Login

Upcoming Events

Sep
5
Thu
6:30 pm September Dinner Meeting @ TBA
September Dinner Meeting @ TBA
Sep 5 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
This is the monthly dinner meeting of the premier Miata Club in the CSRA. Come out and have some eats with fellow Miata owners. Either before, during or after we will have a short business[...]

Recent Posts

25 Years Ago – Summer 1994

Rides of Joy

By Barbara Feinman

“I kind of feel sorry for you,” my neighbor said to me. Her husband was underneath my house, trying to turn off the water. We were huddled in the kitchen by the stove, trying to pretend the house wasn’t freezing. It was the middle of winter and another pipe had frozen and burst. We could hear rushing water below the floorboards.

“I mean, here you decide to move out to the country and we have the coldest winter in … well, EVER” She tried to hold back a giggle, but it was too late. I started to hum my favorite Billie Holiday song, “Everything Happens to Me.

It had seemed like a good idea back in October. Give up my apartment in Washington and move out to the country for six months or so. My siblings and I own an old captain’s house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, along a river that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. I’d go live in the house (nearly 200 years old) and write. That’s what writers do, I told myself; they move out to the country, and they think, and they watch the birds, and they hoe beans, and they write. You know, Walden and Henry David Thoreau and all that. I would do the zen thing. No more honking cars, only honking geese. No more sirens in the night. It sounded idyllic.

That was before the ice storms, the snow-storms, the frozen pipes, the burst pipes, the electricity (and heat) cutting off overnight, the tree blowing down, more snowstorms, the wild bird coming down the chimney and flying madly around (and then dying under my bed) … And to top it all off, my Miata wasn’t in its element, to say the least. It was the first garaged winter of its pampered four-year

existence. My driveway’s slight incline made any amount of snowfall a considerable obstacle. Part of my daily January routine became trying to dig my car out, wheels spinning, snow spraying. The neighborhood kids, liberate from school by the weather, would look up when they heard me cursing. The hill in front of my house, which overlooks Blackbird Marsh, was the perfect toboggan run.

“Come on,” one of them would invariably say, abandoning his Flexible Flyer. “Let’s go push her out again.” The good news was that while my little car with its rear wheel drive didn’t fare so well in the snow, it was light enough for four medium-sized kids to rescue with relative ease. Each day I would skid around town, coming home with groceries, the news-paper and a bag of cookies for the sledders. I would invent errands — my cabin fever increasing exponentially.

At first I told concerned friends from the city who called that I “felt like a pioneer, that it was a real adventure.” But as the days turned to weeks and fresh snow kept falling, I grew less enthralled. About that time, I began to covet every four wheel drive vehicle that drove past my house. But I couldn’t afford two cars, and I could never do the unthinkable…

‘Spring is only thirty-nine days away,’ I would tell myself; looking out at the frozen marsh. But somewhere deep within my soul I feared that Spring just wouldn’t happen, that some-how it would just bypass us this year altogether. My little blue car sat patiently in the driveway, covered with ice and snow, and I would shiver with empathy, obsessively imagining it with its top down. I would picture putting the top down, zipping around the back roads. It seemed three million light years away.

Three months later. There I sat in front of my computer, putting the finishing touches on a project which had completely consumed me for the last month. As I stood up from the desk I realized it was a Friday night and I had nothing to do. I felt like celebrating, but all my friends were seventy miles away. I didn’t want to drink alone. But I had to do something more exciting than laundry to mark the end of this thing. I looked out the window absently. Of course! I’d go for a drive, put the top down and head for the hills — exactly what I had fantasized about all winter.

Dusk was approaching. It was the kind of perfect day where the breeze is light, the sun feels sweet against your skin.

I made my way over the wooden bridge and on toward Spaniard’s Neck, a long, windy, lush two-lane road where you rarely encountered another car, much less a police cruiser with radar. My joy rides usually

take the same route: Spaniard’s Neck to Conquest Farm. Conquest Farm is a private estate, with a long imposing driveway and vast rolling fields. To one side there stands a huge sort of barn-warehouse, filled with pigeons. I’ve never figured out what the pigeons are for. Sometimes I imagine they are carrier pigeons, trained in delivering mes-sages to star-crossed lovers. Probably not.

Across the road is a locked gate leading to Conquest Beach, which I’ve never had the nerve to climb over and explore. The view from the road is awesome enough – a beautiful, majestic vista of the river.

As I came around the bend and could see the farm in the distance, I noticed something ahead of me. I slowed down and realized it was two deer, sprinting across the road. I got closer and then cut off the engine. The deer looked at me and I looked back, realizing they were part of a large herd. I started to count: one, two, three, four, five … oh no, I thought, there are thirteen! I am horribly, excessively superstitious. Thirteen deer was a bad omen I started to recount. And then, from behind the trees, came ten more deer. Twenty-three, my lucky number! The day on which I was born. I sat. there in silence, watching the deer graze, feeling like I was on safari. They seemed unfazed by me, or the Miata, and they roamed around the field languidly. The breeze rolled in across the dashboard, there were crows cawing in the distance. The sun was beginning to set across the river.

