Kei Car Classic: 1975 Mazda Chantez GL

Are there any vintage Japanese car fans out there? This is a 1975 Mazda Chantez GL; that just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? This unusual Japanese-market car is on craigslist with an asking price of about $6 per pound, or $6,500! Yes, this car weights 1,080 pounds.

I absolutely love cars that are shaped like this, and sized like this. I don’t know why, we had a ’56 Pontiac, a ’69 Plymouth, and a ’70 Olds 98 when I was growing up, I shouldn’t like cars that are 9′-10″ long and just over 4-feet wide, but I do. I’m not sure what that lettering says, I’m guessing this was some sort of government or city car in Japan. The owner has had it for “years”, importing it and driving it around the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, attending vintage Japanese car shows with it and drawing crowds. The underside is in amazing condition. Yes, this is a rear-wheel drive car! You expected front-wheel drive, come on, be honest!

The interior looks pretty nice, but you’ll have to get used to shifting with your left hand if you aren’t already familiar with that. It even has AC, but no word on if it works and/or how many mph it slows this car down when it’s cranked on. This car has a top speed of 71 mph. The Mazda Chantez, as you can probably tell, was in the Japanese Kei car class, which were meant to comply with Japanese insurance and tax regulations and they had to stay below a certain maximum engine size. Up to 1975, the engine size couldn’t be bigger than 360 cc and as with most other manufacturers, this one has a 359 cc two-cylinder, two-stroke engine. If it ain’t smokin’, it’s broken!

Here’s that 359 cc two-cylinder, two-stroke engine with 33 hp. This one is water-cooled which is almost luxurious compared to some other Kei cars that were air-cooled. And, there’s enough room for the spare tire in there! Mazda originally designed this car to house their 3A single-rotor Wankel engine but other manufacturers complained that it would give them an unfair advantage. Mazda relented, but without that engine, they eventually lost interest in the Kei car class and production ended on this car in 1976. I think this would be a super fun little car to own. It wouldn’t take up much space in your garage, or your closet.. and it would sure bring the on-lookers out whenever you stopped for gas or groceries!


  1. Brian Staff

    I almost bought this car back in 2005 or so. I think it sold for $3,500 back then. I will admit, I have been looking for it ever since then. Great find Scotty!

  2. Adam T45 Staff

    The Japanese had a great history of unusual names for vehicles in this class. If you doubt me go looking for the Cony Guppy, the Flying Feather or the Super Bee just to name a few.

    • RayT Member

      Not just the tiny stuff!

      There’s always the Nissan Big Thumb….

    • Adam Wright

      The story of the 240Z was just such and example. When they decided to import it to the US the literal translation of the name was “Gentle Wind” .
      The US marketing guys scrambled for a better name, one guy asked,
      “What size is the motor?”
      2.4 was the answer, so he said 240…..Z

      And the Z car was born.

      • RayT Member

        Many, many moons ago, I was told — by someone who definitely whould have known! — that when the first prototype Mitsubishi Starion was shipped to the U.S., it wore a little prancing horse on its nose….

        A few panicky trans-Pacific phone calls took care of that!

      • Dogapult

        The joke is good, of course, but Nissan/Datsun was going to call it the Fairlady Z, but that name didn’t conjure images of a sports car in the Western world.

        However, @RayT, I have heard a sort of similar story, in that early promo materials for the Starion featured horses, sort of corroborating the “Starion as a misspelling” story.

      • CarBuzzard Member

        The domestic name for the 240Z with the Fairlady Z. It goes back to Nissan/Datsun’s first sports car circa 1961, and purportedly came from a Nissan bigwig’s liking of the musical My Fair Lady.

    • David Frank David F Member

      Unusual names? Super Bee? Wait, what?

      • RayT Member

        I think Adam T45 was thinking of the “Honey Bee!”

      • Adam T45 Staff

        Sorry all, I meant the Daihatsu Bee. I’ve attached a photo for you. As for the Starion name, that was literally a mispronunciation. It was actually meant to be the Stallion, but lost something in the translation (honestly).

  3. Leon

    Bong Friendee and Scrum are fun names too

  4. Gerry Member

    Not bad would go for around $5k here in Japan
    The front plate is from the 60’s- 80’s and was for vehicles brought into Japan by American Service members stationed there and isn’t correct for the class of car.
    You would be hard pressed to get this car over 60 mph even when it was new

    • Adam T45 Staff

      I’d heard that they had a potential terminal velocity of 120mph. Unfortunately this is off a cliff and is VERY terminal!

  5. CFloDailyTurismo

    The lettering on the door says something about “Customer Service Kazu.” Cool little car!

  6. Bruce Best

    I wonder how hard it would be to modify a Wankle motor from a two rotor to a single rotor to give it the power it should have had in the beginning. The design is really very efficient and in it’s own way very elegant especially when you consider what the competition was in the day.

    With a few changes and slightly bigger this could have been real competition for the Mini. Might be even today with a turbo or supercharged engine powering the thing. Makes a whole new meaning to “Keep Going Little Mice”

    • Gerry Member

      This was from the early class of Kei (small / Light) car and they were all under 400cc current versions of these cars are 660cc in N/A , Turbo and supercharged versions. They are quite capable now. I have a late model Daihatsu at home for my Father in law to use and not only can my 6′ 220lb butt fit in it .It is more than capable at 75+ mph it also has all the standard amenities of its full size counterparts. (cross winds on the freeway are a little white knuckle though)

  7. Clinton

    This car never seems to find a home. That or the novelty wears off rather quickly with this one. It’s been featured at least twice over on the Porsche…I mean trailer site.

  8. Wd62vette

    This same car was for sale a couple of years ago at the Canfield Ohio Car Swap Meet. Very cool car. I thought it was a good clean car. As Clinton said “This car never seems to find a home”.

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