📂︎ Something for the Weekend | 🖳︎ Wayne Gorrett | 🖃︎ April 30, 2021 _______________________________________________________________________________
➤ 40 years on, the MX-81 Aria has undergone a full restoration by Mazda Italy
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Found in a warehouse in Hiroshima, Japan, the first Mazda to wear the MX badge – the MX-81 Aria – has undergone a full restoration by Mazda Italy.
Returned to its original futuristic glory 40 years after its reveal at the 1981 Tokyo Motor Show, the small, wedge-shaped coupe was designed by Marc Dechamps for Turin-based coachbuilder Bertone.
To create the Mazda MX-81 Aria concept car, Bertone used Mazda 323 running gear and built a futuristic, wedge-shaped hatchback. With its gold paint, huge glasshouse and pop-up lights, it definitely stood out at the 1981 Tokyo Motor Show, but with its recessed square steering wheel, TV screen cockpit and side swinging front seats, it was arguably the interior that was the most radical.
The MX-81 Aria was powered by a four-cylinder 1.5-litre engine that developed 130bhp (at 6,000 rpm) and 186Nm of torque (from 4,000 rpm) and was given a target drag coefficient of just 0.29 Cd.
A one-off concept that certainly met the ‘defy convention’ ethos of subsequent MX models, it led to things like the high-mounted tail lights and pop-up headlamps appearing in future Mazda production cars later in the eighties.
While lots of prototypes and concepts are destroyed once exhibited, in 2019 Nobuhiro Yamamoto – the former fourth-generation MX-5 sports car programme manager and rotary engine developer – discovered the MX-81 in a warehouse at Mazda’s Headquarters in Hiroshima.
From its discovery came the idea to restore the car to its former glory. It was promptly shipped to Mazda Italy, from where it has been painstakingly restored by SuperStile in Turin under the coordination of Flavio Gallizio. Fittingly, the completion of the restoration was celebrated by the recreation of the original press images of the MX-81 in front of Milan Cathedral.
However, the connection between Mazda and Italian design celebrated by the restoration of the MX-81 actually started 20 years before this radical concept was revealed at the 1981 Tokyo Motor Show. In 1960 Hideyuki Miyakawa, a young automotive writer, travelled to Italy and the Turin Motor Show where he met Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Head of Design at Bertone. He also met his future wife, Marisa Bassano – a Japanese-Italian translator with a passion for cars. During Marisa’s study trip in Hiroshima in 1961, Miyakawa met Mazda chairman Tsuneji Matsuda and the pair discussed the importance of design in the Japanese car industry.
Back in Turin, Hideyuki and Marisa began working as intermediaries between the legendary Italian design studios of Bertone, Ghia and Pininfarina and the Japanese car manufacturers. The collaboration between Mazda and Bertone they created led to Giugiaro designing the Mazda Familia and Luce models of the 1960s, plus the stunning R130 Luce Coupe of 1969.
The relationship with Bertone continued even after Giugiaro left to work for Ghia and the restoration of the Bertone-created 1981 Mazda MX-81 Aria is a great celebration of that partnership.