By on December 11, 2013

12 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIn the late 1980s, otherwise known as the Before Lexus LS Era, American car shoppers didn’t have many choices for big Japanese luxury sedans. You had the Toyota Cressida, the Nissan Maxima, and that was pretty much it (nitpickers might add the Mitsubishi Diamante to this list, since it was possible to buy one in late 1989; the same could be said of the Lexus LS, of course). Or was it? Oh yes, there was also the Mazda 929, a car that never made much of an impact in North America. I owned an ’88 929 for a fairly brief period about ten years ago (I made a complicated four-cornered car deal that resulted in the 929 and a Volvo 244 being added to my fleet) and I thought it was a very good car. Since that time, I’ve kept my eyes open for 929s, finding about zero on the street and this ’91 in the junkyard so far. On a trip to Northern California yesterday, I spotted today’s ’89.
14 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinRear-wheel drive, semi-imposing dimensions, and a potent (for 1989) 158-horsepower V6 made the 929 a solid rival for the Cressida. Who knows, it may have stolen a few sales from the BMW 5-series here and there.
06 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin18 valves, a number you’d expect to see in some obscure prewar French straight-nine flathead. Mazda went to a 24-valve version of the 3.0-liter V6 for the 929S version.
02 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin172,969 miles, which comes to just over 7,000 miles per year.
01 - 1989 Mazda 929 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe leather in this 929 has seen better days, but you can see that this car had some credible luxury going on.


Known as the Luce in its native Japan, the 929 was Big Personal!

Eight grand less than those pricey Germans, points out James Garner.

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77 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Mazda 929...”


  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    Never have ever heard or seen of a 3-valve/cylinder V6 before. I know Ford had three valve heads for the 4.6 and 5.4 V8′s. Very interesting find!

    Additionally, would this be a DOHC setup? Could a SOHC operate that valvetrain?

    • 0 avatar
      racerxlilbro

      Don’t forget the Gurney Westlake 3v heads for the Ford 289 in the 60s!

      • 0 avatar
        Mr Imperial

        True!

        I’ve only heard of 3v heads using two intake/one exhaust setups. Are there any out there that use one intake/two exhaust?

        • 0 avatar
          rdeiriar

          Some pre-war racing engines, notably from the Duesenberg brothers, as well as from Bugatti, had one intake/two exhaust valves, to keep the thermal shock at the exhaust valves within the limits of the steels of the era.

          Source: http://www.grandprixengines.co.uk/How_many_valves_per_cylinder.pdf

    • 0 avatar
      stephenjmcn

      The near-ubiquitous Mercedes 3.2 V6 from late 90′s to mid 00′s is a 3-valve set up (and fully 12 spark plugs as well!)

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      18 valvers are SOHC. The 24v versions have 2 cams.

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      I am currently in possession of (and my wife is daily driving) a ’93MPV with this engine/transmission combination. Does a decent job in the 0-140 kph range. Makes a reasonably pleasant noise too.

      It is 2500 kms away from a timing belt service, and I am very heavily considering turning it into a Class C Lemons racer using the minivan exception. 160hp, rwd, racing weight somewhere around 3400 lbs. Should work out o.k. if the trans holds up.

      • 0 avatar
        dgcamero

        Yeah that would be fun…I inherited the family’s ’89 MPV V6 and drove the holy snot out of it til it had about 200k miles. Quite fun to drive when equipped with the towing package, and it had a factory CD player! Awful awful brakes would lock the rear drums if you didn’t know exactly the amount of pressure to apply to prevent it (but better post ’89), and generally questionable powertrain reliability (engine split its crankshaft at 110k and the transmission went at 120k miles). The transmission was a Nissan unit, and the bolts in the torque converter were too long and so metal shavings would slowly kill the transmission. There is a way to correct that in a TSB. If you have the towing package with the rear load leveling shocks, then you have a transmission cooler which would be good in a LeMons race. I think the engines are generally fairly solid, and the original one we had freakishly failed…some synthetic 0w40 would probably help a lot…and a genuine Mazda oil filter.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          My family bought an ’89 for $5000 with 90k on it from people down the street back in 1996, a rare 4 cyl model (auto, rwd). It’s still on the road with 225k miles, my brother’s MTB racing rig. Very rusty, with a slightly slipping transmission and a refurbished head, and a load of other work done to it that was age/rust related. Most recently my brother rewelded a suspension mounting point in the rear that rusted out. But it’s still going strong and makes a drive down to North Carolina from PA every year for a mountain bike race near Asheville. A crappy chinese tie rod end snapped off once while he was in the fast lane on the highway, he managed to pull it over into the median while the front wheel did its impression of a wobbly shopping cart wheel (oscillating wildly).

