Great Little Car: Mazda MR-90 was the GLC re-animated

It’s always baffling when you find out there’s a car you never knew existed. When searching for Ford Festiva images – honestly – I bumped into this press shot of the Mazda MR-90, and it completely caught me off guard. What was it? A Hyundai Pony with Mazda badges?
Badge engineering doesn’t go that way in this case, and the MR-90 is just something refreshed. You’re looking at the 1977-onwards Mazda 323 GLC, only wearing the GC generation 626’s face for the Indonesian market.

You can see the basis here. Just by altering the front clip to make it longer and suitable for the wide rectangular lights, mounting on new bumpers back and front and replacing the side trim with a sticker placed lower, the car was suitably modernised. It didn’t make it prettier, on the contrary, but the RWD platform was still good enough to be utilized in 1990. Around the same time, the FWD 323:s were already manufactured in South Africa, for example.
You can see the indentation in the C-pillar here, a carryover from the old GLC days.
The same RWD structure also served as the station wagon VanTrend, which was built as late as 1997. Wikipedia, the source of these three last photos, says the engine was the 1.4-litre four on all counts, producing 70 horsepower. The article also says the platform was changed to the GC 626’s front-wheel-drive setup, but that sounds a touch far-fetched.
[Images: Mazda, sabung.hamster/Wikimedia]


  1. A station wagon called VanTrend can surely carry a lot of irony. Some truly odd-looking cars that could as well carry Soviet badges.

    1. It has happened before, and Mazda’s even done it. (The Luce was front-engine RWD, the Luce R130 had a 13A wankel driving the front wheels in the same body as the RWD cars.)

  2. The 323 really was a Great Little Car. Well, at least a bit better than pretty good. An econobox that really delivered. I’m glad they found a few, simple ways to extend its reach.

    1. Mazda has a record. Trying to out-Hiace Toyota, they went for the suitable-for-Africa-and-beyon car tag “BONGO”. Even selling a Bongo Brawny for increased pleasure:

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