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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.

25 Years Ago – Summer 1993

My Friend, Mr. Hirai…

by
Norman H. Garett III
Founder Miata Club of America
Concept Engineer Miata Project

We were delayed for a half hour while the technicians replaced a front shock on one of the prototype 323 test mules by the side of the road. It was 1984 and we were testing the new series against samples of its competition in the high deserts of California. There were ten of us from Mazda, a few of us from the Design Studio staff in Irvine and the rest were technicians and senior project managers that had flown over from Japan.

I killed some time taking in the scenery around us. My boss, Mr. Kubo, was speaking with one of the Japanese managers by a small pond down the road, so I headed toward them for some company. As I approached them, I overheard the hushed tones of their gentle native tongue and decided not to interrupt. I walked to the pond’s edge and began skipping a few smooth flat stones across the water. A few minutes later, my solitude was broken by the sight of a second stone skipping along a parallel path to mine. As I turned to see who had launched such a skillful skip, my eyes met with a wel­come smile brightening the face of my boss’s friend. With an even broad­er smile and broken English, he offered me a slight bow as he said, “Hullo. My name is Hirai”.

Before me stood a singularly endearing Japanese gentleman in his late fifties. With a slighly graying crew cut, the physical similarity to Ozzie Nelson was immediate, right down to the fatherly nature. It was my first meeting with the special man who was to become one of the most important men in the Miata story. Our words were few that day, but as we shared a few minutes engaged in a boyhood pastime, we some­how came to understand each other very well.

It was to be another year before I saw Mr. Hirai again. A group of program managers and staff were out to dinner at a local Newport Beach restaurant. Up and down the long table the conversation bubbled about sports cars and the love of driving. The Miata project was moving toward its second clay model, not yet approved, and many parts of the recipe were yet to be decided upon. We all spoke of our particular love of cars. Someone put forth the concept that a sports car should respond as a horse does to a skilled rider, almost anticipating the next command. Hirai took that a step further and expounded on his theory that the first sports cars were the Roman chariots. We all nodded in agreement as point after point was made around the table about the true meaning of a sports car. We ended the evening with the glow of friendship and the fire of opportunity for the car we were pulling out of thin air.

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the Miata was approved for production and that Mr. Hirai was to be the program manager. I am sure that there are many others who were technically capable for the job,


but I was glad he was chosen. We became amazed at Mr. Hirai’s uncanny ability to cut to the core of true not sports car essence as he translated abstract wishes into nuts and bolts. A true engineer, he was looking to make a marketing impression with a pretty shape and a nice spec sheet. Mr. Hirai had elevated his think­ing and the thinking of the design team to the goal of cre­ating that fire deep inside the car that rewarded all who were to drive it. Very philosophical for an engineer, very Eastern for a product concept, but very necessary for the building of a virtuous sports car.

Time after time, I watched as Hirai-san guided, fought, and persuaded element after element that was being designed into the Miata. Weight was one of his greatest concerns. Agility was another. He would work his way back up the design process to find each hidden gremlin that might later “box-in” certain decisions and ferret out those problems at their genesis. If compromises were to be made, it would not be because the design team was caught by surprise. Thorough and deliberate, progress was made with a singular purpose that was a first for Mazda and a model of corporate cooperation.

There were conflicts in Japan, of course. Conflicts of cost, conflicts of timing, conflicts of procedure. As a testament to his leadership skills, Mr. Hirai guided the design crew through each storm and dark night with strength and intellect. Each new day, the project would awaken right on course and a few milestones closer to the goal of making some­thing more than just another car.

Each time I saw him, he had the expression of a young boy just look­ing up from his Erector set. The design process fascinated him and his enthusiasm inspired and led all of us to find the same spark in our hearts to do our best.

I wax eloquent about Mr. Hirai because I have seen so many exec­utives in the auto industry be driven by circumstance, wafting about in a rough sea of indecision and conflicting input. What Mr. Hirai was able to do was not supernatural, but it was and is very uncommon in today’s world ofproject committees and corporate politics. Singular vision exer­cised with unvarying steadfastness was very much rewarded in the Miata project. As Mazda has learned from the course Mr. Hirai chart­ed, so can many companies.

