Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Two Brothers and Their Cosmo

In the late 1960s, Japan was making great strides in recovering its pre-war industrial glory. However, abroad, and especially in the West, Japanese products were still thought of as cheap, poorly built, and just plain crap.

Two brothers in Japan, one in his early 20s, the other a few years older, pooled their life savings together and realized that they did not have enough to buy the ultimate Japanese sports car-- the Toyota 2000GT. So they bought the next best thing, the Mazda Cosmo. At $4,100 U.S., it was a lot of money for two underemployed men in what was essentially still a third world country. Suspicions that their parents chipped in for the car are probably accurate. Not much else is known about these two guys and their Cosmo.

What is less of a mystery is the Cosmo itself. It was the first Mazda fitted with a two-rotor Wankel engine. Mazda bought the rights to produce and develop the rotary engine from NSU of Gemany (a story for another blog). It had an astronomical (for its day) 7000 rpm redline and dubious reliability. To this day, Mazda has yet to come up with a durable, non-fussy, rotary engine.

The Cosmo, with a 92 1/2 inch wheelbase, had a cramped two-seat interior. The unusually tall brothers found it hard to drive, or sit in the passenger seat, comfortably. The 982 cc rotary engine produced an impressive 110 horsepower and 96 pound feet of torque. It was quick because it weighed just a tad over a ton.

The controversial design of the car certainly attracted attention for the brothers who owned the Cosmo. They probably enjoyed every moment of it. It also helped that the Cosmo was ultra-rare-- only one was built per day at Mazda's Hiroshima factory.

In writing and researching this, I have become more curious about these two brothers and their Cosmo. I think the next time I speak to the younger brother, I'm going to ask, "So, dad, what can you tell me about the Cosmo that you and your brother owned?"



Alan said...

How did I miss this?

Great story! Please update us.

Maxichamp said...

@Alan: I'll try to get pictures when I visit pops this October. He's not into cars anymore, although he is still knowledgeable.

My uncle died about ten years ago. His son is really into cars. I'll be going to Suzuka with him. In fact, his wife used to be a grid girl/booth professional for Lotus Japan!