NEWS: Mazda restores a BD Familia hatchback

In 2015 Mazda launched an in-house restoration program of a 1967 Cosmo Sport. With a key goal of providing its younger employees with a connection to the company’s heritage, it resulted in the world’s most definitive restoration of an L10A Cosmo. Furthermore, it launched a series of restorations in the lead-up to Mazda’s 100th anniversary next year. March marked the official completion and unveiling of the penultimate restoration job, that of a fifth-generation Familia.

Launched in 1980, the fifth-gen type BD Familia was a revolutionary vehicle for Mazda. It was the first Familia — in fact the first Mazda — to sport a modern FF (front engine, front wheel drive) layout. Like its spiritual successor, the recently launched type BP Axela/Mazda3, the BD Familia incorporated many advanced and class-leading features. Examples include four wheel independent suspension, a 4-2-1 exhaust system similar to that on Mazda’s modern SkyActiv engines optimizing both performance and efficiency, and a full-function sliding sunroof. All of this wrapped in a crisp and modern design made for a recipe for success.

And successful it was. Launched at a time when the world was facing the second oil crisis, the efficient, spunky, well-built, and affordable Familia immediately won the Japanese Car of the Year award, not to mention numerous other awards around the world. It was so well-received among the buying public, it reached a total production of one million in a mere 27 months. It would not be a stretch to say that fans of the FC, FD, Miatas, Eunos Cosmo and the like have this great little car to thank.

The BD’s legacy and importance in Mazda history is thus well-deserved, a fact recognized and embraced by the company. Perhaps somewhat coincidental to Mazda’s modern signature Soul Red, this particular project car left the factory wearing Sunrise Red, also a signature color in period. A 3-door high spec XG model, it had a sliding sunroof, aluminum wheels, and the 1.5-liter SOHC E5 engine in its highest initial tune putting out 85PS. Fuel injection and turbocharging would later join the lineup (albeit mostly in the home market), providing more power to the approximately 1800-pound car.

With 250,000km on the chassis, the project car was stripped down to the body shell and given a complete repaint in the original color. From there on, a core group of 16 people divided into vehicle and powertrain teams worked on the 10-month restoration project. When possible, the original parts were cleaned, reconditioned, or repaired; otherwise, parts were either reproduced or sourced for alternatives with the help of around 60 outside vendors.

As with the previous restoration projects, Mazda brought in some local Hiroshima high school students to share the experience and get them addicted early. The beautifully restored Familia was unveiled at a ceremony at Mazda headquarters in Hiroshima on March 26.

The final episode of this “One Mazda Restore Project” — likely already underway — is that of a type GA truck. The 5-vehicle restoration will culminate with Mazda’s 100th anniversary in 2020. In recent years, Japanese carmakers have been paying increasing attention to its historical vehicles: Mazda launching the Roadster Restore program, Nissan brining back parts support for the Skyline GT-R, and Toyota showcasing the extensive history of its Crown through the Discover Crown Spirit Project. We can’t say we’re complaining! It’s about time. There’s much history and heritage to celebrate, enjoy, and show to the world.

Photo credit Mazda

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8 Responses to NEWS: Mazda restores a BD Familia hatchback

  1. GeorgeL says:

    “It would not be a stretch to say that fans of the FC, FD, Miatas, Eunos Cosmo and the like have this great little car to thank.”

    I see what you did there! In the US, this car was known as the Mazda GLC, which stood for “Great Little Car.” A little Easter Egg for your readers!

    Well done, Mazda, it’s time the Japanese manufacturers started focusing on their classic models. As classic Japanese cars continue to gain interest, the need for restoration parts will increase.

  2. Scotty G says:

    I wish we would have had a program like this when I was in school. My wife had a 1988 “323” and it was a great car other than two blown head gaskets. I would love to have another one.

  3. Mark Newton-John says:

    Uh, penultimate means next to last… Not more ultimate than ultimate.

    • GeorgeL says:

      The way it reads to me is this is the second-to-last restoration in the series of restorations being done and that there will be one more.

    • Dave says:

      That is correct. This is the next-to-last restoration in the series, the last one being that of a type GA to be unveiled next year, as mentioned in the article.

    • Mark Newton-John says:

      Ah, I stand corrected.
      Sumimasendeshita. ?

  4. Luke says:

    I own a ’84 Mazda GLC sedan. It has been a slow modification/restoration project. It’s great to see this complete restoration done by the company that made it originally. This car is now probably the most valuable Mazda BD around. The BD was a great car. Unfortunately many of them, if not most, have been used to death and have went to become scrap metal.

  5. nthuZis1 says:

    I actually bought a red ’81 5 spd GLC for $650 in 1991. I was 19 yrs old, just hired at my current place of employment, and moving out of my parents house into my first apartment. Great Little Car is correct! Sipped gas. Unaffected by snow. Ended up selling it a year or so later. Who knew I’d be regretting selling that little car 28 years later!

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