The exceptionally long life of the Mazda MX5 has resulted in a correspondingly impressive list of special editions, limited run packages and concept cars. Some of these amounted to little more than dealer-applied graphics packages, trim upgrades and one-off colours (though often the latter were very special indeed), but occasionally Mazda went all out by adding genuine performance enhancing features, like lightweight alloy wheels, uprated suspension, limited slip differentials, and sometimes even specialist modifications to improve power. Here are 15 of our favourites from across the MX5’s long production life.
Thanks must go to the excellent Roadster-NC website, a veritable treasure-trove of MX5 info and an invaluable resource in the creation of this post - www.roadster-nc.com
1990 Mazda MX-5 BBR Turbo
Previewing tech that would also grace the Le Mans car below, the BBR Turbo wasn’t so much a special edition as a special order model run. Customers persuaded to hand over a not inconsiderable £17,625 were treated to a carefully developed forced induction setup based around a Garrett T25 turbo, an addition that enabled it to complete the 0-60 dash in a handy 6.8 seconds, before powering on to 130mph.
1991 MX5 Le Mans
Built to celebrate Mazda’s overall victory in the 1991 Le Mans 24 Hours with the rip-snorting 787B (the only Japanese firm to have achieved this, a record that still stands), the MX5 Le Mans was far more than a mere stickers and leather package. There were big visual changes of course, the specially painted livery that mimicked the pukka race car’s iconic war paint being the most obvious, but the real selling points were hidden from sight, namely the BBR turbo kit (helping the 1.6 make a handy 150bhp), uprated Tokico springs and dampers, and OZ wheels.
Mazda clearly knew they were onto a winner with the MX5 from the very start, as they announced the limited edition J to mark the model’s second birthday. Buyers got retina-scorching Sunburst Yellow paint, a tweaked 1600 motor and choice of manual or automatic transmissions, the former coming with an LSD.
1997 Eunos Roadster SR
Conceived as a ‘thank you’ to those loyal NA buyers that had proved so devoted throughout its long and staggeringly successful life, the SR was a Japan only run of specially equipped 1.8 cars. It came with alloys, a leather interior, Momo wheel and Nardi gearknob, and was available in two unique colours; Sparkle Green or Crystal White.
2000 Jasper Conran
Mazda allowed British fashion designed Jasper Conran to work his magic on an NB back in 2000. The resulting car was little more than a tarted-up 1.8i, though customers did get to pick from Brilliant Black or Platinum Silver paint, and got Connolly leather, silver accented instruments, BBS alloys and, because it was the height of tech at the time, a Sony MiniDisc player.
Mazda has always been fairly attuned to the needs of its motorsport-minded customers, and in 2001 they decided to build an MX5 just for them. The result was the NR-A, an achingly cool, stripped back MX5 aimed squarely at the Clubman racer. It came with Bilstein suspension, enlarged brakes, an LSD, and could even be ordered with a roll cage. You could make a strong argument for the NR-A being the one of the purest versions of the MX5 yet built.
Worth including on this list if only to prove how forward thinking the Mazda marketing department was at the time, the Web-Tuned allowed potential customers to pick and spec their car online. Quite how well this worked with limited, old school dial-up being pretty much universal at the time isn’t known, but it was an innovative way of selling cars nonetheless, and paved the way for the online car configuration sites that are ubiquitous nowadays.
2004 Roadster Turbo
Continuing their penchant for dabbling with forced induction setups on the MX5, Mazda commissioned the Roadster Turbo at the very end of the NB’s life and signed off just 350 examples. These cars came with a boosted version of the timeless BP-ZE engine, though one that had had its compression ratio reduced to cope with the extra stresses and temperatures associated with turbocharging.
2006 Circuit Trial Concept
Drawing parallels between the MX5 and the ‘60s British sports car racers that inspired it in the first place makes a lot of sense, and perhaps the ultimate embodiment of this was the 2006 Circuit Trial Concept. Unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon, the concept featured British Racing Green paintwork and period looking graphics (squint and it looks like one of Colin Chapman’s best efforts), and an Autobacs Mono Craft bodykit.
2010 20th Anniversary
Never one to pass up the opportunity to celebrate an occasion, Mazda was quick to capitalise on the MX5’s 20th birthday and produced a number of special editions around the world in response. The Japanese domestic market version came with special white metal flake paint which reacted with the sunlight, while the interior sported red leather Recaros.
The third-gen MX5 benefited from some of the best iterations and concepts of all, with the Yusho being a good example. A one-off concept for the German motorshow, the Yusho’s real talents were hidden from view beneath its unassuming bodywork. It featured an uprated bottom end with Cosworth con-rods, beefed up clutch and fuel system, and a supercharger from Flyin’ Miata, the latter making it good for 238bhp.
2013 GT Jota
Launched at the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed, the GT Jota was exclusively available via Lodge Garage Mazda and was very much an NA screamer, with a handy 203bhp available to the lucky few who managed to nab one. Other spec highlights included a centrally mounted exhaust, adjustable Bilstein dampers (even posher Ohlins versions were also on the spec sheet) and fancy Recaro seats.
2014 BBR GT270
The Mk3 was beginning to show its age by 2014, hence why Mazda evidently decided to send it out to pasture in fine style. The forced induction gurus at BBR were once again called upon to work their magic, and the result was the GT270. As you might’ve guessed from the title alone, it had 270bhp (it was actually 268, but why let facts get in the way of a killer name?), 227lb/ft of torque and, thanks to the EcuTek RaceRom ECU keeping an eye on things, switchable maps, launch control and full throttle shift capability.
2015 Launch Edition
Only too aware of the MX5’s cult appeal, Mazda was quick to announce a number of special editions and concept one-offs based around the fourth-gen ND, the Launch Edition being a good example. Those stumping up for the latest MX5 were treated to a number of special extras, including Soul Red paintwork, a Sport Tan interior, 17in alloys, a Bose sound system, and a whole host of other high end kit.
2015 Speedster/Spyder Concept
Doubtless one of the ND concepts you’ve seen online before, the Speedster Concept allowed Mazda to explore the potential of the new ND model. Launched at the famous SEMA show in Las Vegas, both the silver Spyder and the blue Speedster were committed to light weight, the latter taking things to extremes by coming without a roof or windscreen! Both prove that Mazda has lost none of its flair for MX5 concepts.
The vast majority of the commercially available special editions covered above share the same core, largely OEM underpinnings, meaning that keeping them on the road doesn’t involve having pockets deep enough to make an oligarch wince! MX5parts can supply pretty much anything you could ever need in this respect, with everything from engine components to trim pieces available and in stock. Follow the link for more information: www.mx5parts.co.uk