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Happy 25th Birthday, Mazda Miata [w/video]

Jeff Perez
February 10, 2014

Fun and well-built roadsters are a dime a dozen. But there’s been one beautiful rag top that’s stood the test of time better than the others — the Mazda MX-5 Miata, of course. And today is its 25th birthday.

The Miata was inspired from classic British and Italian roadsters of the day. Alfa Romeo, MG, Austin-Healey, and loads of others were the source for this automotive genius. In 1989, while the market was devoid of fun, sporty roadsters, Mazda unveiled its Miata in Chicago on February 10th. With a 1.6-liter engine, and pure driving dynamics, it became an instant classic.

Mazda Miata
Mazda Miata

In 1997, the MX-5 received a major makeover. The new design also came with some added weight. Of course, purists weren’t all too happy with the new 2,300lb curb weight (up from the original 2,150lbs), but it was only minor.

The MX-5 maintained the same 1.8-liter engine though, producing 140 horsepower and a top speed of 130 mph. The MX-5 lived on for a few years relatively unchanged — a 10th anniversary edition in 1999 would add a new six-speed gearbox and a bump in price, but it wasn’t until 2004 that things really started to get interesting.

PHOTOS: See More of the Mazda MX-5 Super25 Concept

Mazdaspeed MX-5
Mazdaspeed MX-5

With the MX-5 receiving a facelift in 2001, Mazda was on course to introduce a newer, faster model to the lineup. Dubbed the Mazdaspeed MX-5, the roadster followed in the footsteps of its hatchback cousin the Mazda3 in the brand’s performance lineup.

At 180 horsepower, the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine was good for a 0-62 mph time of 6.2 seconds. Unfortunately, we only saw 5,428 Mazdaspeed MX-5s ever built before fire halted production at the Mazda facility.

PHOTOS: See More of the 2011 Mazda MX-5 Spyder SEMA Edition

Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5

Here in 2014, we’ve seen three (or so) generations of the beloved roadster. Another generation is on the way in 2015, and will share development with a future Alfa Romeo roadster — a company that inspired the Miata in the first place. Ironic, isn’t it?

And while the now-heavier, and more powerful MX-5 may not have the same appeal to purists of the world, it’s still one of those cars that gets gearheads like us up in the morning. And that’s what it’s all about.

PHOTOS: See More of the Mazda MX-5