Far off the beaten path yet easily spotted from the freeway, this Mazda 323 has been sitting in a field for several years. With the notable exception of the steering wheel, the five-door hatchback is complete but it has been the victim of petty vandalism and time has not been kind to it.
Under the Mazda’s hood lies a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 68 horsepower to the rear wheels via an automatic transmission. An autobox in an economy hatchback is a rare sight today, and it was even more so in the early 1980s.
The license plate is not original and there is no dealer sticker anywhere on the car so we don’t know much about the its origins.
When new, the 323 was aimed squarely at entry-level versions of the Renault 14 and the first-gen Volkswagen Golf. The press gave the 323 positive reviews but Mazda had a tremendous lack of both image and presence throughout most of Europe, a problem that still plagues it today to a lesser extent. Back in 1980, the average car shoppers didn’t know what a Mazda was and the few folks that did likely had no idea where to buy one outside of big cities, so the 323 was an underdog for most of its career.