Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Mazda is offered in Chicago but is advertised on Craigslists all around the country. That’s probably necessary since it’s a model hardly anyone has ever heard of. Let’s see if it’s priced to make it all the more memorable.
It’s been said that it’s less important to be first than it is to be the most impactful. Apple wasn’t the first company to offer a smartphone, but its iPhone certainly turned that market on its ear. Similarly, when Chrysler introduced its K-car-based minivans in the mid-1980s, they weren’t the first on the market, but somehow they defined the category for an entire generation.
That impact has obviously waned as yesterday’s just-out-of-storage 1989 Dodge Caravan couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for its $18,225 asking price, not even with a turbocharged engine under its tall hood and a five-speed stick between its captain’s chairs. Hot vitriol was spilled in the comments over that minivan’s asking price, and that eventually spilled over into the vote, with the Dodge not dodging a massive 92 percent No Dice loss.
Ok, so pretty much everybody has at least heard of the Chrysler minivans, even if few of you actually want an old one these days, no matter how interesting it might be. What, however, might you say about a car about which you are likely totally unfamiliar?
This 1971 Mazda 1800 is one of just a handful that were sold in the U.S. as part of Mazda’s second official year of sales here. Called the Luce (Italian for light) in the home and other markets, the largish four-door had already been around for five years before Mazda brought it to America. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro under contract with Mazda, the Luce’s handsome styling seemed to take its inspiration from both the first generation Maserati Quattroporte and BMW’s E3 “New Six” line. It may have actually been the other way around for the latter since the Luce preceded the big Bimmer to market by about three years.
When Mazda entered the North American market, it hadn’t yet gone whole-hog on the Wankel. As such, the 1800 has a — get this — an 1800 cc SOHC inline-four under its hood. This was an enlarged version of the earlier 1500 cc four and with its taller cam cover required the addition of a bump in the center of the hood for clearance. With its leading-edge scoop, that looks like something cobbled up after the fact, but it is factory original.
The engine pumped out 98 horsepower when new, and contemporary road tests claimed that even with the standard four-speed stick, that wasn’t enough. Suffice to say, performance in this automatic-equipped car will be leisurely. There’s no indication in the ad that this one runs at all, so take that into account.
After just one year on the market, the 1800 was summarily dismissed, having been replaced by the next generation Luce, which was sold here as the RX-4 and carrying the now-famous Mazda Wankel engine.
This 1800 is very pretty, even if it’s a bit rough around the edges. The seller claims in the ad that the car was bought out of the estate of the original owner and touts that the plastic protective covers are still on the sun visors. The rest of the cabin looks surprisingly good for something that has seemingly been sitting since Bill Clinton was in office, and it features both an original AM radio and a CB so you can play Smokey and the Bandit in it. A few trim pieces are missing, most notably the levers on the climate controls, but otherwise it looks fairly complete.
Outside, everything appears complete and it’s amazing how much this Mazda looks like a BMW Bavaria from the rear three-quarter angle. The blue paint is faded and the steel wheels have adopted a patina of surface rust, but everything looks straight beneath that. This would be an excellent candidate for one of those AMMO NYC detailing videos.
While offered in the West Chicagoland suburb, the car wears Washington plates and, somewhat comically, is advertised on Craigslists all over the country. The plates show 1999 as what’s likely the last year of registration so while it apparently comes with a clean title, don’t expect to find it listed in the DMV records.
What all this adds up to is an interesting and very nicely styled project car that, owing to the difficulty in getting parts, will be a challenge to get running and restored. On the flip side, it could easily be updated with more modern running gear and driven as-is since there’s nothing save for tires needed on the outside, and who can’t live with some ratty carpet and a few spiders on the inside?
To do all that will require $5,999 as that is the asking price. It’s now time for you to vote on whether that’s worth it or not. What do you say, is this rare and handsome Mazda worth that $5,999 asking even just as a bit of history? Or, does that price make it history in your mind?
H/T to Jerry Dryden for the hookup!
Help me out with NPOND. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.