The island nation of Japan is covered in mountains, with roads curved around the topography. Where the creation of interstate highways in the 1950s and ‘60s drove the U.S. automakers to create large, wafting cars, Japan’s real estate necessitated smaller, lighter, nimbler cars to tackle its terrain.
Those lightweight, efficient in poise and purpose, cars shaped Mazda into what it is today. And while Mazda’s cars have improved with the technologies and progress they’ve enjoyed over the last nearly 50 years in North America, their tenacity to tackle any winding road has never changed.
That’s why Mazda sponsored the third annual Touge California vintage car rally. As a celebration of its heritage and impact both on its home country and in California, where it took off in the U.S.
Vehicles participating in the Touge Rally from Mazda’s Heritage Collection, included a 1978 Rotary Pickup, 1988 RX-7 Turbo II 10th Anniversary Edition, 1995 RX-7 Twin-Turbo and 1992 Eunos Cosmo, a large luxury coupe, powered by a three-rotor, twin-turbocharged engine.
As 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Mazda’s revolutionary Wankel rotary engine first going on sale in the 1967 Cosmo Sport 110S, many of the invitees to this vintage rally were rotary-powered, including RX-2s, RX-3s and RX-7s from the 1970s and 1980s. But, perhaps the crown jewel for the event was the 1972 Cosmo Sport 110S, driven by Myron Vernis of Akron, Ohio, and his passenger, Clayton Davidson of Santa Barbara, California.
The Cosmo Sport was a critical part of Mazda finding its challenger spirit and keeping its independence as an outside-the-box automaker whose path was forged on adding value to the driver through an experience only Mazda could deliver. As Mazda needed to create a unique technology in the quickly burgeoning Japanese economy back in the 1960s, it looked to the West, where the automaker licensed the Wankel rotary.
Snaking from San Diego County back to Mazda’s Irvine, California, R&D offices, about 30 vintage cars from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s climbed the hilly terrain, reminiscent of the Japanese settings from which these cars were born. Each battled through 200 miles, against temperatures that soared as high as 107 degrees Fahrenheit until reaching Irvine by nightfall.
By then, exhausted, yet excited, participants celebrated with revelry—and a food truck, of course—joining together to share their experiences throughout the day.
A private tour of Mazda’s 70-plus car Heritage Collection including concept vehicles, experimental cars and a dozen racecars that had found success in the U.S. and abroad capped off a long fun-filled day.
Celebrating the joy of driving makes sense for Mazda. New or old, classic or showroom fresh, every Mazda vehicle is engineered with the purpose of sharing that joy.