Snow White: 1982 Mazda 626

Every winter I hear the same nagging voice in my head (other than the one that’s normally in there) that tells me I should have moved to the dry, sunny southwest after high school. Rust-free vehicles are a rare commodity in the Midwest, and this 1982 Mazda 626 in Los Angeles, California looks like it’s about as rust-free as any 35-year old car can be. This white-as-the-driven-Midwest-snow beauty is on Craigslist with a $5,500 asking price. The archived link can be found here for those of you who like to come back to certain vehicles weeks or months in the future, and lament not grabbing them. Like I do. Constantly..

The Mazda 626 has one of those “faces” that almost could have its own YouTube channel, like frolicking puppies. It’s just such a non-aggressive looking car and that’s what’s so endearing about these second-generation Mazdas for me. It seems like almost every vehicle today is frowning and angry and has a pseudo-aggressive “face” that’s by default telling other drivers to get the H (heck) out of their way so they can get past them as quickly as possible, just to end up waiting at the next stoplight alongside the vehicle that they just had to get around ten seconds earlier. If everyone drove happy, neutral-“faced”, non-angry-eyed (headlights) vehicles like this Mazda the world would be more peaceful and we would all be happier. Hey, it’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

This second-generation, last-of-the-rear-drive-626s has 80,600 miles on it which is basically just past the break-in period. Ok, it’s well past that point, but if this car has been maintained there is no reason that the next owner shouldn’t be able to put a 1 in front of that mileage number.

As almost perfect as this car appears to be, I still expected it to be a thousand or two under the asking price. I think it’s close to being $2,000 over the book value, which really doesn’t mean too much if a particular car is in perfect condition and there is a huge demand for it. I don’t see there being crowds of people rushing out to buy 1982 Mazda 626s, other than a few hundred enthusiasts and collectors looking for what may be the best example of each car left. This car sure looks great to my biased eye, but I do pick up a slight difference in tone or shade on the driver’s door, or maybe it’s just my frostbitten eyes. The seller says “original paint” so maybe it’s just a shadow or slightly misaligned door, or it wasn’t closed all the way for that side photo? A personal visit is in order for questions like that.

Manual windows – this wasn’t the “Luxury” edition, after all. Other than a few cracks on the top of the dash and some deterioration of the material on the rear package shelf, from that otherwise great California sun, the interior appears to be in great condition. People, use those windshield sun shades! Even in the upper-Midwest they help to keep dashboards looking like new. I use mine religiously. If you keep it in the trunk like some people do, you’ll never use it, keep it where it’s handy. Enough with preaching to the choir. Hey, speaking of trunks, this one looks pretty good, but don’t plan on taking luggage for four friends and a set of clubs, golf or otherwise, back there.

This is one clean engine compartment. Mazda outfitted the 626 with their 2.0L inline-four which had around 90 hp when new. Luckily, this car also has a 5-speed manual transmission which always helps wring out what little horsepower there is. This car also has “cold AC” which is fantastic and other than maybe a convertible and the biggest engine available, that’s probably my top option choice. Have any of you owned one of these second-gen rear-wheel drive 626s?

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Comments

  1. Eric

    Beautiful car! I had the next gen, 1991front wheel drive 626 GT Turbo with the electronic suspension.
    looooooved that car.
    was beyond it’s time in refinement and looks. And it boogee’ed.
    :-)

    Like 1
  2. Andrew not amember

    I just don’t get you kids and your affection for this #@%.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      ..”you 55-year old kids”? A person either gets it or they don’t, Andrew. Would it be better if it were a 1928 American-made Packard instead of a 1982 Japanese-made Mazda? We’re all car guys and gals here, most of us like everything with an engine, but obviously some of us don’t like foreign cars and that’s ok. Let’s keep things respectful, though. This is a rust-free, two-door, 5-speed, fun-to-drive car for $5,000, what’s not to like?

      Like 1
      • RichS

        Agreed, I just hit 50 and joined the AARP club at the end of last month. This car was NEW when I was getting my permit so it’s totally relevant to me. I love the varied vehicles that show up here and if it’s truly not found in a barn, who cares?

        Like 1
      • CanuckCarGuy

        My own odometer just hit 50 and like music, my automotive tastes vary….makes life more interesting, and the bucket list collection bigger. I won’t be able to roll my odometer over, but I’ll sure have fun getting there.

        Like 1
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Andrew, Scotty — my wife fondly remembers her 626 of this generation and would love to have another one. And I’m 53…and will play the good husband and not share her age…but she’s older than I am :-)

      Like 3
    • Thomas Cook

      A few years ago retired Pontiac marketing genius Jim Wangers was a guest at a Pontiac show. Looking over GTO’s and Firebirds someone said to Mr. Wangers “they sure don’t make ’em like that anymore.” To which Wangers replied “Yeah, thank God!” Much to the chagrin to the gathered Pontiac faithful. When asked to expand on his remark he noted that the cars handled poorly, had little to no passenger safety and prone to rust as they were made with not the best materials, designed to last no more than a few years,etc. He was right.
      Despite this, these and most all surviving Detroit iron are beloved. These cars are not different in these respect, this era of automobile have their appreciators too.

