A brief background first. In February 2015, a group of twenty young Mazda employees in Japan embarked on a volunteer project to restore the Cosmo. It was meant as an exercise to pass the torch of Mazda’s heritage and legacy to the next generation. There is perhaps no better way to achieve this than a thorough and first-hand examination of the craftsmanship that underlie the Cosmo Sport, a car embodies the Mazda Spirit.
Along the way, the project grew to involve many departments company-wide, outside suppliers that originally sourced components for the Cosmo Sport, and even a group of Hiroshima-area high school students. The crew disassembled the Cosmo and meticulously examined the parts to get an appreciation of the manufacturing craft that went into Mazda’s halo car—one that introduced to the world its revolutionary and signature rotary engine.
From careful examination, the crew identified over 250 parts to be replaced. Many of these are long out of production, so they decided to fabricate them from scratch. Though the project had the backing of the Mazda mothership and myriad detailed drawings and spec sheets, it was still an arduous process of trial-and-error, the perfect challenge for the Mazda takumi.
Takumi is perhaps best translated as an artisan craftsman, one who continues to hone his or her skills. One such Mazda takumi on the restoration team is young Fujishima-san, a veteran of the National Technical Skills Olympics in Japan. Fujishima is an expert hand at bending steel, which is not as trivial as you may think. Steel expands and contracts at the bend, making precision work difficult. Fujishima’s skill was much needed here, as much of the Cosmo’s body and frame components were damaged and had to be fabricated to a tolerance of 0.5 mm.
Such was the year-long challenge (and, we suspect, fun!) of the project. The finished product — one of the most exquisitely restored early type Cosmo Sports in the world — was finally unveiled as part of Mazda Open Day 2016, an event that took place at Mazda’s Hiroshima headquarters on January 31 just in time for the company’s 96th anniversary. The Cosmo’s completion ceremony was attended by 150 people involved in the restoration, from employees to suppliers.
The Open Day itself was a big event, with various expositions and tours of Mazda’s facilities. There was also a Jinba Ittai test drive and, for those not old enough to drive, a Mazda R/C Car Grand Prix. It was an event for young and old, layperson and car enthusiast alike. The restored Cosmo Sport was icing on the cake.
So has the youths in Mazda taken up its spirit and heritage? How else would you explain what these kids are up to next: the restoration team is now embarking on a new project, an R360 Coupé.
Photos courtesy of Mazda.