The Proud Parents of the Mazda Miata

This story originally appeared at JeanKnowsCars.com

The Miata and I go all the way back to the late Eighties, when I was invited by Mazda chairman Kenichi Yamamoto to have the very first journalist test drive of a pre-production prototype at the Miyoshi Proving Ground. This was not a press trip. We had bonded in the early Eighties over our love of baseball: me the Detroit Tigers, him the Hiroshima Carp, for which Mazda was the major sponsor. In fact, in 1984, the year the Tigers won the World Series, the Carp won the Japan Series. I just happened to be in Hiroshima that night, and all the clubs and bars were giving away free sake. There were a lot of salarymen in three-piece suits laying drunk in the gutters of Hiroshima that night.

But I digress.

Mr. Yamamoto wanted to know what I thought of this new roadster from Mazda, a completely new kind of car for them. It was outstanding. It was unbelievable. The simplest way to describe it was a Lotus Elan that didn't break and had a high-tech suspension. It was absolutely perfect in concept for the time, and I didn't want to get out of it; I drove around and around, I drove engineers around, and when I was done driving, I was taken into a room at the track, and all the engineers for the various components filed in and began to ask me questions about it. Eventually I had to beg them to stop. "There's nothing left in my brain," I said.

When the first cars came to the States, I wrote the story for Automobile Magazine. It was such a fantastic car, it inspired us to name it our first Automobile of the Year, despite the fact that Motor Trend's Car of the Year was such a strong franchise that we had resisted doing this for the first four years of the magazine.

Mazda Miata Jean Jennings

In 2004, my husband gave me a very special Mazdaspeed Miata for my birthday. If it hadn't been this turbocharged Miata, I would have called him a crazy man for buying the editor of a car magazine a car, but the Miata is so magic, of all the hundreds upon hundreds of cars I have driven, that's one car I wanted to own.

Miata RWB

So here it is the twenty-fifth anniversary of that very special car, and we are on the verge of seeing the first brand-new Miata from the ground up since that car came into existence in 1989. Mazda threw a little champagne celebration at the New York Auto Show, gathering there the three original 1989 Chicago Auto Show cars: the red, white, and blue cars you see here and in this video, and every special one-off Miata model they could get their hands on. It was a perfect chance to talk to the "fathers" of the Miata: the brilliant Bob Hall, who had the original idea and convinced Mazda to build it, and its first designer, Tom Matano, who came from BMW to the Miata project at Mazda and sketched the first car. Mazda's current head of design, Derek Jenkins, was also there and had a few things to say about what it was like to be the guy in charge of redesigning the icon.

To see the full interviews, click here:

Bob Hall

Tom Matano

Derek Jenkins

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