A Last Minute Letter to Mazda Engineers

by Per Schroeder

The global reveal of the upcoming 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is scheduled for September 3, 2014—you can see more here.  The new ND-chassis has been promised to be lighter and more powerful than the current generation. I can’t wait.  But I speak for all sports car enthusiasts when I say this: We're out there racing and wailing on these cars every weekend. Please don’t screw this car up for us.


This is the teaser shot that Mazda has put up on their Facebook page. We hope it brings the performance under those satin sheets.  

There's hope, as Mazda is not in the habit of messing up the cars lately.  They made great strides with the latest Mazda3 and Mazda6—both of which are now at the top of their respective classes. Mazda took full ownership of those projects without any help from their former partner Ford, and knocked the new designs out of the park.  So, it would be surprising if they backslid for the latest MX-5.

That said, there are plenty of teams, groups and companies that have snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory when it comes to the small and sporty.  Honda’s CRZ, for example, is so close to being cool, that it hurts my brain.  How hard would it have been to just stuff a K24 in there?  Heck, even a K20 would have made it the closest thing to a CRX we’ve seen in decades.  But a two-seat Hybrid?  That’s not even a recipe for success in the general market, where efficiency is measured in space and practicality, as well as mileage numbers. 

When the first generation Miata NA-chassis was introduced in 1989, it was the instant darling of the automotive journalists.  It had everything we loved about 1960s roadsters in a modern 1990 car—but it was a little slow and a little soft.  Us track junkies didn’t think it was fully cooked until the life cycle refresh in 1994. That year, Miatas got an additional .2 liters of displacement and a very track-friendly R package, which had stiffer springs, a Torsen differential, no power steering and a few other odds and ends that gave it that raw and ready edge that was perfect for autocross and track use.


The 1999 Miata with the Sport suspension package is still a top performer in SCCA's E Stock (now called E Street) category.  Find one with the Hard S suspension!  

The second generation Miata, the NB chassis, started off strong, with a Sport version and a stiffer suspension option (Hard S, in Mazda speak) for folks that really wanted to wring the most performance out of their roadster.  The shape was a bit more styled (maybe a little wimpier?) but it was still a great road and track companion.  

Unfortunately, by 2001, more ride height and creature comforts disturbed what was once a minimalist driving experience.  Sure, Miatas have never been about absolute perfection in a singular area, but rather the car as a whole—and that's what was dulled as it drifted away from its roots. 

Near the end of the NB’s life cycle in 2003, there was a Club Sport edition, which lost weight and gained handling, thanks to a stiffer suspension. This limited edition package was really just aimed at a few road racers and they were not widely marketed. The Club Sport option was, oddly enough, only available with the hard top—much like the Honda S2000 CR, relegating it to footnote status, rather than real commercial or enthusiast success.


The NB-Chassis is slowly eclipsing the earlier version as the cheap go-to car for fun performance mods.  
Page 1 of 2 Next Page
Bookmark and Share
Thursday, August 21, 2014 10:53 AM
Honestly, anyone serious doesn't really care about stock suspension. You stated the problem right off the bat, whenever the factory does anything remotely "hardcore" (mild by racing standards), the take rate is minimal. Average joe wants a smooth ride, and the autocrosser knows the aftermarket does it cheaper and better. It's the stuff that's hard or impossible to change that you hope they get right out of the box! If there's one thing I wish they would do for racers, besides keep the curb weight down, it's make a coupe the undercuts the convertible in price so maybe a decent amount will get sold, and be available in a few years used without being expensive unicorns.
b drecksage
b drecksagelink
Thursday, August 21, 2014 11:29 AM
...imagine...a miata...that looke like the m coupe or z4m coupe.....
Thursday, August 21, 2014 12:19 PM
If Dave Coleman had anything to do with it, I think it'll be alright.
Friday, August 22, 2014 6:15 AM
Yep. Dave did a great job with the MS3 and other cars...
Dave Coleman
Dave Colemanlink
Monday, September 01, 2014 8:36 PM
Actually, the MSR was my project. Internally called the 1g car, because that's what it did on a skidpad on street tires. It was intended as a very limited model to get the suspension parts legal for showroom stock, but SCCA changed their rule interpretation after we introduced it. That's why they're so rare.

The prototype street car was a great daily driver for a while, before it got scrapped...
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Tuesday, September 02, 2014 6:47 AM
Very cool--The cars are still legal for SCCA's stock autocross class, which allows port installed options. You need to work on a port package for the 2 or 3 :-)

Friday, September 19, 2014 11:20 AM
The New Miata looks so good. Like a small Jag. Looking forward to reviews.
Thursday, September 25, 2014 6:14 AM
I really like the new Miata, but does anyone else think the web live reveal was a massive let down? Very little information about the car, not even any wonderful photography really, and a 30 minute wait for a brief historical film and a speech detailing the visual aspects of what I'm looking at. Congrats to Mazda for making a good looking car, but the Miata is a drivers car and inserting a new Miata into an eighties pop tribute doesn't do much for the drivers. A ten minute segment on UK Top Gear would have cost very little, those guys love the Miata, and it would have been watched by millions around the world. Simple, entertaining, effective, and we could have seen it drive!
Post Comment Login or register to post a comment.

MotoIQ Proudly Presents Our Partners:

© 2018 MotoIQ.com