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Mazda's Forgotten MX-5 Coupe

Mazda has always shied away from producing a fixed-coupe version of its iconic MX-5. But that doesn't mean the Japanese firm hasn't dipped it's toes in the water, with some suitably quirky results...

by Alex Dunlop

he MX-5 is possibly one of the best sports cars ever made in my humble opinion - it's everything the quintessential British roadster should be but without the oil leaks and engine trouble. The only chink in its armour is its floppiness, although it was always designed to be a convertible you still can’t escape the shake rattle and roll that not having a roof introduces. How do you fix that? Well it ain’t rocket science, you fit a proper roof.


In recent years Mazda has offered the MX-5 with a folding hardtop, first seen in the NC (MK3) model and currently offered on the RF model line. This folding roof does add weight but it gives the car the rigidity it always needed, well at least when it’s up that is. But what about an MX-5 with a fixed roof? Now there’s an idea!





The MX-5s original designer Tom Matano had always planned for a fixed roof version to be built, he wanted the MX-5 to be a car capable of evolution with many body styles that would be a “legend in the sports car sector”. 


Matano and his California design team had experimented with a coupe body style as early as 1992 with the Miata M Coupe which was based on the first-generation NA model. Designed to be an evolution of the roadster the M Coupe claimed to offer more luggage space, a stiffer structure and better aerodynamics. Although it was a brilliant idea it was ultimately killed off by Mazda execs as they claimed it lost the “purity” of the roadster. 

he MX-5 is possibly one of the best sports cars ever made in my humble opinion - it's everything the quintessential British roadster should be but without the oil leaks and engine trouble. The only chink in its armour is its floppiness, although it was always designed to be a convertible you still can’t escape the shake rattle and roll that not having a roof introduces. How do you fix that? Well it ain’t rocket science, you fit a proper roof.


In recent years Mazda has offered the MX-5 with a folding hardtop, first seen in the NC (MK3) model and currently offered on the RF model line. This folding roof does add weight but it gives the car the rigidity it always needed, well at least when it’s up that is. But what about an MX-5 with a fixed roof? Now there’s an idea!





The MX-5s original designer Tom Matano had always planned for a fixed roof version to be built, he wanted the MX-5 to be a car capable of evolution with many body styles that would be a “legend in the sports car sector”. 


Matano and his California design team had experimented with a coupe body style as early as 1992 with the Miata M Coupe which was based on the first-generation NA model. Designed to be an evolution of the roadster the M Coupe claimed to offer more luggage space, a stiffer structure and better aerodynamics. Although it was a brilliant idea it was ultimately killed off by Mazda execs as they claimed it lost the “purity” of the roadster. 

Around the same time, M2 Inc (A skunkworks division of Mazda Japan) also had a crack at a coupe body style with their interpretation borrowing styling from classic 60s coupes. Gone were the pop-up headlights, the rear end was re-styled and a new body kit was fitted. Codename M2 1008 faced the same fate as the M Coupe and never got the green light for production.


Then came the 1996 New York Auto Show where Mazda wanted a show car, it just so happened that Matano had the perfect car in mind. Working to a tight schedule Matano and his team modified a regular MX-5 to create another M Coupe. Painted metallic yellow and fitted with some period aftermarket parts it certainly looked the part, it was however just a show car and as such it didn’t have a real structure and was instead a blend of the original MX-5 and some new fibreglass panels. 


By 1998 Mazda had unveiled their 2nd generation NB MX-5 - a completely new style language but with the same great underpinnings. It was the perfect car for the imminent new millennium. But what about a Coupe? Well, we are about to take a small detour, but bear with me, we need to talk about the Cosmo 21 concept unrelieved at the 2002 Tokyo Auto Salon.







Built by the M’z subsidiary of Mazda in 2002 the Cosmo 21 was a modern throwback to the 1960s Cosmo Sport complete with retro styling and even a rotary engine. Based on the NB MX5 the Cosmo 21 featured a fixed roof, and guess what car also appeared at that show with a fixed roof? The RS Coupe, a true 2nd generation MX-5 Coupe.


It’s worth noting that M’z was led by Shigenori Fukuda who just so happened to be the former general manager of design when the original NA MX-5 was created. It seems he shared the same vision for the MX-5 as Matano and he damn sure wasn’t going to take no for an answer. The RS Coupe was just the start.

Around the same time, M2 Inc (A skunkworks division of Mazda Japan) also had a crack at a coupe body style with their interpretation borrowing styling from classic 60s coupes. Gone were the pop-up headlights, the rear end was re-styled and a new body kit was fitted. Codename M2 1008 faced the same fate as the M Coupe and never got the green light for production.


Then came the 1996 New York Auto Show where Mazda wanted a show car, it just so happened that Matano had the perfect car in mind. Working to a tight schedule Matano and his team modified a regular MX-5 to create another M Coupe. Painted metallic yellow and fitted with some period aftermarket parts it certainly looked the part, it was however just a show car and as such it didn’t have a real structure and was instead a blend of the original MX-5 and some new fibreglass panels. 


By 1998 Mazda had unveiled their 2nd generation NB MX-5 - a completely new style language but with the same great underpinnings. It was the perfect car for the imminent new millennium. But what about a Coupe? Well, we are about to take a small detour, but bear with me, we need to talk about the Cosmo 21 concept unrelieved at the 2002 Tokyo Auto Salon.







Built by the M’z subsidiary of Mazda in 2002 the Cosmo 21 was a modern throwback to the 1960s Cosmo Sport complete with retro styling and even a rotary engine. Based on the NB MX5 the Cosmo 21 featured a fixed roof, and guess what car also appeared at that show with a fixed roof? The RS Coupe, a true 2nd generation MX-5 Coupe.


It’s worth noting that M’z was led by Shigenori Fukuda who just so happened to be the former general manager of design when the original NA MX-5 was created. It seems he shared the same vision for the MX-5 as Matano and he damn sure wasn’t going to take no for an answer. The RS Coupe was just the start.

That RS Coupe was well received enough for Mazda to finally bite the bullet and build an MX-5 coupe for the Japanese market. Unfortunately for us enthusiasts, the production numbers were very limited due to a labour-intensive production process. A regular production MX-5 shell was first built, then it was taken off the production line and fitted with a new roof structure, supporting panels and new rear quarters. Production was handled by Mazda Engineering & Technology who specialised in building limited production models and as a result, the finished car was only 10kg heavier than a standard MX-5.