Out Of This World: 1968 Mazda Cosmo

Josh MortensenBy Josh Mortensen

My very first car was a Mazda RX-7 and ever since, I’ve had the rotary itch. It got so bad that as a teenager I actually went to the school library and checked out the one book they had that talked about the rotary engine, no one went to the library on purpose. It was an older book and the only Mazda it mentioned was the Cosmo, with one small black and white photo of one very similar to this one. Ever since, I’ve wanted one. Sadly, they are extremely rare and nearly impossible to find on our shores. That may explain why this one is already bid up to $110k here on eBay!

While I’m sure rarity has driven bidding, the fact that it only has 21k miles on the odometer has played a part too. As much as I’d love to have this rotary powered beauty, I couldn’t bring myself to drive it after spending so much on such a low mileage example, which would be a real shame as this thing deserves to be seen. I highly doubt the next owner will put many miles on it though, chances are it won’t ever leave a climate controlled storage facility. So am I the only one here that dreams of owning a Cosmo? And would you ever drive it if you were able to find one?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    No, apparently, Jay Leno has a hankerin’ for these, as well. Too far out there, on all accounts, for me. Cool car, though. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/jayleno-art.jpg

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  2. nessy

    You know, I thought I saw this car on Ebay a while back and I believe it bid to around 20g. It must have been the same car. Now, it’s over 100g? Really nice looking machine but over 100g?

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  3. Russell

    I know of another one that might be (probably) is for sale. Not mine, because I don’t roll with that kinda dough, but if I did I be all in.

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  4. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    Jay Leno’s Garage featured his Cosmo on his show a few years ago:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bUUzDKnPhc

    Leno’s has a later engine installed because the original was toast. I have heard that the early Wankel engines still needed a lot of development to be reliable, and I think that was a factor in Leno’s car using the later engine.

    The car for sale on Ebay seems to be in good shape. and the current bid is not too much out of line. The SCM Guide has the recent median auction price paid for these Series 1 cars at about $104K.

    The seller says this is one of 343 ever made, but that’s just Series 1. Mazda also made another 1,176 Series 2 Cosmos from 1968-1972, and those have sold at auction at a median price of about $115K.

    Since there were a lot more Series 2s made, but they sell for more than Series 1 cars, I’m guessing they are more developed and reliable. I would want to be certain that the engine in the Ebay Cosmo was in top shape. Otherwise it might be a problem to run the car.

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  5. charlie

    The rear tail lights look like they came straight off my grandma’s 65 Delta 88.

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  6. Dale

    The Series 2 cars had a number of upgrades that make them more desirable, even though they made 3X as many. L10B engine making 128hp instead of 110 in the L10A. 5 speed transmission instead of 4. Power brakes. 15″ wheels instead of 14″. The most noticeable one is the wheelbase stretch. While the overall length didn’t change, the rear wheels we moved back about 5″. The simplest way to tell them apart is the front end. The Series 2 cars had “nostrils” under the bumper, presumably to direct air to the front brakes. There were a handful of Series 1 cars built with this front end but most were Series 2.

    All Cosmos suffered from horrible rust issues and rarely do you find one that hasn’t been painted, regardless of mileage. This one looks to be no different. The surface irregularities in the lower doors and rockers show a fair bit of reclamation work has been done…and not well. It would be interesting to see the lower “A” pillars and sills and floor pans. $110k is not unreasonable although with no photos of the rust prone areas, one has to wonder if this one is worth that much.

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  7. Gunner

    Wow, this beauty has a cool factor of 10! I don’t recall ever seeing one of these Mazda’s before. Way out of my league, but I can always dream. I love it Josh! Thanks for featuring it!

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  8. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    I knew I had seen that Cosmo headlight + front fender before. I had—on a 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica. Proof once again that Pininfarina often led the way.

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  9. wuzjeepnowsaab

    This is going to sell for a lot more than current bid for sure. Super rare car with a rabid following.

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    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      lol…terribly sorry that someone was offended by me saying it is a super rare car…but it IS a super rare car and it will likely go for 50% more than current bid

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  10. Woodie Man

    Just beautiful.

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  11. alfred

    Looks like a cross between a t bird and an avanti

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    • Gerald

      with a little bit of Europa thrown in

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    • Ck

      Hey Alfred thats what I was thinkin .Looks like a T bird .I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one of these .Impressive verry stylish ,I think I like it.

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  12. Tacoma, Washington USA

    Lovely looking car. It’s a damn shame it was never sold here in the USA. I can see it competing against the like of the Toyota 2000GT.

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  13. Richard Holmes

    I saw one of these just today at a rather high end car show in Fountain Hills, AZ. From a distance it looked very Italian.

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    • rjc

      I have pics on my phone of that car , was being serviced at a local fountain hills garage. Very nice car. cool unique look.

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    • Dale

      That car was restored and may possibly still be owned by the only guy I’d trust to restore one of the little cars. If I’m not mistaken he restored the car that brought close to $250k a couple of years ago at Monterey.

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  14. Royal Ricci

    Too bad these weren’t made with LHD for export and in larger numbers.

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  15. duke

    if i knew than what i know now—– i was looking at these in the 70s and there were not a lot of them around, plus they were not that much money back then—i didn’t know jack about a-rotary- engine either, a guy in HS i knew had one (rx2) ….4 of us in the car going like a bat outa hell on a local route in my home town …slid the car like a autocrosser,(even though he never knew what that was) came way way too close to a telephone pole for me—-1st and last ride i ever took with that dope….he typically had his cars for either a week or no longer than a month before he blew it up or crashed it….he died later that year in a car crash,dope-go figure

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  16. Bill McCoskey

    The Cosmo suffered with the same problems the early NSU Spyder Wankel rotary engines had: Apex seals. With the tricoidal “piston”, it had 15 piece seal sets; 3 side seals per side, 3 end seals, and 6 apex seals that connected the end and side seals together. Sort of like linking tinkertoy pieces together, the end and side seals fit into slots in the apex seals, to provide compression.

