Junkyard Find: 1991 Mazda 929 S
When we talk about Japanese luxury cars of the early 1990s, we usually mention the Lexus LS400, the Infiniti Q45, and maybe— if we’re allowing smaller front-wheel-drive machines to fit our definition of genuine luxury— the Acura Legend. Once in a while, maybe some edge-case type might thrown in a reference to the Mitsubishi Diamante, but one car that almost never comes up in the discussion is the Mazda 929. Why not? It’s a big, comfy, rear-wheel-drive sedan with healthy V6 power. The late-80s/early-90s 929 is just about extinct these days, but I managed to spot one in a California self-service yard a few weeks back.
I owned a somewhat beater-ish ’90 929 for a brief period (before trading it for a Volvo 240 wagon and a computer monitor), and it was a pretty good car— not as sophisticated or powerful as the Lexus LS, but it had a lot of power and the fact that everything still worked on a car that hadn’t been coddled showed a certain level of build quality.
This one didn’t even make it to 150,000 miles on the clock in 21 years.
James Garner pitched the 929 as an El Cheapo alternative to expensive German sedans, with predictable results.
The problem with the 929 was mostly image; we don’t associate Mazda with conspicuous-consumption machines, and the styling on this car was vanilla approaching invisibility.
Perhaps Mazda should have called it the Big Personal Luce, as was the case in Japan. Big Personal!
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This car is not as slick and polished as the original LS 400, but the interior on this car (especially the shape of the seats and the leather-covered door panels) put domestic luxury cars from that era to shame. Seriously, even the original Lexus ES 250 had an interior that Cadillac or Lincoln could only dream of then. I'm not too fond of the exterior styling. It's a bit Japanonomous to me. Looks-wise, now in 2012 it looks like it could be any old Asian sedan. Not so with the LS 400. I wish you'd done the later 90's Mazda 929. Even to this day I think a black or pearl white example looks stellar. It had a beautiful interior and a sleek exterior that still is fresh to me. I always wanted one of the curvy 929's even to this day. To bad they're mostly too old and would be expensive prospects, indeed.
I ran across a 1991 929 S at the local Mazda dealership and purchased it on the spot. It is white with saddle leather interior, documented 53 K miles with one owner always serviced at this dealer. The car looks like time had stopped for it, like new condition. I love the automatic seat belts and the oscillating center vents. I get more pleasure driving it then driving my S500. It is simple in design, light weight and a great engine with DOHC. Would love to convert it to a 5 speed manual.