(first posted 8/30/2011. updated 3/12/2022) Talk about role reversal. Who in in 1975 or 1980 could have predicted that within a few years Mazda would be selling cars as big as a DeVille? Cadillac’s remarkable shrinking act in 1985 had a number of unforeseen consequences, especially since the rest of the world wasn’t exactly following their (tiny) footsteps. Not only did a Lincoln Town Car suddenly look that much bigger, but otherwise rather mundane cars like this Mazda 929 suddenly found themselves being as big (or bigger) that the DeVille, once the most regal barge in the land. Ironic indeed, especially for Japanese companies that only ten years earlier were sending us tiny little hatchbacks? It probably wasn’t part of a grand scheme, but cars like the 929 did play their part in the downfall of the house of Cadillac.
The 929 was one of the names used for Mazda’s Luce family, one that got a very handsome start in 1966 with the original Luce 1500. Don Andreina did an incredible deep dive on the stylistic origins of this lovely sedan; don’t miss it. The Luce was sold as the Mazda 1800 in the US only very briefly, in 1970-1971, and I cannot ever remember seeing one in the US, even in Southern California. Very few must have made it here, but I did see one in Vienna in 1969, and was quite smitten by it.
The next generation Luce was sold as the rotary-engined RX-4 here, although its fuel-slurping ways weren’t didn’t exactly in sync with the first energy crisis.
The sedans and wagons were fairly common, an it seems like only yesterday that I saw some still on the street. “Seems” is not always the most objective criteria.
The piston engine version was called the 929, and sold in Europe and other markets where the high fuel consumption of the RX4’s rotary made it difficult to sell.
The very American-looking front end on this gen4 Luce/929 sedan was one of several that graced this generation. It was substantially larger than its predecessor.
In 1981, the HB generation arrived, and it too was not sold in the US.
But this featured HC generation Mazda 929 arrived in the US in 1988, a couple of years after its Japanese introduction as the fourth generation Mazda Luce/929. It had grown with each generation, and was now 194″ long, almost exactly the same as the 1985 DeVille. Unlike the DeVille, it maintained its traditional RWD format, and a 3.0 liter V6.
Similar to the Toyota Cressida, the 929 was in every way almost the polar opposite of the Cadillac. Low key and almost invisible in traffic, these cars were very solidly built, and I’m not aware of any shortcomings with them. Hardly exciting, but not having the many problems that many GM cars of the era were having can be just the right kind of unexciting some folks were looking for at the time.
Interiors were also solid, and cars like the 929 enhanced the reputation Japanese cars had, in their quiet, unassuming ways. And laid the foundations for their assault into the luxury segment of the market.
This 929 is a later S version, which had DOHC heads and some 190 hp. Quite capable for the times, if not exactly awe-inspiring performance.
The 929 built the first step towards Mazda’s ambitious and failed Amati luxury brand, of which the next generation 929 was to have been the first model. But that’s another story, told here by Brendan Saur.