          In 2001 that MPV was supplemented by a 1998 ES 4wd (loaded with every possible option and towing package). We got it with 30k miles and it’s been our family’s main car until 2011, when I took over as its main driver with 140k miles. Many trips down to Key West from central NY, fantastic road trip car. No serious drivetrain issues, just a few oil leaks, some corrosion related A/C leaks, replaced the adjustable rear air shocks with $50 monroe adjustables that swapped right in, the factory load leveling works great. The tin worm is finally getting to it despite my best efforts, it still looks fantastic from 15 feet with glossy paint, but a look underneath is a different story.

          What does these Mazdas in is the lack of readily available spare parts. Lots of items are dealer only and as expensive as anything European. A damn shame, they’re perfectly sized and easy to work on.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The Ford Probe (Mazda derived engine) was a 3-valve per cylinder 2.2L 4-banger in NA and turbo configurations in 1989, and from 1990 to 1992 in the GL and GT models. The LX model got the Ford derived Vulcan 3.0 V6 from 1990 to 1992 standard.

      The press at the time expressed that both the NA and turbo engines were a bit over-rated in their torque numbers, and grossly under-rated in their HP numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Yup. This engine was SOHC as was the Mazda 2.2L 4-banger with 12 valves that was under the hood of the 626, the MX-6, and the Ford Probe (89 – 92). The Mazda 2.2L 12-valve engine could be had NA or turbo charged.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Hyundai’s first engine (inline four) used 3 valves/cylinder, but of course, this was not a V6. (Look up “Alpha Engine.”)

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I think the last time I actually saw a 929 was in 2004, as a girl in high school had a brown one. I always liked the big, formal styling. Though the huge grille badge on the Luce is even better.

    SPECIAL G EDITION. Wonder what that was?

    Proper conservative Japanese businessman saloon, this was. We don’t get those any more :

  • avatar
    LeadHead

    Always boggles my mind how much more modern late 80s Japanese interiors looked compared to 80s American cars.

  • avatar
    vlangs

    My biggest gripe with the Mazda was just how much the front end looked like EVERY other Japanobox at the time. I mean look at head on in the commercial and it looks like a Corolla/Camry for crying out loud!

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    I wonder if Garner ever did his patented “Rockford” reverse 180 in one of these?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Max had a warm heart but cold hands.

    He clicked the defroster and blasted the heat in the big personal Mazda sedan. The blower motor made a noticeable noise as it spun up and worked at about forty percent capacity slowly churning air slightly above freezing out of the vents. Max held his hands over the slightly warmer air and looked up on the snowflakes slowly forming on windshield accented by the light of the parking lot. He listened as the radio DJ broke in and mentioned they expected six to twelve inches of new snow by midnight. The leather was so cold on his bottom and he pined for heated seats as he reclined and waited for Mazda’s 18 valve engine to warm up. He looked left when he heard a tapping on the window.

    “Max, could you give me a ride?” Annie asked as her condensation blew against the glass. Max nodded to the passenger side and clicked the master lock button on the driver’s side. Annie opened the passenger door, her scarf fluttering in the wind, and laid her small backpack onto the seat floor.

    “Thanks for the ride, I don’t know when my mom will be here and with the snow” she said as she trailed off and plopped into the cold leather seat.

