NEWS: Mazda completes restoration of a 1969 Luce Rotary Coupé

Over three years ago, Mazda began restoring some of its landmark vehicles, starting with a 1967 Cosmo Sport. The Restore Program was geared in part towards passing down Mazda’s philosophy and spirit to the next generation of craftsmen and engineers, and in part towards celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Hiroshima company’s founding. Much progress has been made since we last reported on the Restore Program. Significantly, Mazda has now completed what is likely the most definitive restoration of the Luce Rotary Coupé in the world.

As you may know, Luce Rotary Coupé was the third production Mazda vehicle to possess the rotary engine. First shown in 1967 as the RX-87 concept car, it was the grand touring companion to the Cosmo Sport. When it launched in 1969, the top trim Super Deluxe model actually cost more than Mazda’s flagship sports car.

Besides its graceful pillar-less coupe form, the Luce Rotary Coupé has the distinction of being the only rotary Mazda to be front wheel drive. This is especially curious since reciprocating versions of the Luce were rear wheel drive. In a time when front wheel drive was still automotive avant-grade, at least in the marketplace, this car was meant to represent the automobile’s technical forefront.

The Luce Rotary Coupé in question is a 1969 Super Deluxe model, denoted by the gold RX-87 badge mounted fore of the rear wheel well (in contrast to the blue badge for the Deluxe model) as well as the vinyl-covered roof. As with previous iterations of the Restore Program, Mazda invited students from Hiroshima area high schools to share the experience. In the summer of 2017, twenty-two students joined nineteen Mazda employees to carefully disassemble the Luce.

The body of the car was thoroughly cleaned, with its sheetmetal repaired as necessary with the help of Mazda master craftsman Hiroaki Fuchigami. The chassis was similarly reconditioned, while the 13A engine went through a complete tear down and reassembly. It is an exceedingly rare engine, making these high school students some of the luckiest restorers in the world.

Among what makes Mazda’s Restore Program so exceptional is that it involves many of the original suppliers who produced components in-period during the subject vehicle’s production run. For the unobtainable parts that require fabrication, this lends the project unrivaled authenticity. The finished product of this effort was unveiled on March 20th at Mazda’s head office in Hiroshima. All individuals involved were present, and the car was taken on a demonstration run.

Since 2015, the Restore Program has rejuvenated one car per year, with a ’67 Cosmo Sport, ’69 R360 Coupé, and now this exquisite ’69 Luce Rotary Coupé under its belt. For 2018, its subject will be a BD Familia, the front wheel drive compact that did more than its part to revolutionize the market and inject financial vitality into Mazda in the 1980s. Following up on that, the program will restore a Type GA tricycle truck in time for Mazda’s 100th birthday. Stay tuned.

Images courtesy of Mazda

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12 Responses to NEWS: Mazda completes restoration of a 1969 Luce Rotary Coupé

  1. ish said:

    That top picture is cracking me up. Apparently they are all diamond dallas page fans. (I know its for rotary yo) There slav squat is on point as well.

  2. Mark said:

    The RX-87 looks similar to a second generation Corvair in lines and proportions. Not a bad thing.

    • M1abrams said:

      I see that also. Overall a nice design; very Italian.

    • M1abrams said:

      Not sure if Albrecht Goertz supplied designs for Mazda but you can certainly see a lot of Nissan Silvia in that concept car.

      • Negishi no Keibajo said:

        The 1965 Luce show car was a Bertone design by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

        I love the Japanese – Italian collaborations. I’m also fascinated by the whole prototype production industry. The Autozam AZ-1 production prototype was crafted in England.

      • Negishi no Keibajo said:

        I see a lot of Fiat 124 Coupe in it but that was a Pininfarina design by Mario Boano.

  3. j_tso said:

    Lucky teens! The only skill they don’t need for this restoration is hunting for parts.

    Now that I think about it, maybe the R130 was front drive because it’s Mazda’s version of the Ro80.

  4. Luke said:

    I myself own a ’84 Mazda GLC sedan. I am looking forward to the BD Familia restoration. It’s really neat what Mazda is doing.

  5. dave said:

    those are not 13a rotors or housings in those photos.

  6. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    “Type GA tricycle truck in time for Mazda’s 100th birthday. Stay tuned.”

    Awsome!!!! Can’t wait!

  7. Chet Manley said:

    It’s da roc baby!

  8. Nathan said:

    Mazda shows how to preserve automotive history while creating the kind of interest in young people that will help keep it alive in a way few other manufacturers, if any, do. Bravo!

    Having a collection of your company’s old products is great, but not sufficient in and of itself. Mazda goes that extra step.

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