Derrick’s Mazda Odyssey – How it All Began – Part 1

So when did you know you first wanted a Mazda?  I had my high school years skewered a bit by friends and other influences down the trail of Mazda ownership.  The first Mazda I really wanted was a 323 GTX.  Getting a ride to school in rain, snow, or any weather made me realize how unique the car was.  It didn’t help that the dual rear hatch wings and the decals down the side listing off the traits of a performance car “Full Time 4wd 16 Valve DOHC Turbo”.  I do remember seeing the 88 anniversary edition Rx7s in white thinking they were cool but it didn’t have the pull the 323 GTX did.

It took 6 years before I got a chance to purchase a 323 GTX.  I found one in the back of an auto week magazine located in New Mexico.  The car was a 1988 model with no rust and had 132,000 miles on it.  After several phone calls and a generous loan from a friend I flew to New Mexico with a cashiers check for $3750 in my hand. I met the owner the airport in Albuquerque after spending a day in airports with short trips in the air at 3pm.  I drove the car to a nearby restaurant and took a look over the car.  It was a relatively stock car with the rear muffler removed for a bit more power and noise.  The interior was in good shape with no damage.  So we made the deal and I headed on my way back home to Washington State.

This being my first turbo car I did do some reading up on it.  I knew to let the car idle after driving hard for a period of time and to not stand on the gas until the car warmed up.  I had heard term turbo lag but never experienced it before.  About 3 minutes into driving the car to the freeway in Albuquerque I pulled out in between some cars to get onto the freeway.  Standing on the throttle at 1300 rpm and the car didn’t move to fast.  This whole experience stuck with me because of the large truck I had pulled out in front of that had to slow down because some fruit loop in a Mazda pulled out in front of him.  Thankfully my first run in with turbo lag ended with the car or the driver being unhurt.

The drive back to Washington was un-eventful.  The car was solid as could be and I averaged 24 miles per gallon driving through the night in Arizona and So cal to my first stop to rest.  After a night sleep I drove home the rest of the way and arrived in time for work on Monday morning.

My co-workers were pretty amused at the purchase I made.  I heard “you flew to New Mexico to get that?”  Apparently they did not have a good appreciation for fine automobiles that I did (ha-ha).

Skip ahead 4 years and the car had needs some love.   New turbocharger was installed on the car along with a refreshed cylinder head.  That was too much for the poor bottom end of the motor.  At 187,000 miles the piston rings had enough and I looked like the car James Bond with the smokescreen going full blast behind the car.  So at a crossroads of sorts I found myself wondering where to go with the car.  I had read up and seen the 90-94 323 turbo models from Japan and other markets.  Spending some time looking around I located an engine supplier who had a BPT turbo engine in stock.  After a week I had an engine sitting at home.  It took a few weeks to get the installation sorted out with the changes between the engines but I was back on the road with the BPT running on the B6T hardware.

One thing that was nice was the BPT made a lot more torque than the B6T engine.  It only took a year until the transmission let me know it did not care for the extra torque.  I had to get across the street quickly between the flows of cars in downtown Portland.  Going across the rutted street cost me the transmission.  One of the tires left the ground for a second. When it came down BANG went the planetary assembly.  I limped the car home knowing there probably wasn’t much hope for the transmission at that point.  I decided then to use the transmission that arrived with the BPT engine.

The story does continue from here, but we’ll save that for the next entry…

Derrick