Twins: Mazda MX5 & Lotus Elan

Yes that is a Mazda MX-5 in the foreground and no that isn’t an early prototype in the background. What it is, is a deliberately bad Photoshop image of the 1963 Lotus Elan made to look like its sitting in the background.

What we’re trying to demonstrate is that inspiration can be sourced from anywhere, whether you want to create an iPhone clone or merely draw inspiration from whatever it is people really want. After all every car requires a set of tyres, there is no copyright issue with the circular design of the wheel, its a universally approved design without borders, legal writs or expensive court cases.

The two cars in question could be twins separated by 20 years, the Lotus Elan was in production from 1962-1973. It was a classic +2 front-engine, rear-wheel-drive roadster of its day and was the first Lotus to use a steel “backbone” and fiberglass body.

The Elan was everything a Colin Chapman car should be, lightweight, stylish and agile. Like any Chapman era car it was advanced for its time. The Elan came with disc brakes, rack and pinion steering and 4-wheel independent suspension.

The Elan was designed by South African-born Ron Hickman, Hickman would go onto design the Black & Decker Workmate, a foldable workbench tool for DIY-ers which would make him a sizable fortune.

By 1989 the Colin Chapman era was long over, a distant memory in a more advanced age, it was the year of the Mazda MX-5. The MX-5 didn’t just embody the classic front-engine rear-wheel-drive roadster roots of the Elan, it literally shared a similar form factor without any remorse.

You can call it inspiration or imitation but whatever it was the MX-5 became an instant hit among the buying public worldwide and has continued to enjoy a longer production run than was ever achieved by its Elan “ancestor”.

The MX-5 may not be shifting as many units as it once enjoyed during its heydays but its still going strong and over the past 26 years its exterior design and engineering has evolved.

This year the MX-5 underwent perhaps the most significant styling changes since it was launched. The 2014 fourth-generation model revealed this year is far removed, stylistically, from its 1989 progenitor.

I did say that the MX-5, or Miata as it is known in other regional territories around the world, may have seen a slowing down in demand.

Actually, that’s true from a certain point of view. However, the Guinness Book of World Records says the MX-5 is the best-selling two-seat sports car in history.

What would Colin Chapman (the engineering genius who founded Lotus) have made of the MX-5 god only knows, god probably only knows if there is a god.

We can think of a number of scenarios of what Chapman would think and do but our legal team has suggested we refrain from using freedom of expression.

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