Luscious Luce: 1972 Mazda 1800

Ok, maybe luscious isn’t quite the perfect word to describe this fantastically-rare and cool 1972 Mazda 1800. Lively? No, with a 0-60 time of 16 seconds, there may not be much zoom-zoom in this one. But, this is one unbelievably rare car. It’s listed on eBay in Bremerton, Washington with an unmet opening bid of $4,739 (?!) and a buy it now price of $5,999!

The seller has posted an odd mix of cut-off vertical and horizontal (or, portrait and landscape) oriented photos, so please bear with me on a couple of these. This car is really in nice condition, or it appears to be when looking at the photos. It looks like it has been repainted at some point but the seller says that it has a “very few small dents” and it has “very little surface rust” and that it’s “not ready yet to be a daily driver.” I agree and you will to when you read what it needs.

The Luce was designed by famed Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The Mark I cars were first the 1500 (1.5L engine, of course) and the 1800 (1.8L engine), which this one happens to be. The seller is honest in listing quite a few things that will need to be fixed, or found, including: “push pull for door locks locks on rear doors broke off” and “hubcaps missing”, “front windshield has a ding and a little foggy”, and also “brakes work but should need work not the best, steering ok but loose and needs alignment” and “will need shocks”. Soooo, that’s quite a list, and the missing parts, which for a car that they only imported 100 of them to the US, will most likely be almost impossible to find.

This car has an automatic transmission on the column, not really something that most people expect to see in an early-70s Mazda, even one meant to compete with the Toyota Corona Mark II and the Nissan Cedric. A 4-speed manual transmission would have been available and as is the case with most classic and collectible vehicles, it’s the one that you’d want. You can see that the interior is pretty tidy and parts of it look absolutely perfect, but like the exterior it will need work. The seat repair should be a no-brainer as with the carpet, but any missing or broken pieces will be like trying to find world peace, if not harder. The back seat is quite nice. It even has the original plastic wrap in some places. The trunk is even luxurious for a 1970s Mazda; very nice. I still have this exact tool kit from my first car, a 1971 Toyota Corolla 2-door wagon. Let’s check out what’s under those hood scoops!

Fun fact: the hood scoops were added for the extra cooling needed for the 1.8L engine over the former 1.5L engine. This is, of course, not Mazda’s famous rotary engine that really put Mazda on the map, performance-wise. This is a 1.8L inline-four with around 100 hp. That seems like a lot, relatively, but for a 2,400-pound sedan, much more power would have been nice. Mazda did offer the Luce with a 13A (1.3L) rotary engine that produced around 125 hp – their only front-wheel drive rotary-powered car. Around 1,000 of them were sold worldwide and if you find one, do not stop, eat lunch, or even call home before you find the money to buy it. Sell the cat, lease the mother-in-law; just buy it! The seller says that this “engine runs good smokes just a little from either sitting, mixture or rings, auto trans works good, starts right up.” I really like these cars, but I’d want a manual transmission and one without a Weber carb conversion as this one appears to have. I have a hard enough time finding parts for 1980s Japanese vehicles, I can’t imagine trying to track down parts for one of these. Do any of you have experience with a Mazda Luce, or 1500 / 1800?


Fast Finds


  1. Chuck

    Looks like a BMW Neu Klass knockoff

  2. Nathan Avots-Smith Member

    What a cool car! I wish there were better photos so we could see it from a more flattering angle; these are easily the best looking Japanese sedan of the era, with a real delicacy to the lines and proportions.

    I was just wondering the other day if these had been sold here in any numbers or if there were any left. The location is interesting, as Seattle was the first market where Mazdas were sold in the US in 1970, so it makes sense that you’d find one in that region!

    Like 1
    • Dave

      It’s great to see another 1800 out there. I was hoping mine wasn’t the only one left. I have an all original 1970 1800 that is my daily commute in the summer months. Parts are not as hard to find as you might think. The 1800 series did not sell well in North America and only lasted a few years. Fortunately at this time Mazda was commissioned by Ford to produce a truck – the Ford Courier and they used many of the same parts like ball joints, and steering components. The parts are out there, you just can’t find any listed under the 1800 nameplate. Forgot to mention, I found mine locally in southern Ontario.

      Like 1
  3. SubGothius

    Lively? No. Lovely? YES. I’ve heard Giugiaro offered this design to Alfa, but they went with the in-house Alfetta design instead, so he shopped it around until Mazda adopted it. I wonder how readily one might stuff a Miata powertrain into this chassis…?

    Like 1
    • Adam T45 Staff

      The really collectable non-rotary models of these came with a four-speed floor change and bucket seats. I had a 1500 for a while and can confirm that the drive-train from the last of the rwd 626 slotted straight in. The only thing that I could ever criticize with my 1500 was that it had surprisingly heavy steering.

  4. Rx7turboII

    Reminds me of a Triumph 2000 Saloon a lot! ( a 4 door Stag for the Britishally challenged) lol!

  5. Royal

  6. Royal

    Would be awesome to drop a Rotary into this.

    Like 1
  7. Gay Car Nut

    It’s on my way to work. I live in Gig Harbor, I work in Silverdale. Bremerton is on the way. :)

    • Mark P

      Hello, Gig Harbor, is that where the movie The Birds was supposed to have taken place?

      • Gay Car Nut Tacoma

        The Birds? Not that I’m aware of.

  8. CarBuzzard Member

    It would be a shame to engine or transmission swap such a rare car. Why is that always the first thing some people think of?

    Replacing–restoring–the carburetor to the original Hitachi should not be difficult. And that’s what I would do. Those aren’t in every supermarket, but they are available if you look for them.

    Like 2
  9. Grizz

    I had one of these in the early seventies, dual points were a real pain and the electric fuel pump mounted under the rear bumper were the problem areas, it was the worst car I had. The car looked good and rode good but that was it. I sold it and bought a 1966 Plymouth fury, slant six, which was like driving a caddy, one of the best cars I ever owned.

  10. earl conner

    Wow, nice find! I have owned 2 of these cars in wagon form, always admired the clean lines and styling of both wagons and sedans. My first was a 1970 with the side draft carb and the 72 with the much better down draft design. They shared much running gear with the Ford Courier pickup which might explain the 1000 pound load capacity of the wagons! Also made handling a bit sloppy until I replaced the front shocks with adjustable Konis. Volvo 140 shocks will fit with a little bit of filing to the mounting brackets. I used Ford 14″ Torino wheels to give a wider stance and better handling. My ’72 met its end on an icy road one Christmas day. Still miss it! I still have the 1800 workshop manual if there is any interest.

    Like 1

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