Home » A ‘Clown Shoe’ Miata Is The Ultimate Fever Dream And I Believe It’s Feasible

A ‘Clown Shoe’ Miata Is The Ultimate Fever Dream And I Believe It’s Feasible

Clownshoemiata 2
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Very soon, I will be making the jaunt from Texas to Arizona, motivated by the goal of being closer to family. Boxes have sprouted up in my living room to go with the bittersweet feeling that I’ll start a new chapter somewhere else. As I look around, I realize I’m about to turn 28, and all the things that encapsulates my life fit in the modest space of my first-floor apartment. It’s a somber thought, and one that lands me in a temporal mental crisis, feeling bummed out.

I’ve already written on these Autopian pages why I think the tenth-generation Honda Accord will be a future classic, and I’ve waxed poetic about the Buick LaCrosse, but not much has been said about my beloved 2021 Mazda MX-5. The first car I ever bought, it is quite simply the best thing I ever did for myself. It’s also my first manual, so not every shift has been perfect. I’m motivated to become a better driver, unlike someone from CNN. 

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

In addition to sporty traits aiding its mission to guarantee smiles per mile, the Miata is just that good at being a car, exercising its talents to be usable as a daily. The trunk is big enough most of the time, the Bilstein suspension is firm without being punishingly uncomfortable, the body light enough (weighing in at around 2,400 lbs in total, with fluids and all) to effectively glide over bumps rather than crash down into the road. And because mine is the Retractable Fastback (RF) model, opting for the hardtop makes the cabin that much quieter at speed for the premium Bose stereo to be enjoyable. Add in the fact it’s been averaging 36 miles per gallon for the last few thousand miles and you have a winner.

I was thinking about how useful the MX-5 actually is. Then my train of thought took me to ponder if I could actually fit everything from my apartment into the Mazda and the Buick (I found out later that is a no). Then my active imagination took over to determine whether a Clown Shoe Miata is possible to pull off. Turns out historically, it’s not that big of a stretch.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Coupe - Savagegeese

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In the 1990s, a company called M2 Incorporated existed as a performance subsidiary of Mazda (think AMG to Mercedes-Benz). It was short lived — gone by 1995 — but not before toying with the idea of a fixed-roof MX-5 using the NA platform. This culminated in a yellow coupe previewed at the 1996 New York Auto Show that wasn’t greenlit for production. Revived interest in the 2000s saw Mazda produce NB MX-5 coupes for its home market. Per CarScoops, only 179 units were made, enough to be a Holy Grail.

The Clown Shoe Connection 

Bmw Z3 M Coupe - OEM

The origin of what became known as the “Clown Shoe on Wheels” dates back to the same time frame where the yellow Miata concept appeared. After the BMW Z3 debuted as a roadster, one passionate engineer decided he wasn’t finished yet. Herr Burkhard Göschel, along with a small team, worked to bring a coupe sibling that yielded a stiffer structure and handling benefits. Working within the confines of a budget crunch that couldn’t compromise production tooling, the end result was an oddly-styled hunchback that kept the front half of the Z3 from the doors forward that required only minimal tweaks in the rear end for the large greenhouse. Gone was the cowl shake that’s the inevitable consequence of lobbing the roof off of any convertible.

Getting this to fruition was not easy. In a 2016 interview with Motor Trend, he said: 

We did [the car] openly with a few prototypes, and made the case for simple production and a low-cost approach. Some love it and others just hate it. It was the same within the board. We had a lot of discussion about if we really needed such a sports car, and debates about if the car was too ugly. Our European sales chief, an Italian, told the board you couldn’t understand the M Coupe with your brain. It was something you had to grasp with your heart.

I bet he’s glad he pulled it off though, as the Z3 Coupe is now a collectible, with late-year M cars fetching big money at auctions. I’m convinced it can be pulled off again in another car.

