By on June 18, 2020

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]

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21 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Very Rare 1982 Mazda 626 Two-door Sedan...”

  • avatar

    These were good, fun little cars. It was the starting point of the RX-7.

    We had a 1980 for a few years. Unfortunately the bypass hose blew while the wife was driving it and she drove it the rest of the way home. Rather than mess with a head gasket and possible other damage I happened to find an 81 with body damage for $200 IIRC that I got the engine from.

    Funny story on how it went away. We had already purchased its replacement and I’d given it the spit shine and stuck a for sale sign in the window. The next day a young kid in a Clydesdale Mach 1, with its superior visibility, decided he needed to turn around. He pulled into the neighbor across the street’s driveway and then proceeded to back into our car.

    The insurance adjuster came out and seeing the for sale sign inquired about it. He had came into the adjusting game after several years in the auto body repair business. So we got a check from the insurance company and some cash from the adjuster. At the time I had just started my mobile auto repair business and the parts store that I used had hired me part time. So one Sat morning I was standing behind the counter when a grey 626 pulled in. It was the adjuster who had fixed the body and since its red was kind of faded, chalky and unmatchable he decided to paint it all and change the color. It looked very nice and he had been using it as his work vehicle for several months at that point and was quite happy.

  • avatar

    Ford got a lot of miles out of the 626 platform, it was the basis of the 1st and 2nd gen Escape/Tribute/Mariner. Good car

  • avatar

    These things are rare for a good reason. They were underpowered to point where they couldn’t get out of their own way. A midsize car with a subcompact’s engine.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with Kendahl.

      Even by the slow standards of the day, these were slow. 20 second quarter miles in Car & Driver? I dont’ rememmber.

      C/D generally liked the car–as long as you were not in a hurry.

      A sport sedan with no sport is NOT a sport sedan (or coupe).

      Now, the FWD 626 that replace this car–not only did it look good, AND have a great dashboard (reminded me of a 928), but it was, if not brisk, certainly above average. THAT was a keeper!

      • 0 avatar

        The coupe and 4 door hatchback got a cooler dashboard (with the control pods near the wheel) than the 4 door sedan did. Then in the 1986 facelift, all 626’s got a revised dash that wasn’t as interesting as the first one in most ways. Anyway, the ’83-87 generation 626 was awesome.

  • avatar

    My father was car shopping in 1979 and had brought home both Datsun and Mazda brochures. I remember looking at the 626 and thinking it was a really sharp looking car.
    He eventually bought a four-door 510. It gave him great service – but rusted terribly.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I always liked the rear window treatment on this model. I actually wanted one but ‘went cheaper’ and instead purchased a 3 door Civic hatchback due to how much we liked my fiance’s. In retrospect the Honda was a better choice.

    As for rust, none of the Japanese manufacturers at this point knew how to even delay it. Later they figured it out, but Mazda was the last to do so.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, very good Mazda decided to start rustproofing after 2011!

      I was actually just thinking about the rear window here. That’s really a large pane of glass, with quite a curvature! And rear defrost, the presence of which I’ve started checking on early Eighties cars.

      Imagine that rear window would’ve been quite a cost to replace back in the day.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I remember these, but the 3rd gen. Turbo was truly handsome.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I checked these out as my first new car – was pretty impressed but I was driving a ‘73 Pinto at the time so I think the Flintstone’s car would have been an upgrade over my beater. I ended up with the freshly introduced Corolla sport coupe, but the Mazda would have fine too.

    • 0 avatar

      I was 19 years old and got me a brand new 1971 Toyota Corolla Sports Coupe with the fastback styling. I got me some Anson slotted mags and blacked out the window frames and the lower rocker panel below the chrome strip. With the 5 speed and 1.6 CC hemi engine it was a pocket rocket!

  • avatar

    These were never that common, even here in SoCal, though I do still see em on occasion, surprisingly, in 2dr guise like this. The following FWD one was far more common, and was even offered in the US in the neat 5dr liftback. A neighbor of mine was so fond of em he had 2 at the time he moved away late last year.
    In high school, a buddy of mine inherited his mom’s 84 when I drove my dad’s 81 Datsun 510/Violet, and the Mazda was a spaceship in comparison. It had different tones for every warning, the infamous Mazda oscillating center vents, nice velour seats… jelly…

  • avatar

    I don’t recall these being all that rare. The sedan seemed to sell better than the hardtop coupe, but I saw both kinds. The post-facelift LX model was quite nice inside and was one of the first sedans or coupes to have split-folding rear seats. Folding rear seats, even ones that folded as a single unit, were very rare up to this point in cars that weren’t hatchbacks or wagons.

  • avatar

    “That meant the engine’s power dropped from 80 zippy horses to 74, and 105 lb-ft of torque.”

    So not bad for a Mazda then.

  • avatar

    I have not seen this gen on the streets in I couldn’t tell you how long.

    I will every once in awhile still catch the 3rd and 4th gen cars. One of each I have owned. For the time I quite liked them, though at least with the 4th gen, the Honda Accord of the day was a noticeably more solid feeling car. But the 626s I had were little tanks.

    Funny how you at some point realize that a certain car is basically completely gone from the road.

  • avatar
    Dirk Wiggler

    My 5th grade teacher, Ms. Ablebay drove this coupe– a pea soup color. The memories. For most of its existence, Mazda has done a great job differentiating its designs from its Japanese rivals.

  • avatar

    How it compared to Ford Sierra? Never saw this Mazda but 80s Sierras were popular as used cars in 90s.

  • avatar

    Pretty little car, I nearly traded my ’78 Malibu coupe on one.

  • avatar

    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.

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