By on January 18, 2011

Not many folks remember Mazda’s Chevette competitor, the rear-drive Mazda GLC. OK, it was more of a Toyota Starlet competitor, but there’s a certain Chevette-ness about its lines. I spotted this super-rare machine at a Denver self-service wrecking yard yesterday.

A Great Little Car! We have to wonder what marketing genius came up with that name for the Mazda Familia.

More shots for my collection of Little Trees In Junked Cars photographs!

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31 Comments on “Great Little Car Now Great Little Source of Scrap Steel...”

  • avatar

    Haven’t seen one of those in forever, but I remember them.  My dad was a Mazda fan way back, starting with our new ’74 Mazda rotary pickup, and his cousin had a GLC later on.  My favorite was my grandfather’s brand spanking new, red ’73 RX-3.  He loved it so much that even after it should have been totaled in a wreck he had it rebuilt and it served three generations (not me, a sibling snapped it up before I was of age) very, very well.
    My memory of the rotary truck was that my dad loved driving it, but oil and oil filter consumption was like Montezuma’s Revenge.  It was identical to this one:

  • avatar

    The GLC is very important – it saved Mazda’s ass in the US. Mazda bet the store on rotary engines in its US lineup since the early 1970s. Although Mazda did sell some conventionally engined versions of the RX2 and RX3, the big push was on Wankels. Then came Fuel Crisis I just as Mazda was introducing the more luxurious RX4. There were also problems with the rotor seals on some cars. By 1976, Mazda was in real trouble and was considering pulling out of the US completely. They gave themselves one last chance with the conventional GLC for 1977. Fortunately, it sold well, and Mazda quickly dropped all rotaries except for the RX7.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Canadians bought scads of Mazda GLCs. They were a great little car, much superior to other automakers’ offerings.

  • avatar

    When I snagged my first car, a 1981 Mazda 626, my hatch-loving side chided me for not holding out for a GLC (not that the 626 purchase was exactly the product of a long, focused search, mind you). On the other hand, I’m guessing the GLC didn’t come with a “Luxury” trim level featuring power everything (except, in my case, for the missing stereo) and big “LUXURY” badges on the doors.
    At the time, neither Mazda was exactly what I had in mind (I had a weird thing for Datsuns). But the 626 was clean, rear-drive and $400 (plus $100 in parts and a few hours of parental labor), and with a fat Mazda RX-7 steering wheel reclaimed from the junkyard, it earned a surprising amount of affection. A great car to learn car control on (read: spin repeatedly on the ess-corners leading in and out of the community college parking lot).

  • avatar

    Looks incredibly clean and rust free for the age. My first car was a white GLC and the floor rusted clear through on mine. A terrific car!

  • avatar

    My sister’s first car purchase on her own back in 1986 was a used 1981 GLC…white, three door hatch, blue vinyl interior, four speed manual.  God, did I love driving that little car.  It was quite entertaining, as I recall…and virtually bulletproof.  It wasn’t fancy, but ran for three years after before she got the bug for her first brand-spanking new car, a 1989 CRX.  Cars like the GLC are long-gone from our shores now, and maybe we’re a little worse for it…and maybe that’s why I cling to my 1997 Tercel with 192,000 miles on it now with such a vengeance.  Those were some good years for Mazda, and even the first restyle to the 323 was pretty sweet…

  • avatar

    Back in 1980, I was driving a ’72 Chevy pickup.  350, 4bbl.  I liked the truck, but it only got 10mpg whether it was going uphill, downhill, hot or cold.  If I dropped it off of a cliff, I’m sure it would have gotten 10mpg on the way down.
    I traded it in on a brand new 1980 Mazda GLC 2dr and the gas savings alone just about paid for the car.  Longitudinal 4cyl engine, RWD, manual transmission, bronze in color.  It really was a Great Little Car.  We traveled all over the country in that little hatchback and I loved it.  I wish I could post pictures on here so you could all see it. It was kind of homely when it had the round headlights, but the rectangular ones arrived in 1980(?) they really made it look good. Very much like a Rabbit.


  • avatar

    I’d forgotten these were RWD, even though I’m old enough to know and rode in a friend’s nearly new one several times.

  • avatar

    Had a gal friend who could tolerate my quirkiness and various eccentricities while I ignored most of hers.
    We often used her 1982 or so GLC to wander the world.
    Treks to the Sierra Nevada foothills and sundry places; such as dirt fire trails requiring backing up to ascend hills that going forward prohibited ascending.
    Crossed a creek where the depth was just enough to enter the lower door gaps. We opened the doors, raised our feet, and watched the creek flow through the GLC.
    Cleaned the floor and carpet quite well.
    Of course, I would never have done that to my 1975 Honda Civic!!!!
    Departing the creek I taught that gal the usefulness of those rubber plugs in the floor.  Popped a few out and she was amazed/impressed as I told her the Japanese engineers planned ahead for those going off-road and who allowed creeks to flow through the car.
    Yeah; she was not the brightest creature in creation but she was willing to rent out part of her garage for 100 bucks monthly for my sleeping needs and it included access to cooking facilities and the indoor outhouse.
    Decent car.
    Decent gas mileage.
    Unsure how long the critter survived; the car or the gal.
    I departed the area in 1985 and her abode around 1983 or so.

