Mazda celebrates 100th anniversary of the company’s founding in Japan

Rotary engines, motorsport victories and record-setting sports cars mark a century of innovation

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2017
More MIatas has been sold than any other two-seat sports car in history | ClassicCars.com

As Mazda celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding, here are a few tidbits from the Japanese automaker’s history:

It started as a Hiroshima cork manufacturer until it was taken over in 1921 by industrialist Jujiro Matsuda, who transformed Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. into a machine tool producer.

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Mazda started vehicle production with the Mazda-Go during the 1930s | Mazda

Its first vehicle was not an automobile but a three-wheeled motorcycle/truck named Mazda-Go that went into production in 1931 and continued throughout the 1930s.

As the Second World War ended, manufacturing resumed in Hiroshima only a few months after the atomic bombing. 

Its first passenger car, the tiny R360, debuted in 1960. 

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The 1960 R360 was Mazda’s first passenger car | Mazda

Mazda became a major manufacturer of rotary-engine vehicles after it signed a licensing deal in 1961 with NSU of Germany for the Felix Wankel design, and then succeeded in ironing out the engine’s flaws to power thousands of cars and pickup trucks, culminating in the popular RX-7 and RX-8 sports coupes and convertibles.

The MX-5 Miata, introduced in 1989, has become by far the best-selling two-seat sports car in history, surpassing the one million mark worldwide.

Mazda became the first Asian brand to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1991, and the RX-7 is the winningest GT car in the history of IMSA racing.

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The Cosmo, Mazda’s first rotary-powered vehicle, is now a valued collector car

The century mark was celebrated at company headquarters on Thursday.

“Mazda originated as a company producing cork and then took the path to manufacturing automobiles,” president and chief executive Akira Marumoto told the crowd at the centennial celebration. “Now, our cars have found friends with many customers from over 130 countries and regions.”

The automaker will continue its centennial observance throughout 2020, next with a display at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 1991 Mazda B 2200. Bought it new. Still runs well very dependable. Long box standard. Just what a gardiner needs. Has less then 150000 kms

  2. I have 2 Miatas – a 1989/90 and a 2017 RF. Never a problem , never left me stranded and, in fact, never trailered and never had emergency service. Totally fun and totally reliable. Wonderful car for the ages. Beats my ‘64 MGB anytime!

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