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Mazda R&D’s Basement - The Race Cars

Mazda North American Operations’ secret stash of iconic motorsports machines is (mostly) a temple of rotary

Andrew Beckford
Oct 6, 2017
Photographer: Matt Ulfelder

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a special heaven meant strictly for warriors who've spent their lives immersed in battle. We're happy to tell you that Valhalla exists. In fact, it's nestled within the basement of Mazda North America's research and development building in Irvine, Calif.

Not to be confused with Mazda's awesome new corporate HQ just down the freeway, the R&D building is where all of the magic happens. It was here that the legend of the original MX-5 Miata was born, and the facility also serves as a homebase for Mazda's motorsport operations.

That's why beneath the building in what would normally serve as your average parking garage there is a collection of Mazda's greatest race cars. Those cars are serving as tributes to battles and victories of motorsports past. So when Mazda extended a super-special invite for us to take a tour of their collection, there was no way we were going to say no! And since we're not totally selfish, we're going to share with you some of our favorite picks from the collection.

1986 757 front Mazda R D Basement Photo 2/48   |   1986 757 Front Mazda R D Basement

It may not look like much now, but the 757 is ultimately what started Mazda's philosophy of being experimental with their race cars. Up until 1986, when Mazda used rotary engines in their cars, they were basically derivatives of the two-rotor engines found in their road cars. The 757 is Mazda's first race car to use the 13G three-rotor engine. The 757 raced all over the world in several classes and its revelation of using more than two rotors eventually lead to the development of the legendary 787. If you look closely you'll see the 757 was running a set of extremely badass Volk Racing three piece center-lock mag wheels as RAYS Engineering was a team partner at the time.

1989 767B 1986 757 headlights Mazda R D Basement Photo 3/48   |   1989 767B 1986 757 Headlights Mazda R D Basement

As you may have guessed from the nomenclature, the 767 is an evolution of the 757 race car. The 767 was powered by a 630 horsepower, four-rotor 13J engine and earned consistent top-10 finishes while competing against the heavy hitters of the time, like Jaguar and Porsche. The specific 767B chassis seen here raced the Fuji 1000KM enduro in ‘89 and won its class. It also finished ninth overall in LeMans that same year. In addition, the 767 was sporting Mazda's now famous “Charge” livery long before the 787 came around.

1989 MX 6 GTU Mazda R D Basement Photo 4/48   |   1989 MX 6 GTU Mazda R D Basement

Back in '89, IMSA made some rule changes in the GTU class which allowed teams to swap engines and even drivetrain configurations from a race car's production counterpart. With the MX-6 being released just a few years prior, Mazda wanted to focus their marketing efforts on it. So they took advantage of the new IMSA rules and swapped a two-rotor engine into a rear-wheel-drive converted MX-6 and went racing. During its first year in competition the MX-6 GTU cars nabbed a manufacturer's championship for Mazda and a driver's championship the year after. My favorite thing about this car is its massive fenders, which put Liberty Walk and Rocket Bunny to shame – shame!

1991 RX 7 GTO Mazda R D Basement Photo 5/48   |   1991 RX 7 GTO Mazda R D Basement

You didn't actually think we'd leave an RX-7 off of this list, did you? This chassis (number 001) was based off the second-gen FC3S RX-7 that we all know and love. It was also powered by the same four-rotor engine found in the 767B Group C prototype. In ‘91 this car dominated its class and earned the manufacturer's and driver's championship in the GTO class.

1995 RX 7 Bonneville Land Speed Car Mazda R D Basement Photo 6/48   |   1995 RX 7 Bonneville Land Speed Car Mazda R D Basement

If you consider yourself a hardcore Mazda fan, then you've probably heard of Racing Beat. If not, Racing Beat is a California-based speed shop that specializes in Mazda tuning. They also love to go ridiculously fast. They've built several land-speed cars in their time but this black beauty third-gen RX-7 is likely their most famous. This beast has a three-rotor engine with three turbos – yes, three, or one turbo per rotor! It made over 900HP and achieved a record-breaking top speed of 242.005mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Oh, and it also just so happened to hold that record for 13 years!

This was just a small sampling of what we saw in “the basement,” but we have a lot more in our gallery. We want to thank Mazda for inviting us to see this awesome collection. We also highly encourage you to keep an eye out for these cars at vintage races and other events as Mazda does tour them occasionally and there's nothing quite like seeing these machines in person.

By Andrew Beckford
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