Badge Engineering Gone Right: The Ford Laser TX3

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

Aside from the Ford Probe/Mazda MX-6, the collaboration between the Blue Oval and the pride of Hiroshima didn’t produce much in the way of performance cars. But a little know rebadge effort did give Ford a 4WD, rally-derived pocket rocket.

As an attempt by Ford to break into the Japanese market, Ford leveraged their partnership with Mazda to build cars like the Laser and Telstar, which used Mazda mechanicals in an effort to build right-sized cars that would appeal to Japanese consumers. The Laser was also exported to select markets like Australia and New Zealand.

A performance trim, dubbed the TX3, was offered, featuring the Mazda B6 and BP twincam motors used in the Miata and hot versions of the 323. But the TX3 Turbo and Turbo 4WD were the real stars, offering the same running gear and performace as the Mazda 323 GTX. While they offered the B6T and BPT engines of our 323 GTX (and the JDM-only second generation, which used a 1.8L turbo mill), they also suffered from fragile drivelines and uncaring owners.

The Ford Laser TX3 is but a footnote in the canon of Japanese performance cars. Nevertheless, its an under-appreciated bright spot in an ultimately doomed partnership. The similarity between the two cars echoes the near identical nature of the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86 – but pre-dated even Subaru’s own 4WD turbocharged efforts by a good 5-10 years.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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5 of 28 comments
  • Athos Nobile Athos Nobile on Nov 03, 2014

    This is what I've seen here on the streets. VERY rarely And the regular Lasers from this model also have nicer engines than their US counterparts.

  • PonchoIndian PonchoIndian on Nov 04, 2014

    Subaru had turbos in the early 80's. I had a teacher that had a 323 GTX. I remember it being a pretty cool little car that stood out in the parking lot. I haven't seen another one for a good 20+ years.

    • Raresleeper Raresleeper on Nov 04, 2014

      Those early Subaru's always had a thing for rust. They were quite exclusive over the years. Just about Hen's Teeth now, if there's anything left of them. Perhaps a fine citizen of Colorado will clarify. The State of Colorado is Subaru Central.

  • Robert Gordon Robert Gordon on Nov 04, 2014

    "The Laser was also exported to select markets like Australia and New Zealand." Actually they were made there!

  • Outback_ute Outback_ute on Nov 04, 2014

    Was there a second generation 323 GTX? There was a second generation TX3 Turbo 4wd, sold in Australia. At the 1991 Bathurst 12 Hour production car race one of these (2nd gen car) came 2nd outright.