Our Club Patron is Bob Hall. An American-born journalist, Bob is the visionary credited with coming up with the idea of the Mazda MX-5. His first blackboard sketch of a two-seater convertible car in 1979 for Kenichi Yamamoto (Mazda's head of research and development), led to him being offered a job with the Mazda North America styling department in California in 1981. Bob became the product planner on the American development team who designed the Mazda MX-5.
In 1993, Bob emigrated to Australia where he landed a journalism job with Wheels magazine. He joined the MX-5 Club of NSW in February 1994 as a full member, and participated in countless Club events over the years, often as guest speaker at Club meetings where he shared his experiences of working with Mazda. In 1999, it was recognised that the Club was without a Patron and the role was offered to Bob, who gratefully accepted with these words in Club Talk:
"Being asked to be the patron for the New South Wales Club is cream on the cake! Thank you, though I'm still not too sure as to what a patron does. In any case I promise I won't be patronising. Unless you want me to."
Bob and his wife Karen moved to Malaysia for a job with Proton in 2004, and they returned to California in 2011. Bob started a new job with Geely in 2014, to play a key role in establishing a US design operation for the Chinese car maker (read more).
The first video is an interview with Bob Hall by Jean Jennings of Jean Knows Cars and Automobile Magazine, filmed at the New York Auto Show, April 2014.
In the video below, you can watch and listen to Bob (and Tom Matano) talking with Jay Leno about his involvement in the development of the MX-5.
In October 1990, Toshihiko Hirai accepted an offer from President Peter Versluis to become our Club Patron. Hirai san was Mazda's Chief Engineer on the development of the MX-5, and oversaw the entire project. He established Jinba Ittai - the oneness between a horse and rider - as an overriding theme for the engineering team. Hirai san retired from Mazda in 1993 and became professor of engineering at Oita University. Upon his retirement from Mazda, Hirai san also resigned from his role as our Patron. Consequently, our Club did not have a Patron between 1993 and 1999.
"Hirai was the real father of the car," said Bob Hall. "He took my idea, my emotion, and made a car!"
Click here for an interview with Hirai san from the May 1991 edition of Wheels magazine