1973 Mazda RX-3
On 30th January 1920 the Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. Ltd was founded in Hiroshima, Japan. Initially the company focused on the production of cork. In 1927 the company was renamed to Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd. The company diversified, however, times were tough and it had to be saved from bankruptcy by the Hiroshima Savings Bank and other business leaders in Hiroshima in the late 1920’s. In 1931 the company decided to start producing vehicles. The first vehicle produced by the company was a three wheeled open “truck”. Basically, the vehicle resembled a motorcycle with an open wagon or a truck bed and was called the Mazda-Go.
In 1960 the Toyo Kogyo Co Ltd produced their first passenger car – the Mazda R360. The R360 was known in Japan as a Kei car or city car. It had a 356cc rear mounted air-cooled V-twin engine and was available as a two door, four seat coupe.
Around the same time, the second president of Toyo Kogyo Co Ltd, Tsuneji Matsuda, had a friend in Germany who told him all about a new type of engine the German company NSU Motorenwerke AG was developing. Matsuda was immediately interested and in 1961 Toyo Kogyo Co Ltd and NSU signed a study contract to further develop the Wankel engine as it was now known. In 1964 NSU was the first company to produce a car with a Wankel engine, the NSU Spider. It was superseded by the NSU RO 80 in 1967. NSU struggled with reliability issues and they had problems with the seals for the rotor in the engine which led to frequent engine failures. Toyo Koguo Co Ltd managed to solve that problem and in 1967 they produced their first Wankel engine powered car, the Mazda Cosmo 110S. To further distinguish themselves from other manufacturers, they called their version of the Wankel engine a rotary engine. In July 1968 the Mazda R100 was introduced. It was offered as a two-door coupe and a four door sedan. The Mazda R100 was powered by a 982cc rotary engine. In 1970 the Capella was introduced with either a 1.5 or a 1.6 litre four-cylinder SOHC engine. Buyers of the Capella also had the option to choose a sportier model, the RX-2. The RX-2 was equipped with a 1146cc rotary engine. For Japanese buyers this came with an additional advantage. Road tax in Japan was based on engine size. Having a rotary engine equipped car meant they had the advantage of the small engine size which resulted in a lower road tax but the performance of a car with a much larger engine size.
In 1971 the Mazda Grand Familia was introduced in Japan. It was sold as a Mazda 808 in some countries and as a Mazda 818 in others. It was offered as a two door coupe, a four door sedan and a five door station wagon. The Grand Familia series car was only offered with four cylinder engines. At the same time the Mazda Savanna was introduced. It was largely identical to the Grand Familia with the exception of the engine. The Savanna had a rotary engine. Outside of Japan the Savanna was sold as an RX-3. The RX-3 was available from September 1971 and remained in production through until 1977. It was sold as the Super DeLuxe coupe, the DeLuxe sedan and a station wagon.
Like the RX-2, the RX-3 was a great success for Mazda. Unfortunately, rotary engines were not as fuel efficient as comparable piston engines and when the 1973 oil crisis hit, rotary engined cars quickly fell out of favor with the general public. It forced the company to refocus its effort and Mazda choose to use the rotary engine only in it top of the range sports car models.
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale an Australian delivered, factory right hand drive 1973 Mazda RX-3 DeLuxe Automatic sedan. This particular model, with a chassis number prefix of S102A is powered by Mazda’s 10A rotary engine.
The first owner is understood to have been a family from Victoria who loved and cherished this little car. They kept the car for over 20 years until the mid-1990’s when it was sold from their estate to a Mazda enthusiast in Brisbane. As a result of the car coming from a deceased estate there is, unfortunately, no documentation with it other than the original owner’s manual in its correct plastic pouch and a Mazda Australia dealer’s guide dated 1st November 1973. With its second owner, this RX3 shared a garage with other Mazdas and it was used sparingly, attending the occasional car club event or classic car show.
In 2015 the car was sold to another Brisbane based Mazda enthusiast and collector, joining one of Australia’s most prominent Mazda collections. Its then owner chose to sympathetically restore the car. It was repainted in its original colour (paint code EU = ‘earth green’) by respected restoration specialists GT Motors here in Brisbane. Only the exterior of the car was repainted to preserve its originality. The engine was rebuilt and the interior tidied up. The interior is mostly original, including the radio. The exceptions are the driver’s seat base and top of the rear seats which have been reupholstered. Some new carpets were also fitted.
This car is really an incredible time capsule. Walking around the car you have a hard time believing you are looking at a car built in 1973. Having recently been repainted the paint is obviously in very good condition but the same is true for all the bright work, badges, lights and lenses on the car. If you look closely you’ll see the odd scratch, most noticeably on the headlight surrounds, but generally everything on the car is in really good condition. There is unfortunately a small dent on the top of the left rear quarter panel.
Open the door and you really could be back in 1973 . . . the interior is ‘just lovely’. The upholstery is in excellent condition and the tan colour contrast perfectly with the lime green paintwork. The seats are firm and supportive. The dashboard, delicate steering wheel and all the instruments are in very good condition and as they left the factory back in 1973. The one thing that lets the interior down a little is the leather hand brake cover which is worn and scruffy. This would be simple to replace. The carpet is generally in very good condition, though parts of the original carpet around the left seat belt mount on the centre tunnel shows some wear. All the instruments, including the radio are all in good working order.
The engine bay has been refreshed, but it remains as original as can be. All of the original ID tags and stickers are still in place. The Australian compliance plate (stamped 10/73), ID tag (with chassis and engine numbers) and paint code sticker are all correct. Importantly, the numbers match the stamped chassis and engine numbers.
The boot is also very original, with the exception of the rear inner liner which looks to be aftermarket. Everything is in good condition and there is a spare wheel and jack present.
Out on the road this little Mazda is just a delight to drive. The car does need full choke to start from cold but once the engine is running you can turn the choke of fairly quickly and the engine will settle into a smooth idle. When driving the car, it’s hard to believe the engine only has a capacity of 946cc. It feels like you’re driving a car with an engine of at least twice that size. The quoted power output is 110 hp @ 7,000 rpm which is quite extraordinary really . . . and the car has a curb weight of around 930 kg. There’s plenty of power on tap, but importantly the gearbox makes it usable. The automatic gearbox is a delight. The gear changes are smooth and if you need a little bit of extra power, just push the accelerator to the floor and the gearbox will quickly shift down. The car has a sporty exhaust note, which is something you initially wouldn’t expect, but that’s exactly what the RX Mazdas were all about! This car drives really well. It is tight on the road with no rattles and squeaks, the handling is balanced, though there’s a little more body roll than ideal and the brakes are more than adequate. This car has a factory air conditioning fitted which works well and on a hot Brisbane afternoon it makes the experience of getting behind the wheel quite pleasant.
Even though the car runs and drives well, it probably would benefit from a service.
The detail in this car is quite extraordinary. The more you look the more you find! Check out the embossed details in the seats and door cards.
Today the odometer in the car reads 30,329 km.
These cars are pretty cool and great fun to drive. On our photo shoot this little RX3 turned plenty of heads . . . though I guess it wasn’t hard to miss it coming! We’re starting to get the classic Japanese car revolution!
- a rare ‘matching numbers’ car finished in its fabulous original colour.
- an incredibly original and unmolested example.
- factory automatic gearbox and factory air conditioning.
- sympathetically restored, including an engine rebuild
- Mazda RX3
- 30320 km
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