1990 Mazda Miata
The mighty little Miata is the oldest car on our list, but it could well be the most influential. The little Mazda can trace its roots back to the British roadsters of the 1960s, but the small, rear-drive roadster was a rarity when the Miata arrived; most had died off by the early 1980s. The Miata's blend of lightweight affordable fun and tidy styling made it a hit and saved that small-sports-car formula from extinction.
Strangely, the Miata didn't inspire too many affordable roadsters. It took nine years for Toyota to launch the MR2 Spyder and 15 years for the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice twins to arrive. It was the luxury automakers that really took to the idea. In 1996 alone, Porsche launched the Boxster, BMW brought out the Z3, and Mercedes-Benz hit the market with the SLK—all three (relatively) expensive sports roadsters were likely inspired by the success of the Miata formula.