The Rare And The Collectable

INSPIRE

The Rare And The Collectable

Throughout Mazda’s storied history, there have been countless unique models with joyful driving at their core. Here, Mazda Stories celebrates a special few—and those still driving them today.

Every vehicle has a natural shelf-life but, for a rare few, the emotional bond they create with their owners can transform them from utility to eternity, kept alive seemingly forever through the spin of spanners and turn of wrenches on drives and garages around the world. 

Mazda believe that every car should deliver an uplifting experience, both emotionally and physically. However, with these pieces of motoring rarieties almost the opposite holds true. Because it is only through passionate human endevaour – emotional and physical – that we can enjoy such collectable vehicles. These are not museum pieces, destined to a life of climate control and static gaze. These are pure Mazda, out on the open road being driven today in exactly the same way they were designed to be driven when they rolled out the factory decades ago – for the sheer fun of it. Welcome to the joy of driving.

Brian Skotchdopole’s Mazda REPU

Only sold in North America between 1974 and 1977, the Mazda Rotary Engine Pick Up — often abbreviated to ‘REPU’ — is considered one of Mazda’s most striking vehicles. “To me, the REPU represents a time when Mazda was proud of the rotary engine,” says Brian Skotchdopole, who drives (and once raced) his ’74 REPU throughout Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I’m very attached to this truck as it was my first introduction to rotary Mazdas. The old schools are just a little more special. I’ve now got a handful of RX-2s, RX-3s, and RX-4s,” he says. “Without getting into the REPU, I probably would’ve missed these special vehicles all together.”

31-year-old Skotchdopole, whose daily driver is also a Mazda RX-8, came across his now-50-year-old REPU in Denver, Colorado. “They’re a bit tough to find,” he says. “It belonged to a rotary shop owner and he showed me pictures of the truck lined up at the drag strip at Bandimere Speedway from before I was even born.”

“I still use it as my shop truck for my business.”

BRIAN Skotchdopole, NEW MEXICO

Despite this pedigree, the REPU still packs plenty of punch. The acceleration the rotary engine provides, he says, is “exhilarating,” while the minimal body roll and feedback when cornering has that unique Mazda touch. “I still use it as my shop truck for my business—Rotor Rehab,” he says. “We specialise in bringing rotary-powered cars back to life and get them back on the road. I’m sure there’s been hundreds of rotary engines and tyres in the REPU’s truck bed.”

As for the “rotary power” decal on its rear? “That’s to let everyone else know just how special it is,” says Skotchdopole. Now 50 years since the REPU’s debut,  this “king of the mini trucks” remains “absolutely fantastic,” he smiles. “It’ll go forever.”

Ferdi van Hout’s Mazda RX-4

In the Netherlands, it’s 41-year-old Ferdi van Hout who also holds a special relationship with Mazda’s rotary engine technology. Having owned a 1991 RX-7 FC Turbo, and a 1975 Mazda 929, a love for these “old school rotaries” saw him start a restoration project with an eye-catching 1974 Mazda RX-4—a culmination of RX-7 and MX-5 parts and even a few that he’s built himself. “I wasn’t even the highest bidder for the project,” he says. “But to the seller, I was the right guy to finish his work and make it a one-of-a-kind build.”

It would take Hout over four years to make the RX-4 road-worthy, with the vehicle undergoing a full restoration from the ground-up. While it’s a project that “will never truly be finished,” he says, he made sure to go back to the seller and show the fruits of his labour. “Seeing and feeling the car alive brought tears to his eyes,” he says. “He remembered every corner of the body and what had been done.”

“We got married in this car. It’s now a big part of our life story.”

FERDI VAN HOUT, NETHERLANDS

Since then, the RX-4 has seen plenty of action, with joyful countryside cruising and, more remarkably, playing a key role in Hout’s wedding day. “We got married in this car,” he says, visibly proud. “It’s now a big part of our life story.” Hout also takes the RX-4 to circuit days at Circuit Zandvoort—the home of the Dutch Grand Prix— with the Dutch Hadi-Mazda club, a community of Mazda enthusiasts whom he describes as being “like family.” 

There’s plenty of external attention, too. “I can’t go anywhere without people taking pictures,” he says. “There’s lots of turning heads and thumbs-ups when people pass me on the highway, everyone just loves the car.” Despite this, its origins remain a mystery for those watching it speed by. “Nobody knows what it is,” he says. “The surprised look on their face when they hear it’s Japanese is pure gold.”

Anika Thorén’s Mazda RX-7 FD3S

An approximate 16,000 kilometres away, another similar story has been unfolding in Australia’s Gold Coast. Anika Thorén, a like-minded Mazda enthusiast, has been hard at work on her 2001 Mazda RX-7 FD3S—one of only 325 in the world. “People tell me it’s one of the cleanest RX-7s they’ve ever seen,” she beams, having bought it after two years of searching far and wide. “She is number 245 of 325, as Mazda only made the RZ for seven months.”

“When I die, I’ll be buried in her.”

ANIKA THORÉN, AUSTRALIA

For Thorén, the RX-7 (which has since been nicknamed “Feisty”) has been a catalyst to lifelong memories made with local communities. “The rotary engine alone has created such a passionate community who understand each other and have mutual respect,” she says. “I also organise an event called ‘Sevens Day’ in the Brisbane region, which has become a bit of a worldwide celebration.”

Having owned the RX-7 FD for seven years, Thorén has been hard at work accentuating the vehicle’s shape, including a vented bonnet, gunmetal wheels and carbon fibre detailing. It’s a hot ticket. “People ask if I’ll ever sell her, and I reply that I’ll be buried in her. I absolutely adore this car,” she says. “Only would Mazda have the mettle to make something so different work.”


Words Ed Cooper