My husband was once chided for driving a Miata. "It's a chick car," snorted our pickup truck-driving neighbour with a pimped-out Harley in the garage.
We scratched him off our Labour Day weekend neighbourhood barbecue – and his wife, too, for guilt by association.
Even I was offended.
But the neighbour's attempted putdown doesn't stop Doug from polishing the '93 Miata's curvy edges and tinkering with the undercarriage, driving it on the freeway with the top down and using its cute – and unmistakeable – meep-meep horn.
What is the definition of a girl's car anyway? Is it the cliché pink Cadillac? Elvis Presley drove one – actually two – as his garish tastes manifested themselves with his popularity. (Although, he did end up giving No. 2 to his mom as a gift.)
The square-jawed Jay Leno became so smitten with the Miata after he inherited one from his brother, he now has three in his enviable fleet.
There are references to Miatas as girlie rides everywhere; it's a bona fide perception among a lot of guys. Even the original design notes for the Miata used the word "cute" as a description.
Patrick Sullivan, president of the Trillium Miata Club in Toronto, is not at all put off by the car's feminine reputation. In fact, he embraces the notion of the Miata's anti-muscle car status, right down to its Road-Runner-esque horn.
"It's not geared toward power, it's geared toward hugging the road; it'll hug that road better than any sports car. It's a touring car," he says.
Sullivan notes when the Miata was introduced, it was marketed as a roadster, not a race car. There is a North American mentality that sports cars have lots of power, he says – muscle cars like the Corvettes and Mustangs.
"But when you get to the MX-5 [Miata] … you get a lot of power from a little engine because it's so light. It's more than what you would expect."
That's what Miata devotees love about it, too. When it first rolled off the assembly line in July, 1989, to instant acclaim, it was often compared favourably to the exasperating MG for driving experience, but without the oil leaks, frequent breakdowns and faulty Lucas electrical system.
Sullivan says he fell in love with the Miata instantly. He bought one as a treat to himself for saving a lot of extra money when he quit smoking.
"It had that European look like that little Italian sports car you saw in the movies," says Sullivan.
Beloved as the Miata has been, it took a bit of mocking in American pop culture for its pussycat demeanour. Mazda added MX-5 to macho up the moniker in 2006.
But as any guy knows, street cred has everything to do with confidence. If any Miata-driving man needed more ammo to substantiate his preferred drive (and he doesn't), just ask the guys at Complex magazine, digital for everything from autos to movies and fashion for men. Reason No. 8 in the Ten Reasons Confident Guys Should Rock a Mazda Miata is "it's damn near dynamically perfect." No. 10: "Girls love it."
That's why many Miata club members right across the country are women, although a majority are couples. In Sullivan's case, it's true his wife's name is on the registration for both of their Miatas. But it has nothing to do with not owning up to owning a Miata, he says.
"The toys are in her name for some reason," Sullivan says. "Now, I have two Miatas both in her name but I'm the primary driver. It's an ongoing joke."
Not a joke everyone would get. "You're always going to have those big old boys who want the muscle car, but look at the Miata and secretly want one, too," says Sullivan.
"I know some guys who wouldn't be caught dead driving [a Miata]. But when I take them down some back roads they ask to drive it … They can take it on corners and hills that they can't in their Corvette."
My husband, Doug, and Sullivan are the type of guys who prefer finesse over power.
"I don't need a muscle car to make me feel like a man," Doug says.
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