In Memoriam: Things to Know About Shunji Tanaka, Mazda Miata’s Chief Designer

On 12 December 2021, Shunji Tanaka, the designer behind Mazda’s iconic Miata, passed away

Shunji Tanaka, the Japanese designer behind Mazda’s iconic Miata, passed away on 12 December 2021. Apart from turning the Miata into a legend, Tanaka also served as the Chief Designer of Mazda for a certain duration. When it comes to automobile pioneers, Tanaka’s name may not be famous, but his work is still alive and admired by millions of auto enthusiasts.

What is the relevance of this article?

The world is aware of who Henry Ford was. It is also accustomed to the works of Karl Friedrich Benz. However, as mentioned in the above paragraph, Tanaka’s name and his work never received enough limelight. Therefore, this article is a tribute to the man who designed one of the best sports cars the world has ever had. After years of hard work, the Miata came to life in 1989.

The first Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Miata appeared at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1989. Immediately, the car turned into a legend because of its short cabin with a long hood and two seats. The 1.6-litre, inline-four engine with a maximum power output of 116hp was equipped at the front of the car with a rear-wheel-drive setting. Not to forget, the car’s 959 kilograms of weight helped it achieve 96 kilometres per hour in merely nine seconds.

Milestones of the Miata

The Miata went on sale in 1990 in the US market and only in its second year, almost 36,000 units were sold in the same market. Over the years, the Japanese manufacturer has launched several iterations of the Miata. In 2019, Mazda launched a special edition of the iconic car to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Not to forget, the company rolled out the one-millionth unit of the Miata in 2016.

MX-5 Miata in 2021

The present gen MX-5 Miata is available in three trims: Sport, Club and Touring that are sold at 26,830$, 30,290$ and 31,770$, respectively. All three variants are powered by a SKYACTIV-G, 2.0 DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine that features variable valve timing. The three variants also make the same power figure of 181hp at 7,000rpm.

Tanaka’s other works

Apart from bringing the Mazda Miata to life, Tanaka also served as the Head Designer of Kawasaki. He designed several motorcycles from the Kawasaki stable in the 80s and 90s. Last but not the least, some of those motorcycles were the early-gen ER-6N and ZX-10R.

Rohit Chatterjee

An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Rohit Chatterjee is a bona fide moto-enthusiast who has worked with several media houses in his brief career. Chatterjee mostly writes features and news articles related to automobiles and motorsports. When not working, he is found on the interstate clocking over 100kmph on his NS200!
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