This is beyond weird. I don’t even see interesting cars at the other end of the street.
These mysteries and these enigmas appear just on my bit of street, not the other three bits. Here we are with the kind of old man’s car the residents find irresistible. Usually that means Carinas, Astras and 406s. Today it’s a mint-condition Mazda 323 saloon in a pale golden metallic colour. I had a close look at it and all the black plastic is in lovely, dark condition, box fresh from Hofu. Yes, I know you can
garage a car and this one was obviously garaged. It goes further. This one looks as if it never left the garage at all and might even have been living roomed or bedroomed. Certainly pampered. It even lacks the fine, grey-beige dust that settles on garaged cars that can be hard to remove with a tooth-brush (the voice of experience, sorry).
On first viewing you think a car like this is boring. Ordinary is written on every part, alongside the part number. Why look twice? Because these are hard to find now. They have been taken for granted, driven and dumped.
There are not many of these left. I found one in Germany for 1500 euros, just 65,ooo km on the clock. The rest of them are not saloons, not the right age, not a 323 at all. There are a good few of the fastbacks and even the three-door with its flared flanks. So the four-door manages to be a special 323, in its own way and also just worth 1500 euros, the price of a lot of very problematic near-classics like the Trevi I still dream of.
How does a peppy 1.5 litre, four-cylinder petrol sound? 65 kW on tap. That was what Mazda sold most of in Europe, to judge by a trawl of Mobile.de. You could also get the 323 with 1.3, a 1.8, a 2.0 V6 though not all the same body. A few 1.3s were sold too: I found one for sale.
In the UK some managed to get the full GLX work-over: leather and air-con. Today’s has simple cloth, base-model stuff. You can read the world’s only user-review at Parkers. It’s not really all that enlightening but strikes me as honest. I don’t know what might have motivated the author write the review, like reviewing a Mars bar (“Chewy, not expensive, there are nicer chocolate bars out there”.) Since the car is not one which sets enthusiasts’ hearts on fire I think the text might be believable. Summary: reliable, cheap motoring, not many faults.
This kind of car is cherishably ordinary and now rather extra-ordinary. It took me about two weeks for the car to break the surface tension of my sub-conscious and make it to the forefront of my mind. That’s how nearly subliminal it is.
Finally, a car almost as ordinary as this zoomed past the other night, a Suzuki Baleno. I wondered how capable and competent that was compared to a 1960s or 1970s saloon car hero like the Giulia, Flavia, 2002 or Toledomite. Same goes for this 323. In 1967 a car like this would have been a revelation.