“’Tis better to have loved and lost,” as the poem goes, “than never to have loved at all.”
Those wise words were first penned by Alfred Tennyson in the middle of the 19th century – long before the advent of the automobile, let alone the introduction of the Mazda Miata about 100 years later. And yet here I am reflecting on their relevance as I bid adieu to an old friend.
We’d only known each other a few years, but it felt like much longer. Maybe it was fuelled in part by the pandemic, which has managed to make the past two years feel like an eternity. More than that, though, it was about the bond we shared.
Yes, this is about a car: my 1995 Miata. Well, my former first-gen Miata. I’ve written a little bit about it in the past, and even back then, I had accepted that one day our love affair would end. But acknowledging eventuality and facing actuality are entirely different, which is what I’m now transitioning between.
I wanted to own a first-gen Miata for as long as I remember. OK, that’s not entirely true. I remember a time during my misguided teen years that I chided the little roadster with the pop-up headlights as inadequate or something along those lines. But with age comes wisdom, and as my 20s grew nearer, I came to form a deep appreciation for this affordable sports car.
You don’t even have to drive it to understand how special this car is, although to do so is to discover that it’s damn near perfect in every way possible. Then I married someone who didn’t share my affinity for Mazda’s lightweight roadster. I should’ve known better.
Rather than wait for my divorce to finalize, I found an NA8 example to call my own during that first summer of my return to bachelorhood. Low mileage, no rust, and a colour-matched hardtop – those were the prerequisites on my shopping list. That I found one that ticked those three boxes less than 10 km from home felt awfully close to kismet.
I embraced my role as caretaker of the car, not necessarily babying it but never beating on it, either. We bonded quickly, my size 12 shoes somehow pairing perfectly with the tiny pedal box for masterful heel-and-toe downshifts. The sound of the 1.8L engine revving out was music to my ears, while the body pitched and leaned in corners like a dance partner I was leading through a flawless salsa routine.
Weekend road trips, grocery runs, drives to work – we were in sync through it all. But then the pandemic hit and we grew apart. As if the lockdowns and working from home weren’t enough, the cars I evaluate each week for my job need so much of my time and attention, which made it more difficult to justify driving my Miata.
So it just sat for more days on end than I ever envisioned, tucked safely but sadly under its cover. The longer we’d go between drives, the more I’d rationalize selling it. But it wouldn’t take more than five minutes behind the wheel to disabuse me of such nonsensical thoughts.
Alas, this year brought with it new aspirations that my Miata didn’t quite align with. Even so, saying goodbye is never easy – even when it means closing one chapter to start an exciting new one.
The silver lining of it all is that my now-former first-gen Miata has found a new caretaker who’s going to love it just the same. Maybe one day I’ll buy another, but first I need to mourn the loss of this ’95 that meant so much to me.