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[Ed Note: I’d strongly recommend you read “Meet The Amazing Lady Who Built Up The Ultimate BMW Clownshoe Collection.” -DT]

Miata ND Is Destined For Greatness

2024 MX-5 Miata - Mazda - OEM

The Mazda MX-5 has always been an epic roadster. If my bias as an owner can come into play here, the ND generation in particular raises the standard for greatness to new heights. This is only the fourth iteration of the world’s bestselling two-seater, having debuted in September 2014, yet it gets only slight updates to keep it fresh for 2024. When it was redesigned, it was a top pick by Jeremy Clarkson in 2016 when it arrived in the UK, and won the World Car Of The Year award in the same year.

How did it do that? By bucking the industry trend of new cars getting bigger, heavier, and more powerful than the one that came before it. Mazda decided the NC was too heavy and relied on the “gram strategy” to shave weight off the body wherever possible, resulting in a crash diet of 150 pounds in an already-light car. This was an aggressive-looking ND body that came in lighter than the last two generations of Miatas. Even though the RF’s hardtop added about a hundred pounds, to keep things under 2,500 pounds is a remarkable achievement.

Mazda doesn’t really chase acceleration/power numbers with the Miata. But for 2019, it reworked the engine internals, bumping the horsepower quota from 155 to 181 with a torque figure of who cares? For 2024, it gets a new asymmetrical rear differential (on Club models and up) for better cornering thanks to mindful considerations with trail braking. This is inclined to greater perform on a track without taking away the joy you get from heading to the grocery store. There are also styling tweaks and a new infotainment setup that hopefully won’t be ostracized by Jason.

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So although the ND is pushing ten years in existence, it’s hard to fault. Yes, the Miata is small but when it’s supposed to be, what’s the point of critiquing the size every time someone reviews it? Did I mention Jeremy Clarkson loves it?

How The Clown Shoe Can Be Achieved Today

Mazda MX-5 Miata RF - Blueprint - Dimensions

So how can you pull off the same Z3 Clown Shoe trick today in the world’s most popular roadster? Let’s lookat the RF blueprint. From the hypothetical B-pillar (because convertible) back, the lines to the trunk are seamless and unbroken (as Autopian designer Adrian pointed out), making it possible to modify without touching the exterior panels. It wouldn’t take much more than creating a shooting brake-like shell on the RF’s existing dimensions, taking place of that quirky buttressed lid that debuted on the RF.

Screen Shot 2024 04 13 At 7.39.22 Am

Screen Shot 2024 04 13 At 7.43.07 Am

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Like the Z3, only minimal changes behind the seats, like taking out the electric motors for the operable lid to create a cavernous trunk space, would be needed to turn the MX-5 into a Clown Shoe Miata. I can see it. still light, stiffer, even more fuel efficient, eliminating the need for hybrid electrification that’s coming regardless. What you could get in return is a better-handling sports car that’s more practical without losing any of that Mazda greatness. Here, have a look at a drawings from Autopian staffer Peter Vieira:

Clownshoe Miata - Mazda MX-5 - Version 2 - No Color Clownshoe Miata - Mazda MX-5 - Version 2 - Red Color

The Bishop integrated the rear quarter panel with the top instead of having a separate lid that more-or-less plops onto the existing body, but I’d still like to show his rendering, because it looks awesome:

Clownshoe Miata - Mazda MX-5 - Red Color - Front - The Bishop

Clownshoe Miata - Mazda MX-5 - Red Color - Rear - The Bishop
Fever dream steps closer to pitch (Thanks Hans Bishop!)

In the world we live in today, there is no shame in expanding what a sports coupe can bring. One can say the Z3 Coupe has made the German-made Supra possible. The 718 Cayman sits in the Porsche arsenal alongside the Boxster roadster that came first. The Toyota GR86/Subaru BRZ twins are the Miata’s biggest rival price-wise. A Clown Shoe makeover would provide a tradeoff to benefit a smaller company like Mazda that would see increased appeal, as long as it didn’t require major tweaks to MX-5 perfection nor factory tooling, circumstances that paved the Z3’s reputation.

