Proto-WRX – 1988 Mazda 323 GTX

Often forgotten, the Mazda 323 GTX was the first all wheel drive turbo hatch on US shores. Sure, the Audi Quattro had been here for a few years, but this was based on an economy car that was more attainable for your average person. Equipped with bolstered sports seats, a 132hp turbocharged engine, all wheel drive with a driver-lockable differential, and redesigned platform with reinforced sills, the car was a significant step up from the regular model, and was priced accordingly. This led to weak sales at about half the expected rate, but the car is still prized among enthusiasts who were pining for a rally car for the street. You can find this 1988 Mazda 323 GTX in San Francisco, CA for $2800.

1988 Mazda 323 GTX black left rear

It’s pretty rare to see these cars without oxidized paint, but this looks to be shiny. Perhaps the foggy San Francisco climate is flattering? The deleted wheel center caps actually look good, making the car appear more aggressive and closer to its rally siblings. A bevy of stickers above the stock “AWD 16V Turbo” badge suggests this car has seen some attention from the JDM enthusiast crowd.

1988 Mazda 323 GTX black right front

Well, okay, it’s not just a suggestion, it’s complete confirmation. Technically, bright neon colors would be period correct, but this is hideous. Do the hood pins and charcoal tone of the hood mean this is a carbon fiber engine cover? If so, see if you can get the original piece. If those vents are just decorative, it’s time to bring back the metal. The WRC-inspired front bumper actually looks pretty good, and those bright driving lights will help make up for the weak 1980s headlights when you’re running an imaginary night stage.

1988 Mazda 323 GTX black engine

The engine compartment looks clean enough, though it’s hard to tell from the mess of wires and hoses, and the seller does not mention any recent maintenance or repairs. Among the modifications are a Magnaflow exhaust, a Greddy blow-off valve for that unmistakable tuner-turbo sound, and, well, that’s all the seller is sharing. Oh, and the car has 4 new tires. And 17 pounds of boost, which should put the reputedly weak front differential to the test.

1988 Mazda 323 GTX black interior

The interior looks decent, with a surprisingly crack-free dash and only one tear on the driver’s seat. Unfortunately, the seller has added a gauge (likely boost), pedal covers, and Grant GT steering wheel from Pep Boys to drive home the point that this is a performance automobile. With any luck, those modifications should be easy to undo. In spite of low 4-figure sales, these are still out there – how does this compare to other cars of its time?

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2 Responses to “Proto-WRX – 1988 Mazda 323 GTX”

  1. Willy Says:

    That’s a very new license plate — wonder what the story is?

  2. Chris Keen Says:

    Indeed – back on the road after a hiatus? He seems quite emphatic about the fact he was able to get a smog certificate.

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