You might wonder why I snapped a so-so picture of this red 2012 Mazda MX-5 in a parking lot at a shopping mall in Santa Barbara. Read on.
Miata fans are sure to know about the history of the iconic sports car. The inspiration for its development came from Bob Hall, who was an auto journalist back in the 1970s. His idea was for a modern interpretation of a British sports car.
Long story short. He was eventually hired by Mazda and was given the go-ahead to help develop the MX-5, or Miata as it was named in the U.S. Various British sports cars were used as `templates' for the Miata including a blue Lotus Elan, which was purchased from Dave Bean Engineering in Santa Barbara. By coincidence, I had a maroon 1968 Lotus Elan SE, which I had owned for nine years, for sale at the same time. Mazda could have purchased mine but they opted for a blue one instead of a maroon one. Mine was even right-hand drive, which would have better suited Mazda. Imagine my Elan was one away from being a model for the Miata. Oh well.
When the first prototype of the forthcoming Miata was built by IAD in the UK in 1985 Mazda engineers wanted to test it on real sports cars roads in the country where they would sell most – the U.S. Naturally Santa Barbara fitted the bill nicely. If you read the history book on the development of the Miata, written by Jack Yamaguchi and Jonathan Thompson (both former R&T writers) in 1989, you'll find several pictures of the very first V-705 prototype being driven around scenic two-lane roads in Santa Barbara in October 1985. There are couple of pictures of it in a shopping mall, which just happens to be my local mall. Naturally I could not resist taking this 2012 MX-5 for a stroll along the same roads the original prototype traced 27 years ago.
Just about one million MX-5 sports cars have been sold worldwide since it was introduced in 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show. With all the positive reviews of the new Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S sports cars it's been natural for people to compare them with the now `vintage' MX-5.
How did I like the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition PRHT, which was unveiled at this years' ? Loved it. The more I drove it the more I liked it. It still handles like a dream. It has a wonderful short throw 6-speed manual transmission (don't even think about buying the automatic version). The steering is precise. The PRHT (Power Retractable Hard Top) roof goes up and down at the touch of a button just as on a really expensive sports car.
Is it practical – not really, but then a sports car is not supposed to be, is it? It's all about the driving pleasure derived out on winding twisty two-lane roads, preferably with the top down.
This special edition model is limited to a run of just 450, so if you want one you'd better get down to your local dealer with $32,020 in hand.