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10 Cool Miatas & A Cool Pickup Go See 30 Cool Cars

Members Attending: Brian & Donna Bogardus, Trudy & Hal Scott, Dennis Mason, Glenn Link & Deb Tonini, Kurt Breitinger, Stacey & Cindy Timmerman, Don & Kaye Boltz, Daryl Shipman, Ralf & Annie Wilms, Mike & Shirley Dyer and Jennie & Thomas Hodges plus grandson Caleb & friend.

When we rolled out of Greg’s Gas Plus at 11:30 for the drive to Greenwood we were 8 Miatas strong. We also had an OTM bringing up the rear, a Ram pickup truck, because Caleb and his friend refused to ride in the trunk of Jennie’s Mazdaspeed Miata. The Wilms’ got a late start and met us at the lunch spot and Daryl Shipman met us in Greenwood.

The drive started cloudy and a bit chilly so everyone’s top was firmly in the up and locked position. The fog was supposed to break near midday, so we hoped to be able to put the tops down part way to Greenwood, instead, the further north we got, the thicker the fog became. Amazingly enough our practically mile long conga line of cars remained intact on the back road drive, until we got into the Saturday afternoon traffic on the US25 bypass around Greenwood. The left turn into our lunch spot was the trickiest part of the drive and true to form, we lost one car, temporarily, in the maneuver.

On the recommendation of Mr. Shipman, lunch was at a place called Migs Pizza Castle and it turned out perfectly in nearly every way. You ordered at the counter, so no waiting to be seated and can I get you drinks, etc. It was crowded so we sat where we fit, no rearranging the furniture into one long “last supper” style table. The food was actually quite good and the service was fast, I’d be willing to bet this is the first time in history that 20 people from this Miata Club got out of a restaurant in an hour.

Knowing the trouble we had getting into lunch, with the left turn needed,  it would be impossible to get eleven vehicles in row, so Brian made sure everyone knew the short route to meet up with the Corvette Club just short of our final destination. When we got to the correct Greenwood High School parking lot we found not many Vettes and a whole lot of pickup trunks and SUVs. Quite a few of them were coming with more than two guests. It was suggested that anyone who could, carpool, so as to not overwhelm the quiet subdivison we were headed to. It helped some, but we still lined the street in front of the Von Seleens.

Arranged up the driveway hill to Hartmut’s two garages were a series of Porsche automobiles to boggle the mind. From the amazing 911R, to an 80’s cool slant nose 930 Turbo Convertible, to the insane 911GT2 RS, to the bonkers hybrid 918 Spyder, to my favorite, the 1969 911S in Cream with a brown interior. At the end of the driveway was the Lava Orange 911GT3 RS that came to Deals Gap with us in November. There was also the relatively sedate late model 911GTS and LeMans race car in street car clothing, a Carrera GT.

All these cars fit in the one garage at the top of the hill, with the red and yellow tiled floor and one wall covered with trophy cases filled with awards from car show and racetracks across America. The two car garage attached to the house held the “pedestrian” family cars, a Porsche Macan SUV (the GTS version) and an S Class Mercedes Benz (the AMG version of course.)

If that wasn’t enough, we then packed up and drove a couple miles cross town to visit Hartmut’s other garage where he keeps his more eclectic collection of cars. There were a little over 20 cars parked cheek by jowl and ran the gamut from a 1959 Corvette race car to a McLaren 650s Spider, a 1963 Porsche 356C to a Spyker C8, including the first car he bought when he came to America, a 1970 Mustang Boss 302. The last photo below is a 90° panorama I took from the front left corner, how many cars can you identify?

January Meeting Minutes

When: January 3rd, 2019

Where: Tin Lizzy’s, Wahington Rd., Augusta

Who: Brian and Donna Bogardus, Mike and Shirley Dyer, Larry Garner, Thomas and Jennie Hodges, and Dennis and Karol Mason.

Thanks to Dennis for making reservations for tonight’s meeting! – It was hard to make a decision from the menu but once done the food was good!  The Chicken Tortilla Soup was yummy. The members enjoyed chatting and eating before the meeting started. 

Treasurer’s Report: The balance started at $939.95, with income of $510.00, and expenses of $558.04, the ending balance is $891.91.

