The Mazda Cosmo: A Pioneering Halo Vehicle of the 1960s

The Mazda Cosmo: A Pioneering Halo Vehicle of the 1960s

In the annals of automotive history, few cars have the distinction of being such an advancement in technology and as exquisitely designed as the original Mazda Cosmo.

Image: Japanese Nostalgic Car 

This vehicle was not just a car; it was a statement—a bold declaration by Mazda of its engineering prowess and a glimpse into the future of automotive design and technology.

The dawn of the Mazda Cosmo, known as the 110S in its export version, debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1964 as one of the first production cars to feature a two-rotor Wankel engine, alongside the NSU Ro80.

The Wankel engine was a revolutionary design, offering smooth operation and high power output from a compact size.

Design and production the Cosmo was the brainchild of designers Heiji Kobayashi and Kenichi Yamamoto, who created a sleek, futuristic body that encapsulated the optimism of the Space Age. The car’s styling was both elegant and sporty, with a long hood, short rear deck, and flowing lines that suggested speed and agility.

Production of the Cosmo was a meticulous process, with each unit being hand-built at a rate of about one per day. This resulted in a limited production run, with only 1,176 units built between 1967 and 1972, including 343 Series I cars and 833 Series II cars.

Equipped with a 982 cc 0810 engine for the Series I and a slightly more powerful 982 cc 0813 engine for the Series II, paired with a 4-speed manual transmission for the Series I and a 5-speed manual for the Series II. The car’s lightweight construction, at just 940 kg (2,072.3 lb), allowed it to make the most of its rotary engine’s output.

Image: Japanese Nostalgic Car 

Mazda was clearly determined to make a statement. In 1968 they entered the grueling 84-hour Marathon de la Route at the Nürburgring. The Cosmos, mostly stock, showcased the durability and performance of the rotary engine in one of Europe’s most demanding races.  A change was made to the cars with a butterfly valve switched from the side to the peripheral port as RPMs increased. The engines were limited to 130 PS (96 kW) to improve their durability for the endurance race. In a field of 60 cars starting the race, a Cosmo piloted by a Belgian team brought the car over the line in 4th place overall. 

Image: Japanese Nostalgic Car 

The Cosmo served as a halo vehicle for Mazda, successfully launching the Mazda Wankel engine and setting the stage for future rotary-powered vehicles like the RX-7 and RX-8. It also became a cultural icon, and remains a coveted classic among collectors and enthusiasts.

The Cosmo that we have here, is one that currently resides in Brisbane, Australia. A Japanese Domestic Market pre-export model, this example was built July 1967 and delivered in Aurora White with black and herringbone trim. 

With an original motor, clutch and four speed, the more you discover about this particular car, the more I realise the pure unobtanium in front of me.

The engine and drivetrain have never been removed and only touched for routine maintenance. Right down to the original twin exhaust system, this car is untouched. A survivor. 

As you walk around the car, the design is a striking eye to the future as you imagine a world, deeply embedded in the space race. Certainly a dash of George Jetson.

Under those flowing lines are rack and pinion steering, IRS front and rear and even aviation grade finned rear drums with disc brakes up front. 

The SSR mesh wheels are believed to have been offered by Mazda as an alternative to the stock 14 inch steel wheels. 

The Mazda Cosmo was more than just a car; it was a symbol of innovation and a testament to Mazda’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of what was possible in automotive engineering. 

Today, it stands as a classic icon, a reminder of a time when the sky was the limit.

My sincere thanks to Daniel Berlouis for sharing this automotive icon with us. 

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