I thought of Thoreau. His two years and two months at Walden Pond were filled with moments like these. Okay, so he didn’t drive around in a Miata, or approve of material things at all, but I’d like to think that if Thoreau had been there with me he wouldn’t have eschewed a spin in my little car. It had transcended its material worth for a moment; somehow it had led me there — reaping a chance meeting with twenty-three deer on a perfect spring evening.

Copyright 1994, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

 

25 Years Ago – Spring 1994

Accelerate!

Men say women drivers are road turtles. Ha.

In our culture, women — bikini-clad and draped over a shiny hood — are perceived to be good at selling cars, not at driving them. According to men, the self-styled mandarins of the macadam, we women don’t have the right stuff; testosterone, they insist, is necessary for merging or passing with finesse on the highway, not to mention parallel parking.

The notion that women are bad drivers is as archaic as arranged marriages; ability to drive has nothing to do with whether you have an M or F on your license. Many of us are terrific drivers, or could be, if we would just loosen up and let our instincts for the road take over, if we would stop turning the wheel over to our fathers, boyfriends and husbands. Reader, you are not the ungainly driving turtle that men would like you to think you are. There’s a cheetah inside of you, perfectly poised, coordinated and fast.

I love to drive. Admittedly, I’m a special case; not all women grew up playing with cars as well as Barbies, tagging along with a big brother to a slot-car racing track on countless summer afternoons. David would help me at the remote control, watching carefully as I guided miniature cars around the curves, encouraging me to go faster, to take more risks. When I grew up I left the Barbies behind. But not the cars. Never the cars.

If you met me in, say, the super-market, you’d never suspect my fearlessness on the road. I’m only five foot one; I need help opening a jar of peanut butter. I am craven when it comes to rodents, snakes and flying (it’s not the altitude, it’s that someone else is steering), and if the truth be known, I slept with the light on for a week after seeing Jurassic Park.

But what I don’t have in physical strength or courage, I make up for with a lifelong passion for speed and an innate feel for the road that I’m sure many women share, I learned to drive a stick shift my fresh-man year in college when I purchased a used car. After a week or two I no longer needed to rely on my tachometer to determine when to shift; I could interpret the sighs and rumblings of my engine as easily as a new mother can distinguish her baby’s wet cry from its hungry one. Soon I was weaving in and out of traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway life a native Californian. Guys who rode with me would invariably exclaim, “You can really drive!” The unspoken end of the sentence —”for a girl”— was all the prodding I needed to throw the car into fourth and show them what I was made of, that I could outdrive any man, all the while silently praying to the Goddess of Vehicular Karma to protect me from LAPD radar.

If you love to drive, you know the incredible sense of freedom that comes while cruising along a windy road

with the top down on a breezy moonlit night, foot on the throttle, double-clutching into the turns. There is nothing better. You are the car, and the car is you. It is then, with the wind wildly tossing your hair, that you finally feel liberated, that you are relaxed enough to entertain secret thoughts of getting your brilliant novel published or of being stuck in an elevator with Sam Shepard. It is then that you are uninhibited enough to sing along with the radio and convince yourself that you are harmonizing not only with Bonnie Raitt but with all of humanity.

My memories of driving pleasure are far too numerous to describe, but my supreme moment (so far) happened about five years ago. After dinner at a restaurant, my friend Terri and I were getting into my car when we heard heavy footsteps running toward us. A man rushed past, followed by a cop on foot. “He went that way,” I yelled, pointing ahead of us. The cop opened the passenger door of my Honda Civic, yelled at Terri to get in the back and jumped in.

“Step on it!” he ordered. I kid you not; those were his very words. I needed no further instruction. hook off, foot to the floor, heart racing as my dream came true — permission to floor it with no threat of recrimination. When we got to the edge of the park the cop yelled “Stop!” and jumped out, to chase the man down a ravine. As we watched them slip away into the darkness, I felt like a guest heroine on Cagney and Lacey.

Why should the excitement of driving well be left to the male of the species? Two women have already made it to the Indy 500, the nation’s premier auto race. The most recent, Lyn St. James, placed a respectable eleventh in her 1992 Indy debut and was the only rookie to cross the finish line. I’m not suggesting you enroll in the legendary Skip Barber Racing School (although I am planning on attending it one day). I’m suggesting that the next time you get behind the wheel of a car, you embrace the opportunity to excel, and accelerate; your car couldn’t care less whether you’re a man or a woman. No one else on the road should, either. Particularly you.

by Miata Owner Barbara Feinman

Copyright 1994, Glamour Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

 

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.