  • avatar

    I owned one of those RWD Mazdas, and essentially it was a Chevette done right.  Its aftermarket AC was junk but otherwise car was reasonably reliable, ok for short to moderate trips and easy to take care of.
    Mazda soon replaced that with a FWD version, which I also owned and soon discovered it must have been built on a pilot line, as all kinds of fasteners, engine bolts and other essential parts were missing.  Unlike the RWD version, the FWD has vicious torque steer.  Still, when it worked, it was a decent little auto appliance.

  • avatar

    Somebody missed a great opportunity to stick this car on ebay and sell it to an import drag racer for a couple thousand bucks.

    • 0 avatar

      @CJ: good observation.
      There’s a guy in my town that has one of these set up to be a drag car. Every year in our town we have a mini-Woodward Dream Cruise and one year this guy in the Mazda was part of an impromptu burn-out contest. I remember that little car going up to the designated spot and releasing an extended ear-splitting scream and a little bit of tire smoke. About 15 seconds later, some guy rolls up in a (then) late model Camaro SS. With a rumble from the duals, the Camaro started spinning its rear tires and created enough tire smoke for someone to call the fire department.

  • avatar

    Since this one does not seem to have any rust there’s probably enough metal to melt down and make a refrigerator or two.

  • avatar

    I’m a little too young to have ever dealt with a GLC personally, but not a day goes by that I don’t miss the hell out of my 323. Cheap, fun and absolutely indestructible.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, I loved my old 86 323 as well. That was a Great Little Car. No power, skinny tires, A/C even broke, but I always smile when I think about that car.

    • 0 avatar

      My girlfriend had an ’86 323, a Canadian model with carb, not fuel injection. I talked her parents into buying it for her. I remember that it had Michelin tires OEM. The car went like snot, handled exceptionally well and had top quality materials, fit and finish. I think she drove it for like nine years!

    • 0 avatar

      An ’85 GLC was the first car I owned. Bought it used with 90k miles on it and it felt like new. Peppy and chuckable, a reliable, simple, practical car that didn’t feel like a punishment the way my parents’ Pinto did.
      Followed it with an ’89 323, nicer materials and more refined, still fun and reliable.

  • avatar

    I like the colors they painted these cars. Fun, primary colors enhanced the toylike quality that they had.

  • avatar

    I worked in the parts department for Ann Arbor Volvo, which had picked up Mazda to have more choices in the showroom. The RX-3 was hideous/attractive but technically interesting. The GLC was anything but and the comparison with the Chevette is pretty valid in terms of technology and layout. But it was a solid little car and in the late 1970s as oil prices went up and the thirsty rotary was an albatross, the GLC saved Mazda’s tuchas in the US. Everyone in the parts department called Mazdas “Mazootis” and the GLC was a “Glik”.

  • avatar

    Called a 323 out here and if the rust hasnt killed one nothing else can. These were much tougher than the FWD models and I can testify to the abuse one could stand up to what a pity something like these isnt built now light,strong, reliable ecconomical, and RWD.

  • avatar

    It was a great little car in it’s own right but even better when compared to the competition.
    It shone like the light of an oncoming train in a dark tunnel when put beside the Chevette, that
    nasty little turd GM had the nerve to call a car! The 323 was also a great hoonmobile!

  • avatar

    I purchased a 1985 GLC sometime around 1994. It had 102,000 miles at the time of purchase, and I paid $500 for it. The previous owner had thought it funny to install an 8-ball shifter, which I quickly replaced with a junkyard knob because the heft of the 8-ball slowed my shifts. The GLC lived up to its name, but expired prematurely at 155,000 miles – a victim of a thrown timing chain. It was a Great Little Car.

  • avatar

    This was Mazda’s Hail Mary. It was Mazda’s 1958 Rambler American.
    Faced with collapsing sales, Mazda sent to the US a car that was an anti-Mazda at that time. The GLC had nothing distinguishing to recommend it over the better Honda Civic, VW Rabbit, Ford Fiesta, and Omni/Horizon.

    But the GLC didn’t have to be perfect. It had to be cheap and dependable. Mazda didn’t have time or ability to spend millions to launch a new US model at this time. The GLC let Mazda dealers show buyers something other than a Wankel and buy time.

    Like the Rambler American’s good timing, the Mazda GLC arrived in time to catch a break with the Carter Recession, exploding gas prices, high inflation rates, high bank loans and sold enough to pay the bills to keep the brand alive.

    The GLC is easily forgotten. The new 323 arrived with an outstanding design, excellence in engineering and front wheel drive. By 1982, the GLC was forgotten. It did it’s job, and did it well, but it was a Hail Mary pass that while caught, didn’t win the game. The GLC tied the score to keep Mazda in the game.

    It was better than a Chevette, because, well, nearly everything was better than a Chevette.

  • avatar
    vantucky cajun

    This was my first car.  A 1978 Sport model in this very color.  The 78’s still had the round headlights.  The sport trim package added a tach & orange (!) striping.  It was not faster than the base model.
    Of course, being in High School at the time, holes were hacked in the back seat walls & 6×9 speakers installed.

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