Theory of Everything
JINBA-ITTAI IS THE KEY CONCEPT AT THE HEART OF EVERY MAZDA. WE MEET THE ENGINEERING GURUS WHO PUT THIS UNIQUE PHILOSOPHY INTO PRACTICE
1. AN IDEOLOGY IS BORN
Tetsu Kasahara, Assistant Manager, Chassis Dynamics Development Dept., Vehicle Development Division, was there at the very beginning of Jinba-Ittai.
“There was a moment when I was driving that I suddenly no
longer felt the existence of the car. I thought, this is it”
In the brochure for the first-generation Mazda MX-5, the term Jinba-Ittai is explained as follows: “Jinba-Ittai reflects the feeling that the sense of oneness between a rider and his beloved horse is the ultimate bond.” It’s a bond that Mazda has worked tirelessly to recreate between car and driver ever since; a feeling that can only be engineered through the passion and expertise of the Mazda development drivers who have passed the torch of Jinba-Ittai between them over three generations.
In 1987, two years before the Mazda MX-5 was launched, the car’s chassis dynamics were entrusted to Tetsu Kasahara of the Chassis Dynamics Development Department, Vehicle Development Division, who was in only his fourth year at Mazda.
“At the time, internally, we used the term Jinsha Ittai, which, in Chinese characters, means oneness between car and driver. One day, Toshihiko Hirai, the first-gen MX-5’s Programme Manager, started printing Jinba-Ittai — meaning oneness between horse and rider — on his business cards, and I think that’s how it came to be used externally.”
That term, however, was set to become a byword for Mazda sports cars. As auto manufacturers all over the world had withdrawn from the lightweight sports (LWS) category, there was no competitive model, or measurable target, that Kasahara could aim for when he started work on the (first-generation) NA MX-5. He knew that his target was not speed on the track but the sense of fun and happiness that’s unique to driving a convertible. Every day he drove the prototype again and again around the winding handling circuit at Miyoshi Proving Ground, changing the settings, measuring the temperature of the tyre surface and accumulating data.
Kasahara remembers: “There was a moment when I was driving that I suddenly no longer felt the existence of the car. I didn’t feel any ‘strangeness’. I thought, this is it.“
The car that Kasahara engineered this feeling of ‘oneness’ into became the most memorable in his engineering career. And, as history tells us, it was to have an enormous impact on car fans and manufacturers around the world.
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