“I used to pull my grandparents’ lawnmower apart to see how it worked, then put it back together. I had a real fascination for mechanical things.”

Brendon McInnarney, Senior Parts Product Manager, Mazda New Zealand

In the latest installment of Snap Shots, Mazda Stories meets Brendon McInnarney, whose fascination with a lawnmower was the spark that lit his career in automotive.

So it all began with lawnmowers?
I used to pull my grandparents’ lawnmower apart to see how it worked, then put it back together. I had a real fascination for mechanical things.

How old were you when you learned to drive?
I learned to drive the tractor on the farm when I was 10 years old.

When were you introduced to the world of rotary engines?
When I was 15, I was working at a Ford dealership and the car of the day was a Ford Escort MK2 Sport. They were the fastest little cars around. A friend of mine had a Mazda RX‑3 10A and we started racing the Escorts and beating them with the RX‑3. I wanted to know more about these engines. The rotary engine is like a loaf of bread—you can change the slices and make all these different configurations. They’re just amazing.

How did you end up working at Mazda?
Back in the 1990s Ford and Mazda were in partnership together, and in NZ our head offices were even in the same building. While I was employed by Ford NZ, the company loaned me to Mazda NZ for what was supposed to be a six-month contract. Brett Todd [Mazda’s National Parts Manager] offered me a permanent job and I said I’d come and work for Mazda if I could write my own job description. I wanted to look after rotary and mechanical—I wanted to do the real stuff.

How long have you worked for Mazda?
I started in late 2001.

Describe Mazda in three words.
My dream job.

What is your favourite Mazda and why?
The FD RX‑7, which is sometimes called the Batman car. My favourite semi-practical Mazda is an NA or NC MX‑5. It’s part of the jinba ittai philosophy, which celebrates the bond between a rider and their horse, and is something Mazda has worked tirelessly to recreate between a driver and their car.

What do you drive now?
I currently drive a Mazda CX‑30.

“I’ve driven the MX‑30 and it’s just mind-boggling. It’s so responsive and performs so well. For my next car, I might go with an EV.”

Do you know your way around an engine? If your car broke down, would you be able to pop the hood and figure out the problem?
Absolutely. One of our technical service engineers—and I know I’m blowing my own trumpet—is constantly impressed with my ability.

What’s your favourite drive?
Driving to Ohakune via National Park. Ohakune is on the Central Plateau of the North Island at the base of Mount Ruapehu. It’s my happy place—second to my home, of course.

What is/would be on your road-trip soundtrack?
MCID by Highly Suspect. In fact, anything by them. They’re the best band in the world.

What would your superpower be?
My superpower is the ability to think laterally—to perceive and create. If I could choose one, it would be the ability to see into engines or any other major assembly while they’re running, to see what is going right or wrong.

Is the glass half empty or half full?
Half empty. You’re drinking it, right?

What would you say has been your biggest achievement during your time at Mazda?
Taking the rotary business to where it is now. I took it from a business where people would just go to a Mazda dealer to buy something if they needed it, to having dealers know they’ve got someone who knows what they’re talking about and can get people excited about rotary engines.

Going to Mazda Japan in 2006 for a tour of the rotary engine plant must’ve been amazing for you.
It’s a trip I’ll never forget, seeing the components being made and engines assembled.

“So my daughter and I decided to put a barbecue in our ‘parts’ RX‑8. We call it the Hiroshima Hotplate.”

Tell me about your family. Do they share your passion for cars?
Absolutely. My youngest daughter, Grace, who’s 12, is a mini-me. I bought her a toolbox for Christmas and she’s like, “Dad, can we have a project I can use my tools for?” So we decided to put a barbecue in our “parts” RX‑8—it’s missing the motor and the transmission, but other than that is a complete car.

A car with a barbecue in it?
We call it the Hiroshima Hotplate. Grace is very proud of it.

I’m sure she is! Is your older daughter also a car enthusiast?
Lily is 15 and into cars as far as they take her from A to B. But she was part of the Mazda Facebook video “Closing the Lid on 2021,” as was my wife, Julie. She’s there with her NC MX‑5.

She drives an MX-5?
When I met Julie, she had a bright-yellow manual Suzuki Swift, and she drove it like she stole it. When I brought an ND MX‑5 home one day, she drove it and said, “I’ve got to have one of these.”

They’re lovely cars.
Julie and I love going on road trips, especially to Mount Ruapehu.

What’s next for you in the world of Mazda?
Grace and I are going to do a few more mods on the RX‑8 barbecue and there’s quite a bit of cool stuff going on at work as we’ve got the new generation of Mazda products coming out. We recently launched the MX‑30, a full EV (electric vehicle). I had to do the IPL (international procurement and logistics) on the technology I knew nothing about, but I nailed it. I just really enjoy doing what I do.

As someone coming from a strong gasoline background, how do you feel about the shift to electric?
I’ve driven the MX‑30 and it’s just mind-boggling. It’s so responsive and performs so well. For my next car, I might go with an EV.

So, you are saying that, even with your background, you would be happy to switch to an EV?
Absolutely, especially as Mazda will be adding a rotary engine range extender to our EVs.

A happy marriage of the two worlds?
The two different technologies together! It’s so good.

Interview by Helene Dancer / Zoom photo by Fran Monks

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