by Johanna Patterson
In 1968 the Mazda 1200 set a new bench mark for affordable quality in the small car segment, it then being the cheapest 4 door car on the market.
Up to that time most small cars were afforded only 2 doors, not the most practical when you consider the role of many cheaper 4 cylinder cars of the time, that being as a "second" car to allow the wife to go shopping, pick up the kids from school and perform general suburban run-about duties.
Holden had by now released a 4 door version of their popular HB Torana
, Ford their brilliant little Escort Mk.I
, so any Japanese car intending to take them on needed to be both good and cheap, quite a challenge!
The Mazda needed to have a few aces up its sleeve, and that it did. First of all, there was an advanced flow through ventilation system that provided at least some relief during the Aussie summers. Add to that the no cost inclusion of a heater/demister, and finally the affordability, it being the cheapest of the alternatives.
By 1969 both the Mazda 1500
and Mazda 1800
developed an enviable reputation for quality and reliability, and those that opted for the cheaper 1200 alterntive were not to be disappointed.
The 1169cc engine was a little wheezy down low, but the all-alloy unit was specifically designed by the Mazda engineers for the 1200, and the 73 horsepower engine was enough to push the car to 90 miles an hour, for those who dared.
From a styling perspective, the 1200 was blessed with attractive looks and gave the appearance of a much more expensive car. The white-band tires were also a nice touch, as was the two speed wipers, power washers and reversing lights.
The best looking was the 1200 Coupe, which featured fully reclining seats with ehad rests, tinted glass, push-button radio, pop-up aerial, white wall tires, tachometer, wood grain pattern steering wheel with alloy spokes, and a cigarette lighter - and the price was an amazing $2195.
Both sedan and coupe shared the same mechanicals, but that was no bad thing, particularly given the effort the Mazda engineers had put into ensuring their cheapest of models could fight it out with cars well above its station. There was even a wagon model, which boasted a large lift-up tail gate ensuring trips to the supermarket were even easier to manage.
The Mazda 1200 was thrifty, practical, manouverable and a pleasure to own. It may not be collectable, but we are sure it remains a firm favorite in the minds of those who ever owned one.