Chicago Audio Show 2010: Mazda MX-5 Miata

As a teenager I built only two plastic automobile models: a metallic maroon Porsche 911 Turbo with whale-tail and a racing red Mazda RX-7. Now coming from an arguably gear-head family, my father knew these two cars were my favorites and when it came time to buy my first car in the middle of winter, we looked into used “versions” of my dreams. Yes, we looked into a Porsche — a used tan Porsche 924 to be exact. Sadly, I couldn’t fit into it (happily, we didn’t have to pay the insurance).

We scoured the dealer lot and found a used brown RX-7. Like the Porsche, brown is not the best of colors but I didn’t really care. One of the cool things about the RX-7 was its low profile due in large part to the Wankel rotary engine unique to Mazda. Did I mention it was winter and the RX-7 was used, well used maybe? Well, the rotary engine just wouldn’t turn over in the cold weather and believe me, both of us and the dealer tried to get the darn thing to start. It just wouldn’t go. I ended up with a diesel VW Rabbit instead. Fun, in a different way, but not the same.

Despite my high school used car disappointment, I never lost interest in Mazda. When the Miata was first released, I absolutely fell in love with it. A small, quirky convertible just seemed so right. Sadly, when I was in the market for a new car in the early 1990s the Miata, like the 924, had a problem — the steering wheel was too big and I couldn’t fit into it. My dream was dashed once again and the Miata faded from view. I turned to the RX-8, but it was simply out of my price range. I ended up with a Saturn SL-2. Unique, in a practical sense, but still not the same.

mazda1Now these many years later while walking through the Chicago Auto Show, a little happy face caught my eye. It wasn’t the quirky face of previous years, but a distinctly Muppet-esque expression with a sense of balance and composition that I hadn’t seen since the first Miata many years ago. I wandered over and studied the little convertible and was pleasantly surprised to see it had a retractable hardtop — a must in a place like Chicago with serious winter and an urban environment where a private garage is a luxury. Bracing for disappointment, I opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat. Much to my delight, I fit. In fact, it felt absolutely perfect; the ergonomics were right, the sight lines ideal, and the seat supportive and comfortable. It felt like the car was finally designed for someone like, well, me.

I sat in the new 2010 MX-5 Miata for a while and just pictured driving it in the city, through backroads, and on a road trip. For the first time, I could see myself actually owning this little sprite and enjoying it without compromise. I don’t have a car today, but maybe it is time to consider one for no other reason than to have some fun. A little red 2010 Mazda Miata might just do the trick.