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That was a fun daydream. In the meantime, a U-haul truck will suffice. I’ll watch for Mazda’s call as I pack.

Photo Credits: Mazda, BMW, unless otherwise captioned

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Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
29 days ago

As you can guess from the name I’d love a proper Miata Shooting Brake. Or BRZ shooting brake. I just want an affordable proper shooting brake real bad.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
1 month ago

A while back I was working on a hardtop NA Miata project, and we planned to do a clown shoe kit as a follow up. Sadly, things change and we never really got either project beyond some sketches and a foam mockup.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago

I’ll take The Bishop’s version, as pictured in Soul Red, with a manual (of course). Where do I send a check?

Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
1 month ago

So you just made a Mazda 3 Shooting brake. Would it not be easier to remove 2 doors from the 3?

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Ames

Because RWD

Is Travis
Is Travis
1 month ago

That render looks amazing. There needs to be another clown shoe.

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
1 month ago

Calloway did that for the C7 Vette, there’s no reason why this isn’t possible, you’d have to remove the trunk lid and convertible top for it to make sense though

Osunick
Osunick
1 month ago

The other thing that the Supra has taught us is that you can sell a production vehicle with cut lines and seams that look like someone made.it from another car with a minimal budget.

Robn
Robn
1 month ago

I’d be more bummed about moving to AZ than how little crap I’ve accumulated over 28 years of life.

Dolsh
Dolsh
1 month ago

If I have one ask of Mazda for the NE… it’s keep it as beautiful as the ND RF is, but allow for us taller drivers to actually fit inside it.

Doesn’t have to be a lot bigger! I fit in an NC just fine. So maybe just a wee bit bigger?

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
1 month ago
Reply to  Dolsh

Miata sizing has always been a little weird. My old NA fit me like a glove, but the changes they made to the dash and steering column for the NB meant I didn’t have enough knee room in it. I’ve only sat in an NC, never driven one, but it was plenty roomy, it seemed. Just didn’t do it for me style-wise. I want to go test drive an ND just to see, but I’m afraid of falling in love with it.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

I felt cramped in the NC I test drove, but feel like I have plenty of room in the NA I ended up buying instead. That could have more to do with the NA having less bulky interior parts and slimmer A-pillars, while the NC comparatively felt more like sitting in a bunker. I doubt I actually have more room in the NA, but it feels that way because somehow it just seems less cramped.

Alexk98
Alexk98
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

That’s the real problem, you likely will. Plus with ND2/3 finally having a tilting steering column, tall people fitting is so much less of an issue than it historically was. I had to throw a smaller non-airbag steering wheel in my NA (and do a foamectomy) to get comfy, but I can hop in an ND2 no issue and be comfortable for a long time.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

I think the old Jensen Healey GT is a better model than the BMW, being English. Or hang rhe expense and go for something modeled on the Lotus Elan +2, just as the NA was an homage to the Elan. I think the Bishop’s design mor accurately reflects current Mazda design language even if it needs more tooling

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

What the fuck with all these people suddenly walking on my turf. I can see I’m going to have to get the valet to blow the dust off my duelling pistols. Or at least write Matt a strong email.

Last edited 1 month ago by Adrian Clarke
Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Aha! Now the clown shoe is on the other foot!

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Matt: Adrian can you do a piece about turning a Miata into a clown shoe?
Me: No.
Matt: Can you tell me why? It’d be a great read.
Me: No.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Artist’s rendition of the negotiations:
https://youtu.be/dUe-HcdEnzo?si=t4b2cSn0kZgENNv3

Chris Martel
Chris Martel
1 month ago

While interesting, Mazda’s way too proud of the Miata’s 50/50 weight distribution to add that much weight both up high and far back.

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