Mazda Roadpacer

1974 Mazda Roadpacer.
Chris Riley
News Community Newspapers

1 Mar 2013 • 4 min read

If this car looks familar it should do, but we were left perplexed by that Mazda badge affixed to the radiator grille.

Back in the dim, dark distant 1970s it appears Mazda had a bit of a thing going with Holden and the product of this relationship was the ill-conceived Mazda Roadpacer AP  a rebaged version of the HJ Premier with a Mazda RX4 rotary engine under the bonnet.

What an odd thing to do? The idea apparently was to have a crack at the upper luxury passenger car segment in Japan, a segment dominated by the V8 Toyota Century and Nissan President. Down-sizing the engine permitted Mazda to offer a more competitive product because it was able to avoid the local engine capacity based tax.

Believe it or not back then Holden Premiers were shipped to Hiroshima minus their engines, where Mazda fitted the twin rotor 1.3-litre 13B rotary engine. We used the term 'fitted' loosely because it wasn't too difficult to find room in the big engine bay after the removal of the much larger 3.3-litre straight six.

Word has it that Mazda got the cars for free from GM in return for the use of Mazda's rotary for its stillborn quad-rotor Corvette. Although it was smoother, quieter and lighter, the rotary was no match for the six in terms of economy or performance.

Nor was it much of a match for the three-speed auto that it was hooked up to, a transmission that was really out of its comfort zone with the high-revving rotary. The big problemo however was that rotary produced nowhere near as much torque as the Red series motor.

Power was rated at 100kW while it produced about 187Nm of torque compared to the Holden's 263Nm. The Premier was no lightweight either, not at 1575kg and as a result the Roadpacer couldn't pull the skin off a custard.

The lack of torque meant poor acceleration, a top speed of only 166km/h what has been described as shocking fuel consumption (worse than the 5.0-litre V8). While the Holden HJ Premier was already well equipped, Mazda chipped in with some extra fluff befitting the car's role as flagship of the range.

It had a central locking system that activated when the car hit 10km/h, a chime system that activated at 90km/h, a dictation system and a stereo able to be controlled from both front and back seats. The price for this piece of motoring memorabilia in 1975 was 3.8 million yen or $9400 Australian dollars, pretty steep even back then.

Originally intended as transport for high-ranking government officials, the car was sold in five and six seat form, with buckets or a bench seat across the front. Like later Holdens, it was produced in response to the first fuel crisis and was not a commercial success.

Production ceased in 1977 with only 800 units sold in a two-year period. The Roadpacer has the distinction of being the only General Motors production model to be fitted with a rotary engine.

Most were sold to government departments and were later crushed, making the Roadpacer quite rare these days. It was never sold in Australia.
 

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