The Miata Could Have Been Mid-Engined Or Even FWDJason Torchinsky9/04/14 6:50pmFiled to: Mazda MiataCar History10811EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkI think maybe the reason I keep trying to push my terrible ideas onto car companies is that there was once a time when a journalist's crazy idea actually became reality. The journalist was Motor Trend's Bob Hall, and the car was the Miata. But it wasn't always sure what that Miata would be.AdvertisementThe genesis for the Miata seems to have come from a few casual remarks Hall made to some of Mazda's R&D guys. Hall was fluent in Japanese, so he was able to say the following without resorting to crude pantomime or scribbled sculptures made out of mashed potatoes:I babbled [...] how the [...] simple, bugs-in-the-teeth, wind-in-the-hair, classically-British sports car doesn't exist any more. I told Mr. Yamamoto that somebody should build one [...] inexpensive roadster.There was even a chalkboard sketch involved, too, which makes any story better:Years later, in 1982, Hall ended up working for Mazda, and was eventually told he could pursue his bonkers old-school roadster idea after-hours. The "light-weight sports" concept eventually grew into a competition between Tokyo and California design teams.And that's what I want to focus on here: the three concepts that the two design teams proposed. They're interesting because they really represent every major approach to sporty car design at the time: the traditional front-engine/rear-drive, the front engine/front drive formula that would likely have been the cheapest and easiest for Mazda to actually make, and the more exotic mid-rear/rear drive design.The California team worked on the front engine/rear drive concept, while the Tokyo team worked up the mid and FWD ones. All, of course, were red. Let's look at these three Ur-Miatas:Here's the front engine/front driver. It reminds me a bit of the Buick Reatta, which, honestly, isn't a bad thing. It would have made a handsome little sporty coupe, and Mazda was already used to making FWD drivetrains by the boatload, so the development would have been pretty cheap. AdvertisementAdvertisementStill, it's hard not to see this and think that, if this was the way they'd gone, we'd all now be trying to remember if it was a Miata or a Paseo that our hot 9th-grade Spanish teacher drove. And we wouldn't have seen one in years.The mid-engine design has more than a little Fiero about it, and maybe even a little bit of the Karmann Cheetah concept, too. I'm sure this thing would have been a blast, handled great, as you'd expect a mid-engine car to be, but it also would have hit the same usability and maintenance challenges of a mid-engine car.