Mazda is one of the great success stories of recent automotive history. While car manufacture did not begin until 1960, the Hiroshima based Toyo Cork Kogyo company had been in existence since 1920, concerned with the manufacture of motorcycles, machine tools and drilling equipment. In 1931 the company began the manufacture of a light truck, and was renamed Mazda, both in recognition of its founder Jujior Matsuda, and in honour of Mazda, the god of light.
In 1940 a prototype car was manufactured, but the countries incursion on Pearl Harbour put pay to any automotive aspirations of the day. Amazingly the Mazda facility would only suffer very minor damage after the B-29 “Enola Gay” dropped the “little boy” atomic bomb, although truck production did not re-commence until the 1950’s.
The first Mazda car was released in 1960, a micro car powered by a V-twin air-cooled 21.72ci 356cc engine. Immensely popular (and affordable), the company would sell 20,000 in the first year. The next model inevitably grew in size and stature, the P-360 now featuring a water-cooled engine and available in either 2 or 4 door body styles. Then came the Familia, a 4 door sedan fitted with a 782cc four cylinder engine; outwardly the car looked very conventional, but look a little closer and you could see the Mazda engineers had thought outside the square, the engine being manufactured from light alloy and the options box including either a 4 speed manual or 2 speed automatic transmission.
The Familia was responsible for not only raising the profile of Mazda in it’s home market, but for pushing it to third place on the Japanese sales charts, some 80,000 being sold in 1965 alone. Bertone was commissioned to style a larger variant to help fill out the Mazda line-up, the 929 (also known as Cosmo or Luce) was fitted with a 1.5 litre engine, but again there was a difference, this time the options box included a very unusual offering – the Wankel rotary.
Mazda had for some time shown interest in the rotary engine, and had finally bought a licence from NSU to build their own version after shipping samples from Germany. The first Mazda to be fitted with a rotary was the Cosmo 110S coupe, it also sharing the honour of being the first mass-produced rotary powered car in the world. By 1978 Mazda had sold over 1 million rotary powered cars.
1967 - 1974
In many regards the 1500 was the car for the time, bridging the gap between large family 6 cylinders and the small 4 cylinder variety, this market segment dominated by the Japanese but now being challenged by locals such as the HB Torana and Ford Escort. More>>
1967 - 1974
Even a superficial examination of the Mazda 1500 DeLuxe showed this was a quality made car, parallel perhaps with BMW in Germany or Rover in the UK, although it lacked the Rover 2000's technical enterprise. More>>
1968 - 1974
The Mazda 1800 was aptly called "The Leading Lady", it at the time heading the magnificent range of Mazda Sedans. By putting a powerful 1800cc 104 bhp engine into the delightfully styled Mazda 1500 body shell, the engineers at Toyo Kogyo had given the chassis the type of power it deserved, and needed. More>>
1968 - 1974
In 1968 the Mazda 1200 set a new bench mark for affordable quality in the small car segment, it then being the cheapest 4 door car on the market. The all-alloy engine was specifically designed by the Mazda engineers for the 1200, and the 73 horsepower engine was enough to push the car to 90 miles an hour, for those who dared. More>>
1968 - 1974
The Mazda R100 Rotary Coupe was powered by the dream engine of the 1960's - an engine so small two would fit into the space of most big sixes, an engine so smooth you needed a rev counter to tell it was going. And the most amazing fact of all - it developed the horsepower of piston engines two to three times its size. More>>
1970 - 1977
TAlthough the Mazda 1500/1800 series went over pretty well with Australian motorists, it was never a great seller in Japan. To address this, Mazda released the Capella – which they believed would be a better competitor and take the fight up to the big sellers from opposition Japanese companies Toyota, Datsun and Mitsubishi. More>>
1970 - 1978
The Mazda RX2 is credited with being the first "normal" car to be fitted with a rotary engine. Available as a 4 door sedan or 2 door coupe, the RX2 quickly gained a reputation for good performance and poor petrol economy. More>>
1972 - 1978
The good folks at Mazda have proven to be rather adept at manufacturing extrodinarily exciting cars - todays RX8 and MX5 both being brilliant cars to drive while remaining relatively affordable. And back in 1972 the affordable pocket rockets were undoubtedly the Mazda RX2 and RX3. More>>
1972 - 1977
The Mazda RX4, known in its home market the Luce Rotary, was one hell of a car, whether it be in sedan or hardtop form. The RX4 featured the 130 bhp Capella Wankel engine, and unlike the previous RX3, this was the very first Mazda to have been designed by Toyo Kogyo as exclusively Wankel powered. It was a bigger car than the Capella, being within a whisker of the TC Cortina in external and internal dimensions. More>>
1973 - 1977
Mazda's 929 was their top of the range 1800cc-engined sedan - capable as a family car yet retaining just enough executive overtones to make it a little special. But 1800 was too few "cc" for those who really enjoyed their driving. If you pushed the car hard, the fuel economy would fall through the floor, and there was little to be gained anyway. Instead, the car suited those who enjoyed the gentle, easy approach. More>>
1975 - 1977
The intelligent and advanced concept of global outsourcing applied to the development of the Mazda Roadpacer AP offered a high-quality small volume mass-produced vehicle with a shortened development time and less cost in terms of investment. Well - that was the theory. More>>
1975 - 1981
The Mazda 121 was, to our eyes, one of the best looking cars from the late 1970s. It seemed to buck the trend of the Japanese to embellish their cars with fancy scrolls and plenty of bright work. It was obviously aimed at the American market, hence the opera window behind the door, which was a US design trend at the time, along with the pronounced grille that finds favour in the States. More>>
1977 - 1981
The 929L's design was American inspired, with stacked rectangular headlights and a large chrome grille. A more efficient 2.0 litre L4, producing 90 hp (66 kW) with a single-barrel carb replaced the existing engines. First presented in Japan in October 1979 was a facelifted version with large, rectangular headlights and a more orthodox appearance. More>>
1979 - 1985
By the early 1970's Mazda had proved its committment to the rotary engine, in 1971 alone Mazda building over 200,000 rotary-powered vehicles. However the road for the rotary has never been smooth, and for Mazda things took a turn for the worse when the oil crisis of 1973 turned peoples attention to the poor fuel economy of the rotary. More>>
1979 - 1982
Our review of the Mazda 626 was penned many years ago – and it was favourable partly because we were very familiar with one particular example that proved its reliability and solid construction – engine notwithstanding. But as good as the 626 was, there was one model that really was worthy of superlatives – the Super Deluxe Coupe. More>>
1980 - 1984
Mazda’s 4th generation 323, the BD, was released on October 10, 1980. It came hot on the heels of Mazda investing $A471 million at their Hiroshima plant during 1979 / 1980 - which had saddled the company with huge long term debt, which effectively prevented the company from joining the Japanese rush into US production. More>>
The MX5 owes much to the Lotus Elan, as that is where its designers sought inspiration - although Mazda always wanted to ensure that its car would be more reliable and solid than the little Lotus. They also wanted to ensure their new sports car offered modern "sedan" type comfort levels, despite the inevitable noise and climate problems associated with a "rag top". More>>