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Mazda Cosmo

Mazda Cosmo 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Mazda Cosmo was the first rotary-engined production car. Dr Felix Wankel's motor was sewing-machine smooth. It was supremely flexible, too. Compromising a tad on top-end power, Mazda put the peripheral inlet ports in the engine casing. That gave more low-down torque. It also provided seamless idling, and improved low-speed fuel economy. Not that the top-end was ignored - the Cosmo's 116mph top speed testified to that. The twin-rotary motor produced 110bhp. Capacity was 2,000cc. But, though small, it had an impressive power-to-weight ratio. It was hooked up to a 4-speed manual 'box. That, in turn, was connected to a DeDion rear axle. Revs maxed out at 7,000rpm. The 'B' model Cosmo - released in '68 - upped those stats to 125mph, from 128bhp.

The Cosmo handled well, too. The DeDion rear suspension set-up was complemented by front wishbones. Steering was agile. The ride was suitably 'firm'. Brakes were top-drawer ... discs up front, drums behind. The 'B' grew a longer wheelbase. It also came with a closer-ratio 5-speed transmission. Between '66 and '72, just 1,176 Cosmos were built. Which implied that this was more of a Mazda work-in-progress, than a grab at the big yen. That would come later - in the form of saloon cars.

In terms of styling, the Cosmo sought to emulate European sports cars of the era. Most notably, the front headlights were pure 'E-Type Jag'! Saying that, the rear light set-up was more radical - the bumper 'splitting' the upper and lower sections. Engine-wise, Mazda would continue to take the rotary route. In time, the high-grossing 'RX7' would prove more than ample reward. The Mazda Cosmo, though, was a tidy iteration of a top Oriental sports car in the making.

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