More than three decades on from the launch of the Mazda MX-5, people are still finding ways to modify and improve the iconic roadster – and the latest, from Italy, revives an idea that Mazda itself explored in concept form not long after the car’s launch: a single-seat barchetta.
Appropriately for an idea that has an Italian name – barchetta, if you remember your pretty 1990s Fiats, means “little boat”, and generally refers to a roadster without a windscreen – it’s an Italian company responsible for this new creation.
Gorgona Cars, based in Rome, led an enormous parade of MX-5s at the Italian national MX-5 meeting last week with its Concept NM (for ‘naked monoposto’), and has already, and entirely unsurprisingly, begun collecting expressions of interest.
On the face of it, it’s pretty clear what Gorgona has done: This is a first-generation, or ‘NA’ Mazda MX-5, from which they’ve lopped the windscreen, covered the passenger seat, welded up the bottom half of each door, and fitted an aero bubble behind the driver’s seat.
Predictably there’s a little more to it than that on all fronts. The rigid tonneau for instance actually surrounds the driver rather than just closing off the passenger compartment alone, and incorporates both that bubble behind the driver, and the cover and wind deflector over the instrument cluster. It’s all been designed to integrate with the looks of the original car – including the subtle but important curve to the car’s beltline.
The car also has a flat bottom and a diffuser, both to the benefit of the aerodynamic profile, while Gorgona has fitted a front splitter, and later (and presumably more aerodynamic) side mirrors.
As you might expect from welding up the bottom half of each door, Gorgona says the shell is now significantly more rigid than the original ever was. MX-5 owners will be familiar with the shimmy on poor surfaces, but with significantly more metal now occupying the biggest hole in the structure, much of that should have disappeared.
There’s a roll bar under the aero hump, further chassis reinforcement under the car, extra reinforcing welds throughout, and there are reinforcement bars for each subframe. The company claims a startling doubling of rigidity compared to a standard original car.
And a reduction in weight: with some optional lightweight components, Gorgona claims a dry weight of only 830kg. Call it no more than 900kg full to the brim with fluids.
With all this work the original engine might seem a little disappointing… but they’ve not neglected that aspect either, which is why it now packs the 2-litre Skyactiv-G four-cylinder you’ll find in the modern MX-5. The result is 181bhp at 7000rpm – more than 50bhp more than any standard NA – with the new car’s six-speed manual and limited-slip diff thrown in for good measure. An optional power kit lifts output to 225bhp.
The effect, combined with bright yellow paintwork and a set of racy Enkei RPF1 wheels, is stunning, and with a power to weight ratio cresting 200bhp/ton even without the power kit, a far greater kick than the original.
Even with a projected conversion price of 70,000 Euros plus VAT – call it around £74k with VAT in the UK, not including the donor car (or import costs) – we can’t see Gorgona struggling to find enough customers for a limited run of the handbuilt car. Perhaps their next conversion could be a full coupe model…