In 1986, the trend for Japanese manufacturers was to establish R&D centers in Southern California. The purpose was to hire NA based designers and product planners to assist headquarters in gauging the needs and wants of North American customers. After all, Southern California was the center for progressive trends and a robust import automotive marketplace. The Mazda California design studio was very new at this time with just a handful of Japanese and American employees. Our goal was to create and propose a product vision and portfolio to identify the “right” vehicles for Mazda headquarters to be considering within the competitive USA marketplace. When it came to us competing with our Asian counterparts on various programs involving design and product concept models, we clearly had contrasting viewpoints. Mazda was interested in that.
Our studio had just finished our own self-initiated concepts of the “Light weight sports” (MX-5 Miata) and the MPV minivan (1983-86). The MX-6 was a core model that was primarily geared toward higher sales volumes in the North American marketplace so Mazda headquarters particularly listened to us and our North American viewpoint. The MX-6 competitors of the day were the Toyota Celica and Honda prelude. Our goal was to make the MX-6 a sports coupe that was distinctive against our competitors and captured our new Mazda design flavor and theme.
With the MX-6 program, we competed with our design counterparts in Hiroshima. It was a closed door competition of sorts. We separately made our own full size clay models which resulted in a win for the California team. The competitors of the day, such as the Honda Prelude and Toyota Celica were sport coupes with a particular proportion of a long hood and a short rear deck configuration. We sought to do the opposite, intending a vehicle with a distinctive proportion of a shorter hood and longer tail creating a “cab forward” look. This formula also possessed a more “upscale” elegance in our eyes.
The MX-6 used a very distinctive “broad shoulder” waistline theme. This feature was elemental within our new Mazda design theme direction. (MX-5, 929 and 3rd gen RX-7- all designs that came from our studio with this shoulder theme) The cabin purposefully appeared narrow vs. the wide sporty stance of the body. We wanted to contrast the monocoque cross body section that was the main competitor trend of the day. Our intent was to make a car that appeared smooth and flowing yet appeared distinctively as a specialty Coupe. The roof pillars were thin thus giving the greenhouse an open-airy feeling with superior outward vision. The hood was void of just a simple surface with its subtly sculpted feature lines thus giving a more interesting drivers view over the hood. We also wanted the car to possess a solid and substantial look vs. our competitors.
The Ford probe benefited from the MX-6 architecture. Ford shared most internal components and basic architecture from the MX-6. However, it was Mazda that was responsible for the primary initial layout development. (Note the wide-shoulder theme on the Probe.)
Our R&D facility was not capable to complete a fully feasible model due to limited manpower and resources, so the final pre-production clay model was transferred to Headquarters in Hiroshima Japan for completion. Our team spent a few extended stays there to co-operatively assist in translating the design into global specifications that would be feasible in Asia, Europe and the USA. The whole development process endured for about two years.
I will continue to search for the images from my achieves to show you more on the development of the car. To be continued...