Our Rides: Steve Haas has a soft spot for the Mazda Miata

Steve Haas said he became a car nut “by sheer osmosis.” His father generally drove Oldsmobile or Buick sedans and “was decidedly NOT a car enthusiast.” But hey, Steve grew up in Detroit, so it was only a matter of time. Oddly enough, a foreign car flipped the switch. “When I was about 8, my next door neighbor came home in a British Racing Green Triumph TR6, and something just snapped in my brain. I’ve since owned three old British sports cars (a 1966 MGB-GT, 1967 MBG Roadster, and 1975 Triumph Spitfire), along with dozens of other cars.”

Steve’s Mazda Miata is his second. “The Miata has been a pretty consistent theme throughout my time in the industry and in the hobby. When I was an undergraduate in Ann Arbor (Mich.), I had a part time job as a ‘motor gopher’ for Automobile Magazine. That year, Mazda introduced the Miata, and I was hooked. We had one for a year-round test car, and I drove it from Ann Arbor to Florida and back over spring break. For perspective, I was afraid to drive to neighboring Ypsilanti in my MGB for fear it would break down. I knew Miatas would be great used cars someday.”

Steve followed his own advice and bought a silver 1991 Miata eight years later. He drove the car “13 trouble-free years”—through graduate school and while moving in and out of eight homes in three states—before selling it when he and his then-wife started a family. “I even ended up working for Mazda’s U.S. operations for a year after finishing graduate school. Their sports car was certainly part of the draw.”

It still is. Last summer, Steve broke down and bought another one. “Let’s just say I’ve had a long relationship with these cars. I know them well and always had a soft-spot for them as the usable and reliable sports car that I always wished my MGB had been.”

Name: Steve Haas

Position at Hagerty: Director, Hagerty Financial Services

Years at Hagerty: 3

Vehicle: 1990 Mazda Miata

Why did you choose this car? I have a bit of an addiction to Craigslist and eBay listings. Last summer I chanced upon a local listing for this car. It was a very clean, low-mileage, entirely original first-year Miata. I went to look at it, and she followed me home like a lost puppy. I couldn’t help myself. Of course, I’d just bought another car (a 1996 300ZX) and didn’t have room to store both, so I sold the Z.

Honestly, I firmly believe there isn’t any cheaper way to experience a pure open-topped sports car than a Mazda Miata. They are currently inexpensive to buy and very easy to live with. They’re not particularly powerful, but they’re perfect for the country roads around Traverse City (Mich., home to Hagerty headquarters).

Repairs and Modifications: It didn’t need any repairs. I plan to keep it as original as possible and just enjoy driving and maintaining it.

Hobby activities: I’m a regular at Hagerty’s Cars and Caffeine get-togethers on Friday mornings. I also joined the Northern Michigan Miata club. Since I have two kids, this two-seater isn’t really a family car. That will help keep the miles low.

Interesting Car Stories: I’ve had a lot of cars over the years, but I tend to remember the drives and the people I’ve met through cars. One of my most memorable events was when I had dinner with David E. Davis, Jr. and Martin Swig in Sausalito, Calif. This was years after college, when I was working at eBay Motors. (In college, I rarely spoke to David E., the former editor in chief of Car and Driver and founder of Automobile Magazine—I was too intimidated to try, frankly.) Here I was talking cars with two famous experts and collectors. At one point, I asked Martin what he liked to drive every day, given his extensive collection. I remember his eyes lit up as he described his 1994 Miata. “A Miata?” I said. “You’re kidding.” He had so many amazing cars, but he called the Miata “the best sports car ever made. It gives you everything you need and asks for nothing in return.” I never forgot that. My car may be the closest I ever come to owning something from Martin Swig’s collection, and it’s a reminder that you don’t have to drive a really valuable car to enjoy the experience.

I also had another chance encounter when I was a judge at the Marin Sonoma (Calif.) Concours d’Elegance. The co-judge for my class was Tom Matano, the head of design for Mazda at the time of the Miata’s birth. We ended up talking Miatas for hours.

Favorite Drive: Highway 299 from Redding to Eureka, Calif. It’s 140 miles of nonstop curves and fantastic views with almost no traffic. (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.) Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a Miata when I took that drive.