Visiting a Mazda’s Paradise
Walking around Frey's Mazda Classic Car Museum in Augsburg.
If you are a Mazda lover, there are two places you can’t miss. One of them is the Mazda Museum in Hiroshima, Japan, hometown of this famous carmaker. The other one is surprisingly in Germany, more precisely in Augsburg, Bavaria, and it’s absolutely marvelous.The Frey's Mazda Classic Car Museum in Augsburg is the only museum outside Japan dedicated to Mazda. The location is a 1987’s former tram depot, a suggestive frame for a collection of cars capable of leaving every car lover breathless.
Everything started with a Mazda dealership. The Founder, Walter Frey has been fascinated by Mazda Rotary engines, and in 1978 his dealership was the first selling Mazda cars in Germany. Behind the businessman, there’s also a car lover and a collector. The passion for this Japanese brand turned other than in a successful business into a wide car collection that has grown through the years. Thanks to the dedication of this man and his sons, it’s now possible to have a closer look at the history and heritage of Mazda even outside Japan. 120 vehicles are on display, showing models from 1930’s to nowadays.
This summer, I had the occasion to get lost into this Mazda’s paradise, and among the few car museums I visited in my holidays, the Mazda Classic has been my overall favourite for many reasons. The variety of the collection, the kindness of the staff and an absolutely delicious espresso sipped in the Cosmo Cafe inside the museum, made the visit very enjoyable. Walking around between the many models displayed, guided by my friend, Mazda lover and owner himself, has been an amazing experience. Looking around, with eyes wide open and a stupid smile plastered on my face, I fell in love multiple times.
My absolute joy has been the section dedicated to Kei Cars. Small vehicle, with low power but great functionality, built and sold after WWII with the purpose to be affordable, cheap in terms of taxes and capable of helping the economy of the country to rise back. At the beginning of the visit, passing by two of the first 3 wheeled models, like the Mazda Go (1950) and the T1500 (1965) the visitor arrives in Kei Car wonderland, here, it’s possible to have a close look at the first Kei Car ever made by Mazda, the 3 wheels K360 (1969), a pocket pick up truck, with a fancy design and a top speed of 65 km/h. Next to it, there is its successor, the Mazda R360, the first passenger’s car produced by the company. More will come, like the Chantez, from 1972 or the AZ1 from 1992.
Among the Kei Cars displayed there was also a P360 Carol, what apparently Mazda calls “the world’s tiniest four-door saloon” The Mazda Carol, (Carol, like my car’s name) has been produced from 1962 to 1969 and it was powered by one of the smallest four cylinder engines ever made, only 359 cc , water cooled and inline engine, capable of producing the “astonishing” power of...13kW. Sort of the same amount of power of my old Golf Carol…
There are enough amazing cars to make your head spin, like the Mazda 323 (1977) signed by many visitors of the museum, including Mazda’s president. This specific 323 had been one of the cars driven from Hiroshima to Frankfurt for being displayed at the 1977 Frankfurt show.
Italian style never dies, everyone loves it, and the Mazda Luce 1500 (1965) is a perfect example. Styled by Giorgietto Giugiaro when he was working at Bertone design, the Luce was at that time Mazda’s largest sedan, a well refined, rear wheel drive car. In 1967 a station wagon version was put on production.
The collection is very big, listing all the cars will take too long and spoil the joy of discovering the museum, but there are two models worth mentioning. One of them is the Mazda Cosmo Sport (1968) or 110 S for the forgein market, the queen of this exhibition, which has the main spot in the center of the museum. The Cosmo was an attempt, a successful one, to launch the Mazda Wankel Engine, its name was chosen on purpose to symbolize innovation, a way of thinking projected to the future, in a period when the race to space was at its top.
Last but not least, the Mazda MX81 Aria, from which year? 1981. It’s not hard to guess from which design studio this unusual car comes from, Bertone. The Chief designer Marc Dechamps, created this work of art, that in the exterior lines recalls another work of a great designer from Bertone, Marcello Gandini, the concept car Volvo Bertone Tundra. The real innovation in the Aria is inside. The steering wheel looks like a vintage video game, switches and dials are all around. There’s a screen in the middle, not like the ones we are used to seeing nowadays on infotainment systems of course but it’s a cathode ray tube screen, like an old television basically. Obviously the Aria is a Concept car, an exercise of style that well represents the 80's.
The museum definitely worth a visit, it's currently open from Thursday to Sunday from ten to six, and has a wide parking lot, that can be almost as interesting as the museum.
A visit to the cafe is also suggested, because as I said at the beginning, they make an amazing coffee, and you can trust me, since I'm Italian and very picky on this subject. Admission prices are as good as their coffee, only five euros for adults and half the price for kids under twelve years old.
More info available here.