19 November 2013

Mazda Miata turns 25: First gen prices are still attractive (for now)

This is bound to send a shudder up the spine of any 40-something—the Mazda Miata turns 25 next year. It seems like the first spy shots turned up in Road & Track a few years ago. But the fact of the matter is that the Miata predates social media by about 18 years, and widespread use of the Internet by five or six years. In those days, you really did get your first look at significant new cars like the Miata in the buff magazines.

Fast-forward 25 years and the Miata has a lot of mileage on it. Several generations, more power, complications like a retractable hardtop and lots more weight make many of us pine for the simplicity of the car that bowed as a 1990 model in the fall of 1989. Those who have never driven one dismiss it as merely “cute.” Those who know a thing or two about driving recognize that it’s one of the sharpest drivers’ cars since the Lotus Elan that Mazda designers so wisely cribbed from.

Happily, to the collector car market, early Miatas are still just used cars to which the unkind rules of depreciation still apply. But probably not for long. Rich Pennington (www.miatasportscars.com) may be one of the only dealers in the U.S. specializing in first-generation Miatas (1990-97). “They look, sound and feel like a sports car. They’re bouncy, simple, low to the ground and you can put the top up with one hand. It carries on from the MG and Austin-Healey and Triumphs of the ’60s, except they start and they’re really nice on the inside, with A/C and heat that work. I genuinely like the style of car.”

Pennington started out as a VW dealer almost 50 years ago. “It’s the first car that I felt had some of the same qualities as the VW Beetle. Plus, they’re bullet-proof, with 300,000-mile engines and — with the exception of the white cars — good quality factory paint.”  Nice examples of first-generation cars can still be found on eBay Motors for around $4,000. We’d wager that in 10 years or so, we’ll all be saying “coulda, shoulda, woulda.”

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