Mr. Hirai retired a few months ago. I hear he is now teach­ing at a local college near Hiroshima. I wonder if those stu­dents know how fortunate they are. I am sure that Mr. Hirai will not let them escape his tutelage without imparting cer­tain aspects of his personality into their way of thinking. And after the Miata, that will be another of his great con­tributions to this world.

Mr. Hirai, you have worked hard for your rest. Be sure to know that each Miata owner appreciates your contributions to the automotive landscape. Let’s hope that your legacy inspires others to help to create cars as significant and reward­ing as the Miata.

And during your days of relaxation, remember to skip a stone for me sometime.

Copyright 1993, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

25 Years Ago – Spring 1993

Do you know where “Miataville” is located? Well, you won’t find it on any map, and you can’t get there by driving your Miata (or any other car for that matter). Miataville does exist, however, and all you need to get there and enjoy its attractions is a personal computer. Miataville exists inside a giant computer located in Columbus, Ohio at a unique place called CompuServe.

CompuServe is the world’s biggest OLIS (On-line Information Service) and can be accessed by anyone with a personal computer and a modem over a standard telephone line. CompuServe offers many information services such as investment information, airline schedules, news wire service, shopping services, games, electronic mail (E-Mail), encyclopedias, databases, and even a “CB” channel where you can talk to other people on the channel via your keyboard.

There are also various group “forums” on assorted subjects such as computers, software, hobbies, sports, etc. In this forum there is also a special category called “Miataville,” which is an area specifically for Miata owners to share information, articles, latest happenings and news, problems, and anything at all related to Miatas.

The heart of Miataville is a message board & a library full of articles, news and gossip submitted by Miata owners.

The messages and articles you can read and/or download are all submitted by other Miata owners in the forum, and cover a wide variety of subjects. A random sampling of some of the messages recently covered a full plate of Miata owner interests such as the `93 models, gearbox changes, new accessories and radios, tires, driving schools, rattles, bike racks and hitches, and even advice on how to remove your sun visors.

The fun part of the forum is being able to carry on a dialogue with other Miata owners around the country via the message board. No message ever goes unanswered, and even when someone comes up with an esoteric question or problem, there is always someone with an answer, related experience, or if nothing else, an opinion. Signing up for CompuServe is easy, and their rates are competitive with other on-line services. You can call 1-800-848-8199 to sign up or to get more information.

See you in Miataville!
Member Gary W. Joseff

Copyright 1993, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.

25 Years Ago – Winter 1992

This is the back page from the Winter 1992 Miata Magazine. I looked through the whole issue looking for just the right thing to add here, and while included the usual stuff, letters with questions, a camparo with a 1959 Mercedes Benz 190SL, a Club Chapter spotlight (Tar Heel), it seemed like there were actually more ads than content. So here you have just some of the fancy things you could buy for your Miata way back at the end of 1992.

Click on the image to get a bigger view. You can then enlarge the pop-up image to a much larger size by clicking on the symbol at the upper left to bask in all the glory of early 90’s goodness. Like a Coil Cellular Look Antenna, so you can pretend you had one of those big ticket mobile phone things.

Some of these things were actually very useful and within a few years were built into the car by Mazda, like the trunk shield and door sill protectors. A few were worthwhile like the window sandwicher to protect the easily scratched vinyl back window and the rear deck bags to practically double the trunk space for long road trips.

One of the first things I did buy for the front of my first Miata was one of the black mesh grills. I still run one today and it has protected the A/C condenser coil from innumerable leaves, grasshoppers and 2 low flying birds. As a bonus, it looks better than the open mouth on the NA & NB. Plus, I am almost embarrassed to admit, I bought a pair of those black leather driving gloves too.

25 Years Ago – Fall 1992


A Cap Full of Memories

by Terry G. Reid

We have all thought, talked, or at least read about it. The “it” is how much our Miatas remind us of those classic British roadsters of the past. But have we ever thought of how the sight of us driving by reminds others of the roadsters of their past? I never had, until met an elderly lady in a grocery line on a Sunday morning in a small town in Georgia.

