Part 4: The History of Mazda; About the Mazda RX-8The History of Mazda
The Mazda Motor Corporation is another Japanese car manufacturer represented in the game. The name derives from Ahura Mazda, the Persian-Zoroastrian god, as well as the name of the company's founder, Jujiro Matsuda. Mazda began as a machine tool manufacturer but moved to vehicle production in 1931 after producing the Mazda-Go, as well as producing wepaons for the Japanese military throughout the Second World War. Oddly enough the Mazda name was only formally adopted for the company in 1984, despite ever automobile sold from the beginning bearing the name.
Mazda began producing engines in the 1960s, developing the Wankel rotary engine as a way of differentiating itself from other Japanese auto companies. Mazda has become the sole manufacturer of Wankel-type engines until now, as other companies gave up on the design throughout the late 20th century. This kind of engine actually worked in Mazda's favor, as they had good power and light weight compared to piston-engined competitors that required heavier V6 or V8 engines to produce the same power. Mazda's spirit can basically be captured in their fixation on the rotary engine.
Sadly, the 1973 oil crisis led to buyers looking for cars with better fuel efficiency, and the inefficient rotary-powered models began to fall out of favor. Mazda nearly went bankrupt but the Sumitomo Bank bailed them out, and the company had the foresight to have continued using piston engines as an alternative after the 1970s. The rotary engine began to be used on sport cars rather than mainstream ones, starting with the RX-7 and later the RX-8. Mazda's effort in separating the rotary from the piston engines paid off, because they eventually produced the lightweight, piston-powered Mazda Roadster, also known as the MX-5 or the Miata, in 1989. The Miata has been widely credited with reviving the concept of the small sports car after its decline in the late 1970s.
The Ford Motor Company began to invest in Mazda heavily starting in the 1960s, and both companies have been assisting each other with car production for some time now. Financial difficulties and crises in Asian markets have caused Ford to tone down their controlling interest, and today Ford owns simply 3% of the company compared to 33.4% back in 1996.
About the Mazda RX-8
The RX-8, as mentioned previously, has a rotary engine. This gives it high power for low weight, and the car's chassis itself is relatively light and streamlined. It has a front mid-engine and has rear-wheel drive. Unlike other sports cars, the RX-8 is a genuine four-seater that can house four adults comfortably, rather than having two smallish seats in the backseat. Unfortunately, like the Supra before it, the RX-8 has also been discontinued from production for not being able to meet emissions standards and due to dropping volume sales.
Ironically, the RX-8 was produced because of increasing popular interest in tuning and performance cars in the late 1990s. Before that, the RX-7 had been losing interest and had a hefty price tag that discouraged buyers, and thus Mazda, from producing more sports cars. Thanks to Ford's investment and the tuning culture, Mazda's development and design team knuckled down and based the design of the car on the 1995 Mazda RX-01. The RX-8 has enjoyed good success in racing and has been re-released multiple times with tune-ups and changes throughout its history.
Unfortunately for Mazda, the RX-8 may be their last rotary engine vehicle for some time... At least until the company manages to get emissions under control and meet regulations!
Triple A Says...
The RX-8 is a fairly typical Mazda sports car with a good lightweight chassis, but its engine is underpowered compared to the RX-7. This is because the engine was downgraded, an example being a lack of forced induction. The RX-8's engine would have been better served in the Miata rather than the RX-8.