      This is one of the most underrated cars of that era. People now appreciated it for what it was; a good looking, great handling, economic, peppy little sport coupe with grand touring asperations at a bargain price. It had a tasteful, innovative design with great ergonomics, low aerodynamic drag and a luxury level only found on much more expensive cars. A good example of what could be done with a lot of off the shelf parts (The drive train was from the B2000 truck.) but used in a well engineered package. The biggest problem with these cars was that they were inexpensive enough that kids could afford them and over time most were just trashed, or like mine driven until they were just worn out.
      I’m no kid. I ordered one of these cars new from Mazda. I wish I still had mine and if I ever run across a nice one with a reasonable price I may buy it.

      Like 2
      • sherman

        I have a 1982 light blue Mazda 626, two door coupe LX, 5 speed. Even has headlight washers and working factory cassette deck. Body is restored, just the interior. Contact me for pics. Drives like a dream.

        Like 3
  3. Aaron Mezger

    I had an identical one of these and later a metallic light blue 81 after rolling the 82 over a hill. Hands down, one of the best cars I ever owned. Might still have the 81 had it not lost a head gasket in 89.

    Like 1
    • Steve F Member

      I had an ’81 as well in ’85 and it blew a head gasket as well. Must have been an issue with this engine. Not too much work to change on these cars – cost about $30 in parts and took part of a weekend. With the five speed it was a fun car given the performance of the day. I sold a Volvo 242GT to pick it up. Volvo was a bit nicer ride but the Mazda was more fun.

  4. Michael

    I like the car and nice write-up Scotty. I especially like your description of the new “pseudo-aggressive face” cars of today.

    I’m 56 and just enjoyed my first discount at Denny’s last year.
    Good times.

    Like 2
    • RichS

      Michael, the trick is to have an older significant other – I’ve been enjoying that discount for a few years now haha

      Like 1
      • Michael

        Good strategy!

        Like 1
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I’m 56 too, didn’t know about the Denny’s discount.

      Thanks!

      Like 1
  5. Fred w.

    I just hit 60 and owned over 100 cars between 1971 (age 14) and 1985 (age 28). So many cars that I completely forget I owned certain ones until I see another one. This is one of those cars, brings back a lot of good memories.

    Like 2
  6. Andrew not amember

    Didn’t think the soup would get that stirred up .However a Packard is obviously great and I think this is not . I don’t get it in this case.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      We’re all friends here, Andrew; no worries. We all like, and in some cases love, certain vehicles based on our upbringing or our friends’ influences or a number of other reasons. A Packard, any Packard, is probably 1,000,000 times the car as a 1982 Mazda is in so many ways. But, they’re both cars that are loved by someone. A decade ago I had no clue that there was such a thing as a CitiCar/Comuta-Car, but now I want one. Do I still want a Packard? Yes, probably more than ever, but my vehicle tastes have evolved over the decades from American-only to oddball American (King Midget, Metropolitan, etc.) to Japanese, Swedish, and German cars, and everything in-between. Cars are like kids, just because a person has another one doesn’t mean that they don’t love the previous one just as much, or more.

      Like 1
      • Scott murphy

        Nice write up Scotty, well done. Like you, I have an appreciation for most anything with wheels and an engine; they mark the time through cultural history. I’ve been lucky to have sat in many drivers seats, German, Swed, Japanese and American cars; wildly different (think ’85 Yugo, ’73 Thing, ’69 GT 500-428-4spd, E63 AMG S-model wagon) to name a few. Thanks for your insight and thoughtful picks. Keep them coming brother. Scott

        Like 2
    • Adam T45 Staff

      The thing is Andrew that you need to put every car that you see on here in context. As I live in Australia, my context may be slightly different to yours, but they are comparable. At the time this car was manufactured and sold (both in the US and Down Under), the local manufacturing industries were not in great shape. What I describe is mainly about our local car industry, but much of it could just as easily relate to the US. We had a car industry dominated by GM and Ford, but quality control was not the greatest. On top of that the cars produced locally were unrefined, and it was impossible to buy a car of this size from either GM or Ford without being stuck with either: an antiquated OHC 4-cylinder engine, a 6-cylinder pushrod engine, a 3-speed auto transmission, or a manual 4-speed transmission.

