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HomeNewsClassic CarsHolden’s rotary-engined oddity

Holden’s rotary-engined oddity

THE car pictured above definitely looks like a Holden Premier but it is anything but under the bonnet.

Its Mazda badges are a clue; rather than the traditional Holden ‘Red’ motor or 308ci V8, this particular machine is motivated by a rotary engine.

The Mazda Roadpacer AP was produced between 1975-1977 though the last example was sold in 1979, as its low torque and high weight resigned this model to be one of the slowest on offer.

Mazda didn’t have a large flagship sedan among its offering and, despite Ford already owning a seven-percent stake in the company, pursued a relationship with General Motors to help fill the gap.

The Roadpacer AP was Mazda’s first large Japanese car to meet the country’s new-1975 emissions standards; the ‘AP’ stood for Anti-Pollution.

Pic: Mazda

Using Holden’s marquee HJ and HX-series Premier bodyshell, Mazda fitted a 1.3-litre 13B Wankel rotary engine as well as a Jatco 3N71B three-speed automatic transmission, making this as the first General Motors product fitted with such a powerplant.

Producing 97kW, the 13B Wankel rotary’s main weakness was its comparatively low torque.

Its 138N.m, combined with the rather heavy 1575kg package, meant the Roadpacer AP performed poorly compared to the other large Japanese flagships of the era, which included an Isuzu-badged Statesman De Ville.

Rival models from Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi proved more popular, with the Roadpacer AP’s drawbacks also including terrible fuel consumption, poor acceleration and higher cost than its contemporaries.

Mazda also added features that included a central locking system activated at 10km/h, a chime occurring at 90km/h, a dictation device and a stereo controllable from both front and rear seats.

Only 800 units were sold in Japan, many of which were purchased by government departments.

These government-owned examples were later crushed making surviving examples of the Roadpacer AP quite rare, with several now residing in Australia with fans and collectors.

Mazda later returned to the large car market with the 929, while the end of the Holden Premier’s run in Australia was signalled by the introduction of the Commodore in late-1978.

This story also appears on the Repco Garage website.

For more news and content like this story, as well as videos competitions and podcasts, visit the Repco Garage here.

Pic: Mazda
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