My wife Donna and I moved to Aiken in May of 1989. After settling into our house and our new jobs, I thought a nice reward would be a new car. Having driven nothing but small economical cars up until this point, I thought this time I would try for sporty. What I really wanted was a brand new MGB. I had always wanted one, ever since my high school days, unfortunately they hadn’t made them new since then either, about 15 years..
Although the Honda marketing people would tell you the Prelude I was currently driving was “sporty,” I had a different definition. There were only three cars out there that I could think of that fit the bill, the Honda CRXsi, the Pontiac Fiero and the Toyota MR-2. Being a Honda person, my first inclination was to buy the CRX. But they had just restyled it and I wasn’t real sure if I liked the way it looked. They had just gotten the Fiero right, with the GT model, V-6 & fake fastback look, but lingering bad press left me doubtful. The MR-2 was an interesting possibility, but its price was a little more than I (we) wanted to spend.
Needing to do more research, I headed to the magazine aisle at the local store. Here I knew I’d find some guidance in the latest editions of Road & Track, Automobile, etc. There on the cover of the July 1989 Car and Driver was a picture of Mazda’s newest car, the Miata. It was small, it was sporty and it was a convertible, but it looked a little too “cute.” The surfer dudes and chicks posing with it didn’t help either. The article was very complimentary and even hinted at the true sporting nature of the car.
That weekend we headed over to Rader Mazda (Andy Jones didn’t exist at the time) in Augusta to check out a Miata. They had a red one on the lot. It was not for sale, but it could be test driven. The salesman, whose name I have forgotten, agreed to let me drive it, but only after he drove it to spot a few miles away. Ostensibly to get me away from busy Washington Road, but I suspect it was really because he liked to drive the car. After just a short trip up Stevens Creek Road I knew this was my next car, it just felt right (sounded right too.) When we got back to the lot I told him that he was going to let me take my wife for a drive to see if she would like it. This was in fact true, but I had a secondary motive as well. I wanted to go for another drive.
Donna and I agreed that we would buy a Miata, just not red, neither of us like red. The three of us gathered around the desk in our salesman’s cube and informed him of our decision. He said, “Great, I need a non-refundable $500 deposit.” “That gets you on the waiting list.” As I handed him the check I asked, “How long is the list?” “Well, I’m not sure, about 10 or 12 people,” he replied. “How long a wait will it be,” I asked. “We are supposed to get 6 a month, so maybe two months,” was his reply.
I called after 6 weeks, he was purposely evasive. I couldn’t find out how long the list was, where I was on it or even how many cars they had sold so far. After 2 months, I called again. The results were the same. I still know nothing. I made a sign to hang outside my cubicle at work: Brian Bogardus, beloved co-worker and friend, has been held hostage by the Shiite Mazda dealer for 65 days. I put up a new number every day. 66 days. 67 days…70…80…
Reading in newspapers and magazines I found out that this was some sort of phenomenon. I am not alone, there are hundreds, maybe thousands like me out there waiting too. Certain regions of the country were allotted more Miatas. Larger dealers got more than smaller ones. Less patient folks were driving great distances. Should I head to Florida or maybe Atlanta? Some dealers were getting $20,000 for a car with a list price of $13,800. There were reports of $25,000. That reminds me, we never did discuss price before I got on the waiting list.
After three months I called and asked for my non-refundable deposit back. I couldn’t take the wait anymore. The salesman said that if I really wanted my money back I could have it. “But you are close to the top of the list,” he said. “How close?” I asked. More evasiveness. I’ll wait some more.
Two days later I get a call, “I’ve got a red ‘C’ package that is yours if you want it.” I am tempted, but decline. There was the red problem, plus I didn’t want all those options. I wanted a base model so I could put my own sound system in, with a CD player, etc. A week later, another call, there is a white base model with my name on it. “I have to think about this, let me call you back,” I said. Donna is not real happy with white, but she can sense my frustration. I ask several of my co-workers, some say wait and some say go for it. I call the salesman back and tell him I’ll wait on a blue. The hostage sign gets a revision, I didn’t think I would need three places for numbers.
The call comes on day 108, “I have a blue ‘A’ package. Do you want it?” “I’ll be there at 5 this afternoon,” was my reply. My first experience in a Miata was the test drive way back at the end of July, it was almost the middle of November before I got drive number two. By the time all the paperwork is signed and my friendly salesman explains what all the buttons and knobs do, the sun is down and the temperature is in the low 50’s. Driving home on I-20 with the top down I didn’t notice the cold at all.