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Peking To Paris Anyone? 1982 Mazda 626

Here’s an unusual one for you, a 1982 Mazda 626, not exactly Barn Finds standard stock-in-trade, that’s done up for the famous 8,700-mile Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. This example never raced as the event was canceled and it has been sitting for 40 years and waiting for its next assignment. It’s an interesting arrangement and not exactly what I would expect to find in a long-distance rally racer. With that thought, let’s look this Mazda over and see how it’s outfitted. Bruce F. discovered the listing for this Akron, Ohio resident and it’s available, here on Facebook Marketplace for $9,500.

Based on the listing, it appears as if this car was purchased specifically for rally modifications in 1982. It only has a recorded mileage of 301 so it sounds like it went from the showroom to the prep garage. And it’s at the garage where I have questions. Other than the decals and painted-on lettering, the exterior of this four-door sedan looks pretty stock. It has tall, oversized tires on what look like Minilite wheels, a welded-on roof carrier, and we’re told, an oversized fuel tank that has been added – and that’s it. I guess I was expecting something a bit more robust appearing. The seller mentions, “Some dings and scratches but totally rust-free“.

The stockness continues indoors where we’re looking at what seems like a low mileage, ’80s vintage Mazda sedan. It’s in nice shape and would be evidence of a car that hasn’t seen flying dirt, off-roading, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, or any other type of challenging road endeavor. There is a roll bar installed but it’s subtle.

More plainness is evident under the hood in the form of an 89 HP, 2.0 liter, in-line four-cylinder engine, which in this case is connected to a five-speed manual transmission – perfect for the parkway, but Peking to Paris? I was expecting something more aggressive, hard-charging and ready for the slog of a lifetime. The seller confirms my assumption by stating, “Engine is stock and runs as new because it basically is“.

Here’s a word about the P to P Challenge from its website, “Starting in Peking in May 2024 finishing in Paris five weeks later, the 100 entrants will cross 9 countries and 8 time zones as they tackle remote desert, forest, and mountain tracks all against the clock. From the deserts of China to the Mongolian Gobi and onto the hidden wilderness of Kazakhstan, the crews will spend many nights under canvas. Competitors will wait for an ageing Caspian Sea ferry to take them to Azerbaijan, but just when they may think the worst is over, they will hit tough roads through Turkey, Greece and into the French Alps. The European section will keep the pressure on teams to the very end“. OK, got it, way cool but does his Mazda seem like it’s up to that kind of tough rowing?


  1. Euromoto Member

    My father, not exactly a foreign car type, bought a new Mazda 626 sedan in full lux trim. I recall that it was well-built, comfortable and mildly sporty, with the alloys from an RX-7 (but auto trans, of course). I can’t recall the last time I saw one of these on the road.

    Like 5
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    Maybe this was prepped,but never used?
    Hopefully Howard Swig will chime in.

    Like 2
    • Steve R

      I Googled Martin Swig, he passed away in 2012. There are several published obituaries, including the New York Times. Over the years he owned several dealerships in San Francisco and was heavily involved in rallying, organizing the California Mille. He lived an interesting and full life.

      Even though it never competed it is a car you could take to cars and coffee where it would draw attention based on its merits. It has an interesting story to tell, especially if you include the driver, which more than likely commissioned its build.

      Steve R

      Like 3
    • Steve R

      There is an article published yesterday on The Autopian that details the history of this car and the drivers listed on the door.

      Steve R

      Like 5
    • Patrick

      I sent it to Howard.

      Like 2
  3. Mike v

    All I remember about these cars is every one I saw rusted alarmingly quickly, and I live in the south. I think it’s been thirty years since I saw one.

    Like 4
  4. Michael Tischler

    Leased a 98′ Mazda 626 back in the day.Really good car.

    Like 2
  5. Eric B

    Neat. I’d like to wander through this person’s building as they have an interesting assortment. Vintage Escort rally car next to it.

    And what’s next to the Escort? HMMM.

    Like 1
    • Jim

      In those pictures, I see a Sentra, a Scirocco, an old Porsche 911, and a PA er wagon. No Escort.

      Like 2
      • Jim

        I think the Escort decals are for Escort radar detectors which were popular in that era.

        Like 3
      • Eric B

        Ah yes, I see the word radar underneath Escort. I thought the Porsche MIGHT be a 356, but not enough of it to see.

        Like 1

    The Escort is a road racing escort.

