M2 1006 "CobraSter" 1992

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M2 1006 1992

In the 1990s, Mazda had a bit of a mad moment. Recalling what Honda did with Acura in 1986, and what Nissan and Toyota did with Infiniti and Lexus in 1989, someone at Mazda had the bright idea that to better represent the market position and appeal of its cars, it should split itself up into not just two but six brands. Six.

Mazda remained, of course, but it had a brand for entry-level cars (Autozam), a brand for basic sporty cars (Eunos), a brand for more aspirational sporty cars (Efini), and brand for luxury cars (Amati). Chances are you won't have heard of that one, as it was cancelled pretty much at the last second, with dealerships just about ready to go and an "Amati 500"-badged Millenia/Xedos 9 the first of three planned cars.

That's five, and the sixth was... let's call it an in-house skunkworks/atelier called M2 Incorporated. Its job was to create reimagined, boutique models based on other Mazda vehicles, as well as some pretty wild concept cars. However M2 was, like the others, a full-fledged manufacturer and some of its cars made production - mainly in the form of tweaked MX-5s.

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Sadly, the M2 1006 wasn't one of them. While earlier models like 1001, 1002, and (also cancelled) 1003 had looked to refine the MX-5 in one aspect or another, 1006 was a significantly reworked vehicle.

That came out of necessity as M2 decided that the MX-5 really needed V6 power. Of course Mazda had a range of great aluminium V6s already, known as the K family. The K8 was a 1.8-litre model found in the MX-3, the KF two-litre popped up in the 323/Lantis, and the KL was a 2.5-litre version in the MX-6, Ford Probe, and Xedos 9 (the last of which also sported the KJ, a 2.3-litre Miller Cycle engine using much of the KL). M2 went for none of these and fitted the honking massive three-litre JE-ZE cast-iron lump from the Mazda 929.

In its tweaked form, the engine produced roughly 220hp - pretty much double what the still 1.6-litre MX-5 could produce at the time - and that meant some pretty major modifications were required. To that end, M2 fitted a complete rear subframe and differential from the FD RX-7, which somewhat widened the car's rear track. That meant blowing out the rear bodywork to match, resulting in the bulbous look.

To maintain the proportions, and cover the 16-inch wheels - with 225/50 tyres at the front and 245/45 at the rear - M2 gave the front end the same treatment, and the "powerbulge" of the standard car grew to accommodate the V6 to complete the look. That look earned the car an internal nickname of "CobraSter", as M2 felt it channelled the spirit of the Shelby Cobra into Mazda's little convertible - especially as (with that absolute anchor in the nose) it was reportedly a bit tricky to drive hard.

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While enthusiasts loved it, the accountants didn't. M2 models were already pretty expensive compared to the cars on which they were based, and the 1006 required significant mechanical work. No price was ever mooted to my knowledge but it would have been eye-watering, especially as the Japanese asset price bubble had just burst.

M2 made precisely two examples, both in black with a white hardtop, I don't actually know where either of them are right now...
 
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