    “No, no problem Annie” Max said as he felt a blast of frigid air as she shut the passenger door. He held his hands over the vent again as before, the air seemed to have risen a few degrees. Annie held out her hands close to Max’s, but just on the right side. Max looked down at her small fingers and glittering costume jewelry. Annie was always one of those girls who was friendly to all in class but rarely dated them. In high school it was the college boys, now in community college it was a teacher’s assistant. Her long blonde hair always looked tangled but never really was, Max longed to take his hands from the vent and stroke her hair.

    “How long do you normally warm this up Max?” Annie asked.
    “Ten minutes or so” he replied.
    “Could we get going? If we make good time I could still catch American Idol” she asked with pretty green eyes, her light condensation blowing on his face.

    Max sat back in his seat, buckled his belt, and shifted the car in drive. The car headed out of the space and his nearly balled tires spun a little on sleet and newly grounded snow. He slowly pulled onto the exit and accelerated to thirty five miles per hour as he merged onto Route 28 toward the city. He focused his attention on the road ahead of him as snowflakes fell and began to stick to the road surface. The car always pulled a bit to the right so he was always pulling it left as he drove.

    “Max… could you help me with my paper for US History I” Annie asked coyly. Max kept his eyes forward and muttered a positive response. She checked her pink digital watch.
    “Max its 7:40! Pass him!” she complained. Max decreased his speed to just under thirty and stayed behind a box truck. He ignored her complaining and kept a safe distance from the truck. He tuned out her voice right as he felt the car drive over a large patch of black ice and fishtailed. Annie screamed and the car turned sideways on the two lane highway, the rear of the car leading slightly and the front bumper scraping against the jersey barrier on the left side. The Mazda came to rest at a rear leading angle and Max breathed a sigh of relief as Annie fidgeted with her phone looking for her mother’s phone number. Max looked out of the passenger windows and through the flurries he couldn’t see anyone coming in either direction. He placed the car in reverse and straightened out the car facing north toward the city again. Annie was breathing heavy but calmer than a moment ago, Max reached over and put his arm around her shoulder.
    “We’re alright. If we have to I’ll pull off at the 40th Street Bridge and head for my brother’s place but for now I’m gonna get us home. This old girl has seen worse” he sat as he patted the dash. Annie’s eyes met his and they kissed. Max briefly thought to himself as they kissed “I’d better look into a Subaru”.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Pfft bald tires on a 25 year old Mazda, he can’t afford a Subaru and associated maintenance.

      I feel like a natural transition would be into an early 90s Q45a.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Good luck finding a Q45 in any condition in 2013, esp in this overall Western PA/Ohio region. Max could do a 2K down lease on an Impreza though for $200 something and change per month.

        Actually I witnessed the skidding out sideways I described on Sunday night here about a thousand feet in front of me, but in this case it was an burnt red gen 1 Acura Integra hatchback and the front of that car impacted the jersey barrier enough that I could see the hood bent as I passed. I assumed balled tires and driver stupidity were to blame in this real life case, I just replaced stupidity with possible driver distraction in the story.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Is that a first-gen Impreza? Either way he’s gonna have head gasket and CV joint issues, lolz.

          Btw, it’s “bald” tires.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Evidently this dealer will do a new Impreza zero down right now, $209/mo. Beware though as there is an especially cheap “lease” grade Impreza with fewer options than the retail base model as I looked into this over the summer. Thanks for the correction on “bald”, the way its always been spoken to me sounded like “balled” or “bawled” although that may just be the result of yinzer accents.

            NEW 2014 IMPREZA 2.0i
            AWD SEDAN
            *AUTOMATIC*

            2.9% FINANCING FOR UP TO 72 MONTHS!
            OR
            SIGN AND DRIVE LEASE
            WITH $0 DOWN
            FOR ONLY $209/MONTH!

            http://www.baierlsubaru.com/specials/new.htm

        • 0 avatar
          Tim_Turbo

          I sell Subaru. There is no special “lease grade” Impreza. The model code “EJB01″ in the special is for a 2.0i base CVT. The base Impreza has no cruise control, 16″ steel wheels with hubcaps, and black plastic rear view mirror housing (instead of body color) for visual cues. Mechanically, the base does not get the rear stabilizer bar that is standard on the Premium and up.
          I assure you, this is the base car, and is available for both leasing and retail purchases.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Typical Honda owner there, I avoid 90′s FF sports cars like the plague out on the road.

