Mazda collection: R360 coupe + 110B Cosmo + 10A Familia + R130 Luce + 626 Rotary + RX-7

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Nathan Duff

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If you're going to obsess over a brand, you might as well do it properly

Many of us recall our first car with such horror that we never want it or its ilk in our lives ever again. But that wasn’t how it happened for Mazda-obsessive Danny Irvine.

Danny’s affection for the brand stretches back to the 1970s and family contact with one of the then-new and radical RX-7s.

"My uncle was lucky enough to own one of the first RX-7s that came into the country and I have strong memories of that car," he confessed.

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Mazda coupes from different eras

However Danny’s first car was not a rotary. Well, not initially anyway. The family were concerned about engine unreliability and happier to see him behind the wheel of a safe and sedate 626. It would be for him the first of many Toyo Kogyo products.

After owning a series of reasonably modern Mazdas, Danny’s curiosity for the brand turned towards its homeland and the stocks of discarded but not destroyed vehicles still lurking throughout Japan.

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All in the family, three wheel truck trio

"You can find cars in all kinds of places, often just advertised in the domestic motoring magazines or on the internet, Danny explained. "Most I buy sight unseen which can lead to thrills or disappointment but you take the good with the bad and so far most of what I’ve brought in has been pretty good."

Among the more than 25 cars that cram one end of an industrial unit in Brisbane’s northern suburbs - the other end maintains specialised vehicles for the mining industry and customer Mazdas - there is but one automatic. It is a scarce triple-rotor Cosmo which came into the country more than a decade ago under the SEVS low-volume import scheme.

Danny Irvine

Danny Irvine and his Mazda R360 Coupe

"I bought it for the most practical of reasons," Danny remembers. "I had an injured hand and for some time couldn’t drive a manual car."

Cars in the collection range in size from tiny ‘Kei’ class models, which by law could have a maximum 600cc engine. Most of Danny’s miniature Mazdas have 360cc twin-cylinder engines and so fall well within the bounds.  Among the non-runners is a trio of three-wheeled trucks with front ends like Godzilla’s motor-cycle that will cart up to a couple of tonnes in their rough-hewn trays.

Contrast these with the scarce and beautifully proportioned Luce coupe, early to late-spec RX-7s and a trio of mild to absolutely feral MX-5s. At every turn you see a manufacturer which wasn’t scared to experiment and a man with a true passion for the brand.

Welcome to Danny Irvine’s convoluted collection of Mazdas. 

R360 COUPE

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Mazda’s first passenger car - 360 Coupe

With crowded streets and a fledgling motor industry, Japan mastered the art of building tiny cars with tiny engines that would still transport a family of four in some comfort.

As the oldest passenger vehicle in Danny’s collection, the R360 Coupe dates back to 1962 predating the oddly-styled Carol sedan.

Mazda R130 coupe engine

 Rear engined coupe, like a 911

"I’ve had this one since 2010 and it’s an important vehicle in the collection, being Mazda’s first passenger car," Danny commented. "It’s a pretty little car, built with a lot of attention to detail and a companion to the four-door Carol sedan which I also have."

The R360 first appeared on Japanese roads in 1960 and production during that first year ran at more than 2000 vehicles a month.

Mazda R130 coupe interior

Virtually all of them were sold into the expanding Japanese market, but unlike earlier Japanese micro-cars, the R360 used a four-stroke engine. It was still only a twin-cylinder though, with 12kW of power and good for 84km/h.

110B COSMO

Mazda 110B Cosmo

Cosmo’s styling was ahead of its time

This is one of two first-Gen Cosmos in the Danny Irvine collection. Had we arrived a day earlier there would have been another but it was sold. "There are some quite significant differences between the 110A version and the 110B that we’re photographing," Danny explained. 

Mazda 110B Cosmo tail light

Cosmo’s chrome highlights add class

"The later car has a longer wheelbase, as you can see by comparing the distance between the door and rear wheel-arch.  110B is faster as well due to it having additional power. However they both use the 982cc 10A rotary."

"The body structure is pretty much a single unit with the boot, bonnet and doors the only bolt-on panels."

Mazda 110B Cosmo engine bay

The  110A Cosmo was produced from 1967-68 and only 343 were made, plus 80 pre-production versions. The 110B remained available until 1972 and was more of a commercial success with 1176 built.

With a crackling rotary delivering way more power than a typical 1.0-litre engine, spectacular dash detail and Intergalactic styling, the Cosmo should have been a sales success in the manner of the later RX-7.

Mazda 110B Cosmo interior

However the world seemingly wasn’t ready for a quirky, hand-made sports coupe that on the US market could cost more than a Shelby GT-350 Mustang.

