It’s hard to believe but this year the renowned Mazda Miata celebrates its 25th birthday. For a quarter century this scrappy little rear-wheel drive sports machine has been delivering more smiles per gallon than supercars costing five times as much. Indeed, Hiroshima’s David has slain countless Goliaths on serpentine roads and race circuits around the world.
One of the people responsible for developing this legendary machine is Bob Hall, a man many enthusiasts refer to as the “father of the Miata,” which is a title he actually bristles at. Hall said sternly over the phone during my recent interview with him that he was not the car’s daddy. Instead he said “The only father is [Toshihiko] Hirai; there ain’t no other.” Hirai was the Miata’s program manager and the one that transformed sketches and clay models into a salable vehicle. “He’s the poor bastard that had to take the thing and make a car out of it” Hall said.
Prodding him for more information about what role he played in bringing the car to market Hall responded “I would be the nakodo of the Miata.” He explained that a lot of marriages in Japan used to be arranged and the nakodo was a matchmaker that introduced suitable men and women. Essentially he developed the idea for a sub-RX-7 sports car and sold it to Mazda management, an enormously difficult task.
Jokingly he said “it’s the 25th anniversary of the Miata but the 35th anniversary for me.” During Hall’s time at Mazda he labored on the car in his spare time before work, at lunch and after hours. Much overtime went into creating a salable concept for the Miata, and even then it was touch and go. He said “yeah, there was a time when it was not looking good,” but thankfully for enthusiasts around the world “it ended up catching hold [within the company]” and the rest is history.
With Bob’s intimate knowledge of the Miata who better to ask for help in suggesting vehicles for Mike? Here are a few options straight from the Hall’s mouth for our most venerable road-test editor.