The basic concept of the Mazda MX-5 Miata sounds simple. Make a lightweight, two-seat convertible sports car that is fun to drive, and make it affordable to a wide segment of the population. British cars like Lotus Elan and MGB delivered on this idea throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Fiat also did it with the original 124 Spider that remained in production until 1985. So no one needed to reinvent the wheel.
However, by the late 1980s, rear-wheel drive convertibles were rarities on the market. In fact, the period was one of the darkest in auto history when it came to fun-to-drive cars. Mazda changed the situation — permanently — when it introduced Miata in 1989. It had the attractive design and driving characteristics that people expected from the classic roadsters, but it delivered something revolutionary for the segment: reliability. The result was a smash hit, and just 11 years after its release, Miata became the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car of all time.
Mazda never got complacent with MX-5. In 2017, the automaker released a retractable fastback (RF) model that gives open-air drivers another reason to get on board with the million and counting who have already bought one. Let’s take a walk through the history of Mazda Miata with 25 snapshots and details on the evolution of a modern classic.