RX-Rated: Mazda’s Early Rotary Cars, Part 2

Between 1971 and 1978, Mazda launched nine new rotary-engined vehicles, including the Capella (Mazda RX-2), Savanna (RX-3), Luce (RX-4), Cosmo (RX-5), and the REPU. By 1979, only three survived and the company had come perilously close to collapse. In the second part of our history of Mazda rotary engines, we take a look at those vehicles and trace Toyo Kogyo’s dramatic reversals of fortune in the 1970s.

1977 Mazda RX-3SP grille badge
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RX-Rated: Mazda’s Early Rotary Cars, Part 1

Mazda has a long history with rotary engines, going back to the Cosmo Sport and R100 of the late 1960s. With the recently announced demise of the RX-8 — the last rotary-engined model still in production — we look back at the origins of the Wankel engine and the history of the early Mazda rotary engine cars: the Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S, Familia Rotary (Mazda R100), and Luce Rotary Coupé (R130).

1971 Mazda R100 coupe badge
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Before the Continental: Edsel Ford’s Speedster

Recently, we were invited to an event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles introducing the newly restored 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster, an aluminum-bodied one-off originally designed by stylist E.T. (Bob) Gregorie for Edsel Ford’s personal use. This week, we explore the history of the 1934 Edsel Ford speedster and its lesser-known predecessor and take a look at Edsel Ford and Bob Gregorie’s role in Ford Motor Company styling.

1934 Ford Special Speedster red tease 2004 Pat McLaughlin per
(Photo © 2004 Pat McLaughlin; used with permission)
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Sainted Swede: The Volvo P1800 and 1800ES

The Swedish automaker Volvo is best known for its solid (and often square) sedans and wagons, but starting in 1961, it also offered a sleek two-door sports coupe called the P1800, best known for its role in the 1960s TV version of The Saint. This week, we look at the origins and evolution of the Volvo P1800, its 1800S and 1800E successors, and its ultimate metamorphosis into a sporty two-door shooting brake, the 1972–1973 Volvo 1800ES.

1967 Volvo 1800S fin 2007 Murilee Martin per
(Photo © 2007 Murilee Martin; used with permission)

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Pillarless Pioneer: The 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera

In mid-1949, GM’s senior divisions introduced a trio of glamorous new models — the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, the Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 Deluxe Holiday coupe, and the Buick Roadmaster Riviera — that are popularly, if incorrectly, considered the first pillarless hardtops. This week, we consider the origins of this quintessentially (though not uniquely) American body style and examine the development of the the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera and the origins of the hardtop coupe.

1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera roof exterior
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Dressed to Kill: The 1954 Kaiser Darrin

The short-lived, fiberglass-bodied Kaiser Darrin was perhaps the most distinctive product of Henry Kaiser’s decade-long adventure in Detroit — it was also one of the last. This week, we look at the birth and death of the Kaiser Darrin, the short history of the Henry J on which it was based, and the final collaboration between the great industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and dashing automotive designer Howard A. “Dutch” Darrin.

1954 Kaiser Darrin grille Pat McLaughlin 2009 per
(Photo © 2009 Patrick McLaughlin; used with permission)
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Changing Winds: The 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow

The streamlined Airflow remains the best known (and most infamous) of all prewar Chryslers, a bold and ambitious engineering achievement that became a notorious commercial flop. This week, we look at the origins and fate of the 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow and its 1934-1936 DeSoto sibling.

1934 Chrysler CU Airflow Eight grille bars © 2007 George Camp per
Grille of a late 1934 Chrysler CU Airflow Eight. (Photo © 2007 George Camp; used with permission)

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The Nine Lives of the Jaguar XJS

The Jaguar XJS, introduced in 1975, remains one of the most controversial models ever to emerge from Browns Lane: a heavyweight GT far removed from its predecessor, the immortal E-type. Nonetheless, it survived for almost 21 years, enduring some of the most tumultuous periods of Jaguar’s history. This week, we look at the development and lengthy evolution of the XJ-S from 1975 to 1996.

1995 Jaguar XJS 4.0 Convertible decklid badge
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Falcons Down Under: The Australian Ford Falcon, Part Two

By 1971, the American Ford Falcon was dead, but the Australian Falcon was still going strong. This week, the second part of our history of the Falcon down under, including the birth of the first all-Australian Falcon, a classic one-two finish on Mount Panorama, and a shot at international movie stardom as we look at the Ford XA Falcon and the subsequent XB, XC, XC Cobra, XD, and XE.

1978 Ford XC Falcon Cobra engine © 2011 John Cox (used with permission)
The engine bay of a 1978 XC Cobra, spotted in Florida in 2011. (Photo © 2011 John Cox; used with permission)
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Falcons Down Under: The Australian Ford Falcon, Part One

While the North American Ford Falcon quietly disappeared in 1970, its Australian counterpart went on to a long and eventful career that continues to this day. This week, we take a look at the birth of the Australian Ford Falcon, including the 1960-1972 XK, XL, XM, XP, XR, XT, XW, and XY Falcon, the Falcon GT, and the beginnings of a storied racing career.

1960 Ford XK Falcon brochure Ford
A 1960 dealer brochure for the XK Falcon sedan. (Image: Ford Motor Company)
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