Club Business:

  • Our new president opened the meeting after dinner. He wanted everyone to know that the third Saturday meeting can be anything you would like, not necessarily breakfast.  Also, if you have anything in mind you would like to plan/do, be it a short drive, a breakfast, a lunch, dinner, something new in town you’d like to see, whatever –  please mention it, we would love to hear your ideas.
  • Dues for the upcoming year are now due!, So please prepare to contribute at the next meeting, and see Mike Dyer to pay them. Thank you for your support!
  • Mike Dyer will send an updated roster of all paid up members to Brian and Dennis.
  • Please remember to RSVP to our events – it makes it difficult for the planner if we don’t know how many will show – especially for smaller venues.  Your RSVP is greatly appreciated, so please don’t forget.
  • On Jan 19th we plan a drive to Hartmut and Gudrun Von Seelen’s house to see his car collection.  We will leave from Greg’s Gas Plus at Exit 1 in SC at 11am.  Drive to Greenwood and stop for lunch before going to Hartmut’s, to arrive at 2pm.  We need a firm headcount so please RSVP to Larry ASAP.

Ongoing:

  • See Dennis Mason for name tags, if you so desire.
  • Tom and Larry have business cards with the club website to handout to prospective Miata owners that may be interested in joining our club.
  • New club merchandise is available: Pins are $3 each; “Support Vehicle” car magnets are $25 per pair, canvas tote/shopping bag $20 each. The 3” window stickers have come in and are available now.
  • Coffee mugs and other items are available from http://www.cafepress.com/masters_miata Communigraphics in North Augusta has our logo, for $8 you can have it embroidered on just about anything.

New Business/Upcoming calendar events:

DATE EVENT – LOCATION COORDINATORS
19 Jan Drive to Greenwood to see Hartmut’s car collection

Meet at Greg’s Gas Plus at exit 1 at 11am

Brian & Donna Bogardus

Larry Garner

7 Feb Dinner meeting – TBD (somewhere in Aiken) Shirley Dyer
16 Feb Third Sat meet-up – TDB Donna Bogardus
7 Mar Dinner meeting – TBD Karol Mason

For Sale

2003 Madza Miata MX-5, 147k miles, 6 speed manual transmission, NEW top, brakes & tires.
$3800.00 OBO Call Charlie at 803-634-2155

Free Coffee or Brian & Donna Buy Some Friends

Members Attending: (from left to right) John Haff, Dennis Mason, Larry Garner, Rita Garner, Trudy Scott, Victor Yu, Brian Bogardus, Tom Varallo, Hal Scott, Kurt Breitinger, Karen Breitinger, Karol Mason, and Donna Bogardus

For the past 5 years Donna and I have participated in something called the Moss Motoring Challenge, where we cavort around taking pictures of our Miata with one of us holding a catalog cover while stopped near some sign or some “destination.”

Three years ago one of the challenges was “Coffee Shop with a Friend” which we had procrastinated on all year. So on the last Saturday of 2015, we set up a Club event and advertised free coffee to anyone who would come out and have their picture taken with us. David Adcock and Larry & Rita came out to Ridgecrest Coffee Bar in Aiken.

This year, 2018, when we saw “Coffee with a Friend” on the list of challenges we knew we were going to intentionally procrastinate until the last Saturday of the year and make it another Club event. Our previous spot, Ridgecrest Coffee Bar, had shutdown earlier in the year, so we needed a new meeting spot. Then we remembered the Inner Bean Cafe in Augusta, from a Hal & Trudy breakfast event a couple years ago.

Thanks to all who came out.

25 Years Ago – Winter 1993

Elevator Espionage

I get a lot of calls from my journalist friends asking why there has not been a competitor to the Miata entering into the market by now. It has been five years since the press introduction of the Miata and it is presumable that some other company would have tried for their piece of the sports car market pie by now.

The answer I give largely centers around the Capri and its lack of sales performance as contrasted to the Miata’s success.

It is hard to believe that the first Miata day model took shape over a decade ago. At that time the key words for the program were “Light Weight Sports” or LWS. The concept was crystal clear for those of us within Mazda – fill the gap left by the recently deceased British sports cars. Customers at that time were making do with Fiero’s and Honda CRX’s, but we thought a reliable MGB would be more to the market’s liking. Justifying 40,000 units per year (based on MG and Triumph sales in ’79-’80), Mazda headquarters in Japan gave the green light for our California studio to proceed.

Ford had received quite a bit of good press with the Barchetta show car in the late seventies – a small, two seat sports car based on Fiesta mechanicals (my, this all sounds ancient now…). A few product planners within Ford had been looking for a justification to build such a car for many years. In the early ’80’s, the chance came. Ford of Australia needed more export credits for a particular assembly plant. Putting two and two together, the powers within Ford decided to build an adapted version of the Barchetta in Australia for domestic sales and for export to the US and other markets.

The germ of the idea was great – a low cost two seater for the masses. Build it in an existing plant with as many existing parts as you can and you will have the afford-able answer to the British expiration. The plan was solid, but the execution began as a compromise from the get-go. It was decided to build the car on a Mazda 323 floorpan, in order to save money by not developing a new one. The choice was made to use the old tooling from the 323 line that had just been moth balled. Thus, a car destined to enter the market in 1990 was being built on a chassis introduced in 1982 and killed in ’86.

