Mazda turns 100 today, so here's five of its most interesting cars
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Today is a rather special day for one of the world's biggest car manufacturers.
On this day 100 years ago the Matsuda-Go 3-wheeled truck debuted, setting in motion a car company that would eventually make a name for itself in technology, practicality, motorsport, and more.
Today Mazda is widely considered to be a straight-cut industry stalwart (with its wild side manifesting in SkyActiv and through a certain lovely two-seater sports car), but it wasn't always that way. In a loving, Comedy Central roast kind of way, we thought we'd revisited some of the brand's most interesting, most bizarre cars through the decades. Enjoy.
Mazda has been subject so all sorts of interesting badge engineering moves over its lifetime. And the 'that's a Holden' Roadpacer is up there with the more interesting.
Based on a Holden HJ Premier, the Roadpacer is almost entirely a General Motors product save for one small detail — the engine. Mazda traded the Holden's typical inline six and V8 offerings for a twin-rotor Wankel.
This made the Road Pacer a bit lighter, a bit more unique, and ... err ... dreadfully slow. Just 800 of the things were produced, with the few remaining examples in Japan prompting plenty of confusion among Aussie tourists.
Mazda Rotary Pick Up (REPU)
Some Kiwis will be familiar with the mightly little '70s REPU by virtue of drifting champ 'Mad Mike' Whiddett owning one for a period.
The lovable little REPU straddled the line between enthusiast wants and consumerist needs with minimal balance. The high-revving rotary engine under the bonnet and stout dimensions make it weird car-nerd Nirvana, but the small bed and torque deficiency meant it wasn't exactly a load-lugging workhorse.
Not to mention that, according to a test by Road & Track at the time, it was only capable of around 10 miles per gallon— placing the compact utility in the same realm as a V8 from the same period. Still, the REPU is one of Mazda's most loved retro creations today.
Mazda have been excellent innovators over the years, but perhaps flew a little too close to the sun when it brought out the first MPV in the late 1980s.
Seemingly by complete accident, Mazda stumbled upon the 'crossover' trend years before it would sweep showrooms by storm. The MPV took the traditional people mover formula and turned it on its head; adding a raised rideheight, optional four-wheel drive, and relatively small dimensions with gaping interior space.
In an alternate universe the MPV would be crowned as a pioneering contribution to the evolution of motoring trends. But instead it was a slow seller, and was eventually tweaked to be a traditional minivan when it was replaced for the new millennium.
'Back in Black' Bonneville Mazda RX-7
Over its decades-long tenure, the RX-7 amassed a pretty respectible sporting pedigree in touring car racing, rallying, and more. But a story that gets somewhat overlooked is that of its land-speed record on the Bonnevile salt flats.
In 1992, American tuners Racing Beat took on Bonneville with its white 570kW three-rotor FD RX-7, with the aim of beating the 241mph (387km/h) record in the C/Blown Modified Sports class. Things looked promising until the car decided to spin 180 degrees at 230mph [video above] — sending driver Jim Mederer into a frightening flip.
There were no tails-between-legs sulking from Racing Beat, however. They retuend in 1995 with a slick, sinister 'back in black' RX-7, which set a stunning 242mph (389km/h) before again spinning. Thankfully this time the car didn't flip on its lid, and it still holds the record for fastest RX-7 in the world today.
Mazda Parkway 26
So, you know all that stuff about a rotary not being ideal for a big frumpy Holden or a pick-up truck? Well, Mazda also had the audacity to bung it into a 26-seater bus.
The Parkway came out in 1976 as a rival to the Toyota Coasters of the world. It was fitted with a twin-rotor 13B making a rounded 100kW of power, which was enough to get the Parkway up to a scintillating (and surely rather noisy) 120km/h top speed.
Acceleration times were reportedly best measured either by sundial or by watching grass grow through the window. Nevertheless, for every off-the-wall idea Mazda's had over the years that hasn't exactly panned out well, 10 have helped shape the motoring industry as we know it today. Happy centenary, Mazda.