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Designer’s RX-heaven

Drawn together: Ikuo Maeda with design sketches of RX-7 (left) and RX-8.

Father and son, Mazda old and new. And a wish to build a new-generation RX-7...

Mazda logo21 Jun 2007


IF THERE is any justice in this world, then Ikuo Maeda will one day get to build a new Mazda RX-7 sportscar and take one home to show his dad.

And the story would ideally have the old man turn to his son and say, "I know we have not always seen eye to eye in these things, but I want you to know I am proud of you, my son".

You see, the senior Mazda stylist’s father is not just your ordinary elderly Japanese pensioner, but Matasaburo Maeda, the long-retired designer of the very first RX-7 that shook the world when it appeared in 1978.

Although the son also became a car designer, they had opposite views on styling and often argued.

"We decided very early not to talk about styling, otherwise there would be arguments," said Mr Maeda, who is now a young 48 years old. "We still don’t talk about it." Although he says he is unconcerned about not receiving parental approval for the work he does – which includes the acclaimed RX-8 and the new Mazda2 – the sadness in his eyes betrays his soul.

 center imageLeft: The original RX-7 from 1978.

In a more reflective moment, he admits he would love to design a new RX-7 and have his father like it. Any son will understand.

You get the feeling that the RX-7 means a lot to Mazda as a corporation, representing the ultimate Zoom-Zoom expression, even though it disappeared before that expression even came into being.

For Maeda-san, it means even more. Not only did his father design that iconic first model, but it was also the first car he ever owned.

Two days before discovering that his father designed the original car, he told GoAuto how much he would love to design one for the 21st century, how it would have to have two seats and a rotary engine, but perhaps mounted mid-ship for ultimate balance and handling.

And you get the feeling it would be the real-deal because this is not just a market-driven Japanese executive talking, but a real enthusiast.

After all, Mr Maeda drives a Lotus Elise, races sportscars (Lotus, Toyota MR2 and Mazda MX-5 at various times) loves Alfa Romeo styling and would like to own an Aston Martin Vantage. But he doubts it will happen.

He thinks there would be a market for a pure RX-7 sportscar. Many Mazda people agree and would also love to see it happen, but so far no-one seems able to mount the necessary business case.

Let’s just hope there are enough enthusiasts and romantics in Hiroshima to one day overrule the bean-counters and make Maeda-san’s dream come true. And we want to be there when he takes it home for his father to see.

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