When we were interviewing South Ogden’s A.B. Hadley on the most expensive car problems, they also talked a bit about the interesting history of Mazda, a car brand they love working on. Mazda is an old company; one of the oldest in the industry, in fact. Just this year, they celebrated their 100 year anniversary by releasing two special edition cars. Such an old company is bound to have some interesting things about them, so why don’t we take some time to look over the most interesting facts of Mazda’s colorful history?
1. It Didn’t Start With Cars
That’s right, one of the oldest car companies in the world didn’t get its start in cars. It was originally founded in January of 1920 as Toyo Cork Kogyo Co. Ltd, in Hiroshima, Japan. It sold artificial corks to the Japanese military during World War 1. It also had a side-business of producing limited-run motorcycles for races. The motorcycles weren’t very well received at first, and the cork market quickly dried up after the war ended. It wasn’t until 1927 that they began to focus on auto-production full-time. Even then, it took one of their motorcycles winning a major race in 1930 for them to receive real recognition as a quality company.
2. Their First Major Success Was A Three-Wheeled Truck
You heard me right, there. Mazda (still bearing the name Toyo Kogyo, dropping “cork” since they no longer produced them) started by making trucks. Their biggest early success was the Mazda-Go, a three-wheeled truck. This success was so big that they produced nothing but this model of truck until the end of World War 2 in 1945. They wouldn’t produce a “normal” truck until 1958, which they called “The Romper.”
3. They Didn’t Build Passenger Cars Until 1960
Given they’re known for their cars, it’s funny to think that they didn’t produce a single one for the first forty years of their existence. The Mazda R360 was a small, rear-engine, four-seat coup. The next two models of cars came in 1962 with the Carol 360 and Carol 600, a two-door and four-door pair of sedans.
4. Mazda Has Victories No Other Car Company Can Boast
In 1991, Mazda won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, also called the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency, with their Mazda 787B. This gave them a couple of unique honors. They are the only Japanese manufacturer to ever win this race. It is also the only car in the history of the race to win using a rotary engine.
5. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records
In 2000, Mazda made it into the Guinness Book of World Records with their Mazda MX-5. This car was the highest selling two-seater sports car at the time and it held this record for 4 straight years. Over a million MX-5s have been sold since the line started production in 1989.
100 Year Legacy
Mazda has been around for 100 years now. Their history is as fascinating as their cars are successful. These are just a few of the most fascinating facts about the company, but it merely scratches the surface. That storied and colorful history is only going to get moreso as it continues into the 21st century and it will be interesting to see where they go from here.