Mazda used the Luce (pronounced lu-che) name on its largest sedans in Japan from 1969 until 1990. These vehicles were exported under a variety of names, including RX-4, 929, and Cosmo. The Luce nameplate was replaced by the Mazda Sentia name in 1991. The name "Luce" was taken from the Italian word for "light".
Following an agreement signed with Bertone in April, 1962, the 1965 Luce 1500 show car was a beautiful sedan designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italy. It was low and sharp, looking more like a contemporary BMW Bavaria than any of its smaller Mazda brothers.
The production version had a higher roofline but retained the BMW look. It was a front-engine, rear wheel drive 4-door sedan, and featured a square 1.5 L (1490 cc) 1500 SOHC engine, producing 78 hp (58,1kW)5500rpm and 84,5lb ft. It sold poorly at 695,000 yen (US$1,930) and a stroked 1.8 L (1796 cc) 1800 engine was added for 1968. This new model, the Luce 1800, produced 104hp(74,5kW) 5500rpm and 112 lb ft 2500rpm. An estate station wagon was also added.
A rotary-powered Luce appeared the following year. The Luce R130 was produced from October, 1969 to 1972. It used a 1.3 L 13A engine, which produced 126 hp (94 kW) and 127 ft·lbf (172 N·m). Quarter-mile (400 m) performance was 16.9 seconds. Interestingly, this model was front wheel drive.
The Mazda brand entered the United States market in 1970 with just the small R100, but expanded to a full line in 1971. This included all three of the company's piston-powered models, the compact 616, mid-size 1200, and full-size 1800.
The US-market 1800 produced 98 hp (73 kW) and 108 lb·ft (146 N·m) and cost US$2,280. Performance was sluggish, with a 0-60 mph time of 17.5 seconds and a 20.5 seconds and 65 mph (105 km/h) quarter mile.
Unlike the rotary cars, the 1800 was a flop. Road & Track magazine said it was solid to the point of being overly-heavy, with pleasant handling but poor performance. They went so far as to call it the "Dullest Car of the Year"! It was gone from the market for 1972.
Opposite to what happened in USA, in Europe the same Mazda 1800 had a better performance with 104 hp (78 kW) at 5500 rpm (SAE) and max. torque of 109 lb·ft (148 N·m) at 3000 rpm (SAE), 0-60 mph in 13.4 seconds. The poor performance of this engine in USA was probably due to fact that in USA the petrol had an octane index of only 85 r.o.n. while in Europe the petrol used to have an octane index of 95 r.o.n (up to 100 r.o.n. today). Also the manual transmission with 4 gears used in Europe contributed to a much better performance than the 3 gears automatic transmission usually used in the US.
The number of Mazda 1800 automobiles imported into the U.S. are as follows.
1970 - 1,058 Sedan - 937 Estate // 1971 - 1,020 Sedan - 1,639 Estate // 1972 - 100 Sedan - 0 Estate
- A sincere thanks to Mazda Motors Co. in Japan for providing these numbers.
The 1800 saloon (model SVA - 4-door) was in production from 1968 through 1973 where a reported 39,401 units were made. An 1800 estate version (model SVAV - station wagon) had been added in 1970.
The 1972 rotary Luce was also known as the Mazda RX-4 in export markets. It was available as a coupé, sedan, and "custom" (station wagon). Two rotary engines were offered, the regular 12A and low-emissions AP 13B.
- 1973-1976 1.8 L (1769cc) 1800 I4, 2 barrel, 83 hp (61 kW)/101 ft·lbf (137 N·m)
- 1975-1976 2.0 L (1970cc) F/MA I4, 2 barrel, 103 hp (76 kW)/123 ft·lbf (167 N·m)
- 1972-1976 13B, 127 hp (93 kW)/138 ft·lbf (188 N·m)
The 1978 Luce Legato (introduced in October, 1977) was a large and luxurious sedan, still powered by Mazda's piston or rotary engines. It was also available as a four-door pillarless hardtop that looked like a huge, square coupé, and a wagon, which had more of a utilitarian role than the sedans.
Aside from the regular piston engine variants, the 12A or 13B rotary engines were on offer. The piston engined variants were exported as the Mazda 929. A rotary engine version was exported to "General issue" countries & sold as an RX-9. Most RX-9's were sold as a 12A variant.
A facelift was given to the range in 1980, giving the car a more 'European' styled front. When the range was replaced in 1981, the wagon models continued, due to there being no wagon models in the new range.
- 1977-1980 1.8 L (1769cc) 1800 I4, 2 barrel, 83 hp (61 kW)/101 ft·lbf (137 N·m)
- 1977-1980 2.0 L F/MA (1970 cc) I4, 1 barrel, 90 hp (66 kW)
- 1980-1980 2.2 L Diesel, 66 hp (49 kW)/104 ft·lbf (142 N·m)
- 1977-1980 13B, 127 hp (93 kW)/138 ft·lbf (188 N·m)
- 1981-1986 2.0 L (1970 cc) MA I4, 1 barrel, 90 hp (66 kW)/118 ft·lbf (160 N·m)
- 1981-1986 2.0 L (1998 cc) FE I4, 2 barrel, 101 hp (74 kW)/115 ft·lbf (156 N·m)
- 1981-1986 2.0 L (1998 cc) FE I4, FI, 118 hp (87 kW)/126 ft·lbf (171 N·m)
The 1986 Luce was large and luxurious on the HC platform, now with the 13B turbo engine as one of many engine options. It was still exported as the Mazda 929, and differed from the (continued) Cosmo. In the 90's Mazda sold the body stampings to Hyundai where it was reproduced until the early 2000s in piston form & sold in Korea only.
1991 was the last year of the Luce nameplate. The Eunos Cosmo was already on sale (JC), and the HD platform spawned the Mazda Sentia (now exported as the 929), and the Efini MS-9, making 1991 the last year for a 4-door rotary powered sedan prior to the RX-8.
- 1986-1991 2.0 L (1998 cc) FE I4, FI, 116 hp (85 kW)/121 ft·lbf (164 N·m)
- 1986-1991 2.2 L (2184 cc) F2 I4, 1 barrel, 115 hp (85 kW)/129 ft·lbf (175 N·m)
- 1986-1991 2.2 L (2184 cc) F2 I4, FI, 127 hp (93 kW)/141 ft·lbf (192 N·m)
- 2.0 L JF V6
- 2.0 L JFT V6JFT, 150 hp (112 kW)
- 1986-1991 3.0 L (2954 cc) JE V6, FI, 165 hp (121 kW)/182 ft·lbf (247 N·m)
- 13B turbo
- Long, Brian (2004). RX-7. Dorchester: Veloce Publishing. pp. 20. ISBN 1-904788-03-3.
- http://www.uniquecarsandparts.com.au/car_info_mazda_1800.htm Mazda 1800
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