10A FAMILIA SEDAN

Mazda 10A Familia sedan

Small Japanese sedans marked the end of British car dominance here in the late 1960s

Readers might have expected this slot to be taken by an R100 coupe, but that is one of the significant Mazda models still on Danny’s ‘want’ list. Instead we have the four-door version; the rarely-seen 10A Familia.

"These were built specifically for the domestic Japanese market so I don’t think many were exported," Danny advised.  "Total build would probably be in the thousands though and I know of a couple of others in Australia, also privately imported. I found this one in 2014 and had the car shipped in from Japan."

Mazda 10A Familia sedan

For anyone who owned one of the piston propelled 1200s that did come to Australia in decent numbers, the Familia with its full wheel-covers and flashy dash will look quite exotic.

Mazda 10A Familia sedan

Years before mainstream car-makers started grouping gauges, switches, heater controls and the radio in a central binnacle, this little Mazda has them all neatly arranged and contrasting with the extra-large main dials.

R130 LUCE HARDTOP

It is hard to look at the shape of Danny’s elegant Mazda Luce and not think somehow it was intended to become an Alfa Romeo. In reality, Mazda had styling house Bertone, which did designed a lot of Alfas, on contract since 1962 and the four-door Luce displayed in 1965 was destined always to become the brand’s flagship.

Mazda R130 Luce hardtop

European styling influence by Bertone

1969 brought a very special car to the rotary range. The R130 was a pillarless derivative of the Luce sedan but with a 1.3-litre, 94kW engine and front-wheel drive. It was destined to be the only rotary-powered FWD  car ever built by Mazda.

It was also more luxuriously appointed than typical Japanese cars of its time with power windows, a brushed aluminium dash and fan-heated rear screen.

Mazda R130 Luce hardtop tail light

This car is another 2010 acquisition; one of four or five similar cars that have found their way to Australia. Driving it would be nerve-wracking though because the only way to acquire spare panels would be to buy a complete car. Then there’s the unusual engine.

Mazda R130 Luce hardtop interior

 Well-equipped cabin

"It’s designated a 13A and referred to as the ‘stroked rotary’," he said.  "It’s related to the 10A and 12A but uses a physically larger combustion chamber and rotors and that becomes an issue when you’re trying to rebuild one."

626 ROTARY

Mazda 626 Rotary

This is no ordinary 626

This is the actual car that started it all for Danny Irvine. The 626 was regarded in its day as competent family transport and a step up from the piston-engined Capella it replaced. But it was hardly the first choice of a Mazda-mad 17 year-old.

Mazda 626 Rotary grille

"My dad wasn’t very mechanical and had heard horror stories about rotary engines so I wasn’t allowed to have one," Danny explained. "The car is a Series 2 626, so the plastic-bumper model and originally beige with a brown interior," Danny recalled.

"However the ban on rotary power lasted a bare four years before the original engine was yanked and replaced by one from an RX4." 

In 1997, with its performance already uprated, the body was repainted in Gunmetal and an interior re-trimmed in matching grey.

Mazda 626 Rotary engine bay

Powerful 626 Rotary Turbo

Today the car runs a turbocharged rotary motor with upgraded suspension and brakes and a wicked-looking brace to support the front strut towers on occasions the car ventures onto a race track. Even the wheels are interesting, being the first version of ROH’s ZS design to be made using the Mazda stud pattern.

RX-7 SERIES 6

Mazda RX-7 Series 6

Series 6 RX7 is a real head turner

Among the more ‘modern’ cars in Danny’s collection is this 1992-build RX-7 Series 6. One of the collection’s few Australian-delivered cars it was also bought in 2010 and, in Danny’s words, "quite tired mechanically."

Mazda RX-7 Series 6 engine bay

Tightly packed powerplant

That presented the opportunity to extract considerably more power than originally was available. After acquisition of some ‘go-fast parts’ out of Japan came a complete mechanical rejuvenation that turned the RX-7 into a significant performance car but one that can still be used every day.

Mazda RX-7 Series 6 rear wing

"It’s a high horsepower car but still nice to drive, Danny said. "Although the Series 6 is one of the more modern cars in the collection they still come with a lot of character."

Mazda RX-7 Series 6 interior

The Series 6 RX-7 when new helped build character and new-found levels of bravery among owners as well. Output was listed at 188kW but the Series 6 with its twin sequential turbochargers produced a surge of performance that, even on dry race circuits, could have experienced drivers scrambling to remain in control.

Mazda RX-7 seats

 

From Unique Cars #440, May 2020

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