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Motoring: Mercedes Benz 600 Grosser - 1963

If ever a motor vehicle was the right car at the right time, it was the Mazda 1500. Released in Australia at the 1967 Sydney International Motor Show, scarcely 3 days after its Tokyo release, the Mazda 1500 was just what Mazda - and Japanese car makers as a whole - needed to cement their position in the Australian marketplace. During the early years of the 1960s, the major Japanese manufacturers had made their first, tentative steps into Australia with predominantly small cars that were well made and loaded with features that, on others cars for sale at that time, were optional extras. But Mr Average Australian motorist of that day bought six cylinder cars, and what the Japanese needed was a good loking 4-cylinder car that bridged the gap between large family 6 cylinders and the small 4 cylinder variety. The Mazda 1500 was such a car.

The Mazda 1500/1800 was designed by Giorgio Giugiaro while he was with the Bertone design house in Italy. Giugiaro, who would later help found Italdesign, is well known for his creativity and for being at the forefront in design practices. He is accredited with starting the 1970's 'folded paper' era of sharp edged automotive designs and has penned automobiles for: Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Maserati, Saab, and Ferrari - just to name a few. In 2002, Giugiaro was inducted into the Dearborn, Michigan Automotive Hall of Fame and was voted Designer of the Century by 120 international Journalists in 1999.

It was a stroke of good fortune on Mada's part that they scored the Giugiaro design. Car designers Bertone had been commissioned by Alfa Romeo back in 1962 to come up with a design for a mid-range 4-cylinder car they intended to manufacture. As the design was nearing completion, Alfa was offered a much cheaper deal to share with Peugeot, Fiat and BMC in a similar sized car design by Pinin Farina, the cost of which would be shared by them - Alfa took up the offer, and ended up producing the 2600 Berlina sedan. The Giugiaro design became available at a bargain basement price and Mazda snapped it up. There is no mistaking the Italian influence on the sleek lines of the 1500/1800. Without seeing the badging, more than a few people have guessed this was an early Alfa, BMW, or even Fiat at first glance. Particularly the front grille area with the quad headlights.

When it debuted at the 1965 Tokyo Auto Show, the Mazda 1500 (known as the Luce for the Japanese market) was immediately praised for its styling by magazine writers and auto enthusiasts alike. It possessed a SOHC 1490cc piston engine so it was not going to win any awards for raw speed or power, but it was never intended to, concentrating more on safety and comfort features, Mazda marketed this as more of an upscale sedan. It should be noted that 1490cc was more than comparable to other powerplants of Japanese made cars of this time. Although a trend was forming for larger and more luxurious cars with V6 engines being used, there was still a strong emphasis on the lightweight (family) car class which housed 800cc - 1000cc motors.

The 1500 (model SUA - saloon 4 door sedan) remained in production through 1971, during which time a reported 121,804 units were made. In 1967 an Estate version (4 door station wagon - model SUAV) was added as well as a more sporty 1500 SS. The SS model had a twin carb setup and disc brakes up front. The grille was slightly modified with 4 horizontal bars going across and a 60s style sport steering wheel similar to that of the R100.

Mazda's high standard of finish that had won it praise on its smaller Familia range of cas was carried over to the 1500. What appeared to be overly large wheels proved a boom in Australian roads, giving the car a level of comfort and smoothness previously unknown in a 4-cylinder car in Australia. For many women drivers, safety features weighed heavily in any buying decision, and the Mazda 1500 did not disappoint. There was a safety padded dash, seat belt anchors, an advanced fresh air system, crash proof door locks and a re-inforced passenger compartment. During its life, the car retained a high resale value and I know of more than one owner who traded their Mazda 1500 for a newer vehicle and found it hard to part with so trusty, reliable and comfortable a vehicle that the 1500 proved itself to be.

Standard 1500 Sedan: At $2255 the Mazda idea of "standard" seemed to have delusions of "luxury", it offering plenty more standard kit than most other competitors of the time. Standard inventory included windscreen washers, reversing lights, and an advanced fresh air system.

1500 Deluxe Sedan: The Deluxe included a radio with power aerial, foldaway armrests and a facia mounted electric clock. Priced at $2750 it was a steal, and the automatic was only $2810!

1500 Station Wagon: Styled on the 1500 sedan, the wagon also afforded generous unobstructed luggage space. The tail-gate lifted up and out of the way for the easiest of loading/unloading, and it was no surprise it offered the greatest carrying capacity in its class. The rear seat also folded forward to further increase capacity. Prices were $2535 for the manual, and $2905 for the auto.

Years of Manufacture: 1967 - 1974
Chassis/Body: Unitary construction (Monocoque)
Exterior Dimensions: Total Length: 4389mm; Width: 1646mm; Height at kerb weight: 1463mm
Wheelbase: 2489mm
Fuel Tank: 11 gallons (50.0 litres)
Turning Circle: 32.0ft (9.75 metres)
Transmission (Manual, 4 Speed)
Clutch: Single cushion disc, dry plate clutch
Rear Axle Ratio: Hypoid bevel differential, final drive 3.70:1
Maximum Speed: 92 mph
Engine (4 Cylinder): 1490cc. Conventional, watercooled four stroke, reciprocating piston type with 4 cylinders, single overhead cam, 5 bearing crankshaft
Configuration: Front mounted, longitudinal, inline
Head: Pushrod and rocker actuated ohv with two valves per cylinder
Fuel System: Single downdraft type carburettor
Power: 82 bhp
Suspension: Front: Independent type with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers
Rear: Live axle, semi elliptic leaf springs and telescopic shock absorbers
Steering: Ball and nut type
Brakes: Front: Disc (power assisted). Rear: Drum (power assisted)
Wheels: 14" Pressed steel disc wheels

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