The Miata, everybody seems to agree, caught lightning in a bottle when it first came out. The nimble and zippy roadster segment had all but been abandoned at the time, and if Mazda hadn’t gotten the MX-5 right, there’s no saying it would have inevitably risen to success. After all, take a look at the 1990 Micro, GM’s ostensible attempt to shoulder into that market.
Pontiac had just put a headstone on the Fiero – GM’s only two-seat automobile other than the Corvette at the time – so it seemed strange that the General would pursue another diminutive two-seater so soon after in the late Eighties. Longtime GM designer Elia Russinoff, who typically worked on more advanced concepts, apparently knew only that GM’s design staff heads wanted such a vehicle, so he got to drawing.
At the same time, however, GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Subaru, and others had made some inroads into modernizing the two-stroke engine for use in small cars. The second fuel crisis, after all, was only a decade in the rearview, small front-wheel-drive cars were becoming the norm, and Detroit continued to plow dollars into alternative engine designs well into the Eighties. According to a July 1990 Popular Sciencearticle on the two-stroke trend of the time, automakers had hoped to put the technology on the road as early as the mid-1990s.