    The 626 has modified strut hats for camber adjustments so dollars to donuts it has modified struts as well. It might be a good deal if you can get past the words “89 hp”.

    Like 2
    • Jim

      The red car? That looks like an early Sentra, not an Escort.

      Like 2
  7. Jim

    Would love to have one that hadn’t been altered. I hardly ever see Mazdas from this era. Best car I ever had was a GLC, and I haven’t seen one in decades.

    Like 3
  8. Nelson C

    Cool car and background. Not for the ill informed.

    Like 0
  9. Rumpledoorskin

    I think it is up to the challenge to cross a couple continents. These are great cars. In 1985 my mom got one, 1982 model in blue. Similarly equipped, no bucket seat in back in hers. She drove it every day until 1995, changed oil every other year whether it needed it or not (it needed it way more often.). It held up to all the use, and did a remarkable job. I remember all the accessories working until the end. We had my littlest sister on the way in 1995 and mom got a Ford wagon to haul all of us around. Mom and Dad decided I could have the old Mazda. While I was driving it home from the lot we picked up the Ford at, the engine began to tick, as though she knew Mom replaced her. It developed into a knock shortly, and then started to smoke if it ran more than a few minutes. I drove it to the junkyard like that, still running on 3 cylinders and smoking. I remember the look on the junkyard man’s face when I rolled down the power window to ask him where to park it. He was amazed it still worked.

    Short story long, I’d drive it prom Peking to Paris.

    Like 8
  10. Martin Horrocks

    Paris-Peking is a gentleman’s rally, needing time and money to compete. Martin Swig knew what he was doing here.

    A strong car rable to run on bad fuel is essential. You don’t win this rally by going fast, but by being thete at the end.

    The stock interior is strange, but the car itself is interesting.

    Like 3
  11. Chris Londish Member

    A good mate of mine had one in the early eighties, was a very nice car but expensive, I was most impressed with the two door model also well styled and appointed, although they don’t age well

    Like 1
  12. Steve

    I worked for my father-in-law who owned a 626. He bought me a Mazda GLC as a company car and I loved it. It was a blast to drive and I enjoyed it…until he took it back and gave it to his son.

    Like 2
  13. angliagt angliagt Member

    Sticker on my ’67 GT that I got at the California Mille.
    I got to talk with Martin when he noticed my Cortina MKIII
    when I was checking out the Mille in Ferndale,CA.

    Like 5
  14. Solosolo UK Solosolo UK Member

    I have owned several Mazda 626’s. The first was a sedan, the second was a coupe, third was another sedan and lastly a what I would call a four door fast back that my son managed to total while I was touring USA in 1989. All of them were unbreakable in the South African conditions, all of them had a/c, were economical, and if I remember correctly, they had the air vent outlets on the dash that would swing from left to right which distributed the airflow much better. My brother borrowed one of the coupes for a tour around SA and was gone for 5 weeks. To cut down on expenses he, and his new wife, who I nicknamed Eva Braun, slept and ate in the car. When it came back it was a helluva mess but as I owned an Auto Detail shop at the time it was soon back in good shape. His comment re the car when I asked him how it behaved said that he wished he had it back home on Vancouver Island! He owned a Lincoln and a Porsche 944 at the time but preferred the 626. I have also owned Mazda 616, Capella, 323, even a one ton pick-up in which I installed an auto box and, for a couple of weeks, an MX 5 (Miata) and never had any serious trouble with any Mazda. They don’t make them like that anymore!

    Like 2
  15. Richard

    I’ve owned 4 Mazda vehicles over the years, the first was a 1984 B-2000 truck, it was $6800 out the door with a bedliner, sliding rear window and factory AC. My last one was a 2004 MPV. They were all great. The friend who bought my MPV when I sold it in 2013 is still driving it.
    They’ve always been good cars, and used to be priced a little less than Hondas and Toyotas.

    Like 0
  16. Mercuryman

    The Peking to Paris is a Challenge, not a Rallye. It is absolutely up to the job. You need an understressed engine that will run on whatever you put in the tank. At best I would have balanced and blueprinted the engine and set the advance and jetting to optimal. Gusset the exhaust and lines, strengthen the strut tubes and lift it a bit. Manufacturers want to prove that the car just like Aunt Erma’s was up to the challenge. Maybe even in the same colour as hers…. Watch Hero/ERA on YouTube. They have great coverage of a variety of events they put on including the Peking to Paris.

    Like 0

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