Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
1 IT WAS JAPAN’S FIRST SPORTS CAR
We can be a little smug about our popular sports car leadership. And with good reason. Yet Japan had already produced four interesting and attainable two-seaters before the MX-5. First came the Datsun Fairlady 1500 and Honda S500 in 1963, followed soon after by the Toyota Sports 800. Then in the 1980s – just after MG and Triumph had faded away – Toyota brought us the mid-engined MR2. So the MX-5 was carrying on a national tradition, not starting one.
2 IT WAS DESIGNED IN AMERICA
Mazda opened a styling studio in California in the early 1980s, and young designers there soon worked up ideas and designs for a car that could step in where the old British models had left off. However, the first running prototype was actually made in Worthing, West Sussex, by International Automotive Design (IAD). What’s more, the UK company built a series of five more prototypes used for every part of the little Mazda’s development, including crash testing. IAD effectively took the Californian designs and turned them into a car ready to manufacture in Japan.
3 IT’S TOUGHER THAN AN MGB
Replacing rusty metal on an MG or a Triumph is almost a given, but you’d imagine that the MX-5 MkI is comparatively immune to rot given that its all-steel panels were fully galvanised when new. Not true – it can rot away like anything else. The water drain tubes in front of the rear wheels get blocked and moisture gets fed into the sills, making this a common rust incubator. Other troublesome areas include the door jambs, front wheelarches and windscreen surround. In fact, a MkI can harbour almost as much brown terror as an MGB. Giles Chapman
MX-5 was designed in the US, but prototypes were made in the UK.