          I was driving home one day on a two lane road and a red 90′s Eclipse was weaving around all the while the driver was chatting with the passenger, they were about to drive into me when I wailed my cars horn, they ALMOST sandwiched me between their car and a stone wall until hearing my car 3 seconds or so later.

          Granted, Volvo vs anything Asian and the Volvo will cream it, I just don’t want to loose any paint.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I don’t think the Bay Area gets that much snow…

    • 0 avatar
      Lightspeed

      Great story, reminds me of driving my Cressida in the snow. People today have no idea that driving an old car is actually driving, not just sitting there letting a computer do half the work.

  • avatar
    kinsha

    I remember the next generation of the 929 (1991) had solar panels in the sunroof to power the ventalation system when the car was parked. I thought that was pretty cool back then. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      The 929 soldiered on through 1993 and was replaced by the FWD Millenia. I believe that was a stretched 626 platform. Mazda had considered doing their own Acura/Infiniti/Lexus luxury division around then. Millenia was supposed to be its first entry but Mazda wisely abandoned that strategy as they were struggling enough with mainstream cars.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        That’s correct. It was to be called Enfini. We were going to get the Eunos Cosmo :(

        This is why the first generation Millena was quickly restyled and cheapened up. The first Millenias had some ridiculous multi-coat paint process as Mazda tried to match Lexus.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Enfini? Would have loved to see this happen alongside Infiniti.

          “So you drive an Infiniti?”
          “No, its an Enfini Millenia”
          “Enfini?”
          “Yes”
          “Sure its not an Infiniti?”
          “Positive”
          “Who makes it?”
          “I’m not sure, I bought it at the Mazda dealer when I traded my 929″
          “Uh huh… got to go Johnson, late with my TPS report.”

        • 0 avatar
          sckid213

          Not sure if joking, but the division was to be called Amati, not Enfini.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amati_Cars

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Actually you’re both right:

            “In the late 1980s, Mazda diversified in the Japan market with the launch of three new marques. The company created Autozam, Eunos, and Efini, in addition to the Mazda and Ford brands already marketed there.

            In early 1992 Mazda planned to release a luxury marque, Amati, to challenge Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus in North America, which was to begin selling in late 1993.”

            So Efini was a Japanese only brand and Amati was an intended brand for North America.

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            IIRC Apparently the top of the line model was supposed to be a V12 Jag XJ competitor.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I can’t picture Mazda doing a V12. I don’t know that I’d trust it any more than an XJS V12. Lol.

    • 0 avatar
      Tifighter

      Second gen 929 was quite the looker for its time. With that, the 93+ MX6 coupe, the 93+ 626, the MX3 with its tiny V6 and lets not forget the NA Miata, Mazda seemed ready to make the jump.

      The more things change…

      • 0 avatar
        bomberpete

        The problem was that only three of those models — 323, 626 and Miata — were successful. Mazda had to build its core brand and forget about those Amati dreams.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The Acura Legend is a pretty glaring omission from the list of big Japanese sedans of the late ’80s.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I saw a white one in a wrecking yard near here a couple of years ago. It looked pretty crusty from sitting under some alder trees and the front passenger door had been removed, but the remaining doors still opened and closed as if the car was new.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    This is the chassis that underpinned Mazda’s 1st gen MPV (like the poster above me with the ’93). Plenty durable and handling is actually pretty competent, dare I say fun. My 98 has the 18 valve V6, which went basically unchanged besides an updated intake manifold design that restricts access to the valve covers more. Pretty solid workhorses, not much power and they use a fair bit of fuel. T-belt interval of 60k miles but it is easy to get at. Hydraulic lash adjusters tend to get noisy over time but it doesn’t affect how the car runs. They start to leak oil from the distributor blank plate and PCV elbow joint on the right head, as well as from the valve cover gaskets with age.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    The Lexus LS did everything this car did but did it better, so it doesn’t surprise me that the 929 (and Toyota’s own Cressida) went away a few years after the LS400 hit the scene.

