The 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.
The 1980s were confusing times for figuring out badges on U.S.-market Japanese cars.
You had the Toyota Corolla Tercel (which wasn’t related to the Corolla). You had the ever-shifting miasma of various Mitsubishi-based Chryslers. You had the Nissan Stanza Wagon (which was a non-Stanza Prairie at home). And you had all the brand bewilderment of the Datsun-to-Nissan changeover of the early part of the decade (to be fair, Detroit was doing the same sort of badging sleight-of-hand, e.g., front- and rear-wheel-drive Cutlasses in the same showroom).
The Datsun 810 became the Nissan Maxima during the 1981-1984 period, but it didn’t happen like flipping a switch; here’s a Datsun 810 with “by Nissan” and Maxima badging that I spotted in a Northern California wrecking yard a few months ago.
A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to own a well-preserved 1990s Japanese luxury car, and my first choice was the Infiniti Q45. Well, it turned out that just about every example of the Q45 got completely trashed by about 2005, and so I found a very nice Coach Edition LS400. Still, though, I love the early Q45’s weirdness and its Nissan President origins, and so I shot this first-year example that I found in California.
In the late 1980s, otherwise known as the Before Lexus LS Era, American car shoppers didn’t have many choices for big Japanese luxury sedans. You had the Toyota Cressida, the Nissan Maxima, and that was pretty much it (nitpickers might add the Mitsubishi Diamante to this list, since it was possible to buy one in late 1989; the same could be said of the Lexus LS, of course). Or was it? Oh yes, there was also the Mazda 929, a car that never made much of an impact in North America. I owned an ’88 929 for a fairly brief period about ten years ago (I made a complicated four-cornered car deal that resulted in the 929 and a Volvo 244 being added to my fleet) and I thought it was a very good car. Since that time, I’ve kept my eyes open for 929s, finding about zero on the street and this ’91 in the junkyard so far. On a trip to Northern California yesterday, I spotted today’s ’89.
When we talk about Japanese luxury cars of the early 1990s, we usually mention the Lexus LS400, the Infiniti Q45, and maybe— if we’re allowing smaller front-wheel-drive machines to fit our definition of genuine luxury— the Acura Legend. Once in a while, maybe some edge-case type might thrown in a reference to the Mitsubishi Diamante, but one car that almost never comes up in the discussion is the Mazda 929. Why not? It’s a big, comfy, rear-wheel-drive sedan with healthy V6 power. The late-80s/early-90s 929 is just about extinct these days, but I managed to spot one in a California self-service yard a few weeks back.
Hi Steve and Sajeev,
Currently I own a 1999 Accord -2Dr V6 with about 76,000 miles. The interior looks good- the leather is in good shape I’m still quite happy with the stereo system I installed in it years ago. However, the exterior is a different story. 9 years of Arizona (un-garaged) sun has not been kind to it. The paint is looking *rough*. Peeling clear coat on almost all the horizontal surfaces. I won’t mention the hack paint job I did on the trunk lid with my Harbor Freight air compressor and E-bay spray gun in my shed. It’s also sporting a tweaked front bumper/light/hood from a tiny fender bender 11 years of parking lot door dings. So it’s UGLY. The Accord has its 75k mile service is coming up, $200 SRS light is on, $800 timing belts have yet to be replaced, and the rubber bits are falling apart (latest is a cracked $300 Shock boot).
In the other corner, the object of my desire: 2003 Infiniti M45 88k miles 4.5l V8 $10k
Family future-proof with 4 doors, fast and classy. I’ve always loved that body style. I figure the difference in premium gas and my commute would hit me for about $400-500 a year (not a deal-breaker) According to the VIN the dealer picked this up for about 7k, I’m guessing I could nab it for 8000-8500 and grab 4k on the trade-in. Thoughts??
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