David gets his Mazda sports car close to the Brits that inspired it. A bit too close, as it happens
1990 MAZDA EUNOS ROADSTER
Let’s get it out of the way. The MX-5 is not a Lotus Elan, no matter how many green and yellow badges you stick on it. But that didn’t stop quite a few of you pointing it out when I ended up parking in entirely the wrong place at a certain Norfolk car maker’s birthday bash.
It had all started so well, too. Last time the Eunos appeared in these pages it had completed the Londonto-Brighton Classic Car Run – but only just, after its temperature raced unexpectedly into the red after an unfortunate incident involving a baking hot afternoon, a rather steep bit of South Downs B-road and a
group of cyclists. The journey back after the event, which involved limping through the Dartford Crossing on a congested Sunday evening, wasn’t much fun either, so as soon as it got back I immediately entrusted Peterborough-based Dawson Motors to diagnose the Mazda’s hot running issues.
A week later and H521 NRX was back to its happy, healthy self again, having been treated to a fresh radiator and water pump, and it’s been behaving on the button ever since. I had the pump replaced when the cambelt was changed a few years ago, but there’s nothing in the service history to suggest that the rad has ever been repaired, so it could simply be that the 28-year-old component had had its day.
Since then it’s been to a couple of classic shows – notably the Oulton Park Gold Cup and a rather soggy Ormskirk MotorFest, where it joined the MX-5 Owners’ Club’s North West display – but when the invitation landed for Lotus
’Perhaps they really did think I was in a Elan and kept waving me through’
70 ( CCW, 3 October) I couldn’t resist taking the Mazda along. The story of how Mazda challenged its engineers to ape the best features of Britain’s Sixties sports cars, and particularly the original Elan, is well documented, so taking NRX along to the place that inspired it felt like a nice way of paying homage to Colin Chapman’s engineering genius.
Only it worked a little bit too well, after a fault-free blast down the A17 and A47 to Lotus’ HQ deep in the East Anglia Fens. The parking arranged for press scribblers was over the road at Classic Team Lotus, which the Mazda visited last year on CCW’s big drive to the Norfolk coast, but for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, the marshals on hand directed me away from the historic race team’s base, and straight into the Lotus factory itself. Perhaps they really did think I was in an Elan, but the powers-that-be kept waving me through regardless.
It wasn’t until I got right to the middle of the factory site that someone finally cottoned on, stopped me and politely asked me to turn the car around and head back but this time, I was instructed to park up in some empty spaces at the far end of the club stands and displays. As a result, the Mazda and I ended up crawling through the milling crowds and past line after line of neatly arranged Elises, Europas and Esprits – in a car that’s not one teeny per cent Lotus. I have felt less conspicuous.
In the end, I think the Lotus devotees saw the funny side of a lone, grubby-looking Chapmaninspired sports car being thoroughly outshone by an entire, freshly polished army of Hethel’s finest including at least ten Elan M100s, the very car that competed against the MX-5 in the first place. In fact, the East Anglian Lotus Club were even sporting enough to let me take a few snaps of the Mazda alongside their classics, including Celia Bruton’s beautifully maintained 1972 Elan Sprint.
Happily, the Mazda took it all in its stride – and delivered me safely back again, cooling issues long gone. I’m looking forward to taking it to events for the MX-5’s 30th anniversary bash next year – I suspect that it will be rather more at home there.
Accidentally ending up in the thick of the action at Lotus 70 meant that David’s Mazda could meet the Hethel cars that inspired it.
David’s Mazda was supposed to park at Classic Team Lotus, not the factory site.
Our editor’s relieved this is now where the Mazda’s temperature gauge normally sits.