      These cars like the Mazda came along and showed what was possible at the time, and forced manufacturers to either improve or perish. The Mazda was something of a beacon because the build quality was ahead of even its Japanese rivals. These cars are survivors in their own right, and there are people out there who appreciate them for what they are, and what they represent. It was cars like these that forced western car manufacturers to lift their games, and to offer more features to the consumer. For this reason alone these are a significant car within the big picture. However, you don’t have to like them. It’s what living in a democracy is all about.

      Like 3
  7. SubGothius

    Aside from the rather bland nose, I always thought these coupes were very attractively styled — full hardtop, too, note no B-pillar.

    Like 1
  8. coach

    I had a 82 in light blue … 2 dr with the the LX (?)package … sun roof/ head light washers split fold down rear seat. Got it from Summit Mazda in Vancouver BC for 9800 (i think). First new car i owned.

    Like 1
    • Sherman

      In response to Coach. I attached a picture of the exact 626 described. I am in Vancouver as well. Also have a RX7 and 323 GTX. The 82 626 is way more fun to drive than my late model bimmer. And i am way below the 50’s age group.

      Like 4
  9. Derek F

    I also find these to be pretty attractively styled cars with features like frameless door glass that manufacturers can’t seem to afford any more.

    My only concern would be the sheer complexity of the pre-fuel injection carb and vacuum system. Some difficult-to-find parts in there. Not much fun in California smog land.

    Like 2
  10. Tiger66

    The 1982 626 did not have 90 horsepower — only the ’79-’80s were rated at that. The ’81-’82s had 74, the result of catalytic converters and detuning to meet tighter smog regs, so were seriously down on power. The ’79s were seen as a BMW 3 series alternative by the car mags, but later ones with the strangulated engine could not live up to the hype.

    I owned an ’81 with the 5-speed I bought new and except for my ’55 VW it was the slowest car I ever owned. Traded it in on a new RX-7 less than two years later because I couldn’t stand the lack of power. They look good, though.

    • Kenny

      I converted one of these to a 13B Rotary many years ago– not difficult at all. Just use a 1980 (only) Rx7 5-speed, and switch it’s tailshaft housing with the 626 transmission to get the shifter and mount in the right place. That way, you get correct Rotary gear ratios and bell housing bolt pattern. From there it’s a piece of cake!
      Oh– and a ’81-’83 (only) Rx7 GSL positraction differential is a direct bolt-in…

      Like 1
  11. Rube Goldberg Member

    I remember, in the early 80’s, Mazda really turned things around from the rotaries with the GLC, and if you were really sportin’ some cash, the 626. These cars cemented the Mazda name with dependable vehicles, like most other Asian cars at the time, they were trying hard to win American’s over, and for the most part, it worked. The one thing they didn’t accomplish, was keeping them from rusting( on purpose?) and most of these, as the author states, withered away, still running great. Amazing to see one like this, by gar, it’s been a while.

    Like 1
  12. Blueprint

    This was so freakin’ attractive when new (I’m 49). Still is. I mean, Ford had the Fairmont at the time.

    Like 1
  13. grant

    A nickle ads used car for twice what it’s worth. They are REALLY good cars, though.

    Like 1
  14. Nrg8

    I remember borrowing a friends, nice little car. He said there is brake fliud in the trunk as he had cracked brake line. So middle of winter, brake light comes on. Pull in a parking lot, open trunk and passenger side is full of slush and snow from non existent wheel tub. Shock was mounted to nothing. Brake line snapped off. Before inspections, beaters everywhere. Paid 200, carpet in trunk was hiding it until shock knocked it down. Car did look nice but was a bondo wagon that ran good. Capped brake line, drove it till spring, then off to the shredder.

  15. Marty Reardon

    Some cars no matter how nice are only worth so much to 99% of the buyers. This is like hunting for the buyer who would pay $55,000 for a $30,000 car. It looks a lot more ridicules when you add a zero. Sorry but it is what it is, a very nice cheap car.

  16. irocrobb

    It has probably been 25 years since I saw a good one of these running around our town. They were a good reliable car at the time and I almost bought a new one but went with a Accord.

  17. ROTAG999

    Love the looks of this era 626 that motor was long in the tooth i believe they went to a newer motor in 83 and 84 was front wheel drive. As mentioned by others hard on headgaskets, heads and stretching timing chains. I had one i bought from a friend @ work (non-runner) number 3 Rod was a twisted mess in the oil pan. I bought a used motor from wrecking yard it was in sad shape did sell the car and made a profit so was okay deal in the end.

  18. Del

    I love recycling too and its time for this one to recycled.

    Way to much discussion about a has been Mazda

  19. TJP

    I owned 2 of the 2nd gen 626’s (83 and an 85) and would buy another in a heartbeat. Wish they still made them new.
    30 mpg all day long in town and 39 on the hiway running 85 mph with the air on.

