Techno Tokyo: 1987 Mazda 626 Sedan Turbo

There was once a time when the race to the best-selling family sedan was a wide open field. Any car could become what the Camry and Accord have become today (which, sadly, isn't saying much, with their bland styling, simplistic front-wheel drive, poor styling and high prices). Mazda's effort was their surprisingly bold 626.

The Mark 2 "GC" generation 626 was only sold from 1983-1987. U.S. versions received slightly longer bumpers but the design was mostly unchanged. Although they were front-wheel drive, Mazda refreshingly mixed things up by offering turbocharging, four-wheel steering and a range of body styles.

This particular example is a later '87 four door "GT". The rear has a "Turbo" badge and a shot of the engine shows the turbocharger. You just don't see these anymore. The Mark 2 626 is an example of a style I like to call "80s Mod". Although the Italians were masters of this design trend, the Japanese tapped into it briefly in the first half of the decade. Shapes are angular, lines are straight and clean and predictable, and yet there is something edgy and weird about it, like the off-center Mazda logo on the front-grille and the rare headlight washers. It's a conservative design yet can barely conceal a quirky spirit underneath.

Inside, things get even more interesting. The instrumentation is in a orange-mustard yellow color. There are buttons everywhere. The stereo offers a ton of modulation options. Next to the steering wheel there there is a small diagram of the profile of a car titled "Auto Adjusting Suspension" with the options of "sport" "manual" or "auto". Below that is an aftermarket-looking device that says "Ionizer". Air purifer?

Above the rear view mirror is this amazing miniature monitor with an aerial diagram of the car in cross hairs. What is this thing? Telescope? Alert center? Traffic radar? Target sighter?

The seller says the car was donated. Just who was the previous owner? A Japanese nuclear scientist? They say it's "fairly well equipped" (more like to the hilt), has a 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission and 204,934 miles. Cosmetically, they say the cloth seats are in good shape but need a conditioning. Outside, the paint is clearly fading and they say it has a few dings and dents. Mechanically, they say it is unfortunately not running due to an electrical problem.

This thing has loads of forgotten technology. Mazda was clearly appealing to pocket calculator-carrying tech-heads, and the previous owner may have added even more cool stuff as a bonus. Does any of it work? Who knows, but it's the effort Mazda put into bringing the consumer the most buttons and switches possible that I find admirable. It's not just the presence of adjustable suspension on a mid-level car, it's the idea of having the ability to choose that makes cars like this so liberating and illuminating in hindsight.

Available here on ebay in Orange, California with 17 bids at $400 and no reserve.

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