By on February 27, 2012

After visiting the lowest-mile early Mazda GLC imaginable, I’ve been looking out for more GLCs in the junkyard. Until the 1981 model year, all the GLCs (known as the Familia or 323 outside of North America) were rear-wheel-drive and had nearly identical chassis to the early RX-7s. Mazda finally got on the front-wheel-drive bandwagon with this version, which I found in a Northern California self-serve yard earlier in the month.
These things actually were great little cars, simple, tough, and cheap. I recall most of these being hatchbacks back in the 80s, but I’ve found exactly two front-wheel-drive GLCs in junkyards recently and both were sedans.
The base two-door hatch listed at $5,295, while the base sedan went for $6,245. That explains the popularity of the hatchbacks, though the ’83 Civic sedan listed at a princely $6,849. $5,616 was the price for an ’83 Chevette four-door hatchback, if you were more concerned about number of doors than things like build quality, comfort, interior space, or performance.
Check out this in-dash Clarion AM/FM radio. Can you believe thieves used to steal these things?

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22 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Mazda GLC Sedan...”

  • avatar

    When my sister gave me her (non-running, at the time) 1978 Plymouth Arrow, she bought a 1981 GLC as a replacement. Super car, that I always loved to drive. Simple, rugged…white hatchback with blue vinyl interior. She upgraded a little for a non-factory stereo, but that was it. Four speed tranny, dinky 13″ tires and a 1.5 that you could run the snot out of. GLC was an appropriate moniker to this little imp. When she got into her current career field, she plunked down for a 1989 Honda CRX Si that became the star of our family auto stable (ok…I had a 1986 Lancer ES Turbo by then…mom and dad still drove their 1981 Toyota Corolla, so it wasn’t THAT hard to trump our rides!)…but the GLC was still sorely missed for the honesty and simplicity that it provided in worry-free driving. Oh, and I loved the front-hinged hood! I guess cars like that will never grace our roads again…

  • avatar

    I bought a base [no radio!]GLC hatch back in 1981. Same color as this one. The memory of the 1979 gas shortage was still fresh; [remember, all the gas pumps had to be retrofitted to show >$.99/gal that summer] but I had hedged my bets with a 302 V8 Caprice Classic. It was the bullet-proof rep of the previous GLC that got me to pay $6200 for that Great Little Car. [The Chevy was about $7900]. The Mazda was good for over 40 mpg hwy; and its 5-speed and clutch survived teaching my wife and two kids to drive it. Five years and 80,000 zero-trouble miles later, the GLC wasn’t as lucky when it hit a stone wall.

  • avatar

    Yikes. I didn’t realize that even in 1983, the Japanese were making some crazy beige products. And look at those drip rails! They could be lifted off a ’77 GMC! If only there were a car in the early 80s with drip rails thoughtfully concealed inside the door, with aircraft-styled doors that curved into the roof ever so slightly…

    • 0 avatar

      It was called Thunderbird … “Before we made it Beautiful, we made it Right!”

      BTW, the front LT qtr pic of the headlamp assys w/o grille reminded me of the shape and proportion of similar assays used on the Omni/Horizon and the first year Mustang SVO.

      In its own time, was the GLC a much better car than the MX-3 was in its?

    • 0 avatar

      My eyes are just so relieved that it doesn’t have an all red interior.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve owned one Mazda, and friends have had several from that era. Black, grey, tan(ish) or Black/Grey seemed to be the colors of choice. I can only recall the RX-7 having a wider pallet of colors.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mazda sedan was introduced in late 1980. Ford didn’t have any hidden drip rails inside aircraft-inspired doors either.

  • avatar

    Mazda’s marketing back then said GLC was short for “Great Little Car”

  • avatar

    Great Little Car – GLC – that’s what the ads said about this Mazda, and they seemed to be kind of on the right track.

