1977 Mazda Cosmo: Tokyo Thunderbird?

Here’s my left field post for today. What is this, Klockau? No Electra? No Town Coupe, no Mark, no Cutlass Supreme? Nope. Today we have here a rare birdie, a Japanese personal luxury car, the Mazda Cosmo.

It’s like an alternate reality, where the domestic US cars kept making Plymouth Cranbrooks, Ford Customs and Chevrolet Del Rays thru the 1970s, while Japan went full zoot Broughamance with opera windows, velour, and 8-track Quadrasonic stereos. With CB.

These were not common in the US, even when new, but I spied this one last summer on craigslist. I have a couple of “World Cars” annual hardbound books, one from 1975 and one from 1978, so I did know of these (highly recommend those books too, I especially loved the home-market Japanese, Australian and South African cars, familiar yet so different), but this was the first time I saw one for sale.

The ad is of course long gone now, but naturally I had to save the pictures to “The Vault.” I believe the car was running but needed some not-unexpected TLC and was in the Pacific NW. While not pristine, it appeared in fair complete condition, though the interior looked a little tatty. But hey, crushed velour!

The Cosmo originated in the 1967 tiny sport coupe, powered by the Wankel engine (you’ve probably seen pictures of Jay Leno’s car). They were really cool. I’ve always liked them, and have a vintage Tomica diecast version my dad got me one recent Christmas and a recent Hot Wheels edition as well.

To look at that original, gorgeous little honey, and see its successor…this. Well. Emissions and safety happened over those ten years, ha ha.

But I still find this one interesting. The nose kind of reminds me of a mid ’70s Holden Statesman de Ville/Caprice, while the roofline suggests 1977-79 “basket handle” Thunderbird, though the Mazda appeared two years earlier, in 1975.

There was also a Landau version (this red example is the fastback version) that looked remarkably like a Chevrolet Monza Towne Coupe in profile, though I believe the Cosmo was a larger car. Note: This car was also referred to as the Mazda 121 in certain markets, as seen on the green one above.

But I like the fastback more. I seem to recall that opera window sandwiched between the door glass and rear quarter window actually rolled down, a cool feature.

As with its now highly valued ’67 elder brother, this version (dubbed “CD” internally) had Mazda’s famous rotary engine under the hood-though the coupe was available with conventional piston engines too, although it wasn’t clear from my brief armchair research in which markets-Mazda is not in my common-knowledge bailiwick, ha ha. This was Mazda’s luxury coupe, and while it had a lot in common with the more plebian Luce under the skin, it was bigger and heavier, with all its velour and power appointments. Fun fact. This car was sold from 1976 to 1978 in the US as Mazda’s line topper. Guess what replaced it in 1979. A much more familiar face, the classic original RX-7 sports coupe.

Hopefully she got rescued. I like it. It’s cool. And there can’t be many of these in the States!

14 Replies to “1977 Mazda Cosmo: Tokyo Thunderbird?”

  1. TL

    My uncle had one of these and a 1975 Rotary pickup that he bought new in Japan right before the navy shipped him back to the states. In the late 80’s my parents bought the truck, which later became my first vehicle. I college I almost bought the Cosmo, but decided to replace the blown engine in the truck instead. Both were odd vehicles beyond just having rotary engines.

    • David A

      As a kid in the 70s, the first Mazda I really took notice of was the rotary pickup. The few I saw on the streets of Atlanta seemed to burn oil and the tailgates were often black with carbon (from oil or running rich). I agree that they were odd vehicles.

      • TL

        Never had a problem with carbon smoke on mine, but I could see a case for carb issues happening. The 13B engine in the trucks had a vacuum actuated 4 barrel carb which was complex and prone to flooding the engine on starup.

  2. Sal Darigo

    Hi Tom! Haven’t seen you around lately… Another great writeup. These 5/8 scale broughams are fantastic. All the floss in a tiny package. I love it!

  3. JMcG

    My mom had an RX-3 Station Wagon that spent more time broken down by the side of the Schuylkill Expressway than it did running. I was too young to have any idea what the problem was, but it seemed like any time the weather got hot, you only had maybe fifteen or twenty minutes of running before it quit.
    I love those triple rotor cars that Mazda ran at LeMans for a while. And of course, Norton had rotary-engined motorcycles that the police in London used to ride.
    Thanks, Tom – you’re a treasure.

    • aircooledTOM

      The Schuylkill Expy is not the ideal place to be broken down. I drive it nearly every day. It can be fun at off hours and triple digits, but commuting hours on the Schuylkill are extremely scary. I can’t imagine breaking down on that particular chunk of highway.

      • dejal

        Only been on it once. As a passenger. That was 1 time too much. What’s causing the backup??? And never finding out why.

      • JMcG

        That was around 72 or 73. Wasn’t much better then. I’m only on it once or twice a year these days. That’s plenty. Good luck to you.

  4. Colin

    My dad told me once, after one (to many?) of my elementary “I want that!” proclamations at a car meet, that I needed to learn how to appreciate things, that I didn’t have to own everything. This, much like his admonishment that women were not to be objectified, takes some learning. Mr. Klockau seems to have some skill in this department.

  5. bluebarchetta

    I’m 49, and I like Mazdas. I’ve seen RX-2s and 3s and 4s and REPUs and of course more RX-7s than I can count, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Cosmo in the flesh. Thanks for posting.

    That banjo steering wheel would look nice in my Miata.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.