MAZDA - MX5 (Miata) - 1989

Iniciado por kombota, 09 de Julho de 2006, 17:00

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Pop-Up Headlights (1990-1997)

Introduced in the summer of 1989 as an early 1990 model, the Miata looked somewhat like an early-'60s Lotus Elan and had a base price of $13,800. But though it was a sensation, it wasn't (and never has been) particularly quick or fast.

The 1990 Miata was truly tiny. With an 89.2-inch wheelbase and stretching out just 155.2 inches overall, the Miata was 16 inches shorter than Mazda's smallest sedan that year, the Protegé, and rode on a wheelbase 9.2 inches less expansive. Mazda made the Miata's small size a virtue. Everything about the car had a delightfully light touch. Instead of smothering the pavement under huge rubber, it relied on careful tuning of the double wishbone (front and rear) suspension to get the most out of modest P185/60HR14 tires. Power steering was an option, but the standard manual rack-and-pinion setup reacted instinctively to steering inputs and reported back even subtle details about what was going on with the tires. The four-wheel disc brakes weren't very big, but they didn't need to be on this car. A six-footer fit in the Miata, but even a five-footer felt as if the cockpit had been tailored around him, and he could operate the convertible top while seated. The shifter atop the five-speed manual transmission swapped ratios with just a nudge. The first Miata's options list was a short one and included a limited-slip differential and air conditioning. After all, loading a Miata down with luxuries beyond a radio could have upset the car's spot-on balance.

The biggest advantage of the Miata's small size was its feathery weight — just 2,116 pounds in base trim. Because light cars don't need big engines to achieve an entertaining power-to-weight ratio, the first Miata was powered by a 1.6-liter, dual-overhead cam, 16-valve inline four making a modest 116 horsepower. Magazine tests had the car waltzing from zero to 60 mph in just under nine seconds, and completing the quarter-mile in 16.8 seconds at around 80 mph. That isn't hideously slow, but hardly the sort of performance that would put the scare into a Porsche. It was enough, however, to be entertaining.

Mazda sold 35,944 Miatas during the 1990 model year in the United States. Not a lot compared to, say, the Honda Accord. But if Mazda could have made 100,000 of them, every one of them would have sold for sticker price or more that first year. About the only "Top 10" list the Miata didn't make that year was the FBI's Most Wanted.

Unwilling to mess with success, Mazda sent the Miata over for 1991 with only minor changes. Antilock brakes and a four-speed automatic transmission were added to the option list, but otherwise the changes were imperceptibly slight. Mazda also inaugurated what has become a Miata tradition: the Special Edition.

The first Miata Special Edition wore a coat of British Racing Green, as in the color once adorned by British racing cars. Mazda built only 4,000 of these Miatas, each of which had tan leather upholstery, a tan tonneau cover, a wood shift knob, air conditioning, stainless steel sill plates, a compact disc player and limited-slip differential.

A new color, Sunburst Yellow, blazed onto the Miata's paint chart for 1992. This year also saw the Brilliant Black Special Edition Miata, which had leather seating and BBS wheels. Other changes included a rear suspension cross brace and the additions of a roof liner and defroster for the optional hardtop.

A few minor tweaks came for 1993, including a new "sensory" sound system and a new corporate logo on the nose. Leather upholstery was now a regular option, Sunburst Yellow faded out and the black Special Edition model was now called the Limited Edition and sported a red leather interior.

Adding a passenger-side airbag to go with the one already in the steering wheel for 1994, Mazda made up for the additional weight by up-sizing the Miata's engine to 1.8 liters and 128 horsepower. The optional alloy wheels got wider, the fuel tank increased from 11.6 to 13.0 gallons, the brake disc diameter increased slightly, and the "Miata" script in the nameplate switched from black to red letters. Also, a Torsen limited-slip differential was offered for the first time. The first M Edition debuted, which was basically a loaded Miata with a wood shift knob, wood parking brake handle, chrome wheels and a dunking in Montego Blue paint (3,000 were made). Later in the year, the R package debuted. Geared toward hard-core driving enthusiasts, the R featured a Torsen limited-slip differential, alloy wheels, Bilstein shocks, recalibrated springs and sway bars and available dealer-installable hood stripes.

