When it comes to collectable Japanese cars, the futuristic Mazda Cosmo is up there with some of the biggest hitters in the game such as Toyota’s stunning 2000GT and even the Skyline GT-R.
The Mazda Cosmo might not be the first groundbreaking automotive thought you experience every morning but the stylish Jap made history 53 years ago when the rotary-powered two-seater was unveiled to the media.
Not only was it stylish, but the slick grand tourer also offered excellent performance and luxury that marked the beginning of a legacy of innovation that even today remains firmly intact – unique technology coupled with a fun-to-drive experience.
Just when trendy Afro’s and plentiful bell-bottoms hit the fashion in 1967, the Cosmo Sport became the world’s first car powered by a twin-rotor engine, albeit NSU’s Wankel-designed unit the brand managed to acquire the rights to produce.
Without the rotary engine, there would probably be no Mazda. And without Mazda, the rotary engine certainly wouldn’t have been in production for over 50 years.
Better recognised outside of Japan as the 110S, it was also Mazda’s first shot at a sports car and subsequently provided the DNA that has since gone into legendary models like the Mazda RX-7 and Mazda MX-5, and many of the vehicles the Japanese marque manufactures today.
Although build numbers were small with only 1,176 produced, the Cosmo Sport proved monumental for The company, marking its transformation from a maker of predominantly trucks and small cars to an exciting, unique brand characterised by its convention-defying approach to engineering as well as it’s design capabilities.
Mazda was also keen to prove the model’s competition abilities with further development of the powerplant under the Cosmo Sport’s bonnet, exemplifying the brands ‘never say die’ attitude which is pretty evident 53 years later.
Although the list of companies who signed licensing agreements with NSU to develop the German car maker’s new technology was long, Mazda would eventually prove to be the only company to make the forward-thinking venture successful.
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After overcoming numerous automotive hurdles, including testing the Cosmo Sport prototypes for thousands of kilometres, engineers finally made the rotary engine commercially viable before the launch back in May 1967.
Over 2M Rotary Powered Vehicles
Having harnessed the rotary’s potential to deliver performance levels equivalent to much larger and heavier reciprocating piston engines, Mazda would go on to build almost 2 million rotary-powered vehicles, also achieving considerable racing success.
The legendary RX-7, for example, dominated its class at IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) events throughout the 1980s. But Mazda’s biggest single triumph on the track came in 1991 when a Mazda 787B powered by a 2.6-litre four-rotor powerplant producing 710PS won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
An amazing achievement, becoming the only non-reciprocating engine ever to win the illustrious endurance race and the first victory by an Asian brand.
The impressive Mazda Cosmo was and still is a desirable classic that drives as good as it looks, born at a time when teenagers were only just being introduced to ‘dial a disc’ and the electric vacuum cleaner made a welcomed appearance. All too often have ‘generic’ clones become normality as we move towards styling that lacks, well, any style…