As American automakers rode a wave of nostalgia and brought back the Mustang, the Camaro, and the Challenger and the world watched in joy as the renewed Mini Cooper and Fiat 500 rolled into showrooms, Mazda answered with the Cosmo 21 prototype.
And the 2002 Mazda Cosmo 21, a worthy successor to the 1967 Cosmo, went back into the archives and never took on the American retro revival.
The original Mazda Cosmo was a sweet little roadster built between 1967 and 1972, and it represented the brand as a flagship car in Japan. It was sold under the nameplate Eunos Cosmo, and it also happens to be the machine that saw the launch of the now famous Mazda rotary engine.
Released in two versions, the original Cosmo was powered by a 982 cc rotary engine that produced 110hp in the first iteration and 130hp in the second. The first of the cars were shipped with a four-speed manual transmission, while later versions were upgraded to a five-speed. These lovely little cars were capable of 115 mph (185 km/h) and 120 mph (193 km/h), respectively. These first-generation Eunos Cosmos went out of production in 1972 after just 1,176 were built.
For the prototype 21, power was provided by the RX-8 Renesis engine, which put out 231hp and 159 lb/ft (215 Nm) of torque, a model which was introduced at the 2002 Tokyo Motor Show. The 21 was styled and assembled by a Mazda subsidiary and they sprung from a body kit manufacturer.
The interiors were jazzed up with top-grade upholstery and other slick materials but the dashboard retained a classic feel. The interior, in a two-tone black and white, offered quilted seats along with leather and suede accents.
It seems pretty likely that the cars were never produced in numbers as Mazda was loathed to steal the thunder from the early version of the Miata.