The Forgotten Rally Homoligation Car That Mazda Built
For Christmas last year my dad gave me all is old Car and Drivers from 1988-1995. I’m working my way through all them and stumbled upon a issue from May of 1988 that featured the 1988 Mazda 323 GTX. The title was; Mazda 323 GTX “What to buy if you can’t afford a 5000 Quattro.” High words of praise coming from Car and Driver, and at the time this car was like nothing else in the market. It was the affordable rally car of the late eighties that was a homologated Group A rally car.
What made the Mazda 323 GTX special? Start with twin camshafts, four vales per cylinder, electronic port injection, turbocharging, four-wheel disc brakes, and four-wheel drive. Wrap that all in a 2640 pound frame that cost $12,999 in 1988 ($26,000 in 2016). And that’s what you call a bang-for-your-buck.
So Why Have I Never Heard Of The Mazda 323 GTX Mike?
A great question with a surprising answer. If Mazda built the 323 GTX today it would be on the cover of every car magazine, and be on every Mazda fanboys dream car list. But back in 1988 the market was totally different, and spending $14,000 on a car was a lot of money, especially such a niche market. Mazda Motor Corporation was nervous that the car would not sell well and they didn’t have any funds to market the car either. Unfortunately, Mazda only sold 1243 GTXs in the United states from 1988 to 1989. And that’s why if you can get your hands on one, you should hold on tightly.
What are the specs?
Power came from a 1.6-liter turbocharged in-line-four that produced 132 hp @6000 rpm and 136 b-ft @3,000 rpm. You will later find this engine in the NA1 Mazda Miata sans turbo of course. It had electronic port fuel injection, 16 valves, and double overhead cams to keep the turbo happily feed with air and fuel. The turbo was a IHIRHB5 that made 8.1 psi of boost. It wouldn’t blow the doors off a Subaru BRZ, but hit sixty mph in 8.6 seconds, and the quarter-mile in 16.4 seconds at 83 mph. What it lacked in speed it made up for in character and chassis tuning, pulling 0.80 g on the skidpad.
It was able to put the power to the ground in all conditions through it’s full-time all-wheel-drive. That was nothing ground-breaking for the time, it was similar to Audi’s quattro. But to get you out of extreme conditions it had a center locking differential.
Why Should You Buy One?
Car and Driver said that if there was one would to describe the Mazda 323 GTX it would be “balance”. The handling is neutral, and some trail braking will bring the back end out if you are coming in too hot. And then there’s nothing that a judicious amount of right foot can’t help. And unlike modern cars the 323 GTX came with deeply bolstered sport seats that hold you tight.
The Mazda 323 GTX is the last of an era. It’s a homologation Group A rally car that was made legal for the streets. Only 1243 examples were sold, and it was one of the first all-wheel drive hot hatches to hit the market. In 20 years the prices on these could sky rocket since it’s so rare. It was the first and last of it’s kind, and Mazda will never make anything like this ever again. Car and Driver said that “If it was equipped with anti-lock brakes it would be a worldbeater.” So, all I want for Christmas this year is a Mazda 323 GTX.
I’ve loved these cars ever since I learned about them! I fear they’re so rare now they’re out of my price range, especially considering how old they are and how much work they’ll likely need to restore.