    • 0 avatar
      ShoogyBee

      Well, in fairness, the LS400 competed in a different class than the 929. It was quite a bit more expensive. By the early 1990s, the Cressida was getting squeezed by the increasingly competent Camry V6 at one end and the Lexus ES at the other end. Also, consumers tended to prefer FWD over RWD in that class of car.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    My father had one as a company car, a 1989 model. Although not the best looking car out there, it was a very nice driver, quite solid-feeling. I enjoyed driving it. I’ve owned over 40 cars, and it’s the only one I’ve seen with power swiveling A/C vents, that was a neat feature.

    His was white with silver paint below its bodyside moldings, and had a burgundy leather interior just like this one’s. Wouldn’t mind owning one like it nowadays.

  • avatar

    I just got rid of my 88 929 about a year ago; something wrong w/the engine, it might have slipped timing-a friend I sold it to might get it running again, still looked like maybe a 5 year old car. My Mom bought it new in Feb. of 88. It was an okay car, had some teething pains early on from being a 1st year car, after those issues were dealt with, it was pretty decent and extremely reliable. Chronic issues were expensive, easily-warped 1 piece rotor/hats (new bearings required ever time they warped…ended up just living w/potato chip rotors) and a fuel leak in the hose between the left and right side fuel rails, fixed oddly enough by a Nissan mechanic w/some special glue/goo that made the hose attach to the fittings and never leaked again (hoses would need replacement every 6 months). As for the car itself, it was nothing like driving a BMW. It was more like the best Japanese Oldsmobile one could buy. It wasn’t really fun to drive, it didn’t have much power, it wasn’t great on gas, it was very comfortable, and the styling was so generic I coined the term “Invisicar” because my passengers would walk right past the car when going to go somewhere or returning to the car in a parking lot. In hindsight, wish my Mom had gotten an Acura Legend instead! But it was a good car to own when my other car was a Miata.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Not only did the 929 compete with the Maxima and Cressida but also the Mitsubishi Gallant Sigma, in later years just called Sigma to differentiate itself from the Gallant which competed against the Camry and Stanza family sedans.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    So funny that nobody (including the wankers writing) know sweet FA about cars.

    No Infiniti in 1989? Really? What sad losers write for this site who likely weren’t even born in the decades they claim to know.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    This car lived on as the Kia Potentia, until 2001! I still see quite a bit of them on the road in South Korea.

  • avatar
    roger628

    This design lived on in South Korea until 1997 as the Kia Potentia.
    It was then replaced by another large JDM Mazda,the Sentia, which looked like a large Millenia. Then Hyundai bought Kia and all the Mazda DNA was purged from the line.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      The South Korean market Kia Enterprise (Mazda Sentia) debuted for the 97 model year and was discontinued in 2001. The Kia Potentia was around until 2001 and was sold with the Enterprise simultaneously.

      I rarely see any Kia Enterprises anymore. The Potentias I see fairly often. Solid and reliable RWD cars. It’s weird how Mitsubishi and Mazda rebadges were all over Korea until they truly figured out how to make cars on their own during the late 90s and early 2000s.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I remember this as an era of shocker parts prices for Mazda. Folks bought Mazda then found out. This 929 was a non-looker when large Mazda wasn’t established. Buyers walked straight past.

  • avatar
    wannabe

    I still have a 929 on the road. Just hit 130,000 miles. I was hoping it would make it to 25 years but it’s not gonna get there. A pretty good car overall…great seats, comfortable, pretty big trunk, good visibility and a wonderful car for long highway drives. My wife and I got it because it was fairly luxurious, it sold at a fair price and had a lot of legroom in the back seat. It was a garage queen for years. My daughter still uses it to get to and from work locally. At the time it was derided as a a Japanese Buick. Its dependable, never left us stranded, and while not as fast or as much fun to drive as the Volvo 760 turbo we had for most of the same time, the 929 outlasted the Volvo by 10 years. The leather on the drivers’ seat has worn thru to the foam but the rest of the seats look like they just came out of the showroom.


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