Some people will give the weirdest things to charity.
The rotary pickup is one of those oddities that can only come along whenever a group of companies are going through their “experimental” phase and trying to figure out what goes best with what else. I like to imagine that the Japanese auto industry in the early ‘70s was like this–just a bunch of companies trying to one-up one another with industry first after industry first that would keep going on producing ever more different and interesting cars until the bottom fell out of the Japanese economy in the early ‘90s.
The Mazda Rotary Pickup symbolizes what I mean perfectly. It was created as the world’s first rotary pickup. This means at one point there was a meeting where somebody proposed this idea, why he thought it was innovative and good, and why should the company produce it, and then everyone embraced the concept with open arms–not thinking for a second that a rotary engine is perhaps the worst possible way to power a pickup truck. A rotary engine is a very cool powerplant provided you know that you can’t treat it like a normal engine (and it’s amazing in a petite sports car meant to driven spiritedly everywhere). But on a car that needs lots of low-end grunt to move things to and from, it’s actually rather hopeless. The only worse place I could imagine a rotary engine is on a bus. Wait a minute…
Our featured pickup is a one-owner early-1974 model that has been classified by the charity auction as a “4-cylinder rotary”, while in reality it has the well-known Mazda 13B in its original iteration. It shows 66,296 miles on the odo, and the body has the expected wear and tear from its age and intended purpose. The interior wiring is a mess but otherwise the cabin is nicely upholstered and seems quite cozy, although taller drivers may find the word “cramped” more appropriate. Well, at least you have some lovely wood trim to keep you company. Less appealing is what’s in the center console position:
An automatic. As if the rotary was not already ill-suited for this application, it has been hooked up to a power-sucking torque converter. I don’t think you can find a worse engine-and-gearbox combo this side of a two-stroke engine that has for some reason has been mated to a Powerglide. Nevertheless, if you just want to enjoy a very interesting piece of history, or if you want to say you’ve owned a vehicle that is unique (and give some money to a worthy cause to boot), the listing is here. Chances are it’ll be great fun and an interesting conversation starter–just pay close attention to the weight of whatever you haul.