Mazda Japan has begun work on renovating a 1960 R360 coupé in an ongoing bid to interest school children in automotive engineering.
Last year, it enrolled a group of secondary school students in its Hiroshima home to bring a 1967 Cosmo Sport L10A back to life; sourced from its museum, the Cosmo underwent a concours quality restoration, with no nut or bolt left untouched. Presented to Mazda’s management and suppliers in a lavish ceremony, the end result of the students’ hard labour was ‘perhaps the most definitive and exquisitely restored L10A in the world’, according to online magazine Japanese Nostalgic Car.
With 14 students from the Hiroshima Prefecture and Hiroshima City Industrial High School working with Mazda factory engineers, current and retired, the special team began pulling the R360 coupé apart to gauge its condition. Again sourced from the company museum, the goal was to make the car ‘as new’ – just as the Cosmo Sport was transformed into a mechanically perfect example, so will the R360.
As a primer to potential further study, the children also undertook production lectures and tours of Mazda’s Ujima assembly plant. With modern classroom theory in hand, practical sessions on the R360 coupé included engine head work, transmission cleaning, and body panel reconditioning. With access to original factory drawings and blueprints, a heritage delegation of Mazda engineers revived the R360 coupé’s ‘torsion rubber spring’ suspension; this alone meant special commission of components from companies in Mazda’s supply chain. As of April, Japanese Nostalgic Car reports that – while very much a spare time factory project – the R360 coupé’s engine, drivetrain and brakes have all been rebuilt.
Like the Cosmo Sport, the R360 marks a special place in Mazda’s back catalogue; the former was the firm’s first commercially available Rotary-engined car, while the latter was the first four-wheeled passenger car it offered to buyers. Student factory restorations will continue on historically significant models up to Mazda’s centenary celebrations in 2020.
Students will next year work on a Luce Rotary Coupe (Mazda’s first Bertone-styled car), in 2019, a fourth generation Familia (or 323 – the car that saved Mazda from bankruptcy in the ‘Eighties) will be restored and in 2020 the resto subject will be a Mazda-Go – the motor rickshaw that took Mazda’s parent firm, machine tool maker Toyo Kogyo, into vehicle manufacturing.