The Carol is the second mini car that Mazda introduced during the Toyo Kogyo era. It was based on a 700 cc four-door concept car that was downsized to Mini standards. As a result, it featured a mechanism that set it apart from its competitors.
Toyo Kogyo (now Mazda), which had achieved great success in the field of three-wheeled vehicles, predicted in the late 1950s that the era of four-wheeled vehicles would not be long in coming. Therefore, the company decided to enter the four-wheel market with a 360cc minicar, which could be called Japan’s national car.
In May 1959, the company introduced the Mazda K360, a light three-wheeled truck, to see how the market would respond. The K360, nicknamed “Kesaburo,” was a hit beyond expectations at its launch.
Shortly thereafter, President Tsuneji Matsuda decided to launch a passenger car based on the K360, and in April 1960, the Mazda R360 Coupe, Toyo’s first light four-wheeled passenger car, went on sale. In addition to its outstanding design, its reasonable price of 300,000 yen attracted couples and car enthusiasts of the child-rearing generation to the dealerships where it was sold.
In the fall of 961, the development team presented a second passenger car as a reference exhibit at the 8th All Japan Motor Show. This was the Mazda 700. It was almost the size of a minicar, but had a four-door design like a luxury car. The engine was an all-aluminum inline 4-cylinder OHV mounted in the rear. The unique cliff-cut three-box shape from the roof to the rear pillar also attracted attention.
Even more surprising was the fact that the Mazda 700 went into mass production with almost no styling changes. In addition, the Mazda 700’s smaller bumper was used to keep the body within mini-car specifications. It was truly a clever scaling down of the car. The car was named after “Carol”, a festive song sung at Christmas. The car was officially launched in February 1962 and was initially sold only as a two-door model.
The cliff-cut body design, in which the rear window is tilted backward to provide headroom for the rear seats, has been slightly rearranged to further enhance its beauty. Incidentally, the cliff cut was an idea first adopted by Ford’s Anglia (the car that flew in the Harry Potter movie).
The Carol featured a lightweight, highly rigid monocoque structure and a frameless unit body. While the R360 Coupe had an air-cooled V-twin cylinder in the rear, the Carol was powered by the same luxurious liquid-cooled four-stroke inline four-cylinder OHV engine that was used in high-end family cars, driving the rear wheels.
The engine, from the head to the cylinder block, crankcase, and clutch housing, was all made of a lightweight aluminum alloy with excellent heat dissipation. The engine also featured a five-point crankshaft and an electromagnetic fuel pump, which were rarely seen even in high-end models, and thus stood out for its smoothness and quietness.
The four-cylinder OHV engine had a bore of 46.0 mm and a stroke of 54.0 mm, for a total displacement of 358 cc. The compression ratio was an astonishing 10.0, and maximum output was 18 hp at 6800 rpm and maximum torque 2.1 kgm at 5000 rpm. The engine revved to a surprisingly high rpm for an engine of that era, and the smoothness of the four-cylinder engine was outstanding. Moreover, it runs on regular gasoline. However, it was heavy at 525 kg, and its absolute torque was thin, so it was undeniably lacking in punch.
The transmission is a 4-speed manual with synchromesh over the second gear. The top speed is 90 km/h, the same as the R360 coupe. The final model evolved to a fully synchronized transmission, and the shift pattern was also changed. The minimum turning radius was also reduced from 4.3 m to 4 m, improving the car’s handling performance.
A more well-equipped DeLuxe version was introduced in May of 1962, which also included a new angle for the rear window to prevent dirt buildup. Following this, in September 1963, a four-door variation was released shortly after an improved combustion head upgrade to 20 PS (15 kW).
In October 1966, a minor makeover occurred in which the car was lightened, new bumpers were installed and the spare tire was relocated to the engine room, allowing for more space for baggage. The gearbox was also fully synchronized. In 1969, the last alteration was made, in response to stricter safety requirements, a headrest for the driver’s seat and seatbelt facilities were added.
The Carol 360 was produced until August 1970 with a total of 265,226 units built. For two years, Mazda did not present a Kei class passenger car until the Chantez was introduced in 1972.