By on October 16, 2020

Today marks the second time a Mazda 929 will grace us here at Rare Rides. Late last year we featured the successor to today’s car, a pristine 929 from 1992. That smooth sedan had frameless windows, rounded shapes everywhere, and was designed specifically with the North American market and Lexus customers in mind.

Let’s take a look a the much more conservative luxury sedan Mazda designed before Lexus existed.

The car North America called 929 was known in its home market as Luce. Dating back to its debut in 1967, the Luce was Mazda’s flagship. A smaller manufacturer, Mazda did not field a full-size sedan for some time. Available in coupe, sedan, and wagon formats, the Luce remained mid-size through the ’77 model year. For ’78 the LA4 series Luce grew into a larger executive car, leaving the midsize segment to the Capella (626). In its new larger form the Luce coupe went away, and the model’s three-body lineup was maintained via a standard sedan, hardtop sedan, and a wagon. The market segment of the departed Luce coupe was filled from that point onward by the Cosmo.

The LA4 generation didn’t last for long and was replaced by the HB for 1982. Once more the Luce grew in size. Reflecting future trends early, there was no more wagon in the HB generation, only a sedan and hardtop. The hardtop HB had a very interesting front end treatment, by the way. HB had a good run and remained in production through 1986. The Cosmo continued on the HB platform through the rest of the Eighties, and HB was the last time the two cars shared underpinnings.

For model year ’87, HB became HC, and the Luce experienced another growth spurt. Again available in sedan and hardtop guises, the Luce/929 was sold in two sizes. Hardtop versions were longer and wider, at 194 inches and 67.9 inches, respectively. Standard sedans were 184 inches long, and 66.7 inches wide. Though traditional in its form, Mazda saw fit to offer a zesty Wankel engine in addition to standard I4 and V6 power. Inline-fours were of 2.0- or 2.2-liter guises. There was also a tiny 2.0-liter V6, and (in North American examples) a 3.0-liter V6. Notably, the J-series engine was the first V6  Mazda produced. The rotary option was a 13B, a twin-rotor 1.3-liter mill which was not offered in North America. Some Luce trims were in fact more luxurious than the 929 offered in America, as Mazda reserved its rotary power, adjustable suspension, and console refrigerator for the home market.

Mazda saw fit to import only the sedan to North America, feeling no need to come with hardtop length. Canadians had more options than Americans eh, as they received a standard Winter Package on their 929s. That meant a tougher alternator, winter tires, wipers that didn’t hide themselves under the hood, and heated seats. The vast majority of North American 929s were automatic, but a five-speed manual was theoretically available.

The most notable change in the 929’s timeline on these shores was the addition of the S trim for 1990. The 18-valve SOHC engine was upgraded to DOHC, and 24 valves. Performance and fuel economy both increased with this upgrade; horsepower jumped from 158 to 190. S also added two-tone paint and excellent lace alloys.

The 929 was too dated, too traditional, and a slow seller. Mazda got the most mileage out of its new V6 in North America via the very interesting rear-drive MPV. The 929 was replaced with the previously featured generation in 1992. Worth noting, Koreans absolutely loved the HC 929. Once Mazda stopped building it, they sold the design to Kia. Kia did a light front and rear rework and sold it as the Potentia from 1992 until 2001. The 929-cum-Potentia’s base 2.0-liter engine also saw use in the first generation Kia Sportage for many years.

Today’s Rare Ride is located in Germany because Americans can’t take good pictures when they have a 929 for sale. This V6 asks $10,500.

[Images: seller]

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28 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1990 Mazda 929, a Traditional Japanese Luxury Sedan...”

  • avatar

    Not in my parking lot.

  • avatar

    My parents were looking to get a midsize 4door in early 87, and since we lived a block away from the local dealer row, we’d take a stroll up to look around, and the two my dad seemed interested in were the Celebrity Eurosport and the 929 (yes, there were some MT 929s on the lot). They ultimately decided to hold off, and got one of the first 92 Diamantes.

