Rare Rides: The Very Rare 1982 Mazda 626 Two-door Sedan

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Rare Ride is boxy, brown, and well-equipped. It’s an unpopular variant of a less-than-mainstream midsize car of the Eighties. And at 38 years old, it’s managed to escape the rusty fate to which most all of these succumbed long ago.

Let’s check out the 1982 Mazda 626.

Mazda’s first 626 carried the name Capella in its home market, and 616 or 618 elsewhere. Introduced for the 1970 model year, it was a brand new midsize offering from the Hiroshima manufacturer. Capella filled a product void between the more compact Familia (323) and full-size Luce (929). The first generation lasted through 1978, and was only briefly offered in the U.S. market as the 618, equipped with a 1.8-liter inline-four.

For the 1979 model year, the second-generation “CB” Capella debuted globally. Sold, as before, in two- and four-door guises, the first generation’s two-door coupe shape gave way to a boxy and more conservative sedan form with the second-gen model.

Dimensions were largely unchanged over the first-generation car, as Mazda kept its successful midsize formula intact. In an upward move in terms of performance and appeal for North America, the Familia’s engine offerings grew larger than before. Displacement ranged from 1.6 to 2.0 liters, all of inline-four configuration; gone was the first-gen’s Wankel engine option. Transmissions were four- or five-speed manuals, or a three-speed automatic manufactured by Jatco.

When it came to exports of the second-gen Capella, Mazda changed its naming strategy: All export markets received the car as 626, except for the UK, where it was called Montrose. Mazda sent only higher-trim 2.0-liter 626s to the United States, complete with chunky impact bumpers. As a result, Japanese customers who sprung for a more expensive 626 also received American bumpers. Free upgrade!

Two years in, and Mazda reworked the 626 for the ’81 model year. Additional black trim appeared around the exterior, and new headlamps and grille appeared. 1981 was the first year for revised emissions equipment on U.S.-bound cars; catalytic converters appeared. That meant the engine’s power dropped from 80 zippy horses to 74, and 105 lb-ft of torque.

Accompanying the 1981 changes was a new top-tier LX trim, which featured much more standard equipment than other models. Seeking American sales growth, Mazda made the suspension of the 626 softer for 1981. It seems the company immediately wondered if it had gone too far, as 1982 models saw the suspension re-stiffened.

By 1982 the winds of change were blowing for Japanese cars, and the longitudinal/rear-drive layout had to go. For the 1983 model year, the 626 switched to a more modern transverse engine layout, and front-wheel drive. And of course the 6 continues on today in similar fashion.

Today’s luxurious LX Rare Ride was for sale in Florida recently. With just under 52,000 miles and in spectacular condition, the two-door sold in a couple of weeks for $4,995 or thereabouts.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 22 comments
  • Cyberfreak619 Cyberfreak619 on Jul 10, 2021

    I wanted one of these so bad! The one that i test drove in '81 was a 1980 m/y. At the time I was driving a '72 Toyota Hilux truck(yep, the one with the goofy blinkers on the top front fenders). The 626 seemed fast compared to my truck. Mom had a fit when i came home with it. I was still at home(17y/o) & she was the boss so i took it back. I thought that car was so cool though.

  • Pishta Pishta on Apr 29, 2022

    Friend had the 2 door and we had the 4 door 82 model iirc. The 82 had a more refined grill but ours was the 5sp and his was an auto. That auto car was a pig off the line but cruised nicely. Yes the suspension was softer than our 82 and I thought the auto trans made it heavier. He blew an axle retainer trying to do a donut with 3 passengers in it and the rear tire came out! We lived the rear seat room of the 4dr and got the next generation after this one. Much more power, better suspension. Blew head gasket.....I'd buy another rwd 626 if I could find one but they are scarce as in I've not seen one on road in 10 years.

  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.
  • Lou_BC There's a company in BC that has kits for logging trucks and pickups. They have "turn key" logging trucks too. What they market is similar to what Ram wants to sell. The rig runs on batteries and a generator kicks in when depleted. On the West Coast logging in the mountains they found that the trucks run mostly on regen braking. The generator doesn't kick in much. Going up mountain, the truck is empty.