For the past 95 years, Mazda has done it all, survived it all, and is still giving it all, in the name of automotive passion and technological excellence. But it actually wasn’t a walk-in-the-park. Just in time for the Japanese automaker’s 95th anniversary, we roll back in time and “zoom-zoom” through some of Mazda’s greatest moments.
Mazda began life as a cork producer back in January 30, 1920. Founded by Jujiro Matsuda, Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. Ltd. was considered back then as Japan’s most reliable cork producer. By 1927, Matsuda renamed it to Toyo Kogyo and began to venture into manufacturing tools and other specialized industrial-grade tools and equipment.
But it was not until 1930 that Matsuda realized that the only way to keep the business running was to get into vehicle production. And their first ever vehicle was called the Mazda-Go, which was a motorized three-wheeled rickshaw that had an air-cooled single-cylinder engine and a truck-style flatbe.
They even had a stint at manufacturing weapons, such as the famous Type-99 bolt-action rifle, for the military during the 2nd World War.
The company, however, experienced a bitter blow in 1952 when its founding father Matsuda passed away. But the Samurai spirit lived on and inspired them to pursue manufacturing automobiles. The first model Mazda produced without Matsuda’s guidance was the R360 Coupe, which also happens to be their first ever automobile.
The R360 sported a 356cc V-twin engine, mated to either a 4-speed MT or a 2-speed AT. It eventually dominated the lightweight “kei car” segment and as a follow-through, the Mazda Carol entered the scene in 1962.
In 1984, the company was officially renamed as the “Mazda Motor Company” we now know today. This decision was made following the tradition of having the name “Mazda” prefixed in all of their vehicles’ since the Mazda-Go.
If there’s one thing Mazda is globally well-known for, it’s got to be their remarkable feat in developing the Wankel rotary engine. The first model to benefit from this technology was the Mazda Cosmo Sport in 1967. It was a grand touring coupe that launched Mazda into the automotive stratosphere, for it was fitted with 982cc rotary engine, bolted to a 4-speed MT.
What followed the Cosmo was a generation of rotary engine sports cars, known as the RX series. This elite line of sports cars all had the concepts and technologies that made the Cosmo unique. Some of the most notable nameplates in the RX line were the RX-7 and the RX-8. The RX-7 featured a 1.0L rotary engine, and later on was ramped up to 1.3L. This 1.3L rotary power plant was carried over to the RX-8.
But the most famous accolade for Mazda’s rotary power came in 1991. The Mazdaspeed 787B, featuring a mid-mounted 2.6L 4-rotor engine, was a Group C prototype that competed in the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour Race. The team entered three cars, but it was the No. 55 car of Volker Weidler, Bertand Gachot, and Johnny Herbert that won the race. This achievement was the very first and still the only victory for a Japanese manufacturer at Le Mans.
Aside from the RXs, Mazda also has one very iconic car that took the automotive world by storm when it debuted in 1989. The MX-5, otherwise known as the Miata, was a two-seat lightweight rear-wheel-drive roadster powered by a 1.6L 4-cylinder engine. It had near 50:50 weight distribution and offered a great driving experience at an affordable price, which made it an instant hit.
The model now spans four generations, the latest of which came out in 2014, and covers 25 years of fun spirited driving.
Today, Mazda’s claim to fame is its SkyActiv Technology, which is all about environmental conservation and improved fuel economy without sacrificing engine performance and driving pleasure. SkyActiv has produced a new generation of gasoline and diesel engines, more efficient transmissions, lighter chassis, and a modern body design language they call “Kodo.” These extensive technical breakthroughs all contribute to Mazda’s pursuit of 21st century automotive excellence.
Currently, SkyActiv technology is available in the latest Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda6, and Mazda CX-5.
Mazda in the Philippines
Mazda has been in the strong end of the local automotive industry. Models that have become cult classics for many Pinoys include the B22 pickup truck and the 323 Familia sedan.
It can be recalled that sometime in the ‘90s, the brand was without any official distributing body, after their brief partnership with Francisco Motors ended. Then came Ford Group Philippines (FGP) who took charge of the brand until 2012, spurring popular models such as the Mazda3 and Tribute. As of this writing, Berjaya Auto Philippines, Inc. (BAP) is now the official Philippine distributor of Mazda vehicles since January 1, 2013 with a strong 15-dealer network nationwide.
Mazda Motor Company has come a long way from its simple beginnings as a cork manufacturer. We definitely look forward to future vehicles that will come from this great and innovative Japanese automaker.
Happy 95th Birthday Mazda!