For those who don’t know, Mazda has a subterranean lair. But unlike some super villain, we use ours for good—preserving the past and looking forward to the future.
See, at our Irvine, California-based R&D office, we have more than 70 cars pocketed throughout one of just two known basements in the city and throughout the ground-level building. All of the cars in it are priceless to us—the first three MX-5 Miatas ever seen publicly in 1989, numerous concept cars, the 10 millionth Mazda sold in the U.S.—a 2013 Mazda3 Touring, for your information—the only left-hand-drive 2002 RX-7 Spirit R in the world and numerous others. They’re representative of how this automaker from Hiroshima has left its impact on North America for the last 50 years, which is why some choice enthusiast cars never sold here aren’t top priority for the collection.
Tucked in the far corner of the basement and covered in at least 15 years of dust that we have documentation for, we had a 1992 Mazda 929 sedan. All in all, it’s a fairly innocuous, conservative large sedan as one might see from a Japanese company in the early 1990s, costing just shy of $50,000 in today’s dollars when adjusting for inflation. Checking some of the price guides online, it’s worth about $3,000 now, despite having just 2,600 miles on its odometer.
And it’s no longer down in the far reaches of the basement because we’re restoring it back to new. Why?
With our reinvigorated drive toward delivering premium experiences from behind the wheel with vehicles like the all-new 2016 CX-9 Signature and 2017 MX-5 RF, it’s important to note that we’ve been here before. We’ve sold premium cars like the 1967 Cosmo Sport 110S, the RX-7 and the Millenia. In the early 1990s, Mazda was even going to create its own premium brand for North America—Amati. In the Japanese market, Mazda got there much quicker with its Efini and Eunos brands.
Ultimately, Amati didn’t come to fruition, but its products did in the form of the Millenia and rotary-powered Eunos Cosmo luxury coupe sold in Japan.
In fact, the only would-be Amati vehicle to forego production for some part of the world was to have been a peculiar full-size, V12-powered super luxury sedan called the Amati 1000. The engine was to be based on the same architecture as the micro-V6 found in the MX-3 sports coupe. The chassis was to be shared with, you guessed it, the 929.
According to engineers at Mazda who worked on the Amati 1000, it sounded like a jet fighter. It was a luxurious, if staid, competitor in the quickly burgeoning luxury market. But then, there was a recession, and the program was pulled, despite dealers being stocked with piles of marketing literature for its impending inception.
Still, if there’s anything to be learned about Mazda, it’s that our “Never Stop Challenging” racing mantra carries over in our production vehicles. Mazda is a brand for those who aspire to drive more than a common conveyance; vehicles engineered to thrill and delight.
As we dug out the 929 from the basement—a car we believe to have been used for ad shoots back in the day—we found receipts for parts that were ordered for it in 2000 and never installed during someone else’s attempt to get the car back on the road. When our head service shop technician drained its gas pan, he said the 20-year-old gas in the tank had congealed into a turpentine-like substance. But he replaced the gas, and after a while, the car fired right up. Next stops are for tires, a new windshield and sourcing discontinued parts that were likely poached for design inspiration and never returned. I digress.
As Mazda enters its next-generation of aspirational cars and crossovers, it’s important to remember the company’s roots are as much with humble vehicles like the GLC hatchback as they are with poster candy like the MX-5 and RX-Vision concept.
Restoring the 929 was just a fun excuse for a history lesson for us to show we’re more than prepared to reenter a higher class of vehicle, thanks to our SKYACTIV-generation vehicles and KODO—Soul of Motion design aesthetic. If all goes to plan, the 929’s first public outing should be September 24 at the Japanese Classic Car show in Long Beach, California.
Next on the wish list is sourcing an Amati V12 prototype engine from Mazda Corporation in Japan.
Jacob Brown, the author of this article, is the product communications specialist for Mazda North American Operations’ PR department. If you can’t tell, he also has a thing for old, obscure, yet historically significant, cars.