This week saw the reveal of yet another limited-edition Mazda MX-5. Were we mad? Hell no - the MX-5 R-Sport (above) is the latest in a long line of special Miatas - it keeps up a tradition that stretches back to the original ‘NA’ version of the car.
There have been so many specials, from limited-run production cars to one-off prototypes and concepts, that it’s impossible to talk about all of them in one piece. Instead, we thought we’d pick out some of the more unusual special MX-5s you might not have heard of.
In 1991, Mazda created a skunkworks-style division called ‘M2-Limited’. It was a short-lived concern, with Mazda shutting it down in 1995 to save money. In that brief time though, M2 brought out all sorts of weird and wonderful derivatives of the MX-5 and other Mazdas.
Perhaps its silliest moment was the creation of the apparently AC Cobra-inspired M2-1006. Affectionately nicknamed the ‘Cobraster’, this widebody NA borrowed a 3.0-litre ZE-JZ V6 from the 929 and some suspension components from the RX-7.
Unlike many of M2’s other Miatas, 1006 never made production. A shame, since aftermarket efforts have shown us how awesome a V6-powered MX-5 can be.
Another of M2-Limited’s projects that failed to make it to showrooms, the M2-1008 looked like the result of an MX-5 having a baby with an old Italian sports car. Its legacy lived on in other Miata coupe models, which leads us on to:
Following on from the M2-1008 was the Mazda North America-designed M Coupe, which also remained a concept. For the NB generation, however, Mazda finally did the deed, creating a car called - confusingly - the Roadster Coupe.
It’s a fairly well-known chunk of Mazda history, but what you might not realise is that there were multiple derivatives of the tin-top NB. Along with the 1.6-litre base car and the 1.8 Type S you’ll be familiar with, there was the sportier, more focused Type A, and the quirky Type E.
The latter was intended to be the most luxurious of the Roadster Coupe family, available only with a four-speed automatic gearbox and finished with a rather unfortunate protruding, mesh-filled front grille. It’s the rarest of the set, with just over 20 thought to have been produced.
The Type E wasn’t the Roadster Coupe’s finest hour, but the MX-5 TS (Trial Sports) more than made up for its gopping relative. Revealed at the 2004 Tokyo Motor Show, it featured a drastically restyled front end that evoked memories of the Abarth 1000 Zagato.
Completing the retro look was a set of white Enkei wheels, a centre-exit exhaust and white racing number roundels. It was only ever a concept, but there was a further development in the form of the Circuit Trial, launched at the Toyko Auto Salon the following year.
A constant complaint from keyboard warriors the world over is that the MX-5 isn’t powerful enough. The counter-argument is that the relative lack of thrust is the entire point of the Miata, but in any case, Mazda has produced a smattering of turbocharged versions.
One was the SP, exclusive to the Australian market. For just over $55,000, a premium of about $11,000 relative to the regular model, Aussie Miata buyers could get hold of an NB fed by a Garrett GT2560R ball bearing turbocharger.
Boost was kept to a modest 8psi, but it was enough to extract 211bhp and 213lb ft of torque from the 1.8-litre inline-four.
We’ve talked about turbocharged MX-5s, but how about one with a supercharger? Believe it or not, Mazda has been there - or in this case at least, Mazda Germany. Built for the 2012 Leipzig Motor Show, it featured a supercharger kit from Flyin’ Miata - a company known for its wild V8 conversions - pumping the power up to 237bhp and the torque to 202lb ft.
The suspension was suitably beefed up, and the 17-inch wheel shod in Toyo R888 semi-slick tyres. Thanks to the high costs that would have been involved with putting it into production, though, it remained a one-off.
Another supercharged one-off, the Super20 spruced up Mazda’s 2010 SEMA show stand up nicely. With 225bhp from another Flyin’ Miata blower kit, it wasn’t as powerful as the Yusho which followed, but it did look a lot more purposeful.
Away from the engine bay, modifications included beefier anti-roll bars, coilovers from the Mazdaspeed division and super-sticky Toyo RA1 tyres.
We’ve already had a dizzying array of ND-based special editions, although none - save for the Spyder and Speedster concepts, which you probably remember - have been terribly interesting. The Yamamoto Signature Edition, however, at least looks nicely distinct from the other limited-run NDs with all the red accents and Enkei wheels.
Plus, it has a nice story behind it - the Italian market-only Miata is a tribute to MX-5 programme manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto. Despite using the lower-powered 1.5-litre MX-5 as a starting point, Mazda decided to chuck on a set of Toyo R888Rs and bigger brakes pinched from the 2.0-litre version.
What other strange, lesser-known MX-5s can you think of?