A second M Edition appeared midway through the 1995 model year, this time featuring Merlot Mica paint and BBS 15-inch wheels. Otherwise, except for a revised ABS system, the '95 Miata was almost indistinguishable from the '94.

Compliance with the U.S. government's emissions regulations for 1996 meant a new engine control computer for the Miata. Amid the recalibration, Mazda found another five horsepower in the 1.8-liter engine for a total of 133. Other than that, the chrome rings around the gauges vanished, the rearview mirror now attached to the windshield glass and map pockets were added to the doors of Miatas equipped with power windows. For '96, the M Edition wore Starlight Mica paint, 15-inch Enkei wheels and a wood Nardi shift knob. Again, 3,000 were produced.

With a full redesign in the works, Mazda let the existing Miata glide through 1997 almost unchanged. There was a new "Touring Package" that included power steering, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows, power mirrors and aluminum alloy wheels. An STO (Special Touring Option) Edition roadster was offered in a batch of 1,500 and included all the Touring Package equipment plus stainless steel scuff plates, Twilight Blue paint, 15-inch Enkei wheels and a Nardi shift knob. Only 47 brave souls opted for the competition-oriented R package, and this year's M Edition came painted Marina Green.

Technically speaking, there weren't any 1998 model Miatas (any registered as such were likely late-delivery '97s). And with the conclusion of 1997 model production, the Miata lost its pop-up headlights that gave the car the bug-eyed look of an old Austin-Healey Sprite. Some enthusiasts still miss those lights and the purity of the Miata that wore them. Others think Mazda took a noble step further along the path towards sophistication with the new '99 Miata." target="top">Brochuras

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Edited by:>Umtali at: 28/10/07 0:55

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If I were to imagine the meeting that spawned the design for the Miata, I would come up with something like this: A half-dozen grey-haired Japanese executive types standing around an aged MGA, all saying profound things about handling and track prowess in deliberate and well-thought sentences. "If we are to build a car worthy of the heritage forged by the early roadsters," one man in a suit says, "it must be small and give the driver the sense of being intimately connected to the asphalt." An engineer looks at him understandingly and adds, "It must have very little flex in the chassis, and the weight balance must be as near to 50-50 as is possible."

At this point, I remember what the Miata actually looks like, and the mental image I've assembled of the craftsmen at Mazda is interrupted by a male hairdresser in glittery shoes saying, "and it has to look fabulous!"

And that's the problem with the car—it's got those early 1990s effeminate and noncommittal looks that endeared it to so many small-car buyers for the last 15 years that it's become the "most popular sports car of all time," if you believe what Mazda tells you. They sold over 700,000 Miatas (technically called the Mazda MX-5) since its introduction in early 1989 as a 1990 model. Do remember, however, that Ford sold over 680,000 Mustangs in its first year of I'm not really sure what this "most popular sports car" is all about.

Popular or not, Mazda has made three distinct generations of Miata: 1990–1997 models have goofy popup headlights and either a 120hp 1.6L (1990–1993 models) or a torquier 130hp 1.8L (1994–1997) DOHC engine driving the rear wheels through a five-speed manual or an optional (and rare) automatic transmission. Mazda skipped the 1998 model but introduced the 2nd generation Miata in 1999 sans the popups (so sad) and with a slightly updated 140hp engine. Most cars got the 5-speed manual but every year of production had a special edition of some sort or another (10th Anniversary, Special Edition, and so forth), all of which came with a 6-speed. The car was freshened again in 2001 and made stiffer and more powerful, and a special turbocharged 170hp Mazdaspeed MX-5 was sold in 2004 and 2005. For 2006, Mazda has released an entirely new Miata, but we'll skip that for now since it's so damned new.

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