By on December 20, 2021

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe original Mazda 626, sold here for the 1978 through 1982 model years, was a rear-wheel-drive machine that looked quite European in a Peugeot 504-ish way. Its front-wheel-drive successor was straight-up aimed at gaijin car shoppers who might consider a Camry, Accord, or Stanza, and it came packed with affordable luxury features and cool gadgetry. Here’s an ’85 LX sedan with one of the raddest 1980s audio systems imaginable, found in a Northern California self-service yard earlier this month.

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, radio - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt’s got this Dolby-equipped Fujitsu Ten-built component system with separate radio, auto-reverse cassette deck, and nine-band equalizer. By 1985 standards, this audio rig is intergalactic, and it’s a minor miracle that no thieves ever chainsawed up the dash to rip it off during the 1980s (when factory audio hardware was worth real money). The AM/FM/cassette components came as standard equipment on the LX, but the EQ cost an additional 140 bucks (that’s about $370 in 2021 dollars).

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, fader/balance joystick - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBut there’s more! Check out this amazing Fujitsu Ten fader/balance joystick, which features a beautifully damped mechanism that just feels expensive. I’ve seen other joystick controls on car-audio setups from the 1980s and 1990s, but they’ve all been flimsy garbage that probably went scratchy before age five.

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, radio - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt was a great deal of work to extract this joystick unit from the console without busting anything (my personal Junkyard Code prohibits me from breaking stuff while extracting parts), but I had to own it for my collection. Look for it in a future junkyard-parts boombox.

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe body and paint on this car look nicer than what you’ll see on most 10-year-old Mazdas, and the interior looks like it just got detailed. Someone took very meticulous care of this car during its 36 years.

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, gauge cluster - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNot even 90,000 miles on the clock. Did it blow a head gasket in 1996 and sit in a garage since that time?

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, decklid badges - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis is the second-highest trim level for the 1985 626, located just below the Luxury Touring Sedan, and it listed at $10,245 with a 5-speed manual or $10,665 with automatic (that comes to about $26,990 and $28,100 in 2021 dollars). The 1985 Honda Accord LX sedan with automatic started at $10,645, the 1985 Toyota Camry LE sedan with automatic was $10,898, the 1985 Nissan Stanza GL sedan cost $10,049, and the 1985 Mitsubishi Galant Luxury sedan could be had for $11,989. The 626 seems like a steal, given all the no-extra-cost goodies that came with it.

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe engine is a two-liter four rated at 84 horsepower, a bit less than the base plants in the Camry (92hp), Accord (86hp), Stanza (97hp), and the Galant (101hp). When did Mazda stop using that blue color on air cleaners?

1985 Mazda 626 sedan in California junkyard, rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIs it rare? Very much so. Is it valuable? Not at all.


James Garner pitched these cars.


Known as the Capella in its homeland, this car was the choice of French families seeking to hide rabbits from hunting dogs in the forests of Japan.


Capella!

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36 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1985 Mazda 626 Luxury Sedan...”


  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    These were really nice cars and quite a value at the time given the equipment and their driving dynamics. I worked for a Mazda dealer at the time and sold lots of 626 to shoppers looking for an Accord but put off by the demand which led to dealers packing the price with lots of additional profit and refusing to budge on the price. The model to have was the 5-door Hatch in LX trim with the 5-speed. A great car that had Mazda had a marketing and advertising budget, could have given the Camry and Accord a run for their money.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I had a later model sedan with the 6 cylinder /w the automatic. It was a great car. It had leather, sunroof, premium sound system. The only thing wrong with it at the better part of 100,000 miles was the plastic radiator became clogged and required replacement. I did trade it in on an fully loaded Accord.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    These were nice cars. My h.s. librarian had one, the 5-door, with a 5-speed manual. Loaded with the works (for the era). My best friend had a 2-door turbo with a manual. Did not have the typical turbo lag of the era, especially compared to Mopar 2.2’s. And the best feature of course was the oscillating center dash A/C vents. All cars should have those.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    A buddy of mine in high school had a 83 or 84 MT hatch, and I was always impressed with it, especially in comparison to my 81 Datsun 510. That 626 had the oscillating center vent, that same stereo, different chimes for each warning and other luxurious stuff that you’d have to move up to a Maxima for on a Nissan.

    Why did the oscillating vents never catch on? IIRC only some Lexus LS and JDM Toyotas had em outside of Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Another Mazda “bubble era” or pre-bubble innovation was a solar-powered sunroof vent fan. I think it was on 929’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Correct. Once the interior temperature reached a set point the car automatically ‘cooled off’. A brilliant concept.

        But then I remember mid 70 Audis whose engine fan was set to continue running after the car was ‘turned off’.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          It wasn’t just Audi’s. The Omni/Horizon twins had that feature, even after they switched to the Chrysler 2.2 engine. The fans stayed on to dissipate heat that would build up after the engine was turned off.