  • avatar

    It’s 30 years old, so you can import it now. Jus’ sayin’!

  • avatar

    57,015 miles on the odometer.

  • avatar

    My favorite version of the Luce is the rotary engined RX-4. Lately I’ve been seeing an RX-4 wagon at a rotary specialty shop nearby (Rotary Performance in Garland, Texas).

  • avatar


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Heated seats in a 1990 Japanese vehicle?

    As for the Celebrity Eurosport. My neighbour purchased on around the same time that I purchased an Accord sedan. Let’s just say, I made the correct choice.

    And the video demonstrates that GM’s execs still didn’t understand the market when they commented on how that ‘nice young couple’ would soon be looking for a wagon. Sorry GM but by that time, minivans were decimating the market for full sized wagons.

  • avatar

    18 cam?! Wow. I mean Mazda is known for doing engines a bit differently but I had no idea.

    Never liked this 929 much. Just seemed like a big japanese car.

    The following generation was excellent. Actually all of those early to mid 90’s Mazda designs were pretty darn good. To this day the FD RX-7 catches my eye whenever I see one. Timeless.

  • avatar

    Punctuated Heckblende!

    [Not all Heckblendes are Contiguous]

  • avatar

    My friend had this. It was smooth. I loved it. It even had those swing vents, if you understand what that is

  • avatar

    My father bought a 929 in 1987, trading in the ’78 Ford Fairmont and its emission starved six that couldn’t even stay running unless my mother warmed it up for almost 20 minutes. They’re all like that, quoth the dealer (for a decade) – unable to idle from a cold start, so Mum had to sit there and hold the accelerator pedal. What a load of junk, 89 hp at 2900 rpm when it finally woke up. Try to use more than 40 hp and it ran hot and stank of oil. Ask me how I know. Dig that front bench seat with the patented slippery waxy red vinyl Ford also supplied to K Mart for padded $12.99 unfolding card table tops. Hmm, hmm. Yeah.

    The 929 was a revelation by comparison. Smooooth. Quiet. Not much like an Accord or a 626 at all, being RWD. Felt luxurious. Even I was impressed and I was then an Aud man. The swivelling air vents were neat. When you goosed the 929, all was good up to 85 mph or so, but after that its tongue hung out panting and it was also then a bit wobbly in the handling stakes, even on a four laner, especially when a crosswind breeze was up. A noticeable transition from whooshing imperturbably along to being a bit on tenterhooks. As an everyday driver, though, pretty darn sweet, and in another far higher league compared to a noisy braying V6 Celebrity hauling that bag of creaking bolts headed generally in the same direction behind it. Reliable beast as well, that 929. Not bad at all.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    In the US, the 929 was one of those ’80s “sure, let’s send a few over” kind of imports, much like the Kia K900 nowadays. In the context of the Japanese market, it was a clear knockoff of the Toyota Crown for people who had a business connection to Mazda or who despised the Toyota dealer for some reason.

    The (pillared) hardtop is pretty snazzy:

  • avatar

    This car with MT was somewhat popular cheap executive luxury alternative from Germany. The minus was that it had RWD – we had 8 month a year snowy or frozen roads. It was not as pretty as Mitsu Sigma or as good as Ford Scorpio (my favorite}. It was still Japanese car and could not compete with Germans.

  • avatar

    WONDERFUL cars!!

    Mine was similar to the one shown here, and was one of my absolute favorites. If I could find a nice one I’d put the 7 Series aside and DD that right now.

    I also did see a 5-spd stick back in the day, but it was blue metallic on blue velour and I just couldn’t do it.

  • avatar

    The (pillared) hardtop is pretty snazzy:

    Wow check out that forward opening home style cassette deck!! Insane!

  • avatar

    I hope they hung onto the Millenia name. It sure beats CX-9.

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