The time that Mazda and Holden released a hybrid vehicle
In the fiercely competitive automotive industry, alliances between manufacturers are rare. But in the 1970s, Mazda and Holden forged an unlikely union to create the Roadpacer AP.
It was regarded as one of the biggest automobile blunders. A concept received so terribly that it could be compared to Homer Simpson's infamous "The Homer" which ruined his brother's company Powell Motors.
This is the story of the Roadpacer AP, the result of an unlikely marriage between Mazda and Holden that resulted in one of the worst vehicles of all time.
Holden Premiers were shipped to Japan where Mazda plonked 97kW/138Nm 13B rotary engines into them in a bid to create a luxury car that bypassed Japan's harsh road tax laws in the 1970s.
The result was a slow, petrol-guzzling juggernaut that cost twice as much as its rivals and was purchased by basically no one.
The rise of the Holden Premier
At some point, someone though the Roadpacer would be a roaring success.
In Australia, Holden was kicking major goals with the Premier, which was the upmarket version of Holden Standards, Specials, Belmonts and Kingswoods between 1962 and 1980.
It would eventually give way to the Commodore range, which became an Aussie staple until the recent demise of Holden manufacturing in this country.
With roaring V8 engines under the hood and all of the luxury trimmings, they were the models to own back in the 1970s.
Today, the Premiers make for popular collectible cars for enthusiasts who fondly remember the glory days of Holden.
General Motors, the parent company of Holden, wanted rotary engines for their Vega and Corvette models but were struggling to build their engine.
They needed technology to refine the process owned by Mazda.
But Mazda wanted something in return and set their eyes on the popular Premier vehicles that were the big thing at the time in Australia.
Japan’s thirst for luxury vehicles
Mazda wanted a piece of the action and to compete with their rivals, so when GM came knocking it presented a golden opportunity.
GM offered up the HJ Premier in exchange for the refining and manufacturing technology it needed to complete its own rotary engine.
The deal was done and Premiers were shipped to Japan, sans engine, ready to have the Mazda rotary installed.
Why the Roadpacer AP was such a failure
To say the Roadpacer went overboard with luxury trimmings would be an understatement. It had boards to write on, its own drinks fridge, a dictaphone, a stereo you could operate from all seats, automatic central locking – all kinds of gaudy accessories to appeal to Japanese executives.
Because of its unique design, it sat in the medium car category (despite its large motor and interior) and attracted the lowest bracket of road tax.
That was the beginning and end of all savings, though, as the heaving motor struggled to move the chassis around and a top speed of 166km/h was all it could muster.
This, while burning through enormous volumes of fuel (during a fuel shortage, mind you) and costing double what the 1975 Mazda sedan was listed as.
For two long years Mazda tried to push their ‘executive’ model Roadpacer to the Japanese elite, but just 840 units were ever sold.
Which might be the reason why modern manufacturers are so reluctant to combine forces.