By on May 22, 2019

Today’s Rare Ride is a sporting luxury coupe with a complex rotary engine. It’s a car which was destined for America, but never quite made it.

It is, of course, the Eunos Cosmo. By Mazda.

The Cosmo name was a historical one for the Mazda brand. In 1967, the Cosmo was presented as a luxurious rear-drive sports car with an innovative rotary engine. The public got its first look at the Cosmo during the 1964 Tokyo Motor Show. Once production began in 1967, roughly one hand-built coupe left the Hiroshima factory each day. By the time first-generation production wrapped up in 1972, just 1,176 cars had been built.

This stunning navy example is owned by car collector Myron Vernis, and was featured at the 2014 Ault Park Concours show.

A second-generation Cosmo debuted for 1975; for economic reasons, it was now related to the Luce (929) sedan. Positioned as a personal luxury car, the Cosmo carried an opera window and an optional vinyl roof. Two inline-four engines joined a 1.1- and 1.3-liter rotary engine. Generation Two proved successful in Japan, where car taxation was (and is) based upon engine displacement. Less displacement, less taxes.

1981 brought the third-generation Cosmo, once again based on the Luce platform. Traces of brougham went away, as the angular coupe adopted modern styling, hidden headlamps, and graphic equalizers. For the first and only time, the HB Cosmo was available in a sedan body style — a rebadge of the Luce with a rotary engine. Cosmo choice reached a peak in this generation; gasoline, diesel, and rotary engines were on offer.

After the HB rounded out the Eighties, a fourth and final JC generation Eunos Cosmo was introduced for 1990. In 1989, Mazda founded its Eunos brand as a luxury arm to compete with the likes of Lexus and Infiniti. Aspirations in mind, Mazda developed a new platform for the Cosmo that was an extensive rework of the prior-gen HB. The coupe would end up the only car to use the platform.

Turning up the luxury, the Eunos Cosmo was a four-place affair which featured every technology Mazda could manage. The Cosmo was the first production car with factory GPS navigation. A cutting-edge CRT screen in the dash controlled navigation, television, audio system, and the climate control. It was the only Mazda ever equipped with a triple rotary engine: the uplevel 2.0-liter “20B” twin-turbo power plant. 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque travelled to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic.

All this luxury and technology made for a lofty price, which was at odds with the financial crisis sweeping Japan at the time. Mazda ended up cancelling its Eunos dreams, folding the other models under development into other places in its lineup. The Eunos Cosmo remained right-hand drive, sold only in the Japanese market. When production ended in 1995, just 8,875 existed. Your author drove one, but only in Gran Turismo on Playstation 1.

Today’s Rare Ride is a tidy graphite example for sale in San Francisco (listing expired). Earlier examples are now eligible for import under the 25-year rule, and can be found for between $15,000 and $20,000 on U.S. shores.

[Images: seller, Corey Lewis/TTAC]

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11 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Gran Turismo Dream – a 1990 Mazda Eunos Cosmo...”

  • avatar

    One of the benefits of being older is you remember just about all of these cars. The original Cosmo came out when I was a kid, and was featured in magazines like Road and Track, and Motor Trend. The navy one here is unusual; most of the ones you see pictured are white, or occasionally silver. I like the slot mags (period correct), but I’m not sure about the backspacing.

    The second Cosmo (AKA the RX-5) came out when I was in high school, and after having ridden in an RX-4 sedan, I wanted one, bad. Besides the opera windows, the most notable features were the banjo spoke steering wheel and the rolling bordello crushed velour upholstery material. A few years back I followed a lengthy blog published by a guy that was restoring one.

    The U.S. connection with the latest one is the abandoned Amati luxury brand. The Millenia sdean came out of that as well.

  • avatar

    Mazda sure wasn’t afraid to take some chances back in the day. That first Cosmo looks like what a Thunderbird might have looked like if they hadn’t gone 4-seater. The newer Cosmo has a lot in common with the ’92 929, which was a beautiful car

    • 0 avatar

      +1 with the 929 being a beautiful car. It’s a glaring example of “what could have been” with Mazda and Amati. They still look good to this day – the few you still see driving around. The 626, RX-7, MX-5 Miata, and even the little MX-3 were just homeruns in the style department.
      Plus, look at the tach. Only a 7,000 RPM redline. C’mon Mazda – open it UP!!! I know, the automatic RX-8s were rev limited to around 7,500 I believe (and made fewer HP), but with a rotary engine, luxury or no luxury, let’s see 9,000!

  • avatar

    Since I’d never heard of a diesel rotary engine, I did a Google search. According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know, it’s Wikipedia), diesel rotary engines have never gotten past the prototype phase. Diesel-Ring, a joint venture between Daimler-Benz, MAN, Krupp and KHD tried it and gave up, and Rolls-Royce tried the idea as an engine for a compact tank, cancelling the program in 1974.

  • avatar

    Ooh, the taillights of a 1960 Ford Galaxie on the navy one, though without the flat fins!

  • avatar

    I remember sitting in a 2nd generation Cosmo in our local Arlington, TX dealership back in the day. (That one came to the US.) I loved it. IIRC it was the costliest Japanese car on sale in the US at that time and was the first Japanese car here to boast of such luxuries as power windows.

    • 0 avatar

      What dealership was that? I remember going to see the first RX-7s in 1978, at a Mazda dealership on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas, and I’m trying to remember the name of that one.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised the Eunos can be had for $15k – $20k since the 3 rotor 20B engine alone sells for $10k.

    Very very cool cars by Mazda.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, it’s expensive. From what I’ve read, once you go past two rotors, the eccentric shaft (a rotary’s “crankshaft”) has to be a built-up affair, and is longer one piece. Also I’ve read that new rotor housings aren’t available anymore (even for two-rotors like the 12A and 13B), so you have to search for NOS rotor housings if you’re doing a rebuild.

  • avatar

    That most recent Cosmo w/ the CRT looks pretty awesome. That was the only one of the line of which I was unaware.

    Ignoring the idea of turbo tri-rotor rotary in a luxury car, it is something I would have enjoyed driving.

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