By on December 8, 2012

Before it was called the 323 and then the Protegé, the North American version of the Mazda Familia was known as the GLC, aka “Great Little Car.” The really early GLCs (for example, the 7000-mile 1976 model living beneath Mazda USA’s California HQ) shared a lot of chassis components with the first-gen RX-7s, but this ’84 that I spotted in a Denver self-service yard is a more modern front-wheel-drive econobox.
I’ve driven a couple of these, and they really were good— maybe not great, but close— little cars. The list price on the base 2-door hatch was $4,995, which was $250 cheaper than the cheapest ’84 Civic. The Civic was slightly more fun to drive and (arguably) better-built, but the GLC was quite a bang-for-buck deal.
This one made it to nearly 140,000 miles during its 28 years on the planet. It probably has more miles left in it, but battered 1980s econoboxes aren’t worth fixing up for daily-driving use these days.
I haven’t seen many of these cars in wrecking yards lately; most of them got scrapped a decade or so back. There was this rear-drive ’80, and this super-rare ’81 sedan, and this even rarer ’83 sedan, and that’s been about all my junkyard GLC sightings for the last couple of years. All right, let’s watch some old TV commercials!


Includes radial tires!

As always, the JDM ad for the same car has better/cheesier 1980s music.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Mazda GLC...”


  • avatar
    Joss

    Mom had silver gray hatch with blue interior and 5-speed. Can’t really give much input cause GLC doesn’t really stand out in our memories. Better in the snow than dad’s rear drive GM. Better deal than Civic and the dealership staff weren’t as arrogant as Honda & Toyota or GM.

    Further down the road there was some kind of reliability issue – but I honestly can’t recall what it was. It was replaced by a 323 tugboat.

    Perhaps FLC – forgettable little car a better moniker?

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      +1 on the FLC comment.

      This is the sort of vanilla car that you could have slapped just about any badge on, and it wouldn’t seem out of place. Honda? Nissan? Toyota? Ford? Dodge? Sure, why not.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    There were a Great Little Car. Unfortunately Mazda GLCs were also biodegradable in the Great White North’s heavily winter-salted roads.

  • avatar
    ixim

    I bought an ’81 5-Door for $6100. All-new that year; the previous GLC had a sterling rep for being beautifully screwed together. The ’81 may have been the first unibody version. Definitely tinnier. The recent [\'79] gas crisis had driven the price up some – no deals at all. Sometimes got 40mpg; taught the wife and kids how to drive a stickshift in it; zero problems; carried an entire sofa in the hatch once; fun to drive compared to my ’79 Caprice at the time. Lost in a collision with a tree at 90k.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    During the mid-80′s did Mazda play the “you’ll pay way over invoice and have to wait for your car” games like Honda did? Just wondering, not trying to be mean.

    • 0 avatar
      WRohrl

      Only when the Miata came out in late ’89…

      • 0 avatar
        Geekcarlover

        To Mazda’s credit, even with the Miata, they warned dealers that getting maximum profit was OK, but anything seen as abusing the customer would be punished.
        I don’t know what came of it, but they did learn from the bad reputation Honda got.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        My local VW-Mazda dealer didn’t get the message. When the Miata came out, I noticed a cover photo from Car and Driver taped to the floor of their showroom. I asked what was up, and they laughed and said it was there because they’d advertised that they had a Miata on the showroom floor. That was the first of two times they succeeded in stopping me from buying a Mazda, and then there were the times they saved me from new VW ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      Mid-80′s? The Honda dealers by me still do that. I have a neighbor who bought a previous gen civic hybrid two states up because the dealers here wanted an extra 800 to get him off the waiting list and a coworker who paid 27,000 for a 2012 LX civic.

      • 0 avatar
        SaulTigh

        Really? The Honda dealer just down the road from me always seems to have a metric buttload of cars in stock. Now back in the day, when my parents got their first Honda, and ’87 Accord, I remember the dealer had like three of them, and a couple of Civics and one Prelude, and told my dad that many of the cars they got were already spoken for upon arrival. That Accord DX was $12,500 in 1987.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Are you sure that $27,000 2012 Civic LX wasn’t an Acura ILX?

        (man, that’s twice in one day)

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    Drove one of the rear wheel drive ones when I went to guam. A rental. I was impressed but then my car got there on a slow boat from the states.

    Bought a 70 vw that had more of what it took for those hills. Downshifting isn’t that bad a deal though. Would drive it where I live now for sure. Was a little surprised that the vw outperformed it except for economy.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    My wife had an ’81 GLC wagon bought new from the dealer- definitely NOT as well made as the Toyota Corolla of the same era: the Mazda went 90,000 miles before needing a new motor; the Toyota (an ’83 Corolla wagon) went over 200,000 miles on the original motor, before we sold it to a neighbor (who drove it another 20,000 miles before crashing it!)

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    The styling of these screams “square headlight Rabbit”, but I still see some of these around here and there, always had my eyes open for one when I shopped around for a used car.

  • avatar
    markholli

    That stunt driver is driving the hell out of the car in that first video. It almost looks like one of those old movies where they speed up the footage to make it look faster than it is.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the FCC create some guidelines recently that restrict car commercials from showing the cars driving at excessive speeds on public roads?

    If so, thank goodness, because people will definitely stop driving fast now that they don’t see people doing it in advertisements.

