Learning from the Past: Mazda’s Restoration Project Kicks Off with the Classic Cosmo Sport
As the sports car powered by the world’s very first mass-produced 2 rotor rotary engine, the Mazda Cosmo Sport wowed many car enthusiasts around the world since its launch in 1967. To learn from the past by dismantling, restoring and re-assembling the legendary Mazda models, Mazda Motor Corporation kicked off the “Restore Project” in February 2015. The Cosmo Sport was chosen as a first model for the Project.
The Project is intended to get current Mazda employees intuitively understand and appreciate Mazda’s product development philosophy through restoration, and to empower the Project members to pass Mazda’s Monozukuri (manufacturing) spirit to the next generation. The Cosmo Sport restoration was driven by 20 young Mazda employees who raised their hand to take part in the Project, with around 30 suppliers who were involved in the Cosmo Sport production nearly 50 years ago as well as 8 local teenagers who are a member of Automotive Club at Hiroshima Municipal Technical High School.
The first task for the Project members was to dismount the engine and disassemble the partly rusty chassis, which required utmost attention and care. The biggest challenge was parts procurement; production of most of the Cosmo Sport parts had been discontinued, and documented records of those parts’ specifications, including dimension, had been lost. To come up with the best answer for questions on each parts – do we need to change the parts or polish the old parts for reuse, are there any stocks or alternatives or do we need to create a new mold for production, the members sat down with different suppliers and explored options. In the end, around 250 parts had to be changed.
Any car enthusiasts with restoring experiences would know that restoration means troubles. The Project had some critical setbacks, including a damage done to parts that are essential to the steering by failing to follow a bearing press fitting procedure. After feeling at a loss, the members courageously stood up and went on to make new parts to overcome the critical situation.
Takanori Fujishima (pictured) played a key role in parts production. As one of Mazda’s young master craftsmen, Fujishima’s masterly skills have earned him international acknowledgement, including a top placing at Worldskills Competition after obtaining Gold Medal at the National Skills Competition in 2014. He contributed his outstanding skills by producing parts with 0.5mm or less dimensional deviation, a remarkable feat achieved by taking possible expansion and contraction of iron plate into consideration. His confidence and pride shone through his voice when he said, “it was a great honor to be given an opportunity to produce parts for restoring the Cosmo Sport”.
It took 9 months for the Project members to finally mount the re-assembled engine, the heart of the Cosmo Sport, which was celebrated at the engine mounting ceremony. The Cosmo Sport’s unique structure that integrates body and cross-member made the process tricky, as the engine had to be mounted over the body. The mounting took nearly an hour, and the process provided a totally new experience for many members.
The Cosmo Sport restoration was completed in nearly 12 months, and the restored model was revealed at Mazda OPEN DAY 2016, held at the Mazda Headquarters in Hiroshima on 31 January, 2016. The lobby at the Mazda Headquarters, where the restored model was revealed and exhibited, attracted around 150 guests who gave an enthusiastic applause when the magnificent Cosmo Sport, restored to a beautiful condition, appeared in front of them.
The reveal was also attended by teenage members of the Project who helped with the restoration work. Hayato Hanatani (pictured), who is in his third year at Hiroshima Municipal Technical High School and a member of the School’s Automotive Club, said with great excitement, “I am so excited and impressed. The most memorable moment in the restoration work was when I saw a rusting and decaying plating shine like a mirror. I took extreme care in handling the old parts so that I didn’t break them. The Project made me realize that showing the old, classic model like the Cosmo Sport can be a powerful way to generate public interest in automobile”.
Mizuho Abe, the leader of Mazda’s “Restore Project”, expressed his gratitude and talked about the Project’s future.
“Today we are celebrating the restored Cosmo Sport which is a crystallization of the Project members’ sweat and tears. We could not come thus far without those members’ commitment and support. To me, today is not the end of the Restore Project but the beginning. We’ve only just begun”.
Abe is right, because the second Restore Project with the Mazda R360 Coupe has already kicked off at Mazda. Hopefully we will be seeing the brand new-looking R360 Coupe in the not-so-distant future.
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