Thursday 1 August 2013

Mazda Roadster MPS Concept

Prior to the arrival of the Roadster Turbo model, Mazda showed the world what a more performance oriented version of the NB Roadster could look like. This project involved a small team of highly talented engineers, including some who worked on the earlier M2 cars. They developed a high performance idea of the Roadster under the Mazda Performance Series name rather than Mazdaspeed. The initial version of the MPS concept was on show at the 2001 Tokyo Auto Salon. This car was painted in a stunning bright yellow mica and featured some unique bodykit parts. The hardtop is a one off design that was moulded into the body to make a coupe, with two rear facing air vents across the top. The front bumper is a new design that would go on to form the basis for the NB2 optional front airdam. There were also new design side skirts and wheel arch extensions blended into the front and rear bodywork. The rear end is also a new design and has a cutout for the centre exit exhaust. The concept was finished off with 17" alloy wheels, big brakes, bucket seats with racing harness, a polished rollbar, MPS wing badges, a bulging bonnet, tuned NA engine with individual throttles, and a GT-style rear wing.

The original MPS

This was around the time the blue Mazdaspeed Roadster became available and sold out quickly, showing there was demand for an upgraded car. The MPS idea was therefore further developed. In September the same year just a few months on from the Mazdaspeed model, another version of the MPS debuted at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show. This new "MX-5 MPS" concept was painted Velocity Red Mica and was given a restyled front end. The new look featured unique individual headlights along with revised air intakes. The main grille opening was larger for improved cooling air flow, and there was also an integrated intake hole higher up. This intake fed a special enclosed intake manifold for the four individual throttles. The MPS used the BP-VE S-VT engine modified to 2000cc, now producing 200PS and 190Nm.

The vents in the front wings were intended to reduce build up of air pressure and front end lift at speed. The rear bumper featured a cut out for the centre exit exhaust as well as vents from the wheel arches. The side skirts were slightly different from the yellow car and the GT wing was removed in favour of a smaller lip spoiler.
To cope with the extra power the car was fitted with a 4-pot brake conversion which used 314mm ventilated discs. The car also had a hub conversion to use 5 PCD 17" x 7 wheels and 215/40/17 tyres. The car had a wider stance of +50mm at the front and +60mm at the rear, hence the enlarged arches. For handling improvements there was additional ladder chassis bracing and upgraded monotube dampers.

For the 2002 Auto Salon, another new version of the MPS was on display. This one was referred to as the Roadster MPS Clubman and was finished in Sunlight Silver. The 2002 car's specification was different to the previous year's. This time the car used the older BP-ZE engine again fitted with individual throttles and was rated at 185PS, it was also fitted with race seats, yellow harness, a 4 point roll bar, 6 spoke OZ gunmetal alloys, red tow hooks, and NB1 tail lights.
With the imminent arrival of the 3rd generation NC model in 2005, the MPS model never made it to production. It was a useful marketing exercise to gauge reaction to a performance model, and likely informed the development of the Mazdaspeed turbo model which appeared shortly afterwards. The unique exterior looks of the MPS concept lived on after Japanese tuning company D-Technique adapted it into their TD-1001R conversion.