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