Life, cars, and car designs all have incredible similarities. First, the timing must be right. Relationships, finances, and pen to paper all have to happen at the right time, in the correct sequence and combination. The British got it right for almost 3 decades with postwar, affordable sportscars. From MG to Aston, there was something for everyone. There was even some incredibly advanced engineering during certain periods. But the right people, money, and momentum ebbed and flowed, and finally receded entirely.
The desire was there, but the money wasn't, and like a significant other who can't articulate what they truly want, everyone ended up disappointed. Plus many were out of business. So after the demise of the British sportscar, what was left? Not much. Everything was strangled by emissions, overweight, and not exactly cheap. Alas, when MG and Triumph called it a day, it seemed hope was lost. Sure, Porsche was still making great cars, but in the early 80's their financial situation was anything but good or stable. Nor were they affordable, same for Ferrari and Aston Martin.
After what I refer to as the Dark Ages of two seaters, hope arrived in the form of the Mazda Miata. If you look at the above picture of pictures of cars from my life, you see a Lister Jag next to an Arnolt Bristol, which were top line race cars of their days and classes. Next a Triumph TR7 and Saab 900s, both which were cutting edge in their day. Finally, a 1991 Miata. Though all the other cars were fun, even useful, the Miata brought a whole new level of intoxication.
The Miata was faster than the Saab and Triumph, got better mileage, and mostly worked all the time. But what was done the best, was the marketing. Mazda began a tradition with the NA and has kept it up better than any other manufacturer I can think of. Also, every time the Miata seemed to get a bit old, an improved/revised edition was announced on cue. Genius.
What the Miata has done right is quite a bit. But we'll leave technical stuff for another time. The Miata filled a void that was thought long dead, and filled it admirably. It took a bit, but many other manufacturers made their own 2 seat sports cars after they realized there was a market. A pretty big one, actually. Suddenly people were accepting the windblown look of hairodynamics again. Others wanted to race. That was soon accomplished.
Another thing was and is the universal appeal of a Miata. It seems almost everyone likes them. All of them are good looking in my opinion. Easy to drive, able to go on long trips and pack a decent amount of luggage that you can get to easily. (Unlike the far reaches of my Bugeye Sprite trunk.) Yet the best thing about the Miata is that it made driving fun, and driving just to drive a good enough excuse to drive. Mazda marketed fun, and does to this day.
For me, the Miata is definitely a car for the journey. It makes you live in the moment, connecting you to your surroundings in a way lost when the Brits and Italians retreated in the early 80's. It's a shame, too, as too many people now spend their lives in boxes. Offices, cars that are almost like living rooms on wheels, and then wrapped up in the shell of smartphones and online living.
Look up. There's a world beyond the glass. Hear the wind in your ears instead of an electronic ping. Breathe no sterilized, air conditioned air. Feel direct sunlight. Flaunt your freedom. Mazda has an app for that. It's called the Miata.