How a Supercharger works »

Jay Leno Talks About the Mazda Miata

(Thanks to Glen Turner, Miata Club Phillipines and the now-defunct Mazdasport Magazine for this writeup of Jay Leno's observations on the Miata. this article originially appeared in Mazdasport Volume 2, Issue 4 from 2005 - Ed.)

No joke - he loves this car
By Jeremy Hart

Tonight show hosted by Jay Leno has a legendary car collection, from rare Bugattis and Duesenbergs to his monster Tank Car. One of his most cherished cars is his late brother's Mazda MX-5 Miata. He also has an RX-8 and as the new Miata reaches the dealers, Leno talked Jeremy Hart through his passion for Mazda's.


It's all about less being more. I like the Miata because it's the only sports car in which they haven't used horsepower to solve all the problems. With almost every other car, when they have trouble with it, or it just isn't selling, they just add gobs of horsepower to it. 'You've got the Mercedes Coupe moving a little slow? You come out with CL65 with 604 HP. Bad handling? Put a Hemi in it.'

With the Miata, that doesn't really seem to be an issue. Although the horsepower's gone up a little bit over the years, it's one of the few cars you drive where horsepower really doesn't seem to be the issue.

It's one of balance. Because cars are so powerful now, there aren't many cars that need to use all the power all the time, to keep it in boil. When you drive a new Porsche or Corvette, or any of those cars, anything past a third throttle to a half throttle, you're in jail already. With the Miata, you can whip the gear box around, bring the ass end around and slide it a little bit and have a great deal of fun with it. And if you do manage to damage it, well it's not the end of the world. I mean, there's a Mazda junkyard less than three miles from my shop and i can get anything I need.

I've got an RX-8, and it's the same thing. It's only 238 horsepower, but there's such a lightness to the touch and to feel of it. It is really, I think, one of the best. Both the RX-8 and the Miata are the best-balanced car in the world. They just seem to fit exactly right. I think may experts will tell you, and I think this is something not many super car owners will admit, but I will admit, I think the Mazda's got the best gearbox of almost any car produced. It's extremely short, you never miss a gear. It's extremely predictable. Click click click, Click click click. And the fact that you use it a lot makes it enjoyable. You feel connected to the car.

My Miata was my late brother's. He got it in '96 and like most people, I had that 'hairdresser car' kind of reaction. "What did you buy that for? Why didn't you get an MGA Twin Cam or something? Something that will leak oil and catch fire? "

Like a lot of people, I came a little late to the Miata party, and had that incredible snobbery: "O sure it's got twin cams, but it's not the same twin cams as Lotus!" And then Pat got the car. He put a supercharger on it, sway bars and some handling stuff. And every time I went home I love driving this car more and more and more.

Now that I have inherited it, I drive it quite a bit. I use it when, and this sounds dumb, I use it when I have park my car somewhere. For me, cars tend to be a great form of recreation. You take a Porsche Carrera or Ford GT, you go out in and go a huge circle, you go 150 miles on windy roads up through the hills, and then you always back to the same destination, then you lock it in the garage. It's not a car you can actually park on the street and leave, If you care about it at all. It's a bit like bringing an attractive woman in a mini skirt into a club. If you go the restroom, your constantly looking out the door and making sure no other guys are talking to her and you hurry up and get back there. But with the Miata, it's a car you can actually drive, and park, and people may throw it a cursory glance occasionally but no one will hit on it.

So now there's a new MX-5 / Miata. I think it's very nice. Like everything else it's a bigger and a little wider but I think the sense of balance, the sense of proportion, is still there. I haven't driven it yet, but I'm sure by using lightweight materials and all that type of things they've kept. I mean, this is the cash cow isn't it? This is the best Mazda they've ever built. It's the most popular sports car in the world.

The great thing about the Miata is, to us who lived through the first model, that is a refreshed version of it. But to a whole generation of people, it will be only version that they know. All this heritage is wonderful for guys of a certain age, but to another generation of people, It's really just an ancient history. This is the sports car of record and the only difference is they work hard to keep it away.