If you just woke up from a coma, we have two things to tell you. First, welcome back. Second, Mazda made a new Miata. Everyone else in the world was bombarded with that knowledge a week ago with an inescapable global unveiling. That, however, was just the pre-game show to the main event: almost 2,000 Miatas descending like locusts on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The big reveal received the most media coverage, but the five-day event was really just a massive shindig celebrating the 25th birthday of the Miata, a party that began with the New York Auto Show.
Before Mazdafarians began pouring in from every corner of North America, Mazda did a very scary thing. They let us journomonkeys drive a bunch of cars from their heritage collection, including the 14th and 15th Miatas ever built. Both were on stage at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show for the Miata’s world debut and are pieces of Mazda history. When we photographed them in the safety of Mazda’s R&D center they had 8,303 and 4,005 miles on them respectively. They each have a few hundred more now.
Of course, we weren’t about to pass up a chance to touch the Declaration of Independence either, but we were careful, we swear. A couple of other journalists hailing from a nation known for its boisterous culture, on the other hand, beat on them like rentals.
Driving what is essentially a brand new NA Miata is an experience that can only be described as religious. You don’t need to be Ayrton Senna to be one one with the machine. The suspension is simply, as Tuco Salamanca would say, “Tight tight tight, yeah!” Each tire communicates with you individually through a Vulcan mind meld. You get a true sense of the chassis moving around you, wheels tucking in, sending you through your intended arc as you steer, and it all comes as effortlessly as Neo learning kung fu.
We also sampled a 1,600-mile NB and a spanking new 25th Anniversary Edition NC back to back. Handling was good, and if any other automaker had built either one its praises would be sung from the mountaintops. But the NA, that’s the vessel with the most Jinba Ittai magic.
Incidentally, in case you were wondering why the 25th Anniversary special editions sold out in 10 minutes, it’s because half of them came here. Just kidding, it wasn’t really half, and Mazda says these are all on loan from dealers. Though differences with the regular NC are minimal, that Soul Red on white sure does dazzle.
Mazda also displayed several heritage cars before a wall of 44 magazine covers graced by the Miata (you can read more about these cars individually in our NY Auto Show coverage and this profile of the Club Racer).
Parked before a row of SEMA cars was one of the few privately owned cars on display, a pristine Crystal White NA.
In 1990, Mazda produced six NAs, each with a one-off paint job. These “color test” Miatas were used to study which hues should be added to the palette. Once Mazda completed the research, they were sold off to the public in California. This teal one wearing chrome Chaparral wheels belongs to Bob Hall‘s brother-in-law.
Foolishly, Mazda also let us take a spin in a fleet of NAs used for the Skip Barber Racing School. No matter how many Gran Turismo laps of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca you have under your belt, it can’t prepare you for all the undulations on the actual circuit and the way your stomach drops when as you come down the corkscrew. Those boisterous journalists who fishtailed the heritage cars? One of them threw one of these into a tire wall.
The next day Laguna Seca was opened to the public. Having already achieved the Guinness record for world’s best selling roadster at 930,000 and counting, Mazda wanted to set a new one, for the most Miatas gathered in one place.
Over 1,200 arrived early enough for an aerial photo shoot. We arrived around 2pm. The track was empty and fairly eerie compared to the bustle of the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, but once we climbed the hill to the photo field it was Woodstock for Miatas. Cars were still lined up and filing in to form a massive “MX-5 25” only visible from the air like some kind of ancient line drawing for the gods. It was impossible to photograph all the Miatas present, but some of the highlights are below.
Near the left bottom of the M were these two. The yellow one was not a Sunburst Yellow but much lighter with metallic sheen. From what Bob Hall told us later on, it may be the metallic yellow (“pus yellow mica”) color test car
For comparison, here’s a production Sunburst Yellow with some tasteful mods.
An aggressive looking Mariner Blue.
A gallery of rare NB colors, from left to right, top to bottom: A very clean and original Crystal Blue Metallic; Evolution Orange, one of the best NB colors; A 1999 10th Anniversary edition NB. These came only in Sapphire Blue and had a 6-speed transmission; Mahogany Mica; Razor Blue.
The iconic Mariner Blue was inspired by the blue California license plates. Sadly, the state changed the plates to white by the time the Miata went on sale. Personalized plates are the only ones that can be carried over, so this is a rare sighting.
The rare Competition Yellow, our favorite NC color. This one was pretty kitted up and looked like quite the canyon carver. NCs are very evolutionary and probably a bit underrated.
A little after 3pm, the Miata luminaries — NA planner Bob Hall, NA designer Tom Matano, NA designer Mark Jordan and ND designer Derek Jenkins — paraded down Barloy Canyon Road in an NA-NB-NC-ND convoy led by Mazda 6 and RX-8 pace cars. Bob was in the NA, of course.
The ND, out and about.
We want this, badly.
Yet another Mariner Blue, this one rather original; 1992 special edition Brilliant Black with BBS rims.
Another Crystal Blue Metallic.
Splash Green Mica, a color we haven’t seen in person since it was new at dealerships in 2003.
Passing by the “shrine” near the track entrance on A Road was another Mariner Blue NA, this one looking well-used. Turned out it was Road & Track’s Million-Mile Miata.
This FB was not part of Miatapalooza and sat forlorn in the parking lot.
At around 4pm, a chopper took to the skies for the aerial shot. Everyone looked up for the photo. That’s us, waving in the corner.
Overall, it was a very nice event. People were friendly and everyone seemed to be having fun. In the end, a staggering 1,934 Miata maniacs came from all across the land. The previous record, 683 set by an MX-5 gathering at Mazda’s Lelystad, Netherlands test center last year, was shattered soundly. Happy Birthday, Mazda Miata.