    I wasn’t a fan of anything imported back then, so these merely slipped off my radar. The imports that did get on my radar were the Corollas, Camrys, Accords and Civics. I did keep a wary eye on those, for good reason.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Murilee, it seems to me that often times these cars have had their rear seat bottom cushion pulled out. Is there a reason for that? Gas tank removal, perhaps?

  • avatar

    We owned an ’82 which we passed to my mother in law after about six years. She drove it for another 20 years. The 3-speed auto was cheesy, but it was durable and a really decent driver which could fit four adults, so long as you weren’t trying to climb any steep grades. The Mazda3 is a good spiritual successor to the GLC, if only it could lose the big mouth…

  • avatar

    My best friend bought one of these used when we were in high school. It had led a checkered past, as we were to learn when a body shop told us it was painted a Pontiac color rather than a Mazda one. Still, it was good enough that it turned his family from new GM buyers to exclusively import buyers during the four or five years he had it. In the days when private buyers still bought a majority of Detroit iron, there was nothing beige about a car that worked.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I also remember Ford selling these as the Laser, Guia badge and all…

  • avatar

    What a find, didn’t know the GLC came in a sedan, I thought they were all hatches. I never saw a GLC sedan in the wild before, dead or alive. I feel like I’m looking at pictures of Bigfoot.

  • avatar

    A best friend had a 1981 GLC sedan much like this car. It ably served him until he bought a Civic Si in 1984. I remember his GLC having an enormous trunk for such a small car.

  • avatar

    1981 GLC: Very comfortable car at the time but a mechanical nightmare. My sister bought one off the dealer’s lot and the engine would cut out on soft left and right turns. 5 of 10 times you’d loose complete power and couldn’t complete the turn and the brake pedal would be rock hard making it difficult to stop. Not an easy task when she was 5’4″ and 110 lbs.
    Mazda never could fix the problem. She sold the car back to the dealership two years later, went to the Toyota dealer across the street and ended up putting 165,000 trouble free miles in 15 years on a Corolla.

  • avatar
    Peter Reynolds

    I bought a used GLC hatchback. It was the base model with a 4 speed and no A/C. It was light and flimsy. If I jacked it up the body would twist enough so that the doors wouldn’t open. The vinyl seats cracked and the carpet was cheap. Never the less, I liked it.

    I autocrossed it in SCCA H-Stock with the following suspension adjustments that were legal in the stock class: .25″ toe out on the front. .125″ toe out on the rear. The front struts were cut open and Koni adjustable shocks inserted. Tokico adjustable shocks inserted in the rear struts. Disconnected front swaybar. Yokohama 008R or 008RSII tires.

    The car rotated well on AutoX courses, but it was really unsafe to drive at speed on the street: One always had to remember to keep one’s foot on the accelerator in the corners. Lift off, and the back of the car would slide out.

    I learnt an important lesson with this car: Any car can be made to corner fast. It just takes a creative wheel alignment and some sticky DOT tires.

  • avatar

    My second Mazda was an ’81 four door hatchback, blue in and out. And it WAS a Great Little Car, very commodious for the size, cheap to run, fun to drive. But it wasn’t as zippy after I had the dealership add air conditioning; that little engine definitely felt the drag of the compressor.

    Mazda knew what it was doing in the 80’s. A shame they’ve lost their way with oddball styling. And of course, a car like the GLC would violate a zillion safety standards nowadays.

  • avatar

    When I worked in Taiwan in the late 80’s-early 90’s I drove the locally-assembled equivalent, called the Ford Laser. It was a 1984 4-door sedan, with a 1.5L engine, equipped with an automatic, which was rare on cars of that class and era. Very reliable, simple mechanically (with a manual choke).

    The main competitor’s model of the Laser was the Yue Loong (locally assembled Nissan) Sunny or Sentra. The general rule of thumb was that the Ford models had somewhat heavier sheet metal but consumed more fuel, while the Yue Loong were more fuel efficient but had lighter metal, which wasn’t as durable in a fender bender.

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