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Mazda Cosmo Car of the Week

Designed at a time of great optimism in Japan, it is everything you would expect from a culture and company embarking on a plan to break onto the world stage. Without its own design heritage to draw on, Mazda looked to both the European and American styles of the period when developing their new showpiece car.

The Cosmo successfully blended two very different design languages into one cohesive package and introduced a new unique style for upcoming Japanese designers to reference.

With the front, Cosmo designer Heiji Kobayashi clearly looked to Ferrari and Jaguar for influence. The headlights are very similar to the E-Type Jag, while the bonnet and front fenders take cues from the Pinnifarina-designed Ferrari Superfast range that was the height of luxury and style in the sixties. The rear clearly used the America concept showcar styles and in particular the Ford Thunderbird.

Mazda in the early 1960s was embarking on a transformation, and commencing a drive into the international market. Their philosophy was to differentiate themselves from the other emerging Japanese carmakers and they chose to do this by focusing on development of the Wankel rotary engine and affordable small performance cars,

First introduced as a prototype at the 1964 Toyko Motorshow, a year before Toyota were to introduce their 2000GT, the Cosmo was unlike anything ever built by a Japanese car company. Mazda went on to build 80 pre-production prototypes for testing by Mazda engineers and dealers.

The Cosmo was a halo car … it was not designed or built for the mass market.  With just 1519 hand-built between May 1967 and September 1972 -- at a rate of one a day -- the Cosmo Sport 110 is now a very rare and highly desirable collector’s car.

The body is small and very low, and while the cockpit is tiny, the cabin’s large proportion of glass means it feels light and airy. At the time of its introduction it was very high-tech engineering, with the Wankel rotary redlining at 7000rpm -- motorcycle engine territory at the time. The underpinnings featured front disc brakes and De-dion rear suspension.

While at its launch Mazda was not yet exporting cars to Europe (that move began in 1968) or America (commenced in 1970), two Series 1 and six Series 11 did make it to America as new cars, an unknown number to Europe and at least one came to Australia via a Japanese diplomat.

American talk-show host and noted car collector and columnist, Jay Leno recognised the importance and styling uniqueness of the Cosmo and purchased one for his collection. It was his first Japanese car. In obtaining the car Leno beat Mazda USA to the punch as at the same time they were looking to purchase an example for marketing their heritage. Mazda USA eventually managed to obtain one and now use it for test drives by motoring journalists.

While the chance of seeing one on the road is highly unlikely, the DNA of the Cosmo can clearly be seen in the current RX-8.

And 45 years later, Mazda’s philosophy of differentiating themselves from other Japanese brands with iconic sportcars can only be deemed as a definite success. Unlike Toyota and Honda, Mazda’s current cars still reference their heritage and maintain a strong design language.

Cosmo Sports Specifications

Series 1          
May 30, 1967 - July 1968
Type designation - L10A 
Engine Type - 0810
343 made

Series 2          
July 13, 1968 - September 1972
Type designation - L10B
Engine Type - 0813
1176 made

Price at introduction   
1.48 million yen (=$US4100) 1968

Wankel rotary configuration
Alloy rotor housings
Alloy side housings
Side intake ports (2 per rotor)
Peripheral exhaust port
Intake   Zenith-Stromberg 4 barrel
Twin Distributor
Two spark plugs per rotor
Twin coils
Capacity           491cc x 2 rotor

Length - 4140

Width - 1595

Height - 1165 mm

Wheelbase - 2200mm

Top speed         200 km/h
0-100 km/h        8.8 seconds