Shed of the Week: Mazda MX-3

What does a car have to have to make it a classic? Style? Speed? Rarity? Exotic mechanicals? The right badge? Stupidly low mileage?

Usually it's a case of permutating two or three of these ingredients to arrive at an agreed definition of a classic.

For Shed, a classic car is one that looks, sounds and feels faster than it is. That way he can continue using the same specs that he's worn for driving for the last 30 years, ignoring pleas from the opticians to come in for a re-test. He would do if he could find it.

Anyway, there are a number of cars that obviously fit this bill. Most of them are superminis like the Citroen AX GT, 106 GTI and the like, but Mrs Shed refuses to get in them. Or to put it more accurately, she can't get in them. While this would seem to be an upside rather than a downside, Shed's fear of physical violence requires him to look elsewhere.

Mazda's MX-3 fits the bill. This 323-based, front-wheel drive, coupé was binned from the Mazda range in 1998, a victim of emission regs. In today's crazy world where even SUVs are claiming coupé status, this is a proper one with a tiny 60-degree, 1.8-litre, 24-valve V6 and a nice low top speed of 120mph.

You can play sweet music on the K-series (Mazda/Ford's, not Rover's). It's no VTEC, but the tacho invites you up to 7,000rpm and the fuel keeps pumping until 7,800. Our SOTW ad puts the power at just 95hp. That's a typo: it's more like 134hp, and that peak output arrives at the redline, so it's actually your duty to run it into the red zone. Here's somebody doing just that, recording an unofficial 0-62mph in 7.5 secs on some nameless Eastern bloc back street.

As you can sort of discern from that vid, Mazda tried to release some V6 rasp via a variable length intake manifold (VLIM) and a Variable Resonance Induction System. To fully liberate the V6 madness, you can fit the block, heads and injectors from the 2.5 MX-6 (or Xedos 9 - remember that?), or indeed the whole engine as it's dimensionally the same. A Japanese-spec 2.5 will deliver 200hp with just an ECU change, but you'd be losing Shed at that point because his specs wouldn't be able to keep up.

Chassis-wise, as noted, it's a front-driver, but a degree or two of passive rear steer was built in by the Twin-Trapezoidal Link back end, which despite sounding more like a circus act than a suspension system actually works pretty well. See it in action about halfway through this official MX-3 advertising film. This vid is talking about the Eunos Presso, a domestic-market 'partner car' for the Eunos MX-5 that came with a viscous limited slip diff. Aftermarket LSD kits for regular MX-3s are (or were, at least) available, but the standard TTL rear-steer gubbins does invest the normal MX-3 with a touch of faux-RWD-iness.

It won't be a cheap car to fuel, and MX-3 parts prices can be on the dear side, but with luck you won't need many of them because they have a handy reputation for reliability. Any smoke from the zorst could mean leaking valve stem seals, and distributors have been known to go wonky, causing hot-start cutouts.

Otherwise the news is good. Post-'94 B-spec engines like this one have non-interference valvetrains so you can either be a good boy and replace the belts at 60,000-mile intervals or simply run them until they snap. Thankfully, Mazda didn't go down the German cost-saving route of using plastic for tensioners or water pump impellers.

Our Shed is not cursed with the frankly terrible automatic gearbox. Less pleasingly though, it's had its standard six-spoke wheels replaced by a set of aftermarket five-spoke 16-inchers with low-profile tyres. Apart from the loss of originality, the current setup leaves the wheel arches looking too spacious. Still, that does allow us to note some paint chipping on one of them - but no rust.

Remarkably, there's not a single mention of corrosion anywhere on the MOT history. Even the notoriously vulnerable underside has somehow escaped the ravages of our salty roads. That is not far short of incredible for one of these, and this car has been priced up to reflect the fact.

Whether anyone will actually spring £1450 for it is another matter. The interior is about as exciting as a wet weekend in Skeggy, with two-tone grey velour seats, a busman's steering wheel and (in this case) the dreaded curly mats. MX-3s also had a weirdly long ignition key which was prone to snapping off if inserted a bit too vigorously. Feel free to add your own Mrs Shed joke there.

Here's the ad.

Stunning RARE Classic car. V6

MOT till 26th March 2018
Alloy wheels
Electric windows and sunroof
Immaculate interior.

Great for it's age



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Comments (48) Join the discussion on the forum

  • V8 FOU 20 Oct 2017

    Excellent Shed!
    Forgot about these...... What a jewel of an engine too.

  • Steamer 20 Oct 2017

    Had a girlfriend really keen on these back in the day - but I wasnt so convinced.

    Was it these or the Mitsi FTO that was a bit of a bugger to change the plugs on the far side of the engine?

  • culpz 20 Oct 2017

    It's a bit of an odd looking thing. The side profile looks similar to a Tigra or a Puma. Do these, presumably, rust like an MX-5?

  • darkyoung1000 20 Oct 2017

    I was in Slaithwaite on Monday and there was a black one of these being driven enthusiastically (like a bit of a tit if I'm honest), through the town.
    It wasn't particularly quick (fortunately), but it did sound good. I've always thought the small capacity V6 was a nice piece of engineering.
    Good shed!

  • Jhonno 20 Oct 2017

    Quirky SOTW.. I quite like it.

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