I recall riding in my hotel’s elevator while in Hiroshima and meeting new American faces each day. They were Ford engineers working on the Probe/MX-6 joint venture and the Capri project. They did not know of our plans to make a small sports car, but we were curious about how the “Barchetta” program was going and how it might be the death knell for our special car. “How is the 323 platform working out for the two seater?” I would ask, feigning knowledge of the project. “Fine, Fine. Front wheel drive is the only way to go with this niche market,” would be the reply, telling me they were locked into front wheel drive and mediocre handling performance from the start. It was a chess game, but as long as they stayed on that track, there was a chance the Miata would be “allowed” to be built.

The front wheel drive decision for the Capri was based, again, on cost. This was the one point that made the Miata possible. You may remember that Ford owns 25% of Mazda. The Ford Board knew about the Miata program and decided to let it co-exist with their Capri program. The two cars had completely different drivetrains and market focuses and were considered not to be direct competitors, sort of like the Midget and the MGB. The Capri was going to have two small rear seats and be priced lower than the Miata. The thinking (sound enough) was that the purists would buy the Miata and the more “practical” customers would buy the Capri.

There was a period of true pins and needles for us at Mazda R&D in 1985 when the Miata’s future was very uncertain. Internally, the MPV was competing for development money – the U.S. market was crying out for minivans at the time. Externally, Ford’s weighty scepter loomed over our little idea. Fortunately, all three vehicles were approved for production.

The rest, as they say, is market history. The Capri was scheduled to come out first at a low price. In fact, the Capri introduced at $12,800 six months after the Miata went on sale for $13,800. Very shortly afterwards, the Capri’s price rose to over $14,000. The press, as we remember, was ecstatic about the Miata and “kind” to the Capri. The market place rewarded the two cars in a less than equal manner.

Last year’s sales for the Capri were half those for the Miata, even with serious rebates and discounts from Ford/Mercury.

The problem with the Capri? There are none, really. It is a very pleasant 2+2 convertible with mild road manners and a reliable nature. Does anyone sneak out at night and wax their Capri? Is anyone drawn to chase headlights for hours, so enamored with the Capri’s character and style? Few are, if any. The Capri has a serious infection of that corporate disease – committee design. It pleases everyone and thrills no one. The lack of sales for the Capri has proven one thing – niche cars need to have stand-out personalities.

And there is that price. Basically, the Capri is a convertible Mazda 323 Hatchback. The convertible option costs around $2000 at retail. The 323 Hatchback sells for $7000. Put that together to yield a reasonable price for a Capri at around $9000. Trying to sell a $9000 car for $14,000 is a fool’s game in any market.

Now I can make my point, after a long winded prelude. The Capri and the Miata have staked out the only two viable ways of meeting this small sports car market in a modern world. You can take an existing design and make it into a sports car, trying to keep the costs down and make up for lack of character with clever marketing and alloy wheel programs. Or you can start with a clean sheet of paper and spend your money making your idea of the perfect sports car, praying that the almighty customer will agree with you. Both represent risky propositions.

These two cars have essentially cornered the market in low priced sports cars – there may be little room for anyone else. Could someone make a $16,000 car from scratch and have it be better than the Miata? Probably not – and that is not said out of arrogance, it is just that the Miata was developed with no competition in mind. Any car now developed would have to position itself among a few cars in the field and compromises would be inevitable. Can someone take an existing sub-compact design and make it a convertible “sports car” – maybe. The lack of Capri sales even after sustained rebate programs is probably scaring anyone away.

We have seen Toyota move the MR-2 up scale (into the $20,000 range). Honda’s new “CRX” is the Del Sol which is more money and less car than the Miata ever pretended to be. The Fiero is dead. Alfa Romeo sold less cars for the entire last year than Mazda did Miata’s in its worst single month. Fiat has announced a new two seater, but our crash tests and product liability problems may keep it out of the U.S. market. The MGB is alive and well with a V-8 engine and a price to match for Brits only.

So is the Miata king of the hill? Well, it is king of its hill, which is the “affordable” sports car market. It has been included in all of the automotive magazine’s “favorite car” lists for each of its four years of production. It has spawned the largest single marquee import car club in the world (us).

Does that make it the “best”? No. What makes it the best is that little smile that creeps over you when you crest that hill or clip that apex and the sun is just right and the wind is billowing over the wind-shield and second gear feels so good and the engine sings happily. Being able to reproduce that smile on 250,000 individual customers around the world is what makes it the best. It is a feat not easily accomplished in today’s automotive world.

For that, we must say thank you to Mazda, for persevering through that product mine field on our behalf.

Norman H. Garett III
Founder Miata Club of America

Copyright 1993, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.