And the winner is…
This has been an interesting exercise. Such as most car-centric discussions, there was disagreement, many laughs, camaraderie and more disagreements. But here is where it got interesting: After so many votes from readers, at the deadline, the ZR-1 and Miata each got 50 percent of the vote. Yes. That is correct.
That made this round being decided by the editors even that more important.
Both the ZR-1 and Miata were game changers. By 1990, the world had gone through a nearly 18-year automotive “dark age.” It began with the OPEC-spawned Energy Crisis then President Richard Nixon decreeing an executive order to start the EPA, which immediately launched an emissions-limiting plan on the automotive industry. Who could blame Tricky Dick? He was from smoggy, polluted Southern California.
Car enthusiasts existed, but many were disenfranchised – particularly with Detroit. While numerous cars sold well, it’s rather hard to get excited about a K-car, a Mustang II or a minivan.
Then Mazda reincarnated the roadster, Chevrolet put serious ZR-1 horsepower in the C4 Corvette, Chrysler stuffed a V10 into a wild-design Viper and Ford reinvented the Mustang – it seemed happy days were here again. Based on the cars we have today, I would say those moves cleared a swath for all to follow into the modern age. Truly, these two finalists are very significant to automotive history.
Beyond our pick and reasoning, we each went back to the beginning of the tournament where we had filled out the entire bracket ourselves, choosing our own winner. We give our results and reasoning on that as well.
Matchup #32: Corvette ZR-1 vs. Mazda MX-5 Miata
Tom Stahler: Now I have to choose. Ugh! As I voted in the previous rounds here, both of these cars made my cut. From a collectible standpoint, the production numbers of the ZR-1 paled in comparison to the Miata, which makes the ZR-1 a much rarer car. However, we have to also look at the accessibility and significance. As aforementioned, both of these cars are very important historically. If you look at the plethora of 1957 Chevy’s and 1969 Camaros, clearly large production numbers are certainly not the deciding factor. The sheer fun factor? Miata all the way.
The winner I picked in my own bracket was the Cadillac CTS-V. I love sports cars but have always loved Cadillacs. When I first got my driver’s license, my parents had, amongst other cars and a revolving door of press cars from my dad, a 1978 Seville. It had the fuel-injected 350 and was built on the short-wheelbase Nova platform. Still wish I had that car. The CTS-V with a 6-speed gave me that feeling again – the styling, performance, stability and comfort level.
Larry Edsall: I’m approaching this from the perspective of advice I’ve always heard: Buy what you would enjoy driving, and if it’s value increases over time, that’s a bonus. Obviously, the ZR-1 has more potential as an investment instrument, but when it comes to fun, and to being a daily driver, the Miata wins. I think I’ve driven each generation of the MX-5 and loved driving them all. Well, not so much the one with an automatic transmission, but I drove it during a visit to Los Angeles and San Diego and came to appreciate not having to shift in all that stop-and-go (but mainly stop) traffic on the LA freeways. The Miata is affordable and fun. What more can you ask from the sports car, classic or future classic?
In my personal bracket, the finalists were the Miata and the 2002. As much as I like the Miata, I chose the 2002 as my winner. Why?
Although I believe it pre-dates the “ultimate driving machine” marketing tagline by a few automotive generations, the BMW 2002, especially the tii, was the ultimate driving machine in many ways, an affordable sedan that really thought it was a sports car. I was fortunate enough to be at a BMW media event — I think the 30th anniversary of the 3 Series — and BMW brought cars out of its historical collection and let us drive them. Those cars included, I recall, a 1500, a 1600 cabriolet, a 2002 and a couple other 3 Series predecessors. That cabriolet was wonderful, especially on narrow roads in the south of Spain, but the 2002 had it all. It was a daily driver that could carry a family but that could be exercised enthusiastically on a track or gymkhana course.
Bob Golfen: A modern classic based on a classic roadster form, the Miata has made an indelible mark among enthusiasts. I spent most of my early life craving a British sports car, first as a kid attracted to the MGTs that I’d see puttering around. My mom had a beautiful friend who drove a Triumph TR3 and one of my buddies owned an MGA, which I often got to drive. I still own a living, breathing MGB roadster.
When the Miata arrived, I was thrilled that two-seater sports cars were once again roaming the planet. I’ve driven many of them over the years as press cars (note to other tall men, the interior is cramped) and witnessed them progress. They remain an affordable pleasure craft, and with loads more reliability than those Old English cars. The ZR-1 might rule for innovation, but the Miata wins for significance.
Of the whole group of 32, the ones that I personally found most appealing were the Porsches, and in terms of greatness and value, the best of the lot is the Porsche Carrera GT, which would be a fabulous supercar to own. But thinking more realistically, about a car that I would find most fun and usable, it would be the Porsche 964. So that’s my choice as my own winner.
Corvette ZR1 (50%) vs. Mazda MX-5 Miata (50%)
Mazda MX-5 Miata