By Chad Waite | August 19, 2011
For a car guy or girl virtually anywhere in the world, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is a staple name among the greatest sports cars ever. It’s not the fastest, not the best looking, not the most powerful, and definitely not the rarest car on the market today but it is by far and away one of the most elemental cars ever made. The recipe was simple: give the Miata everything a driver absolutely needs and nothing more. This of course saves on weight and as we all know weight is the undisputed #1 killer of performance in any car. In fact, the first-gen NA MX-5 weight a scant 2,100lbs. That’s Lotus territory right there and anyone who’s ever thrown a Miata into the bends knows it.
Unfortunately there are two problems that plague the Miata. The first is its reputation as a girly car. They type that your mom or her male hairdresser’s boyfriend would drive to Whole Foods. Sticks and stones my friends. Those who have driven the car know what it’s capable of and those who haven’t have likely only experienced it in the Barbie Dream House w/ Car playset. A problem then? Not so much. An annoying misconception more than anything.
The second problem however, really is a problem. In the name of weight saving, why doesn’t a non-convertible coupe version of the Miata exist? Why hasn’t Mazda offered a model that ditches the convertible and adds a permanent roof?
Taking off the top of a car takes out an element crucial to a car’s structural integrity (think of the car bending and folding in the middle). To counter this, reinforcements are made to the car’s chassis to make it stronger. As you can imagine, to make a chassis significantly strong takes significantly more reinforcement, resulting in more significantly more weight…..significantly. Keep the roof though, and you keep your structural integrity with no extra weight.
With the fourth generation of the MX-5 just around the corner Mazda’s engineers have said that their goal is to get the new car’s weight back down to the original 2100lbs mark set by the first generation. That’s a tall order to fill and it’s going to take some clever engineering in multiple places. Why not start with ditching a retractable roof?
Now before you rebut, let me address what I consider will be the two most common arguments:
Argument: “But Chad, half the point of owning a Miata is because it’s a convertible.”
Answer: “My daily driver is a Miata. I’d opt for a coupe in .001 of a second if they offered it.”
Argument: “Chad, the car was designed to be a convertible. The Miata’s super short wheelbase probably means the chassis wouldn’t require much more reinforment than a hardtop coupe version’s chassis.”
Answer: Good point, Chad, but a permanent roof would still cut down weight, especially since Mazda engineers have ever growing access to more lightweight alloys and material for the next generation. I win.
Even if you agree or disagree with that, there’s a simple solution for Mazda here: offer both a convertible and a coupe version of the upcoming Miata. Simple, right? The market is definitely there for both. The gay hairdressers will get their topless world and the drivers will get to push around corners harder than ever.