– April is the cruelest month,” proclaimed T.S. Eliot in his epic 1922 poem, The Waste Land.

Eliot apparently never lived in Maine, where November is unquestionably the cruelest month.

November strikes the final deathblow to Maine’s startlingly brilliant fall foliage, leaving only the skeletal remains of bare trees.

November means Mainers have to dress for work before sunrise and drive home in the dark.

November changes Maine’s moderate and often lovely early fall weather into at least one ice, sleet or snowstorm. It turns balmy days and cool nights into a piercing chill that mocks sweaters and light jackets.

Sounds like the worst possible time to test-drive a convertible, right?

That’s what I thought when I learned my next test car was going to be a 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition.

No, that’s not what I thought. But because this is a general-interest publication with readers of all ages and sensibilities, I can’t print my real feelings.

Suffice it to say I wasn’t a happy camper. Then something strange happened. Some call it global warming.

November came and went into the record books as one of the warmest on record. Daytime temperatures were generally in the 50s and even 60s during my week with the Miata (sorry, Mazda, but I still can’t get used to calling it an MX-5). The diminutive, rear-wheel drive roadster never saw a snowflake and didn’t even breathe a frosty breath while in my possession.

Who knew November could be so kind? I was able to relish the Miata rather than revile it. I was able to put its top down instead of pulling the collar and hood on my coat up.

What a treat! I’ve been one of its biggest fans ever since the Miata debuted in 1989 as a 1990 model. In a bold stroke of marketing genius and automotive engineering, Mazda introduced a new generation to the sheer joy of driving an affordable two-seat roadster.

It combined the best of the 1960s-era British and 1970s-era Italian roadsters with Japanese efficiency and reliability. And with over 900,000 sold over the past 21 years, it has become a contemporary classic while proving that four-wheel fun can be a commercially viable commodity.

The Special Edition MX-5 Miata celebrates that success. Mazda starts with a top-of-the-line Grand Touring model with retractable hardtop, endows it with all available options and then covers the inside with distinctive gray leather and the outside with one of two exclusive paint shades.

At $31,720 for the six-speed manual transmission version I tested (add $600 for the automatic), the Special Edition Miata isn’t nearly as affordable as the $24,000, entry level Sport model. But there’s always a premium for exclusivity, and only 750 Special Editions were built.

You may still be able to find one because the 2012 Miatas haven’t reached dealers (and will essentially be the same as 2011 models when they do).

Each Special Edition provides the same priceless and elusive ability to meld its mechanical bits with its operator’s body and soul. You don’t drive a Miata as much as you become part of it.

For example, the Miata’s steering is ridiculously responsive. It produces an immediate effect — and gratification — whenever the steering wheel is even nudged.

A 91-inch wheelbase contributes to the Miata’s responsiveness. I’m pretty sure I once owned a pair of skis that were longer than the Miata, which carves turns as crisply as an Olympic slalom racer.

The Miata’s responsiveness is amplified by its scant 4.6-inch ground clearance. Nestled inside Mazda’s roadster, the driver’s tush is so close to the ground you begin to worry about getting road rash.

The fun doesn’t end with its handling. The Miata’s 2-liter engine produces just 167 horsepower and 140 pounds-feet of torque but it’s an eager beaver asked only to push a vehicle weighing less than 2,600 pounds.

That enthusiastic power plant is mated to an impossibly precise and quick-shifting six-speed gearbox in which the first- and sixth-gear slots seem separated by only an inch or two. Floor the engine, snick through the gears and you wind up 7.2-second zero-to-60 zip that feels quicker than the stopwatch suggests.

If your body is as bulky and rickety as mine — or longer than 6-foot from scalp to toenails — you might want to seek your four-wheel fun elsewhere. The cabin is tight vertically and horizontally, and entering it when the top is up requires the kind of deep knee bends my eighth-grade gym teacher used to demand.

But once inside the Miata Special Edition — especially when the weather permits top-down motoring — you’ll discover more driving fun per square inch and dollar than in just about any other four-wheel conveyance on the planet.


What is it? 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata Special Edition, a decked-out, limited edition, two-seat roadster.

What’s it cost? $23,905 for the least expensive model; $31,720 for a Special Edition like the one tested.

What I liked best: Fun, fun, fun and just 12 seconds from coupe to convertible.

What I liked least: Being too fat and weak-kneed to get in or out easily.

Important numbers: 2.0-liter, 16-valve inline 4-cyl. produces 167 hp, 140 lbs-ft of torque. 6-speed manual. 91.7-inch wheelbase. 2,593-lb curb weight. 21 city/28 highway mpg (EPA). 0-60 in 7.2 seconds (stopwatch). 5.3 cu.ft. trunk.