David gets his Mazda sports car close to the Brits that in­spired it. A bit too close, as it hap­pens

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK - DAVID SIMIS­TER ED­I­TOR


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.

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