  20. Rick A. Loera Member

    Love the car. I wanted one back in 82, but my budget was more Mazda GLC then Mazda 626. I remember the snooty kids in high school seemed to have that and the Honda Accord. In 1984 I bought a 1981 Datsun 200SX SL. Beautiful little two door hard top. All four power windows, moonroof, cruise best sounding factory radio I’ve ever heard in a car. The cars biggest fault was brakes and three speed automatic transmission. 3000 rpm at 65 MPH. Not very quick and marginal gas mileage. About 22 MPG was about as good as it got. When I traded that for my beloved 1986 Ford Thunderbird I thought well that Datsun is going to look like a gas saver compared to this car. Well luck was on my side. The car had the optional automatic overdrive on the 3.8 liter six cylinder engine. This car blew away that Datsun on gas mileage. Got as high as 34.2 MPG going from Grand Junction, CO to Las Vegas, NV. 519 miles on that tank of gas. Now my next 86 Thunderbird had the six cylinder as well but the mileage was pretty dismal compared to the first Third. That’s because of the 3 speed auto vs AOD. About the same mileage as my 85 Anniversary edition Thunderbird with the 302 V-8 engine.

  21. Chris Vrabel

    I took my behind the wheel in a 4dr 5spd version of this back in 84.

  22. Fiete T.

    Waiting for the ,” Let’s put an LS in it” crowd…

    In 3,2,1-

  23. Fred Bowers

    Not a barn find, just more foreign junk

  24. Mxstav

    I bought one of these new (1980 MY) in 1980. Great car . I loved the understated looks, manual Transmission and rear wheel drive. It performed well back in the day. Alas, the Chicago winters ate the metal, despite (or perhaps because of) the mandatory Rusty Jones dealer “option”.

    The trunk had an electric release button on the dash and the rear seats folded down to give access to the trunk. At stop lights I would pop the trunk and my friend would exit the trunk and get in the car through the doors. It would freak out the people behind us!

  25. Adam T45 Staff

    I’m always fascinated by the people who get onto these forums, and when they see a foreign car, don’t feel that it needs to be treated with respect, but should be referred to as “foreign junk” that should be scrapped. Some of these individuals need to realise that the world (and the automotive industry) does not stop and start at the US border. Many of these countries (including my own) are capable of producing cars that go, stop and handle. My sentiment is that if you can’t make a positive contribution, you are probably better off keeping quiet.

    Like 4
  26. Pete

    In 1981 I made the mistake of me letting my wife at the time talk me into buying a brand new 1981 Mercury Capri. That car was pretty all silver and black. But it was a POS. 55 MPH up hill down hill or off a cliff. I would have been better served buying a Mazda like this for just a little bit more money. I like the car and it’s condition. Nice write up by the way. One of the few down sides to owning a mazda is the sheet metal is very thin. Which results in it being easily dented spoiling the condition. You can literally push it in with your thumb in certain areas.

    • ROTAG999

      This car is Robust compared to my 2016 Accord its like Reynolds Wrap.

  27. Jubjub

    The last car my dad, a WWII vet, bought was an ‘85 626LX. Great car, lasted many years. Whereas this car has an innocent, unassuming face, the ‘85 had a keen smirk like it was up to something.

    I never cared much for the term “foreign” car. It’s wasn’t built by aliens in another galaxy, just some Japanese folks around the planet. They’ve got boats and planes making the trip to and fro daily.

    Like 1
  28. DweezilAZ

    This is one of the prettiest 2 door hardtops [yes a genuine hardtop] ever built, IMHO. It just looks right from every angle.

    The photographer missed an opportunity for a great shot of it with all the windows down.

    I’d rank it up there with the 65-69 Corvair.

    Like 1
  29. JimmyJ

    A message for Fred bowers…..
    It’s fine to dislike foreign cars but calling them “foreign junk” makes you sound very misinformed.

    Like 5
    • Thomas Cook

      I remember an pro American car group staging a publicity stunt at a car rally back in the mid to late 70’s. American manufacturers were losing market share to mostly Japanese makes and cutting production and jobs. It was tough times and a bad economy.
      Anyway The idea was to take a foreign car (don’t remember the make, Toyota maybe.) block the throttle wide open and wait for the engine to blow to demonstrate what a poor product it was and people would buy less foreign and more American cars.
      So, with news crews taping, the hood was open, throttle blocked open and the engine is running wide open, clock is ticking… and it does not blow. Time passes, minutes go by, still going at WOT, the engine is screaming and smoking, but it does not blow. Finally one of the stagers goes into a rage and attacks the engine with a hammer and after more than a few blows the engine dies. This was carried on news all over the country.

      Like 2
  30. Jeff

    My first new car was an ’82 5 speed. 11 years in Southern Ontario salt killed it at about the same mileage as this one. Put 2 head gaskets in it in that time (one under warranty), so yes there were problems with that.

  31. Melvin Burwell

    Way too much for that car. Nothing posted lately is affordable any more. And I live in L.A. county.

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