It takes corporate balls of steel to stick by an idea utterly disarming in its simplicity, year after year, decade after decade. To pour your whole company philosophy behind it, to build a design language around it, and to aim for the record books. In 1989, at a time when everyone else was building faster, more powerful, more engineered, more expensive sports cars, Mazda had the courage to bring back the affordable open-top sports car, with perfect 50:50 weight distribution. Good job too, because to date it is the world’s best-selling roadster. Sometimes, you need to listen to the little voice inside your head.
In 2000 the MX-5 was recognised as the world’s top-selling open-top two-seater sports car by the Guinness World Records, with 565,779 cars sold.
Skip forward to this month’s Festival of Speed, where the new MX-5 will be on display alongside the original Chicago concept for the roadster, and Mazda is still simply updating the Guinness World Record title, which no other manufacturer has come close to challenging.
The recipe for success for the MX-5 model remains a brilliantly smart one: affordable fun through clever, dependable, simple technology. I should know; I was the happy owner of a MkII for many years. My boyfriend and I utterly abused it; left it lying dormant for weeks on end while the discs rusted and the tyres deflated. We hammered a tractor battery into it at one point to give it a boost on start-up. And what finer pleasure than to hit the open road, unclip the roof, throw it back with one hand and dart off to the horizon with the little steering wheel and stubby short-throw gearstick at your hands.
And now it’s your chance to see the all-new MX-5 in the UK for the first time. Mazda is the featured marque for the Festival of Speed this year, which means it owns the huge, famous sculpture outside Goodwood House over the course of the Festival, so you might well se a couple of MX-5s soaring towards the clouds, but failing that (and the wraps don’t come off the sculpture until the Thursday of the Festival), head to Mazda’s stand and the Stableyard to the left of the house, where you can see how the MX-5 is inspiring art and music