It was the final day of last year’s East Coast Rally in Savannah, Georgia. We had just finished having the group photos made, and were about to start the road rally to Beaufort, South Carolina. I suddenly remembered that I was low on two essentials—gas and cigarettes. I had become somewhat familiar with the area, as it was on the way to Roebling Road Racetrack (another great venue), and I knew there were gas stations and grocery stores nearby. So off I went. The gas was no problem, but the cigarettes were. The first store I remembered was closed, and the second only had one check out open. A group of about ten people were already waiting. Having no choice, I took my place at the end of the line. As I waited, I noticed the woman in front of me. Short and thin, with white hair, she looked like a Norman Rockwell painting of a grandmother on the way to church. Except for the cap.

She was wearing a baseball cap bearing the logo of an outboard motor company, and it was definitely a high mileage number. It looked as if it was new when Ike was in the White House. As I was studying her cap, a cashier opened another register and motioned for me to come to her. I tapped the woman on the shoulder and said, “Ma’am, you’ve been waiting longer than me, so you go first”. She smiled and said, “Thank you, sir, I really appreciate this”, as she stepped up to the cashier.

As she was paying, she noticed the rally name tag on my shirt and asked what it was for. I explained to her that I was from Birmingham, Alabama and had come over to Savannah to attend the rally for Miata owners. She then said that she had been to Birmingham back in 1944. She was on her very first airplane trip, and was forced down in Birmingham by bad weather while going out west to see her husband, who was in the Air Force. She said the airline had taken the passengers from the flight to the Tutwiler Hotel for the night, and she still remembered how elegant it was.

As I paid for my cigarettes, I described to her what type of car a Miata is, and she surprised me by saying that she and her husband had once owned an MG. I told her that if she had a minute I would be happy to show her my Miata, and she gladly accepted. As we were walking

across the parking lot to my car, I pointed it out to her, and she froze in her tracks. “It’s blue”, she said in a barely audible voice. We then went on to my car, parked with the top down, where she continued the story. Her husband was one of the first U.S. bomber pilots in England during the early part of World War II. He completed a tour of twenty-five missions over Europe when the odds said you would be killed before you could finish ten. He rearmed to the U.S. and was assigned to instruct new pilots out west. A year later he volunteered to go back to England, flying more combat missions until the war was over. When he came home this time, he brought a blue MG back with him.
He stayed in the Air Force, and for the next four years, they traveled to several bases across the country in their MG. He then left the service and they returned to Georgia. They spent the next year driving around the state on weekends, always in the MG. She said those were the best years of their lives.

Then, in 1950, the war in Korea started, and her husband was recalled into the Air Force. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to fly combat missions once again.

This time, he didn’t come home.

They had no children and she never remarried. She hadn’t learned to drive the MG, so it sat in the garage where he had parked it for over ten years. She finally sold it and never saw it again. But she never forgot it.

By now a short trip for gas and smokes had stretched to over half an hour. I began to worry about making it back before the rally start was over and everyone else was gone. But I hated to leave quickly, having caused these painful memories of her husband to return to her. I opened my trunk, took out my new blue Miata baseball cap, and asked if she would like to have it. She immediately removed her old cap and replaced it with her new one.

As I was saying my goodbye, she smiled and hugged me, then said, “I’ll remember you and your little blue car for the rest of my life, son”. I got into the car and left just in time.
I rushed back to the rally starting point, hoping the wind would dry the tears on my face before I arrived.

I have since traded my blue Miata for a new yellow one. But somewhere in Georgia, a sweet old lady still has memories of two men in little blue roadsters.

The next time your are out for a drive, if you see someone with white hair or perhaps a cane admiring your car, give them a smile, and if possible, some of your time. You may learn something. They may be seeing themselves fifty years ago, and you may be seeing yourself, on down the road.

Copyright 1992, Miata Magazine. Reprinted without permission.