Back in the early 1990s, American car shoppers could choose from an extravaganza of sporty-looking front-wheel-drive coupes. The Geo Storm GSi may have offered the most performance per dollar, but the early Mazda MX-3 made a lot of sense as a reasonably fun commuter car. The MX-3, based on the 323/Protegé chassis (and thus a close cousin to the Ford Escort of the same era) could be purchased in the United States for the 1992 through 1996 model years, and junkyard examples have become very hard to find. Here’s a ’92 in a Colorado Springs yard.
MX-3 buyers could get a 1.8-liter V6 with 130 horsepower in 1992, but this is the SOHC 1.6-liter four with just 88 horses. Dual-overhead-cam versions of this engine went into the Miata and most members of the 323/Escort family.
With an automatic transmission, you had a sedate, sensible commuter appliance that looked fairly sharp in the business-park lot.
With the DOHC 1.6-liter engine (available for the last few years of MX-3 sales here), these cars were quick. In the early days of the 24 Hours of Lemons, a team with a pair of MX-3s dominated the Southern races for several years. They didn’t have much power, but reliability and predictable handling wins endurance races.
Not very close to the magical 200,000-mile mark.
Another in my series of Junkyard Car With Pikes Peak photographs.
Such an adventurous car.
The small-displacement V6 was a big selling point in Japan.