Mazda RX-510

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I can't stand badge engineering. I understand that, in some cases, it's important for an automaker to make a number of models from a small range of components. I understand that sometimes an automaker needs to borrow a vehicle from someone else in order to fill a hole in their lineup.

I get that. But it almost always never works out.

Today's car, the Mazda RX-510, was shown at the 1971 Tokyo Motor Show. Shortly after being unveiled, the concept's donor car, the Grand Familia, was to be introduced.

Here's where it gets nuts. The car was offered in several body styles, engine configurations, countries, and known as one of the following:

  • Mazda Grand Familia
  • Mazda 808
  • Mazda 818
  • Mazda Savanna
  • Mazda RX-3
  • Kia Brisa II
  • Kia K303
  • Mazda Mizer

Blech. 

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mazda-rx-510.jpg

Previewing this range of vehicles was the RX-510. And in the interests of simplicity, I'll refer to it being based on the RX-3, simply because it's the most enthusiast-minded of the bunch and most closely related to the concept.

My dad had an RX-3 and Cosmo, and tells stories about exhaust systems bursting open like a stovetop tin of Orville Redenbacher's popcorn. And beating Corvettes to 50 km/h (30 mph)—the best speed you could reach in between traffic lights in our hometown.

It's only appropriate that the concept would take cues from the hottest variant of the model range, with a Klingon-like forehead on its squinty face. The whole front clip looks…like a koala bear.

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Out back, a slim luggage rack on the rear trunk sat above one of the most simple and attractive tails—four comically large red lamps with a license plate surround that looks like a coiled Slinky.

The other neat details lie on the wheels, Countach-like dished disks with rotary-shaped cutouts. Pity they were probably smelted long ago…

Performance from the car's 10A rotary engine would have been brisk by modern standards, and when tuned for racing, it was the car to knock the first generation Nissan Skyline GT-R from its winning streak. (There is one incredible RX-3 period racing film on YouTube I've linked to in below, if you're interested.)

Tomorrow, the spotlight will shine on the most beloved Mazda of all time, and probably the one that led to the demise of the rotary engine…

Sources / Recommended reading