Mazda’s Ford behind badge
Twin cars 626 or Telstar a cheap and sturdy option, writesGRAHAMSMITH
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.
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 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.