The original ancestor to today's Mazda6 sedan, the RX-2 was available in the US with a Wankel rotary engine.
Before Mazda built the now iconic MX-5 and rotary-engine favorites like the RX-7 and RX-8, the Japanese automaker built the RX-2. Mazda, like only a few other automakers, has learned over the years that, for numerous reasons, rotary engines are not exactly the best thing to use. But the company was always willing to try something different and this one of the reasons why Mazda developed quite a loyal fan base. The RX-2 was not a sports car but rather a family car. First launched in 1970, it was known as the Capella in Japan.
Powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, it had a respectable output of 104 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque. Outside of its native country, the RX-2 was available with a Wankel rotary engine and, interestingly, was assembled under contract in New Zealand beginning in 1972. Available as both a coupe and sedan, buyers had the option of a manual and automatic transmission. It had a minor facelift in 1974 and the RX-2 was renamed the 616 and later the 618, named for its engine displacement. The 618 was on the market for just one model year before it was replaced by the new 626.
Despite that car's rear-wheel-drive setup, this was in fact an ancestor to today's front-wheel-drive Mazda6. Although it didn't make the switch to FWD until 1983, the 626 helped to expand Mazda's US presence. This was especially important because fellow Japanese brands like Honda and Toyota were becoming increasingly popular in the US market. While the 626 didn't enjoy the same success as its Accord and Camry competitors, it did see solid sales in certain markets, such as New Zealand and Japan, where it was still known as the Capella.
By the late Nineties, however, Mazda was in a partnership with Ford and it began to unify its somewhat diverse mid-size car global lineup. So in 2002 the Capella name was finally retired for good when and replaced by the now familiar Mazda6. Other large Mazda sedans, such as the Millenia and 929, were also sold in the US but they too were merged into a single model, also the Mazda6. Mazda realized that large sedans weren't its thing, thus the size and overall packaging of the Mazda6 make even more sense. But still, it's fun to think that that car's origins can be traced back to the RX-2.
This particular example that's up for sale on eBay is a 1972 model that remains in overall excellent condition. Despite its 77,332 miles on the clock, it's never been in an accident and is still mostly original. There's no rust whatsoever and even the paint color is original as is its 12A rotary engine and exhaust. As of writing, it has a current bid of just under $10,000. Photos courtesy of luar6670.