The cars we loved.
Now here’s one that you don’t hear much about or even see that often. When the Mazda Cosmo was offered in the US market from 1976 to 78′ not that many people saw it then either. At $8,000 ( in Super Custom trim), it was more than most buyers were willing to pay for a Japanese car. A new 1977 Corvette by comparison cost about the same and featured V8 power. The Cosmo aspired to Cordoba, Monte Carlo and Torino territory but fell short with it’s poor timing in the US market. The domestic competition was larger with big traditional V8’s and sixes vs. the Cosmo’s odd Wankel rotory. Being luxuriously appointed did not seem to help as Americans perferred their luxury big. Despite it’s impressive 110hp and 34 mpg rating, it was not what American buyers perceived as a true personal luxury coupe. The Cosmo was more in-line with the Mitsubishi sourced Plymouth Arrow and other emerging imports costing thousands less.
Dispite it plight in the marketplace, the Cosmo was much more advanced than comparable cars being offered by the Big Three. It’s 5 speed manual transmission, independent front and multilink rear suspension was not a everyday spec on a Monte Carlo. There was a version of the Cosmo called the 800 that had a piston inline six rated at 100hp. It sold no better and did nothing to advance the cause of Cosmo in America. In an effort to look more “American”, one version of the Cosmo called the Limited resembled the then downsized Ford Mustang Ghia or the Chevy Monza coupe.
Mazda might have tried too hard to make this car more like an American personal luxury coupe and less like the frugal, sporty and fun to drive cars it was know for in the past. The odd ” B” pillar was similar to what might have been seen on a Chrysler Cordoba. There was even a landau vinyl top option that mirrored the baroque styling of domestic cars.
In some ways Mazda may have been ahead of it’s time, by selling a luxurious GT car in a market that was not ready to associate Japanese cars with luxury and the prices it demanded. That was enough to doom the Cosmo. After 1978, the Cosmo was no longer sold in the US, although it continued in Japan and other markets. Ironically Mazda never caught on as a luxury car builder in America, even as Honda and Toyota eventually established their own luxury brands.