Mazda’s Ford be­hind badge

Twin cars 626 or Tel­star a cheap and sturdy op­tion, writesGRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Cars -

IN THE 1980s, badge en­gi­neer­ing was re­garded as the key to suc­cess, and in some cases sur­vival. Model shar­ing was rife, with Toy­otas be­ing badged as Hold­ens, Hon­das as Rovers, and Maz­das as Fords.

When Ford ac­quired a fi­nan­cial stake in Mazda, many Mazda mod­els were badge en­gi­neered and ap­peared in Ford show­rooms.

One of them was the Tel­star, Ford’s re­make of the Mazda 626, which was on sale at the same time in Mazda show­rooms.

MODEL WATCH

MAZDA in­tro­duced the front-wheel drive 626 in 1983 to some high praise, win­ning many friends and a num­ber of awards.

While the Mazda was im­ported, Ford built a slightly dif­fer­ent ver­sion lo­cally, and it too won its share of friends among lo­cal car buy­ers.

It was a good-look­ing car, welle­quipped, and came in four-door sedan and five-door hatch ver­sions in both ranges, while the Mazda was also of­fered as a coupe.

Power was from a sin­gle over­head camshaft four- cylin­der en­gine, which had a car­bu­ret­tor and put out 70kW and 158Nm.

Buy­ers could choose be­tween a five-speed man­ual gear­box and a three-speed auto.

The base 626 had man­ual steer­ing and there were a few com­plaints about the steer­ing ef­fort needed, par­tic­u­larly when park­ing.

Other mod­els had power steer­ing, as well as air­con­di­tion­ing, cruise con­trol, power win­dows and mir­rors, and cen­tral lock­ing.

It was much the same story over at Ford deal­ers where you had to put up with man­ual steer­ing on the base model GL, when the Ghia not only had power steer­ing, but also power mir­rors and win­dows, and ra­dio­cas­sette sound.

A 1985 up­date brought bet­ter ride and han­dling, im­proved brakes, and a new dash, with power steer­ing an op­tion on the base mod­els.

An­other up­date in 1986 brought en­gines able to run on un­leaded fuel.

ON THE LOT

THE Tel­star and 626 are of lit­tle or no in­ter­est to the trade, so us­ing trade val­ues can be mis­lead­ing.

Use them to get an idea of the val­ues, but it’s some­times worth pay­ing a lit­tle more for a car that’s ob­vi­ously in good con­di­tion. Con­versely, buy­ing a car that’s clearly seen bet­ter days is invit­ing trou­ble un­less you’re handy with the tools and can make your own re­pairs.

How­ever, it’s bet­ter to avoid those cars that are on their last legs.

For a Tel­star or 626 in good con­di­tion pay $2000 to $3000.

IN THE SHOP

WITH any car of the age of the Tel­star/Mazda 626, it’s vi­tally im­por­tant to approach them with cau­tion and your eyes wide open.

If they’ve been in reg­u­lar use since the mid-1980s they will have ac­cu­mu­lated more than 200,000km, some will have done more than 300,000km, and that gen­er­ally means trou­ble is never far away.

The best pol­icy is to search for a well-kept car with low mileage. One that has a ser­vice record that tells you it has been reg­u­larly ser­viced.

Walk away from any car that looks as though it has been parked un­der a tree all its life, has bumps and scrapes on all pan­els, the seats are ripped and torn, and its oil is black and thick.

Look for oil leaks around the en­gine, par­tic­u­larly from the rocker cover, and per­ished ra­di­a­tor hoses, which can lead to prob­lems if they fail on the job.

Make sure all ac­ces­sories work, power win­dows can be ex­pen­sive to fix if they’re not op­er­at­ing.

Check­ing for ev­i­dence of a crash is even more im­por­tant with older cars, as the like­li­hood they have been in a crash is high.

Have some­one drive the car down the road, back and forth and care­fully watch to see it tracks straight and true.

Care­fully in­spect all pan­els for im­per­fec­tions, colour mis­matches, and vary­ing gaps. Open and close all doors, hatches and bon­net and ob­serve for smooth op­er­a­tion.

Fi­nally, look for rust, par­tic­u­larly around the rear and side win­dows.

It’s best to go for the un­leaded model that was re­leased in 1986 to avoid the has­sles of ad­di­tives.

IN A CRASH

WELL be­fore the ad­vent of airbags oc­cu­pants in the Tel­star/626 had to rely on much more rudi­men­tary pro­tec­tion sys­tems.

Check the seat­belts for wear and tear, and think about re­plac­ing them any­way to be on the safe side.

AT THE PUMP

THE Mazda/Ford twins were quite eco­nom­i­cal get­ting 9- 10 litres/ 100km in av­er­age use around town.

OWN­ERS SAY

OWN­ERS gen­er­ally say their cars are re­li­able, but there are also odd re­ports of head gas­ket fail­ures, ra­di­a­tors leak­ing and weep­ing oil seals.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

CHEAP, re­li­able mo­tor­ing for young driv­ers if you can find a low mileage well­cared-for ex­am­ple.

Same, but dif­fer­ent: the Ford Tel­star was also re­badged as a Mazda 626 in the 1980s.

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