Khodrocar - If you're a car enthusiast planning a trip to Japan anytime soon (and you should, if only for the hilariously tiny Kei cars zipping around), take time to visit the southeastern coast of Honshu island, specifically the city of Hiroshima (yes, that Hiroshima).
Among other things, the city is home to Mazda Motor Corporation, and within its sprawling headquarters and factory facilities sits a museum packed with some of the most delightfully weird motorized creations ever to come from the Land of the Rising Sun. Here are great reasons to make the pilgrimage:
Every rotary engine in one room
From its early single-rotor experimental engines to the final Renesis powerplant, Mazda's trademark Wankel designs are lined up in all their glory. There's even an exploded model to show how remarkably simple the rotary is, despite all those spring-loaded wiper seals.
787B with its engine on display
Mazda surprised the world with its Le Mans-winning 787B in 1991, and that No. 55 car is on display in the museum along with its glorious 700-hp four-rotor race engine. That a small Japanese manufacturer conquered the world's biggest endurance race -- and did it with such a weird engine -- remains a high point in motorsports history.
One word: Bongo
Yes, I'm partial to forward-control compact vans, but throw JDM quirkiness into the mix and it makes these oddball designs even more lovable. The early Bongo in Mazda's collection looks like a scaled-down Toyota van from the '80s blended with Tonka-truck design simplicity. According to one Mazda spokesperson, the Bongo was so popular in the years after its introduction that "bongo" became the generic Japanese term for a small van.
The three-wheeler that started it all
Japan's transition to motorized transportation took various unique forms, and one of the most successful was the Mazda Type DA three-wheeled truck, aka "Mazdago." This compact cargo-hauler started production in 1931, and it was one of the first vehicles produced in Hiroshima following the 1945 atomic bomb attack.
'90s luxury in the Eunos Cosmo
Bearing the ovoid lines of the 1990s Mazda Millenia era, the rotary-powered Eunos shows what a Mazda luxury flagship could have been if it'd made it to the States. It's every bit as opulent as the Infiniti and Lexus designs of the era, but the Eunos never escaped Japan. The museum car even has the rare three-rotor 20B engine.
Watch Miatas getting built
Car factories are cool places to visit, and Mazda's Hiroshima plant is unique in the variety of different models rolling down the same line. The day of my visit, I watched an MX-5 RF, CX-5, CX-3 and Fiat 124 Spider, in that order, screwed together by the same folks, and from my vantage point, they seemed to know what they were doing. You get to see an active corner of the plant, along with the loading docks from which Mazdas are shipped all over the world.