Why the NA Mazda Miata OEM wheel has 7 spokes instead of 8

As has often been said, the original NA Mazda MX-5 Miata wheel was designed to evoke popular aftermarket wheels of the 1960s. However, as keen-eyed observers might note, all those wheels and the many copies they inspired have eight spokes. The Miata’s wheel only has seven. What gives?

The Miata wheel was an homage to classic racing wheels like the 1962 Minilite and 1967 RS Watanabe. Those wheels have inspired many homages, like Panasports, as well as countless knock-offs such as American Racing Silverstones, Black Racing BR8s, KN Minators, Konig Rewinds, Rota RBs, and many, many more. Even when Mazda debuted the Miata at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the modified example they showed alongside the stock cars wore 8-spokes.

Modern cars other than the Miata have gotten in on the action, too. Check out the R50 Mini or the Saleen S302. However, no matter the maker, the common theme is that they all have eight spokes. Or, in the case of the 2012 Mustang Boss 302‘s 19-inchers, ten spokes.

Turns out, it’s an old car designer’s trick. On something simple and round like a wheel, our minds subconsciously expect symmetry. An even number of spokes subconsciously invokes order and precision. The math is so ingrained in our minds that when we see an odd number of spokes the shape feels off-balance.

But by feeling off-balance, the wheel makes us think of motion. That’s why OEM wheels generally don’t have four spokes, and for sports cars 5-spokes were a long-held tradition. The Miata’s 7-spokes make it so that the car doesn’t appear so anchored to the ground, which makes it seem more nimble, and that’s the Miata ethos.

The original 8-spoke wheels were likely designed that way for structural strength and not aesthetics. But the team that worked on the Miata wanted to capture a spirit rather than make a formal retro version or copy. So like the Miata itself, the wheels pay tribute to milestones of motoring history, but takes the design to a new level.



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4 Responses to Why the NA Mazda Miata OEM wheel has 7 spokes instead of 8

  1. Hello Ben,

    well written explanation and Im with you on the imbalance leading the brain to thinking about motion. The original Daisy wheel has a center cover, hiding the lugnuts. As you can see on the green car parked behind the yellow one, a wheel looks very odd if the number of lugnuts don’t correspond to the number of spokes. Therefore eight spokes are the most commonly used option on the Miata aftermarket wheels (w/o center caps). I’d also love to argue the point that five or ten spoke designs work best on cars with 5 lugnuts and often look odd with only four lugnuts.

    Best regards

  2. Drew says:

    I heard that Mazda did it to save weight. I wonder if that’s an urban legend.

  3. CycoPablo says:

    Back in the day, the best looking NAs I saw on the road were a Mariner blue car with 15″ Centra IIs on 205/50s. These are 5 spoke wheels with a low offset, primarily designed for 4×100 BMWs.

    The other was a white NA wearing MiM Octo 15x7s. I actually had a set of these wheels on a Mirage for a time, and the only online pics I could find are if you search for the Ginetta G32, as they were OEM fitment at one stage:

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