Kenichi Ya­mamoto, Fa­ther of the MX-5

Total MX-5 - - NEWS -

Back on 20 De­cem­ber last year, Kenichi Ya­mamoto, one­time pres­i­dent of Mazda Mo­tor Com­pany and the se­nior fig­ure within the com­pany who pushed for the de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of the MX-5, passed away in Ja­pan. He was 95.

Friendly and ap­proach­able, Ya­mamoto joined the com­pany when it was still known as Toyo Ko­gyo and was in­stru­men­tal in en­gi­neer­ing Mazda’s ro­tary en­gine, which de­buted in the glam­orous Cosmo coupe in 1963, and gained greater fame in the RX-3, RX-7 and RX-8 mod­els. Al­though the tech­nol­ogy was ul­ti­mately flawed in terms of its prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion in pro­duc­tion road cars, the ro­tary en­gine es­tab­lished Mazda as an in­no­va­tor.

But from the per­spec­tive of this mag­a­zine, Ya­mamoto’s crown­ing achieve­ment was, as head of re­search and de­vel­op­ment in 1979, recog­nis­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of a sug­ges­tion by the then Au­toweek jour­nal­ist, Bob Hall, that what Mazda needed was an af­ford­able, two-seater road­ster in the im­age of those much-loved (if me­chan­i­cally chal­leng­ing) Bri­tish sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s.

Ya­mamoto didn’t act upon the sug­ges­tion im­me­di­ately, but sev­eral years later when next he saw Hall, who by now was work­ing for Mazda in the US as a prod­uct plan­ner, he en­cour­aged the ex-journo to pur­sue his road­ster idea fur­ther. And in 1985, now pres­i­dent of Mazda Mo­tor Com­pany, Ya­mamoto rec­om­mended to the board that they green light the MX-5.

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