Critics of the Mazda MX-5, and they are around, don't have much time for this seminal lightweight sportster. They decry it as a great British sports car rip-off. Well I've got one, and I've also got a couple of issues with that particular observation: MX-5s don't normally leak oil and they always start, so they can't be that flagrant a rip-off.
Being an ex-Triumph TR4A owner, I know all about pools of oil on the garage floor, jump leads, tow-ropes, push starts, the whole nine yards (which, coincidentally, is about as far as my old TR often used to want to travel).
So imagine this, if you will. Back in November 1998, I buy a brand new six-speed Mazda Roadster 1.8 RS (as they're known here). I'd never owned a car in Japan before, or a convertible. I just loved the design, involvement, balance and all-round affordability of the MX-5. And I loved the way it started in the morning.
For the first six years, the MX-5 was peerlessly reliable. Then came the clutch hydraulic problem which on hot summer days made it impossible to change gear. Mazda itself knows all about this fault but my local dealer here in Tokyo professed ignorance.
Even so, all the way through, my Evolution Orange Roadster has not dropped a single drop of oil. Nothing. Never. And it has always started, first time. What a dream.
Then, a few weeks ago, I had an oil change at the same Mazda dealer who refuses to acknowledge the clutch fault. You can guess what's coming next...
That's right, a week after this little pitstop, my Roadster starts spewing oil. Deeply moved? I confess I was, just a bit.
So I take it back and the dealer begrudgingly looks underneath. Something wrong with the oil filter, apparently. So they tighten it all up, wash the underneath of the car and send me on my way again.
Fine. Then a few days later, it starts leaking again. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Anyway, after nine years, my Roadster's now finally behaving like a real British sports car. Maybe I should respray it British Racing Green.