Welcome back to Forgotten Sporty Cars at The Garage! In this space we recall an era where small, economy car-based based vehicles were sold with zippy styling. Whether there was any substance to the sizzle weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll leave for you to judge.
1988-1989 Mazda 323 GTX
I would be willing to forgive a lot of people for assuming that the MazdaSpeed3 was Mazda’s first attempt at producing a truly barking mad version of their economy car. If you happen to fall into that group, meet the Mazda 323 GTX-the MazdaSpeed3’s granddaddy (we can talk about the Mazdaspeed Protege another time).
Even in the 1980’s, Mazda had a reputation of building involved, fun to drive cars. Given the popularity of VW’s GTI, Mazda seemed content to let the popular GLC and later 323 carry on without a high performance version. All that changed when Mazda decided they wanted to take the 323 Group A rallying. The FIA mandated that 5,000 production cars had to be built to homologate the car. In 1986, the 323 GTX went on sale in Europe and Japan, and arrived in the US as a 1988 model.There is a good reason the 323 GTX isn’t mentioned in the same breath as a GTI, as the two cars are as different as night and day. While the GTI was a Golf/Rabbit with some go-fast parts, the 323 GTX was a rally car detuned for street use. Power came from a 1.6L, twin cam, 16 valve, turbocharged and intercooled four good for 132hp, mated to a 5-speed manual. Even with all-wheel drive, the GTX weighed in at a pretty svelte 2,645lbs.
With an MSRP of $12,999USD-nearly double the price of a base 323, appeal of the GTX was limited to those who understood and appreciated the rally racing technology infused into this rare car. Over a two year period, only 1,243 Ã‚Â 323 GTX’s were sold in the US. These cars were often driven hard, and as values fell, proper maintenance was an afterthought. When the subject is a rare, highly tuned car such as this, the results car be devastating. Still, used ones do pop up with asking prices ranging from $2,000-$4,000, depending on condition. For an ultra-rare hot hatch, that is not a bad price of admission to a very exclusive, if not well-known club.