The Japanese Dilemma: 1996 Eunos 800M

Plenty of people don’t like Japanese cars, whether they’re rampant nationalists from Louisiana with a slightly unhealthy interest in 1930s German politics, or they’re a stuck up arts professor who swears by his Citroen, but no one could say that Japan isn’t technologically adventurous. Sometimes it goes brilliantly, often it’s gimmicky, and usually it fails. The Miller Cycle Mazda falls into all three categories. Find this 1996 Eunos 800M for sale in Cairns, QLD, for $2,000 AUD ($1,530 USD at the time of writing) via gumtree.

The 800M didn’t have an easy birth; it was originally conceived as an Amati, Mazda’s stillborn Lexus-fighting division. However, Mazda decided the car was too far in the development cycle to cancel, and Mazda already had their Eunos brand for sporty cars in Australia, so the 800M became a Eunos here. Americans got the car as the Millenia from 1995, and it was sold as the Mazda Xedos 9 in Europe.

Eunos was confusing at best for Australians, we didn’t have Infiniti or Acura, just the lone Lexus, so a quasi-luxury-sports Mazda division made as much sense as an Australian Crawl song. The other Eunos offerings were another stillborn Amati, the 500, and the MX-3, badged as a 30X.

The biggest sales catch though was the Japanese Dilemma: a technologically audacious car, embroiled in conservative design and sold without any consideration for the market. The styling appealed to stuffy Japanese businessmen, as did the price tag: $85,000 AUD. For the same amount, you could choose to drop a size class and buy a BMW 328i. Never the less, it seemed far too expensive, sitting in a showroom alongside diminutive $15,000 121s. 

The biggest tragedy of it all was the 800M was a brilliant car. It had every high-end feature of the day, from four-wheel steering, to traction control, to vegan-repellent seats. And finally, the amazing Miller Cycle V6 engine. Displacing only 2.3L, the 800M produced a supercharged 220hp, and still maintained decent fuel economy. Essentially, the Miller Cycle introduces a ‘fifth’ stroke, as the compression stroke is comprised of two periods, one with the intake valve open and the second with it closed, making the engine more efficient. The Eunos was so successful virtually no one has used a Miller Cycle since!

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Michael is a teenager who’s been obsessed with cars since he was able to talk, but has no ability in mechanics whatsoever. His daily driver is a manual transmission Nissan Maxima – the Australian Infiniti I30