Curbside Classic: 1990 Mazda 929S – It’s As Big As A Cadillac!

(first posted 8/30/2011)    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 first generation 929 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 next generation was sold here as the RX-5 Cosmo coupe, but I don’t think there was a sedan/wagon counterpart. But then my Mazda early history is getting a bit fuzzy.

Especially with the next generation (3), as I’m hard pressed to find information as to whether this was sold here or not. You would think so, given its very Americanized looks.

I do remember some of these gen 4 929s around, or am losing it? Mid-sized Japanese sedans of this vintage were a pretty boring bunch, and my attention span for them was a bit limited. Maybe there’s some experts out there to clear up this 929 genealogy, in case mine is lacking.

Anyway, the 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.

Mazda 1992 929

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.

And don’t miss Don Andreina’s incredible history of the design development of the original 1966 Mazda Luce.