Mazda Classic Automobil Museum Frey: A Public Passion Project

Mazda is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year — or at least trying to, as the world appears to have other ideas — and, as part of the centenary, the brand invited us to a rather special place in the heart of Bavaria.

It’s called the Mazda Classic Automobil Museum Frey, and it’s a one-time private collection of cars from the entire history of Mazda converted into a public exhibition, in a disused tram shed in Augsburg.

The collection belongs to Walter Frey, founder of the local Auto Frey dealer group — a Mazda dealer, naturally. Walter, along with sons Joachim and Markus, has been collecting rare and unusual Mazdas for over 40 years, amassing some 120 cars.

In 2017 they bought the old tram shed — itself 120 years old — and, after considerable renovation work, moved the collection in. The museum consists of an events space and the main museum floor itself, as well as a gift shop.

Despite having nearly 15,000 square feet of floor space available, the museum can’t actually house all of the cars at once, and that means plenty of rotation of exhibits; each time you go, there might be a different line-up of cars.

However there’ll be an extraordinary selection of around 45 cars on display no matter when you go, ranging from the very first Mazda — the Mazda-Go auto-rickshaw — up to the early 00s, with the occasional newer item on occasion.

You’ll get an appreciation for the Frey’s passion for Mazda — and why they’re attached to the brand — as you walk round the various exhibits.

The guided tour naturally starts with the Mazda-Go, possibly the first auto-rickshaw in the world when launched in 1931; prior to that, Mazda was “Toyo Kyogo”, manufacturing cork products at first and then machine tools.

Of course the rotary engine is a significant part of the company’s history, starting with the 1967 Cosmo Sport. The Cosmo finished fourth in an 84-hour endurance race (yes, 84) at the Nurburgring to demonstrate the engine’s reliability.

In total, Mazda has manufactured some two million rotary engines, 800,000 of which ended up in arguably the most famous model to use one: the RX-7.

There’s several in the collection, but the silver one above was a car presented to the rotary engine’s inventor, Felix Wankel, by Mazda. Wankel never learned to drive, so it’s a very low mileage example!

The Frey museum also has several other examples of rotary-engined cars. There’s a Luce, the only front-wheel drive rotary, the REPU Rotary-Engined Pick-Up, and a Parkway rotary coach. Yes, coach.

In addition you’ll find examples of Mazda’s “AutoZam” brand AZ-1 kei car, the Group B special 323 GT-R, the Miller-engined Xedos 9, and the insane quad-rotor Cosmo coupe.

You might be expecting MX-5s, given the car’s incredible success over the last 30 years, and you’d be right. Naturally the Freys have picked up one of the extremely rare Mk2 Coupe models, with a fixed roof.

There’s plenty more besides, showing off Mazda’s weird and wonderful history — including an otherwise fairly ordinary 323 by the name of “Pickles” due to the brand’s presence in East Germany.

The Mazda Classic Automobil Museum Frey is open seven days a week (or was, and will be again when normality resumes), and admission is a mere €5 for adults — kids under 12 are free.

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