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Shunji Tanaka – Mazda Miata’s Former Chief Designer Dies At 75

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of one of the main forces behind the creation of the iconic Mazda Miata (also known as the MX-5 and Eunos Roadster in other parts of the world), its chief designer Shunji Tanaka who died earlier in the month. He was 75.

The original idea for the Miata was pitched by Bob Hall to Mazda boss Kenichi Yamamoto. Tom Matano and Mark Jordan were the first to work on the design concepts of the car in the California studio. Chief Engineer Toshihiko Hirai also worked his magic on the Miata, while Shunji Tanaka, the chief designer, turned California’s original concept to the popularly known and loved production car that people know and love.

The small sports car proved to the world that you don’t need excessive power to be able to have an awesome driving experience. Despite all the design changes that the Miata has gone through over the years, Mazda has stayed loyal to the basic formula of the Miata. He also worked on the Mazda 929. c

His influence also extended outside of the automotive industry as Tanaka was also the designer and developer of Kawasaki’s early-gen ER-6 and the 2014 Z1000. In contrast to the seemingly relaxed aura of the Miata, the Kawasaki Z-range tended to be more aggressive looking, with angular fairings and slanted headlights, giving it a distinct predatory vibe.

We send our sincerest condolences to the bereaved family.