Cohort Sighting: Mazda AP Cosmo – Rotary Relic

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Only one picture exists of this find by canadiancatgreen, but it’s luckily of its more visually interesting posterior aspect, showing off both its roll-down opera window and hockey stick taillights. No, it’s certainly not a beautiful car, but as an example of one of Mazda’s most legendary nameplates, it deserves some attention (though its preservation seems completely accidental).

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My understanding was that these were sold as RX-5s, but apparently all North American variants were badged Cosmo, just like this Canadian example.  According to the testing listed in this ad, which credits NSU and Wankel for the rotary engine design, it offered 34 mpg on the highway–a wildly optimistic figure.  Buyers must’ve had a more realistic understanding of the Wankel engine, because the fuel crisis torpedoed Mazda’s fortunes in the US.  The RX-5/Cosmo, introduced in 1975, was therefore quite unpopular.

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In Japan, where it could be directly linked to the (more than merely) gorgeous Cosmo sports car, it enjoyed more success despite being a plush cruiser with very little in common with its namesake.  Outside Japan, the rotary would continue in the RX-7, whose lightweight and performance focus justified high fuel consumption, but North Americans would never see the likes of the RX5/Cosmo again.  Hiroshima would continue to make more rotary Cosmos, however.

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The Brougham-y cues seen on our feature car would give way to a more high-tech aesthetic and turbo power for 1981-1989, but the space-age lounge theme would continue to define the Cosmo until its 1996 discontinuation.


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If the ultra ’70s and ’80s cars challenge conventional notions of good taste (check out the cassette deck and chunky memory buttons), the final Cosmo was much more traditionally elegant.

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Introduced in 1990, exclusively with sequential twin-turbocharged rotary power, it would be available not only with the twin-rotor 13B as seen in the famously manic 1993 RX7, but also with a two-liter three-rotor making 300 horsepower and lb-ft of torque.

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At the time of its intro, it shocked foreign journalists with its performance and amenities.  A very far cry from the featured car, no doubt, but as an upmarket Japanese offering sent home and re-imagined for domestic consumption in a bubble economy, this sort of evolution was perfectly natural.  Very different times, indeed.

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As the picture of this lowered example suggests, many have been imported by enthusiasts to such places as Canada, Australia and Russia where they are enjoyed (or often abused) today.  Americans similarly interested in maintaining a sequential twin-turbo triple rotor will be able to import these cars starting in the coming year.

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This obscure piece of ’70s kitsch, however, is the closest we can get to that kind of magic today.  For those so interested, a number of upgrades from the RX-7 are available.  Good thing parts are available through that avenue, as this Cosmo is rare enough that I stumbled across another feature about the exact same car, apparently listed for sale about a month ago at about $2,300.  The listing’s since been taken down, meaning this piece of Japanese esoterica has likely found a life elsewhere.  May it live long and prosper.

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Related reading:

CC Outtake: The Real Mazdastang

From The Cohort Cornucopia: 1978 Mazda 929L – The Japanese Brougham That Was Denied To Americans

Curbside Classic: 1991 Mazda 929S – It’s As Big As A Cadillac!

Cohort Sighting: Eunos Cosmo (Mazda) – The Only Triple-Rotor Rotary Engine Production Car