We named the original Mazda MX-5 Miata our first Automobile of the Year. The car cost under $14,000, had a 116-hp four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission, sent power to the rear wheels, and weighed just over 2100 lb—a lightweight, simple, and, most importantly, fun package. Mazda stayed true to that formula through two more generations of Miatas, and we’re confident that the next generation Miata—being engineered in tandem with Fiat—will get it right, too. But we’re not talking about future product (even though Mazda’s designer did give us an idea of what he’s thinking for the new car when we talked to him at the 2014 Detroit auto show). We’re recognizing the fact that Mazda hasn’t screwed the Miata up over 25 years.
We decided to fly out to California, meet up with some of our friends at Mazda’s North American headquarters in Irvine, and pat them on the back in person. One of those friends? Bob Hall, the man who wouldn’t stop bugging Mazda execs until they built a small, lightweight, roadster. We sat down with Bob and asked him about the origins of the Miata and the significance of 25 years. We also toured Mazda’s basement, which houses a private collection of some of the automaker’s coolest cars from history, and drove the yellow Miata Club Sport that debuted alongside the red, white, and blue Miatas on February 9, 1989.