The MX5 – The English Mazda

Mazda’s chirpy little MX5, the world’s best selling open-top roadster, is now twenty years. Plenty of reason for that cheeky grin the 2009 model sports.

It’s easy to see why the MX5 has done so well. It appeals to a wide audience (though I’m not a member of that audience), is cheaper than a lot of competitors and it looks pretty good too. In fact, its looks are considered so good that Mazda have given it only 3 adjustments in its two decades of production. Pretty rare in car terms. mazda mx5

But did you know that there’s a special connection between this Mazda and Sussex, England? The small coastal town of Worthing, in fact. This was news to me. Having been through the town many times I would never thought of it as a leading design centre for the automotive industry, especially for a Japanese manufacturer.

Well, the MX5 was designed to compete with those quintessentially British sports cars the MGB, Triumph’s glorious Spitfire and the Lotus Elan. The idea was sprung between a American journalist and engineer Bob Hall and Kenichi Yamamoto.

International Automotive Design in Worthing were commissioned to develop a running prototype based on an idea from Mazda’s California team for a rear-wheel-drive lightweight sports car to give the Japanese firm their own Elan-type car. They named the prototype V705, used a glassfibre body, a 323’s engine and other Mazda components and the car was completed and sent to the states in 1985. There it was driven around Santa Barbara to see what the public reaction was .

Approval for the MX5 was granted in January of ’86 and production plans sprung into action, it was given its name in early ’89 ahead of its Chicago Motor Show launch which, clearly, went down a storm. After all, it’s shifted 857,200 units. Though I still don’t know anyone that owns one of these Mazdas in Sussex or anywhere else.

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  1. and the rest is history! go MX5!




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