power steering. No body style changes were made, however. The new 1.8 L (110 cu in) engine produced 98 kW (131 bhp), which was then increased to 99 kW (133 bhp) for the 1996 model year. The base weight increased to 990 kg (2,200 lb). Performance was improved slightly, the additional power being partly offset by the extra weight. In some markets such as Europe, the 1.6 L (98 cu in) engine continued to be available as a lower-cost option, but was detuned to 66 kW (89 bhp). This lower-powered model did not receive all the additional chassis bracing of the new 1.8 L (110 cu in). Japanese and US cars were fitted with an optional Torsen LSD, which was far more durable than the previous viscous differential.
There were a number of trim levels and special editions available, determined by local Mazda marketing departments. In the US, the base model was offered for US$13,995 at launch and was very basic, with manual windows, steel wheels, and without A/C or power steering. The "A Package" offered power steering, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum alloy wheels and cassette stereo. The "B Package" added power windows, along with cruise control and headrest speakers, while the "C Package" included a tan interior and top and leather seats. The "R Package" was for racing, and the annual special editions were formalized as "M Editions". These included all of the luxury options from the "C Package" as well as special paint and, sometimes, special wheels. In the UK, to celebrate Mazda's 24 hours of Le Mans win, Mazda brought out a special edition of the MX-5, with the winner's color scheme (see Mazda 787B) and came equipped with BBR (Brodie Brittain Racing) turbo conversion; the car is one of the most sought after special edition cars of the MX-5s.
The first generation MX-5 was phased out with the 1997 model year (with the exception of 400 limited edition Berkeley models sold only in the UK in 1998 to mark the end of the NA), with the final 1500 NAs produced for the US market being the "STO" ("Special Touring Option") versions.
M2 Special Editions
A small range of Miata units were assembled by the M2 Incorporated. Founded in November 1991, M2, also known as "Mazda Too", was Mazda's new off-line planning / niche-house / Research & Development company back in the early '90s. The M2 Corp. employees had noble intentions — creating niche-mobiles derived from Mazda's volume products. Although M2's basic mission involved focusing on the "soft" aspects of vehicle design in an attempt to create more specifically targeted niche variants, the changes to the off-line cars would go well beyond mere cosmetics. Heading the M2 operation was Mr. Masakatsu Kato, original father of the Miata (Eunos Roadster) in Japan, as well as creator of several Mazda concept vehicles. Kato-san was assisted by Hirotaka Tachibana, development engineer responsible for the superb dynamics of the FC (second-generation RX-7) and the NA Roadster (Miata MX-5). M2 Corp. was based out of Tokyo, Japan. M2-Corp was a 100% owned subsidiary of Mazda, and it was closed by Mazda in 1995. Mazda kept a similar program going with the Mazdaspeed vehicles, and then in the late '90s Mazdaspeed was absorbed into Mazda as a subsidiary company in Mazda Auto Tokyo. There were many types of M2 branded vehicles between 1991 and 1995, beginning with the 1001 up to the 1031 Cafe Racer (Dec-91).
M2-1001 Cafe Roadster (Dec-91) Limited 1/300 M2 Corp. released the M2-1001 Roadster in December 1991. It was a special "Limited Production" Roadster variant that was a short production run of only 300 units, in a special Blue/Black Mica Paint, with a sticker price of $26,000. Prospective buyers were required to show up in person at M2's Tokyo headquarters to register for a lottery to place an order for this extremely limited Roadster.
This upscale Eunos Roadster was M2's first turn-key, race-ready offering. Here is a list of some of the goodies that made it so popular: functional front airdam with integrated fog lamps, vintage aero mirrors, 4-point roll bar, vintage gauge cluster, fixed back bucket seats, polished 3-spoke steering wheel, stiffer suspension package with M2 specific rates, polished aluminum strut brace, upgraded exhaust by HKS, intake system, 1.6L motor with new aggressive pistons, upgraded camshaft, lightweight flywheel, LSD cooling intake, manual steering, manual windows (A/C was optional), racing pedals, centerless console with matching shortened radio bezel, aluminum gas filler cap, a more aggressive wheel & tire package (15" x 6" Panasport rims), and a rear spoiler (which became standard for the R package). The performance changes made to the Roadster would bump the power to 132 bhp (98 kW) @ 7,000 rpm, and 109 lbf·ft (148 N·m) of torque @ 5,500 rpm. Once released, it proved so popular that people were paying up to $35,000 for one.
M2-1002 Vintage Roadster (Nov-92) Limited 1/300 M2-CORP released its second Roadster in late 1992, with a sightly different front bumper but all the same items as the previous 1001 Roadster. This one did not do as well as the 1001. M2-1028 Street Competition Roadster (Feb-94) Limited 1/300 M2-CORP released its third Roadster in early 1994, based on the original "Jinba Ittai" concept made by Toshihiko Hirai. This was billed as a track-ready Roadster. (The US saw a cheaper version known as the R-Package.) Offered in Chaste White or Brilliant Black only, this Roadster used the new 1.8L powerplant with upgraded pistons, camshafts, and other similar goodies as the previous 1001 and 1002. This Roadster had an output of close to 150 bhp (110 kW), and included 14" Eunos Factory Rims with a unique gunmetal paint with polished lip. The only real changes were a new set of lightweight side mirrors, MOMO Steering Wheel, Centerless console, racing seats, racing tow hook, a set of lower lip spoilers (R-Package) and a newly designed "Duck-Tail" trunk lid with integrated spoiler. The M2-1028 trunk lid was made from aluminum and weighed only 7.7 lb (3.5 kg), a very light weight from the original lid of 15.5 lb (7.0 kg). It also came with a 6-point roll cage, but no soft-top, instead featuring a tarp that stretched over the cage. With optional FRP Hardtop with Plexiglas rear window for more weight savings coming in at only 19 lb (8.6 kg).
BBR MX-5 Turbo
Brodie Britain Racing (BBR) of Brackley, United Kingdom, have had a long history of involvement with the first generation (NA) cars in the UK, having supplied parts and equipment for a dealer supplied BBR Turbo version of the car between 1990 and 1991. This raised power output to 150 bhp (110 kW), and produced 154 ft·lb (209 N·m) of torque. The kit comprised 68 parts and was covered by a full dealer warranty. They were supplied and fitted to around 750 UK spec cars, including for the 1991 'Le Mans' special edition, with a further 150 kits being supplied overseas.
Two decades later in 2011, BBR now offer a turn-key refurbishment package for old NA MX-5's, again including a turbo charger kit. This now increases power output to 220 bhp (160 kW), and produces 175 ft·lb (237 N·m) of torque. The estimated top speed is now 140 mph (230 km/h), with 0-60 approached in 5.5 seconds. The turbo charger used is the Garrett GT25 ball race unit, and the package also includes an air-to-air intercooler, and a digital piggy-back ECU to control timing, fueling, and boost pressures. Subject to a satisfactory donor car, the refurbishment and turbo upgrade package includes rust treatment, a paint respray, new seats, wheels, and other trim. As of January 2011 the cost for a 'refreshed' BBR MX-5 Turbo is £7,500.