Mazda throws a 25th birthday party for the MX-5 Miata at the 2014 New York Auto Show

The Mazda MX-5 Miata turns 25 this year and, since it’s now old enough to rent itself, Mazda decided to organize a little shindig.

The Japanese carmaker will display significant Miata models at the 2014 New York Auto Show next month. It has 15 historic cars lined up, ranging from concepts to production models.

The proud legacy represented by those cars dates back to February 9, 1989, when the first-generation Miata debuted at the Chicago Auto Show.

Its compact proportions and front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout invoked classic sports cars like the Lotus Elan, but its modern mechanicals ensured that the MX-5 would be much more reliable.

That formula has proved wildly successful. Mazda has sold around 900,000 MX-5s over three generations. While rivals have cropped up over the years, the Miata has become the de facto entry-level sports car.

It’s easy to look at a Miata and dismiss it as a toy, but every true car enthusiast knows that underneath that cute bodywork lies mechanical perfection.

Even the current generation – which is somewhat larger and features luxuries like an optional folding hardtop – is a flyweight compared to the average content-laden cars of today.

In an era of power madness, the Miata still emphasizes handling and that overused yet intangible concept known as driving fun.

That philosophy will likely carry over to the next generation model, which Autocar reports will debut next year at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

Previous reports suggested that Mazda would team with Fiat to develop the car, which would also morph into a new Alfa Romeo Spider. However, rumor has it that the deal is up in the air.

For now though, raise a glass for the Miata’s 25th. The celebration begins at the 2014 New York Auto Show, which opens to the public April 18.

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