Meet M2 Incorporated, Mazda’s short-lived Skunkworks company

The Japanese bubble era has produced some of the most iconic cars on the market. It was also a time when Japanese automakers set their ambitions by shaking up the Western establishment. Take a look at Lexus and the R32 Skyline GT-R.

Sadly, the Japanese economy collapsed in the early 1990s and was made worse by the Asian economic crisis. It also forced Japanese automakers to tighten their belts and cancel their plans. Mazda was among those affected.

Most people may be familiar with Mazda’s failed attempt at the luxury market, Amati. However, there is another division that Mazda had to eliminate. Unlike Amati, he saw the light of day. It was called M2 Incorporated, the brand’s pop-up skunkworks business. It was a part of Mazda history that only a few outside of Japan know about, but the YellowGloves Youtube channel shed some light on the in-house tuning company.

M2 Incorporated was established in 1991 and has manufactured hotter versions of existing Mazda models or concepts for review. One of the first cars they made was based on the Miata. Nicknamed the M2 1001, it was also known as the Cafe Racer. It was inspired by classic ’60s racing roadsters, but the changes were beyond cosmetic for the Cafe Racer. This car also featured lowered and stiffer suspension tuning, HKS exhaust, limited slip differential and a bit more power under the hood. M2 Incorporated manufactured 300 units of the Cafe Racer.

The next car was the M2 1002 or the Vintage. It was also based on the MX-5 but less aggressive than the Cafe Racer. It focused more on luxury with leather and wood finishes on the interior. Then there was the M2 1005, a rally version of the 323 hatchback intended for Group A competition.

M2 Incorporated also had fun with the eccentric AZ-1 Kei-car. The company designed a concept inspired by the off-road mid-engined Kei-car, as well as a rally car concept and one with a removable roof. One of them eventually went into production and featured styling improvements on the car.

One of M2 Incorporated’s craziest concepts was the M2 1006, also known as CobraSter. Think of it as a beefed-up version of the standard Miata with a 2.5-liter V6 under the hood. This project was canceled due to the complexity and significant changes to make it work. Other canned goods include a coupe version of the first-generation Miata and a four-door sports car.

The company closed in 1995 as part of Mazda’s offer to cut its losses. After that, it closed Eunos in 1996, fini in 1997 and Autozam in 1998. Yet Mazda is going strong despite the difficulties and is now targeting the luxury market.

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