    However the metallurgy of the times was not up to handling the wear problems for the apex seals, and it took another 10 years of work by John Deere to create fairly reliable seal sets. Yes, THAT John Deere. They had a contract with the US military to design small rotary gasoline engines for a new generation of generators for powering field equipment like phones & communication radios. As I understand, the project was never to the point of production, because while the engines were as quiet as expected, their heavy use of fuel resulted in a high heat output that could not be hidden from heat sensing equipment.

    At the time [early ’80s] I had 2 of the original NSU Wankel Spyder automobiles and both had zero compression due to seal deterioration. A friend of mine in one of the car clubs worked at John Deere in their engine design & testing division, and he too, had a NSU rotary. He was able to convince John Deere to let him make a few seal sets that fit the NSU rotors, and I was fortunate to get 4 sets. Free. I’ve always figured the US Taxpayer paid for them!

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    • Healeymonster

      Back in the late 70s and early 80s I worked for my uncle at his foreign car dealership in northern Ca. We went to the Bay Cities auto auction in Fremont every Wednesday and the Mazda rotaries could be had for as low as $100.oo as people traded them in for anything that would give them decent fuel economy. We picked up dozens of RX 3 and 4s for pennies. Great cars but at the time people were not that interested in them. The Rx7 was another beast entirely.

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  17. Chris In Australia

    That much for that? Overstyled, though the basic shape is clean enough. And that automotive dead end, the rotary engine. I’ll pass.

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  18. leiniedude

    Well, I got here late and the auction has ended. Not like I could afford to bid anyway. 17 bidders, 76 bids and won with the bid of $110,100.00.

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  19. Racer417

    I’m sure the miles and originality play a part; but this one sold for $44,000 yesterday.
    PS: I know very liitle about these cars; so maybe I’m missing something.

    http://thefinest.com/boca-raton-2017/1970-mazda-cosmo-110s

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    • Dale

      If that car came over from Japan recently, and it certainly appears that it has, the seller lost his shirt. They’ve been selling for $75k to $95K there for the last year or more. That one was rough. You can see all the bondo patch work on the lower fenders, front and rear, and can see where it’s separating from the fender lip behind both front wheels. If the lower fenders were that bad, the rockers will be too and likely the lower section of both A pillars. The gauges are inconsistent, the seats are wrecked, the carpet, while it’s the right color, isn’t original, and they didn’t have photos of what’s under those carpets because I suspect it’s not pretty. I think the seller was lucky to get what he did.

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  20. packrat

    So for quite a while in the 1990’s, one of these with a wrinkle free body, sporting tired upholstery and high-traction no-gloss paint, stayed out behind the shop of Nashville Tennessee’s premier Slavering Genius Independent Mechanic.

    You hope to find and befriend a Unicorn like this. This was the super-intelligent guy that will work on anything successfully, and won’t stop till its right, because he loves old cars and never seems to tire of knuckling down into a challenge–he’d *rather* be doing that than replacing his three thousand and ninetieth ’70 Impala water pump. A genius mechanic that knows every shelf in Gardner’s Auto Parts, has a stack of all the typewritten club mailing lists on his lunch table, and already knows that guy in Oregon that has the NSU parts you need because he met him a year ago while traveling ‘on other business’. So, behind the customer’s cars in the back lot are his personal holdings which are clearer tribute to his expertise than any of his mechanics certificates. In the back lot and under sheds would be a mixture comprised of several parts Volkswagen, but strange gems like a couple of early Porsches (in the era before all the zeroes were added to the prices), a pre-war Packard roadster, a thirties-era Rolls Royce (with a limousine body too massive to ever be highly collectible), two-three early ‘sixties Mercedes sedans as well as a Crosley pushed in the corner of the back shed under a pile of British motorcycle parts. I remember my perpetually-broke, retirement-age friend being offered this Mazda Cosmo thing, for something like 400.00 (in the pre-internet days), for this well-used but fairly rust-free, well-working example. I had never heard of one before–it had to be some import that came in with a serviceman, I thought– Michael had already declined it in favor of a Pinto with some wildly inappropriate hood ornament on it*. It was probably a wise decision. While this enthusiastic automotive necromancer could keep it working indefinitely, if M had experienced car problems on a trip outside of this area, they might easily send it to the crusher, as handing one of these over to the regional mechanics to work on anywhere else in the state was usually like handing them a dead squirrel.** Over 100k? If we had only known…

    *I think it was a big cat off a ‘sixties vintage Jaguar.
    **My Studebaker collector friend would entice his indy to work on his Lark by leaving the necessary parts and his personal N&A reprint of the shop manual on the front seat when he dropped it off.

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  21. gerry

    Rare even here in Japan
    These fetch currently anywhere from 70K to 130K and there are only 4 listed right now on our biggest used car site.
    Considering the one that sold in Florida only went for 40K it might be why no one has imported more there ain’t a whole lotta room for profit once you figure in import fees, customs etc…..
    The one shown that went to auction in florida was on the road or registered according to the decals up until 2014 so it was probably a good representation of a driver quality survivor
    I still like the later 70’s model but have to wait for them to come down in price before I can own one

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  22. Rolf Poncho 455

    I love Rotary’s had a RX7 81 13b turbo it is a
    POCKET ROCKET for sure

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