The cars we loved.
During a time when the term Pocket Rocket referred to small supped up cars, Mazda’s entry into a crowded field stood out. In a typical Mazda way, quirky technology combined with solid engineering came together to produce the short lived 323 GTX.
Based on the recent 323 which replaced the GLC in 1986, the GTX was packed with big technology in a very small package. Just before the GTX, Mazda produced a sporty model of the 323 sedan simply called the 323 GT. It had most of the technology that would later go into the GTX, except for all-wheel drive. It was available for one model year. Mazda decided to change direction and develop a car with performance similar to Audi’s 4000s while enhancing Mazda’s performance image on the track and in the showroom.
Typically, cars being raced In FIA’s Group A were slightly larger sedans like Mitsubishi’s Galant and Audi’s Quattro. Mazda took the unconventional step of entering a subcompact by American standards (compact in the rest of the world) into Group A events. The 3 door hatchback that resulted had all-wheel drive with a center locking differential, disc brakes all round and was motivated by a turbo 1.8 L DOHC inline four. The U.S. bound cars had 132hp, while Japanese market versions featured a larger turbo with 163 hp.
The rally-inspired suspension held up a car loaded with power windows, sunroof, digital dash, sport seats and a 5 speed manual transmission – all while managing to stay well under 2800 lbs.
These are rare cars by all accounts. If you are lucky enough to find one that has not been molested, raced, or rusting, expect to pay 4 to 5k or more. The 323 GTX did not evolve into it’s next generation in America but it went on in the rest of the world. I’ve always wondered why cars like this never seemed to stay around for long. I guess it accomplished it’s mission of changing perceptions of Mazda’s performance capabilities in America while whetting our appetite for the Miata that soon followed.