Mazda Midwest 2017

    A week prior to this event, I had spent a Sunday morning at another one-make only meet that featured Ferrari’s of all types.  Now on an unseasonably warm early autumn day in Chicago, it was another one-make meet but for Mazda’s.  Sure, to some that may seem a step down in terms of prestige and certainly a significant step down in dollar value per car, but for me it was perhaps even more special.  This meet was held in the middle of Humboldt Park on Chicago’s north side, taking over a stretch of Luis Munoz Marin drive, making it a tight fit for passing traffic and spectators alike.  Humboldt Park being at the hear of the city’s Puerto Rican community, it was no surprise to see lots of Puerto Rican pride and lots of rotary engine love.  The meet was intended for all types of Mazda’s, but the rotary stuff was in a clear majority.  So with the DJ playing in the background and plenty of BBQ smoke in the air, I set out to grab some shots of the event and gawk at all the great rides.

     A funny thing happens at one-make meets, there is a built in kinship that generally creates a more friendly atmosphere.  For Midwest Mazda, this was particularly evident, in that people were very open to talk about their own cars, your car, other cars in attendance, or even just cars they wanted to have.  Folks were eager to show off their beloved Mazdas as well; a conversation that started in front of your car, often ended up in front of the car of the person you were talking to.  It’s understandable, you have a collection of people who in many cases have the same cars, but everyone with their own experience of modifying and/or restoring the car.  It is fun to geek-out on little details that only a fellow owner of a model might notice or be aware of.  It was a phenomenal meet, I got to see some incredible Mazda’s, meet some really cool people, and strike up some great conversations.  As per usual, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite highlights from the meet!

     There are probably many people who know nothing of the Mazda Cosmo, and even fewer still that realize Mazda had multiple brands on it’s home island of Japan.  One of those brands was Eunos, a nameplate that was meant to serve as a luxury arm for Mazda; as Lexus is to Toyota.  While those brands and Eunos in particular would never take a permanent hold, the result of this period were some great machines from Mazda.  The Cosmo, is a perfect example of just that.  The Cosmo was meant to be a large luxury coupe, a grand tourer as envisioned by a Japanese car maker.  It pushed the envelope for Mazda in terms of refinement, technology, but also with their rotary engine technology.  This Cosmo would be the first to be powered by a 3 rotor engine, as opposed to the two rotor variety that powered previous RX series cars.  The so named, 20B rotary, was the largest displacement rotary engine they had brought to production, and also helped pioneer the company’s sequential twin turbocharger system.  Along with the 20B engine, the Cosmo was also sold with the standard 13B, or two rotor variety as well.  It was the 13B-REW specifically, which would eventually power the third generation of the RX-7 in 1992.  This specific Cosmo in attendance for the meet, made the long drive from St. Louis for the show, and I made sure to thank the owner for bringing this rare find to Chicago.  You can see what Mazda was going for in this car, and you can see the influence of it’s lines in the FD RX-7 that came after it.  Where the FD is a curvaceous beauty, tarted up for a night of club hopping, the Cosmo is that same beauty in a business suit, ready to slay a board meeting.  The Cosmo interior is cavernous in comparison to any RX-7.  The dashboard, probably it’s most distinct feature, stretches uninterrupted in a deep arc that creates a feeling of infinite leg room.  The rear seats too, could fit actual people, perhaps a bit snug but far better than any RX-7 could have (for the few that actually came with rear seats at all).  In most instances, luxury typically means wrapping everything in leather, but with this Cosmo it was fabric instead.  The same grey fabric on the seats, was used heavily throughout the interior, and covered most every surface.  It is definitely a different look, but it actually conveys a similar upscale feel.  The gauge cluster is set back in that deep arc of a dashboard, slightly recessed, it is invisible until everything is switched on and lit up, giving it a futuristic feel even by today’s standards.  This particular Cosmo remains mostly untouched and in stock form, with the biggest change being the beauftifully reconditioned set of BBS RZR wheels that compliment the car perfectly.  The truth is, there is not much to improve on here, and the owner of this Cosmo knows that, expressing his intent to pretty much preserve it the way it is. Mazda’s intent with the Cosmo was to build a luxurious cruiser that could comfortably gobble up highway miles.  That the owner of this Cosmo was willing to make the 600 mile round trip to Chicago from St. Louis certainly speaks to their success!

     The RX-7 is the car that really helped introduce Mazda’s sporting credentials for years to come.  With the previous RX models, Mazda had been developing and refining rotary engine propulsion, but none of these models were really true sports cars in the way something like a Porsche 911 epiomized.  The RX-7 changed that, it was more focused on handling, power delivery, driving experience, and it looked the part as well (no small coincidence, it’s lines would resemble that of it’s contemporary Porsches).  The car below is part of the first generation of the RX-7, that would go on to establish Mazda’s reputation for making fun to drive machines and rotary powered sports cars.  This particular FB includes several modifications that push it’s performance to help better keep pace with more modern machines, and cosmetically includes flourishes that help accentuate and improve the look of the car, while paying homage to the aesthetics of the late 70’s early 80’s in all the right ways.  I had never seriously considered FB ownership, but seeing what the owner has done with this one, has me tempted.  Time for a bigger garage!  

     The next highlight for me, was this black FD with tan leather interior.  An incredibly clean example, the owner is intent on adhering to a more subtle and understated approach to modifications.  The FD RX-7 is such an ageless beauty, it is hard to improve on it’s looks and easy to get wrong.  Again, subtelty being the theme, it looks like a beatifully preserved example of a special edition or trim level Mazda might have made themselves.  When keeping things subtle, it is often in the tiny details that even more attention is paid.  The rotor shaped RX-8 shift knob attached to this FD shifter is a nice touch and good fit with the older FD’s interior, but the owner sought out a proper 5 speed variant, not the more ubiquitous 6 speed.  A minor detail, but when everything matters, the end product is all the more impressive.  

     There was a second FD that was a bit different in approach.  This one robed in ‘chaste white’ and with more flamboyant visual cues.  There was no mistaking this for a stock FD, but even here the modifications do not deviate greatly from the perfect lines of the original.  A lowered stance perfectly carresses a set of Work Emotion wheels, a more aggressive and larger spoiler in the rear, and a copiously vented hood; all combine to create a wonderfully more aggressive version of the car without detracting from the inherent beauty of it.  It so looks the part of a genuine Japanese tuner car, a Wangan warrior, that you’d think it was plucked off the streets of Tokyo if not for the steering wheel being on the left side!  This car was a perfect contrast to the black FD above, and a great case study in two different approaches netting two uniquely great cars.

     There were several old school rotary powered cars in attendance, including an impressive showing of RX-3’s.  One of these RX-3’s, pictured below, particularly stood out for me as it was a wagon variant.  I did not get a chance to speak with the owner of this particular wagon, but it is one of those cars that you sense has been in the same hands for many years.  It can take time to build a car into something special, as many of you no doubt understand, and this wagon looks as if it has had years of meticulous care and attention.  “Clean” would be an understatement here, this thing was immaculate.  An RX-3 with a huge supercharger stack jutting from it’s hood, and it is in wagon form…what else needs mentioning here!?

      After a couple of hours on scene, I had to make my departure sadly, I know some more cool cars arrived later in the afternoon.  All said it was a great meet, one that needs to be on the calender of any Mazda enthusiast in Chicagoland.  I am looking forward to next year’s, hoping to see more of the same but with the addtion of some more Mazdaspeed offerings (I’m looking at you Mazdaspeed 3 and 6 people!).  Thanks again for reading, and as always, keep scrolling for even more photos from the meet!

-photos and writing: Robert Sixto

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