Motor (Australia)

LOST IN TIME

Limited-run Mazda coupe culled before its time

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Enright continues his one-man crusade against open-topped cars

OKAY SO WE might be stretching things somewhat describing the Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe as fast, but it’s such a rare beast that it has us intrigued. Taking the popular NB roadster as a base, Mazda Engineerin­g and Technology supervised the design of a fixed-head coupe version. Only 179 examples were ever built, all sold through the Japanese domestic market, and they are now highly prized by collectors.

Four versions were made. The base model featured a 1.6-litre engine and accounted for 53 units. The Type E was the entry-level 1.8-litre model and was fitted with an automatic transmissi­on as standard. Only 23 were ever built. Neither this model nor the base 1.6 are eligible for private import into Australia. No great loss.

The more interestin­g models are the Type S and Type A sports models. These both feature the 118kW 1.8-litre engine mated to six-speed manuals and got Bilstein shocks with a front strut brace fitted. Now we’re talking. The Type S was offered in either red, white or silver and 63 examples left the Ujina 1 factory. The Type A got restyled lights, bumpers and fender flares, with 40 units being built between 2003 and late 2004. The goobyeyed Type A remains a bit of an acquired taste.

Values? It’s not easy to put a price on a car with such a minuscule production run, but a Type S recently sold at auction in Australia for $40,250. Given that we’ve seen low mileage stock Mazda RX-8s fetch more than this of late, somebody got one heck of a bargain. Still, as is the case in any market, the value is what one person is prepared to pay.

It’s hard to know exactly how many remain in circulatio­n, as a big draw was that the stiffer bodyshell made the Roadster Coupe a better fit for motorsport endeavours. These cars are certainly extremely rare in Australia, with only two examples of the desirable Type S currently registered down under.

The fixed roof added a mere 10kg to the kerb weight of the MX-5, which means that a Type S will tip the scales at just 1080kg. Quite why Mazda insisted on calling it a Roadster Coupe when it was clearly just a coupe is anyone’s guess, but increasing the stiffness, refinement and, to this eye at least, the aesthetics of the NB MX-5 seems a recipe too good to be shared with just 179 owners.

Ultimately, Mazda realised that it was possible to make the MX-5 roadster, already a great car, into something more focused again. In the end it’s a real shame that the company never persevered with a more generous production run.

Mazda never managed to fulfil the planned 150car run of Type E or 200 model allocation of Type A, although it’s possible that a fire that destroyed 8000 sq metres of the Ujina No. 1 plant in December 2004 forced Mazda to refocus on its core models.

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The MX-5 Roadster Coupe shares a virtually identical power-to-weight ratio to the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins which landed a decade later
ABOVE The MX-5 Roadster Coupe shares a virtually identical power-to-weight ratio to the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins which landed a decade later

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