  • avatar

    “Before it was called the 323 and then the Protegé, the North American version of the Mazda Familia was known as the GLC, aka “Great Little Car.” ”

    I worked at Ann Arbor Volvo, which also had a Mazda franchise, during the GLC era. Not a bad little car, if a bit conventional – by then you could get FWD in a Honda. Around the dealership they weren’t called GLCs, they were called “Glics”, but then we also called Mazdas “Mazootis”.

    I worked in the parts department. Apparently a lot of foreign car dealerships used what we called the Volkswagen code. This was before computers at dealerships and when you stocked an item you needed to mark it with the wholesale price when purchased so you’d know how much to charge for it. Of course that had to be hidden from the customer. Volkswagen is a ten letter word with ten different letters. V=1 O=2 etc.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Volkswagen code is awesome. I’ve been to some used car lots where the prices are part of the otherwise meaningless stock numbers on small stickers in the corner of the windshield. Stock #50837 would be a car with an asking price of $8,300(or maybe $8,299), while stock #81209 would be a $12,000 car.

      • 0 avatar
        StaysCrunchy

        I worked for a small used car lot one summer many years ago, and our “stock numbers” were the last digit of the model year, the asking price, and the lowest we’d take for the car. For example: If we had a 1992 Cavalier that we were asking $3900 for and the lowest we’d go on it was $2800, the stock number would be 23928. Worked out OK, nobody caught on.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Never heard the Volkswagen one before. It’s actually an old system, drug stores, variety, and clothing stores used to use it extensively. Back in the 90′s when I was a sales rep I thought I knew all of them as many stores even though they had started using scanners still had the codes on price tags on the item, on the shelf tag and one company even put it under the item in their weekly ad. You Be Slick was one used by Payless. Kidneywort was favored by true old-fashioned drug stores in this area as it is an old herbal medicine. Payless was interesting in that the stores that still didn’t have the scanners the checker had to enter those codes off of the price tag. If the item was ringing up at or below cost it would beep to let the cashier know that they had either entered it wrong or it was one of the front page loss-leaders from the weekly ad. The cool thing was at the end of the day the registers would spit out what the gross profit was for the day.

  • avatar
    vwgolf420

    I got my license at 16 (1992) and had a budget of $2,500. Looked at these and first gen Jettas exclusively until I found a pristine 69 Beetle with the wacky autostick that a guy just wanted out of his driveway.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    For comparison’s sake, $4995 in 1984 would be ~$10,600 today, not much around in that price range now. Not a bad deal at all.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    I would have sworn GLC stood for Good little car, not great little car.

    That’s what I remember calling them back then, can’t ever recall the word Great used for them.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    I bought an early production version of this FWD GLC. Must have been off a pilot line, as fasteners and bolts (including engine mounts) were missing, emissions control went south after a week, torque steer galore, heater fell apart, weird fitting seat backs…
    But it was fun to drive.

  • avatar
    RogueInLA

    Bought a sedan version of this in 2001 for $100 from an ad in the recycler, the owner just wanted it out of the driveway. I was the first caller to show up (she said she’d had dozens of calls). New tires worth what I paid for it. For some reason she wanted to keep the wiper blades, so of course it was raining when I picked it up. It had a weak clutch, but I babied it for a year until I finally had to change it. It was dependable, basic transportation. Perfect for a commuter car. Finally gave it up when it wouldn’t pass smog, and the estimated cost of repairs was just crazy. Them lil carburetors aren’t cheap.

  • avatar
    davew833

    I owned an ’81 or ’82 like this briefly in about 1992. Got it from some fly-by-night car lot for $250. It had lots of problems with the front end that I never could get straightened out so I only drove it twice, once when I brought it home from the dealer and once to a junkyard about a mile from my house where I got $50 or $60 for it after I gave up trying to fix it.

  • avatar
    threeer

    My sister’s first “new(er) car” purchase was white GLC hatchback (’81, I think) with blue vinyl, 4 speed and a/c. She installed what we all thought was the most trick stereo ever, as it had a wired remote (way before Bluetooth, baby!). We all loved that car. Honest, easy to maintain and actually a bit of fun to drive. Loved how the hood opened in reverse. She sold it in 1989 after driving it for a few years (was bought used in 1986) and moved up to a brand spankin’ new CRX Si. But the GLC was missed, and I should have kept it through my college years. While some won’t associate it as a “great” little car, we certainly did.

  • avatar
    patrick-bateman

    My first car is pictured in the second video. A 1983 JDM Familia XG 3 door, Red with Black interior and moonroof. Imported as part of the rush in 1989 of second hand JDM cars into Western Australia.

    Became a Mazda 323 within the first day of ownership, Had power steering, 5 speed, roof, a great Japanese Cassette Player with Amazing displays and a graphic eq. The best air conditioning I have experienced in any car I have owned (despite that black interior and glass sun roof), I remember it being freezing during a 44 degree ( 110 degree F) day.

    Wrapped it around a power pole, but I still love that car.

  • avatar
    Reno1

    In 1993 I needed an inexpensive vehicle to use for work, so I found a 1984 Mazda GLC 4 door sedan (manual). It surprisingly was in great shape and only ended up paying $600. This car turned out to be an excellent buy, and believe it or not, a sturdy and reliable one (I ended up driving it everywhere). I had a lady one day rear end me and the only thing done to my car was a few scratches on the rubber of my metal bumper. Her car on the other hand wasn’t too lucky. I ended up driving it until 2000, when I sold it off to a fried of the family. I couldn’t even tell you how many miles was on that thing when I sold it, but it was still running like a champ. I have to admit, that was one of my favorite cars.


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