          A malfunctioning sensor could kill the battery, so some owners had the fans rewired to turn off with the engine. The damage came later.

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          @Arthur Dailey

          My ’78 Audi Fox had that “feature” with the fan. IIRC, it never ran for more than about 30 seconds after the car shut off, but it was freakin’ LOUD. I’d come home at 2:00am after partying, park in the driveway, and that damn thing would kick on. They never complained to me in person, but I’m sure the next-door neighbors hated it. That thing could wake the dead.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Wow – that interior is cleaner than my 2019 daily driver.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    I was never crazy for the 626, but this is a nice vehicle. The radio setup is very nice! I don’t recall seeing that setup (plus EQ!) in a Mazda before. I was very taken with the 929 and the Millenia in the early 1990s (though I know each one had certain issues and limitations).

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “The body and paint on this car look nicer than what you’ll see on most 10-year-old Mazdas”

    This is BS. I have 11 and 12 yo Mazdas and no visible rust. Intact bodies. And only suspension components have usual mazda rust but nothing outrageous.

    And I loved these 626s and 929s of that era. Even 323 were nice

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Imagine test driving one of these. Then heading to the Chevy dealer and hopping into a Celebrity with an Iron Duke Tech – 4. Yikes. Iron Dukes are like Biden, they don’t go away when the body, associated components and inside are way past prime. …and are about as brash when given throttle inputs as when the Big Guy is asked about Hunter’s Laptop.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      you can say this about any Russian car of the soviet era. Even though laptops did not exist back then. Although, who knows? I remember KGB had some device in the small case. You open it up. There were some buttons and a monitor.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        “In America you watch television. In Soviet Union television watch you.”

        • 0 avatar
          tomLU86

          Today, in America facebook/google/microsoft/apple and the ever-present NSA/CIA/DIA/even USPS watch you, and Pravda is more credible and truthful than the NY Times, WSJ, and the MSM in general. How sad….

          I remember the oscillating vents in my friend’s MX6. They were entertaining to watch.

          His next gen (87? 88?) MX6 had, at that time, an instrument panel/dashboard that I thought look amazing–reminiscent of a Porsche 928.

          For me, the 1980s/1990s were peak AUTOMOBILE, even if they didn’t do as well in collisions, and the fwd Mazda 626 was part of that era.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @Tom

            Arthur is a funny guy. He still thinks that commissars live in Moscow. But commissars now live in Brussels.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Commissars now all have homes in London and possibly New York and Monaco.

            The Russian public is still treated as sheep to be fleeced.

            And hard right Americans have become ‘useful idiots’ in assisting America’s enemies to undermine the American political system and divide American society.

            The social media campaign of misinformation has proven quite successful, tovarich.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Arthur

          Are you that delusional? You are living in the 1984 book in real time, right now. And you are going to tell us that Russians are sheep?
          Russian children don’t learn in school how to change sex.
          And this NYTimes that removes parts of the passed article because it does not match future reality?
          The US gov. corruption is unprecedented. US people are true sheep. If they allow these things to happen and not yet revolted? Phew. disgrace.

          • 0 avatar
            96redse5sp

            @slavuta

            “Russian children don’t learn in school how to change sex.”

            Lol. How to say you’ve never read 1984 without saying you’ve never read 1984. And you know that Orwell was a lifelong Socialist, right? And that he fought alongside the Communists in the Spanish Civil War. Yeah – he was a dedicated Anti-fascist…

            But “let’s go Brandon”, amiright, Slavuta?

            And what does any of that have to do with the 626?

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            96redse5sp

            again, Winston, go and cut some pieces off your Pravda…. brrrrr. NY Times. Typical prole.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Slavuta (or Slavutas): You truly are a one trick pony. The Russian population puts up with Kleptocracy and dictatorship because too many still believe in the ‘strong man’ theory of government. They allow their domestic politics to be corrupt, their economy to be an international pygmy, as long as their leader tells them that their nation is feared militarily.

        • 0 avatar

          “In America you watch television. In Soviet Union television watch you.”

          Fact checking: that is not true. In Soviet Union TV sets did not have cameras. I know that because in 1980s I used to repair CRT TV sets and install NTSC/PAL/SECAM decoders (Soviet TVs supported only SECAM) as a side business. TVs did not have remote control either. And no cable TV or WiFi.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Congrats. Stalin reborn.

            “The struggle is no longer just who gets to vote or make it easy for eligible people to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote – whether your vote counts at all,” – Joe Biden

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Arthur Dailey

          where are you and where is Russian population? What do you know about Russian population?

