The Mazda Roadpacer AP was a unique rotary
powered car sold in Japan from 1975 to 1977. Many Australians
would recognise this car as a Holden HJ Kingswood, this is because the
body for the Roadpacer was fully imported from Australia.
How a rotary powered Australian car made it to the Japanese car market
is an interesting story. By the mid 70s Mazda's Wankel rotary engine was
now a very much reliable engine that Mazda has sunk millions into
developing. General Motors was looking at putting a rotary into their
Corvette at the time and had contacted Mazda with views of obtaining
some of their technology, at the time Mazda also wanted a larger luxury
car to sell in Japan so GM offered Mazda their closest RHD Car available
the Holden Kingswood Premier.
The Premiers design
dated back to 1970 and it engine dated back to the early 60s, this is
one reason why Mazda shoved their rotary under the bonnet, another good
reason was there was tax advantages in putting a smaller capacity local
engine in the car and on paper the 13B rotary would be an adequate
In reality the Roadpacer was a disaster, the Holden
was a heavy car and the motor was not a suitable match for it and its 3
speed auto, also the Holden had poor build quality that was made worse
by the extra gadgets that were tacked on by Mazda in order to turn it
into a more luxurious car. The Japanese public saw straight through this
overpriced poor performing luxury car in favor of more Japanese style
cars. By 1977 the oil crisis had hit hard and less than 900 fuel thirsty
Roadpacers were sold before the project was cancelled at around the same
time GM lost interest in the rotary engine. Shortly after Ford bought a
25% share of Mazda in order to bail them out and the rotary was pulled
from every Mazda model except for the RX/7 that was launched in 1979.
Holden's 6 Cylinder premier remained in production until the early 1980s
when a smaller replacement, the Commodore, took over as Holden's main
family sized car.
The Premiers longer wheelbase luxury brother the V8
Statesman was modernized in 1981 and despite a new rear end treatment
and new front lights and grill that really improved the look of the car,
there was no hiding the fact that the car underneath was a 15 year old
design with production ending in 1985.