25 Years Ago – Fall 1993

Stingray

by
Tom Voelk
Seattle, WA

“Red, definitely red,” I instructed the salesman on the other end of the phone. The words were sure. The words were firm. The words have been dreamed about for a very long time. And they took me back to a day so very long ago.

It was twenty years ago, that day was. I will never forget it. Lying in the backyard, the summer wind dancing across me. The smell, the tickle offish cut grass. The anticipation. Mom singing softly as she hung the laundry on the line. Brilliant white clouds soared across a big blue Minnesota sky. Oh yes, that day. My tenth birthday.

My rusty, old, crummy old, stupid old bike inherited from my big brother Mike was about to be replaced. I just knew it. Lying there in the grass with my head in the clouds, I was already riding my new Stingray. A red Schwinn Stingray.

Actually blue would be just fine. So would green. Ooooh no. Green was kind of dorky, it would have to be either red or blue. No, definitely red with the sparkled banana seat, high rise handlebars and chrome fenders. Oh! What a machine! The fastest in the neighborhood! Morn stopped hanging the laundry to ask what I was grinning about.

So when Dad asked me to help him “pick something up downtown,” well, I knew exactly what was happening. I didn’t let on though. For one thing, my Dad was stem and didn’t appreciate emotional displays. For another, our family wasn’t exactly rich, and I wasn’t going to spoil his big surprise. I wanted to sprint to the car. I walked. Casually.

Wow. I never knew a car could go so slow, or that traffic lights could stay red so long. Red. Oh yeah, that red Schwinn Stingray. My new bike, my Stingray, was certainly going to be the best on the block! It would also probably go faster than this old car.

And it was at that moment my daydreaming gave way to a sickening reality. I scrambled around to look out the back window. Dad had passed right by the Schwinn dealer! Didn’t he know? Hadn’t I made myself perfectly clear these past months? A Stingray! He kept driving. Past the bakery. Past the drug store. I slumped back around. The Stingray was long gone. The car was very quiet. I felt confused and betrayed as Dad pulled the Oldsmobile up in front of Sears.

How can you forget a day like that? It started with such promise and ended so bittersweetly. As I rode home that day I passed the Schwinn dealer and saw the shiny new Stingray I thought would be mine still in the window. That was the day I learned all about compromise, except for the fact I ate all the birthday cake I wanted.

So now twenty years later, I’m on the phone with a guy named Dave at Island Mazda. My wife has suggested a number of practical automobiles to replace my rusty old, crummy old car that was bought second-hand. She knows it’s in vain though. She knows what I really want. After just five minutes on the phone, Dave and I agree on a price for a new Miata.

Now in twenty years I’ve had larger setbacks in life than not getting a bicycle I wanted as a kid. But as he asked me what color I want-ed, I realized here, one childhood dream was coming true. He had no idea of the memories flooding my head. He couldn’t see my quiet smile. All he heard was, “Red. Definitely red.”

Copyright 1993, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

Website Nostaliga

Now that my time is running out as the Club’s webmaster I thought it might be fun to look back some of the old websites I made for the club. The first website was hosted on a place called Geocities that offered up websites for free about practically anything for anybody. Websites were separated into what they called neighborhoods depending on subject. Our car related site was situated in MotorCity, so the address for our website was the very easy to remember www.geocities.com/MotorCity/Speedway/6289.

Our website lived there until sometime in late in 2007 when Geocities started to tack on random banner ads that didn’t necessarily reflect the Club’s interests nor met my exacting design standards. From there I found a place called RedRival.com that offered free web hosting with no ads, but our stay there was short lived as it kept getting flagged as a site that would install malware unbeknownst to users.

So in early 2008 I piggybacked the Club’s website onto my own domain “mr-miata.net.” This is when I changed the site from the hard coding of HTML files to using WordPress, the same software I was using for my personal blog. It stayed here until sometime in 2010 when I convinced the Club to join the 21st century and buy their own domain name and web hosting.

For fun, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine can give you a glimpse what some of the iterations of what the website looked like in the past. Start by going to this URL: https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.geocities.com:80/MotorCity/Speedway/6289/
The earliest one you can see is May 14, 1999, on the timeline click on 1999, then scroll down until you can click on the green circle on that date. The main page is sparse looking, but the separate page links towards the bottom seem to all go places.

You can also see a couple of site snapshots from the early WordPress days that were hosted on my personal domain here: https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://mr-miata.net/mmc/

You can see a few more recent snapshots of the current site at https://web.archive.org/web/20160701000000*/http://www.mastersmiataclub.com/blog/, but not much has changed except for the background in the last 8 years.

All these Wayback Machine links are hampered by the fact that they may only be one page deep or images are missing, but for whatever reason, at the end of 2006, I saved the entire HTML site to my hard drive. So for a nice little trip back to the Club’s website of 12 years ago, click below anywhere on Mr. Peabody and Sherman’a WAYBAC Machine: