Mazda 1200 and 1300: paving the road to small car leadership

16 February 2018

The half decade from 1967 was one of the most exciting for the local motoring scene. The local manufacturers’ desire to do well in touring car racing, especially in the annual 500-mile race at Mount Panorama, saw the beginning of what retrospectively became known as the supercar era. But, arguably, competition for sales in the budget-priced sector of the market was almost as interesting.

The Toyota Corolla was genuinely exciting in 1967, rivalling the desirable quasi-sports sedan Peugeot 404 on performance (though not dynamics). But, just as the Corolla eclipsed Datsun's elegant little 1000, it, too, would be outdone the following year when the Mazda 1200 went on sale.

Toyota, Datsun and Mazda were the Japanese big three in Australia in the late 1960s. Datsun and Toyota made their marks – their marques if you like – first, but Toyo Kogyo (manufacturer of Mazdas) had been a minor presence here since the introduction of the gorgeous little Mazda 1000 coupe (almost a Japanese mini Ferrari in style) in 1966. With this model, the various Australian distributors of Mazda established their cars as somewhat upmarket of other Japanese offerings.