I’m a hidden headlight enthusiast. Not one to keep my light under a bushel about it, I think the best feature on a sporty ’80s-’90s car is the ability to pop up the headlights at will – even when the car is an affordable little FWD hatchback with sporting pretentions. So, the logical thing to do when shopping for a cheap daily driver is to check out the ones with the pop-ups first. Here’s a black counterpart to my own red devil of a Mazda. It’s parked close to a water tower roundabout. You have no idea how much I’d like to rally around that roundabout. Steel wheels do not a 323F ruin, but the improvement that can be done by ditching the 13″:s is incredible. Aftermarket/dealer-installed DRL:s are almost a necessity on 323F:s; even if I’ve never ever (alright, once. Just the once) had a problem with the pop-ups in winter, it’s good for the motors to be able to keep the lights at bay when it’s freezing outside. You can choose to keep them up at all times at a poke of a button, too, if you’re that kind of guy. The tow bar, however, looks so unnecessary and out of place on this car, I can’t tell you how happily I’d lose it the first instant were it my car. I know it’s a good lookout device against people having trouble at parking, but looks-wise I’m never happy with them. And since this one seems to be detachable, it would most likely come off easier if the owner actually took it off every now and then. Judging by the white mazda logo in the front instead of a later gawky rounded emblem, this is most likely a 1990 car; some were registered in 1989, but the ‘F was such a headturner at launch that demand couldn’t be quite satisfied at first. This one doesn’t seem to be too rusty at the usual points like the wheelarches, but I’m betting the trunklid is rotten from the inside, as there are a couple of bubbles already visible outside. The rockers have probably had something done to them at some point. Doors’ seams are possibly bubbling, too, as are the fenders’ bottom corners. Yes, sourcing replacement 323F body panels helps you keep the usual suspects in mind. But all Japanese cars older than delivery kilometres are bound to have some rust on them, and the 323F is not the worst ruster in its price class (hello, Civic and Volvo 440). If in solid condition, it’s a great cheap buy and a good starter car for any 18-year-old hoon who can keep his Mazda pointing in the right direction. With the weight in check at just at a ton, it’s light enough to fly with even the regular 1.6-litre engine. With the 1.8-litre GT/GTi (133hp at most) it’s a certified hoot.
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