We have a thing for rarities here. How about this?
The lighting conditions could only be called tricky: indoors and with huge glazed surfaces on two sides. This meant my Canon Ixus faced a challenge. The same camera also did the duty for the recent Audi 100 article, my iPhone now being little more than a micro-tablet for domestic netsurfing.
So, the question is, do you think these images are much better or any different in quality from the iPhone’s images? I had hoped for more richness and depth from the Ixus. In the photos here, the yellow has an unwanted green tint to it and is not so rich as it was in the metal.
I have been trying to photograph highlights and reflections, leading me to understand how amazing the human eye is. A seemingly bright and clear reflected strip lamp wending across bodywork becomes a washed out blur on my Ixus and iPhone. What I see is not what the digital camera sees.
Let us now swivel towards the ostensible subject of today’s investigation…
Wikipedia needs some serious sub-editing. It might be full of information, but full like a landfill is full. Information is often presented in a rather messy way, the result of a lack of a central editor of the calibre of Simon A. Kearne. I used the best part of 40 minutes trying to untangle the basic facts of the RX-2 so you could understand it without getting a migraine. Ready?
(Remember, even if my version is still wrong it is at least easier to digest).
In 1970 Mazda began offering a vehicle bigger than the Familia (3.85 metres) but smaller than the Luce (4.3 metres). In length it measured 4150 mm and had a 2040 mm wheelbase. Mazda called this mid-sized car the Capella, forerunner of the “6” cars we love today. The Capella could be bought as a saloon or as a two-door coupe (looking like this specimen, above). The car had a rear-wheel drive layout, with a transversely mounted engine which could initially be had as an L4 of about 1.6 litres or as a Wankel of 1.1 litres. That Wankel-powered car was sold in Japan as a Capella Rotary. Outside of Japan the Capella Rotary was sold as a Mazda RX-2.
Wikipedia’s curators make a big deal about the headlamps of which there were two types: square and twin round. According to Wikipedia (and I don’t know why people are so concerned with this at all) all models from 1970 had square lamps. Then the twin round lamps were introduced for the Wankel-engined models in October 1971. And in 1972 they all got twin round lamps until a major facelift in 1974. Can you remember that? Try it this way: square lamps all around, a transitional period with square and twin-round lamps and then all the versions got twin round lamps. If it helps, imagine the circular rotary engine being like the circular lamps.
Still with me?
The revised 1974 version stayed in production until 1978.
Now we know how to place this car we can turn to its interior and its aesthetic merits.
The slide show shows a nice ashtray of the horizontally lower-hinged type. It has a lip or flange on the top edge as wide as the ashtray itself. That is excellent from the point of view reaching for it to open it when driving: Fitts’ Law, as we all know by now. On the downside the ashtray does not open very far forward from the surrounding surface. They really needed to give it a pull out drawer or a deeper “bucket” than they actually had. The funny thing is that there is quite a lot of space above and below the ashtray, some of it wasted on some kind of a ridiculous cubby that could easily have done without a centimetre of height.
Notice the nice transverse pleats on the seats. The radio has been well-located too, high and central.
Ahead of the driver can be seen three deep-cowled instruments, which lends it an appropriately sporty character. I tried to see if this 1972 coupé interior differed much from the saloon and came back from my search lacking in confidence to say much more than the saloon may have had a different dash, missing the console between the upper dash and the fascia where the gear lever is. The only evidence I’d call reliable would be a set of catalogues in chronological order. That’d cost at least a hundred euros to obtain. It’d be cheaper to visit Mazda’s museum in Hiroshima.
Having sat in the car (they left it unlocked) I can report a very upright driving position and a feeling the window was very close to me. The gear lever fell close to hand and the seating felt supportive. What must this be like to drive?
The RX-2’s exterior styling has something in common with Fords and Opels of the time. It’s more American than Italian. It is pleasant enough without managing to be all that distinctive. There are no very precise words for the kind of surface developments going on along the RX-2’s bodyside. It’s not organic, is it? It’s not especially square, not like a 1980s GM car or 1983 Volvo 740.
There are very subtly changing radii between the main surfaces, the character of which stumps me. Some of the nicest 1960s and early 70s American cars did this and I don’t know where it came from before going away again. It’s not geometric either. It owes nothing to aerospace that I can detect. From this I can conclude it’s pure car design using car design idioms and tropes.
And I have not even got to the proportions and still I must skip to a digression via colour to the Suzuki Swift:
By sheer and utter coincidence, the same dealer had a yellow Suzuki Swift Sport in the car park.
I must admit that seeing the Swift on the street has changed my impression of this car. I can see what they were doing with the new version and it both retains some links the outgoing car while also pushing the theme in another direction. And it’s available in yellow. I have also seen them with go-faster marking and they do not look absurd. So, I have revised my opinion and consider the Swift to be a good bit of design after all.