Miata Club PH at 20: a wonderful time was had by all
Cars and Calibres
Tom Matano, the man many call Mr. Miata and one of those credited with bringing the now-iconic little car to the world, has called the Miata Club of the Philippines one of the most actively enthusiastic, if not the most, in the world. And he has pretty much met them all. His message to the club on their 20th Anniversary meeting and celebration talked about his time with the club and club members in the United States, in Japan and in the Philippines. He has said repeatedly that he feels so warmly welcomed by the club. And that is perhaps the key for the organization’s success now going on two decades in an atmosphere where most such groups find it hard to survive.
The Miata Club of the Philippines was started 20 years ago by some enthusiasts with a bit of understanding of club structure, as founder and past MCP President Eddie Salonga explained at the special event in Villa Escudero. “The MCP is a club guided by time tested traditions that keep members focused and committed” he added. They wanted to celebrate the vision of the car, which in turn celebrated the soul of purist driving, all for generations to come.
Mr. Matano was tasked with taking the idea of a car that looked back on the most enduring roadsters and sports cars of all time, and he brought forth a shape that needed to be unmistakable in its originality yet clearly linked to the spirit of those earlier cars. It had to feel, sound, look and drive in ways that were both unique and with a nod to legacy. The Miata Club of the Philippines saw the new car as a way to bring together people that didn’t even know they had much in common. First members included Manila Sports Car Club stalwarts and newbies, collectors and avid racers, and from day one included women enthusiasts. The car itself was meant to embody a spirit that many consider timeless, though at that time a quarter century ago the sports car was in much danger of disappearance. That was the time of hot hatches and sports sedans, and indeed many thought the time of the “sports car” had come and gone. Mazda at that time had the vision and the courage to do something no one else did. A quarter century later, the Japanese company has in its ranks the most successful sports car ever made (in 2016, it produced the millionth model out of its Hiroshima plant), running over twenty five years now with just four basic models. Its age means it can enter the classic and vintage car races of the enthusiast world, yet it is already populating racetracks around the globe as a current model. Mazda also joined the ranks of storied brands like Porsche and Ferrari when they announced this month that they will offer restoration and parts programs for the very first Miata model, the beloved NA.
To celebrate 20 years of the Miata Club of the Philippines, the not-so-little local club went all out. Over a hundred roadsters of all models showed up at Villa Escudero, with visitors and enthusiasts flying in for the occasion. This event was actually merely a culminating meeting, for the club has been preparing and celebrating well in advance. There were visits to England for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and trips to Japan to visit the factory (and friend Tom Matano.) They produced a special limited-edition watch (check it out on instagram at carsandcalibres) for the anniversary that apparently has not yet satisfied demand (this means look for another one soon). All this while regular club activities continue, including a regular racing series, weekend drives and special multi-day journeys around the country.
The Miata is a purist sports car, and indeed it confused people in its purity in the beginning. It was pitched to some people as a luxury car, yet it was small and tight and somewhat rough. It was at one point packaged locally as an add-on if you bought a van from the same brand. The end result was that the car went to owners that may not have understood it. This created an amazing secondary market, with true enthusiasts able to buy the cars with very low mileage. The Miata Club of The Philippines was instrumental in the survival of the model, as it provided and still does provide an infrastructure of support, knowledge and indeed parts to car owners who were scared they would be left out in the cold. Indeed, businesses actually were created because they saw a need to support a growing demand that mainstream auto industry did not yet recognize. This is true not just for the Philippines but for the world. True success of a product comes when ownership shifts out of the producer and into the hands of the fans and a loving and often demanding public.
The day’s events included special presentations on the club’s history, including its past presidents and those club members that have left us. A special photography contest was held, with winning photographs judged by the Malaysian contingent (who didn’t know any of the photogs) and published in C! Magazine, a sponsor of the event that incidentally can also trace its roots back to the club as well. A special car arrangement was done to celebrate the 20, and many members set up to share their massive collections of gear, paraphernalia and parts with others. Attendees included members, children, grandchildren, friends, spouses and so on. The club has always been welcoming, inclusive and friendly. There’s a reason why passion lasts, whether in vision, individuals or groups.
As Bob Briddon, current MCP President and passionate Miata driver, says “When you join the MCP, you join a group of enthusiastic Miata drivers but you also join a family who loves to experience their Miatas together.”
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