          Just because Joe Munchin saved some level of sanity does not mean your life being managed by people of high integrity. Go ask Pelosi how much she mad on insider trading

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    James Garner had no credibility at my high school, because the Rockford Files Firebird was missing a spoiler. (That opinion was held by one person, but expressed quite adamantly.)

    What happens when you play Iron Maiden in this vehicle without the “Metal” switch engaged?

    • 0 avatar

      ToolGuy: I know the quip was just that about the metal switch, but if you were playing a type IV(metal) tape without the switch selected the bias would be messed up and the resulting audio would be less than it would otherwise. If I am remembering right, metal tapes required a higher bias. Having the switch in would put the high freqs in the proper perspective – without it the high end would be exaggerated. (and I probably got that backwards.)

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    My older brother had an early 90 MX6.Which was mechanically similar to the 89 Probe LX I owned but was built better than my Ford with nicer materials and overall more solid feel.
    Coolest feature was a mechanical rotating center vent that some modern luxury carmakers tout as a new feature! That feature still worked with over 160k miles on the clock.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I had an MX-3 Precidia with the tiny (1.8L) v6 for one summer. It was a company car (the employee left ‘suddenly’) and unfortunately was an automatic. So I ‘grabbed it’ for the remainder of the lease. Despite the auto it was a blast to drive.

  • avatar
    17andCounting

    Bought a 1984 626 new (demo actually). It too had the oscillating center vent – quite useful.

    Paid $13,200 for it. Put 185k truly trouble free miles on it. Maintenance item only: brakes, tires, belt hoses.
    Well cracked the exhaust system when I got the thing air born a high speed trip to JFK in the middle of the night.

    Sold it for $1,800. Best cost per mile of any car we’ve owned.

  • avatar
    MitchConner

    Bought a light blue metallic with grey cloth 1985 Mazda 626 GT new back in the day. Wasn’t a bad car. Drove alright. Reliable for the most part. Had a crazy little feature where if you pushed a button between the top center HVAC vents — they’d move back and forth like an oscillating fan. Should’ve added some paper streamers to the vents so I felt like I was in a Sears, Woolworth or Kmart fan department to complete the effect.

    The dealer Oak Tree Mazda in San Jose were complete scumbags. Pain to get a good deal. Delivered the car with fumes in the tank. Granted new cars weren’t regularly filled back then — but come on. Put a couple gallons in it at least so I could drive a few blocks to fill it without worrying about running out of gas.

    Worst thing about them was their service department. The car needed an exhaust gasket replaced under warranty. They did the job — but wanted $600 more when I picked the car up. Why? They broke an exhaust manifold bolt during repair — and said the bolt wasn’t covered under warranty and I had to make up the difference. Total double dipping BS.

    Paid with a credit card to get my car released then disputed the charge. Bank ruled in my favor. Dealer sicced a collection firm after me. I drove those guys absolutely bonkers. Would pick up the phone, they’d ask for me, I’d say hang on a second I’ll go get him, then stick the phone’s handset under a couch cushion for a while. Or pick it up and start speaking in French. Or put it on the bathroom counter and make them listen to me taking a leak before hanging up. I’d also say OK, I’ll pay — then make up a credit card number. They’d FedEx a letter with a return payment envelope with a postage paid indicia. Cut the indicia out and used it to ship back a box of several bricks. Took them a while to wise up but they finally gave up.

    Car held up for around 100K nicely — although the OEM BF Goodrich tires were defective and were nearly bald in less than 7000 miles of freeway driving. Mazda said talk to BFG. One tire dealer accused me of beating on the car. Another dealer, run by a bunch of old school hot rodders, looked at the tires, looked around the wheel wells for rubber dust, saw none — and got the factory to replace them at no cost.

    Grey cloth interior wound up a sex stain on the passenger seat. Thanks, Kathy. Couple of years after trading it in saw a car that looked like it in a parking lot. Looked through the window. Bingo. That’s my car.

    Never bought another Mazda again. Thought about a 1990 MX-GT as they were good looking cars — but didn’t want to deal with their dealers again.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    For a long time I had my eye on getting one of these, but it was never the right time or place. Simple, elegant styling and just different enough from the Cam-Cord. The interior on this on is in remarkable condition, they don’t make them with that kind of durability anymore.

  • avatar
    Gayneu

    Ah the 626. My dad had the first series, late 70s model. Bright red with black interior and 5-speed. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and it forever changed my opinion on US cars. US cars have gotten waaaaaaaay better but my garage is still full of German and Japanese drivers.

  • avatar
    The Snu

    My buddy Andy had one in 1988 or so. Had the joystick. I vividly remember sitting in the car for the first time, seeing that thing, and pushing it all around in circles, waiting for the flanging effect. Nothing happened.

    I said “andy, the joystick isn’t working.”

    He said “Yes, because every A–Hole who sits in the passenger seat immediately starts pushing that thing around in circles for the flanging effect!!”

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