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Hagerty Employee

The Mazda Cosmo was a visitor from far, far away

In May of 1967, the ascendant Japanese automotive industry began producing what would become two of its most valuable and collectible cars. One of them, if we're being blunt, was not nearly as interesting as the other. There is much to love about the Toyota 2000GT, about which I have waxed poetic on this very website.

I must admit that I was a very early and fervent fan of the Wankel Rotary Engine, though I never did own one (Cheater!!)
My ardour was due to the concept of no parts failures, of the type that had been plaguing my Mom's (my "daily driver" back then,) 1968 AMC 6-cylinder Ambassador, (re-christened The Ambastardor by myself and Friends.)

I still believe that there's a future for the Rotary (Engine, not Club,) if only for its simplicity of design.

Now, about the Cosmo...
I think it's an extremely attractive car.
The front end reminds me of my '69 Fiat Spider, while the rest of it exudes early Thunderbird.
Very cool, in all. I'd love to cruise around in one.
No comparison with the 2000GT — Apples and HorseChestnuts.

The Cosmo must have been designed by someone who ate bad sushi.
Intermediate Driver

I don't have to squint too hard to see a Japanese '56 T-Bird. Very cool.
Those Wankel are fine racing powerplants- not easy on the ears at all, but get to a track and see an RX-7 finish a straightaway, and witness the flames out of the exhaust on the over-run.
Intermediate Driver

Nice looking car, but I wouldn't know how to maintain a rotary engine, or get replacement parts, or find a knowledgeable mechanic.

Unfortunately, I don't think anyone is going to develop a rotary engine going forward. I think the design makes it inherently too difficult to meet modern mileage and emissions requirements.

A very cool car. The history of how Mazda made the rotary work is fascinating. Unfortunately even they could not fix all of the rotary engine's problems.
Intermediate Driver

The Cosmo might have done better with cleaner styling. I'm thinking mostly of the crease above the front wheel arches, and the split tail lights. The Toyota 2000GT had a smoother design. I think the Cosmo could also have done well as a convertible (full disclosure: I own a 1990 RX-7 convertible, and love its looks). So why do we value the Toyota more than the Mazda, even though the Mazda is more technically interesting? Because beauty still counts for something with collectible cars. And the Toyota 2000GT was and is drop-dead gorgeous.

Is there anything more mystical and romantic to a gearhead than the rotary? My brother bought one of the first RX7s in 1979 and has owned at least one ever since. I bought one of his, a 1990 convertible, a few years ago as a very occasional car and it is fun to drive. But. When it goes wrong? Even Mazda dealerships don't want to see it. There are a few specialty places around the country to do rotaries, if you can wait on their list and don't mind shipping your car and paying through the nose. Even Mazda found the rotary didn't make economic sense. It still doesn't.
Intermediate Driver

What a surprise! The first time I saw one I liked it. YES the styling is weird, but in a good interesting way. Some Thunderbird, some Alfa, 60 Ford tail lights and many other similarities. That said it just works for me. My first Rotary Mazda was a RX-3 wagon company car when companies were going to small Japanese cars. The Datsun and Toyota wagons got better mileage, but they were SLOW, NOISY, and kind of cheap compared to the Mazda RX-3 that was much more pleasant to drive. I liked the car so much I bought a nice used RX-3 wagon when I moved West and put 120,000 trouble free miles on it! The author said NO TORQUE --- I guess the author never drove one! The secret was to get the engine up to 3,000 RPM and slip the clutch a little and it launched off line as well as any four banger. The rotary revved easily to 7,000 and was smooth and quiet.
Unfortunately ONLY Mazda was able to make a reliable rotary and it was not an inexpensive engine to build. GM tried to build a "cheap" rotary for their cars and failed miserably! I've only seen two Cosmo vehicles, one in a private collection and the other in Jay Leno's collection. I was told Mr. Leno's Cosmo has a later R12A engine that developed more power vs. the original engine.

I saw only one of these ever, at the Chicago Auto Show just a few years ago. The only Mazda Cosmo I knew of before, was a coupe from the 1970's; it was not a good seller, as I recall.