Sometime in late 2002, I was a Junior in high school and I got my December, 2002 issue of Car in Driver in the mail. I saw this article of a replacement for the Mazda 626…the Mazda 6. My eyes popped, and I remember thinking, “That’s a Mazda?!”
I never really paid much attention to Mazda prior to this article. My dad at that time had a trusty 1986 B2000 pickup 5spd with 184,000 miles, and that was about all I knew and cared about regarding Mazda. The original NA Miata wasn’t even on my radar at the time. The styling of this new 6 just took my breath away, and I shared this with my grandpa joking that this should be our next car. I never would have thought that 15 years later, I’d have two of these in my garage. Yes, I am now an owner of two 2004 Mazda 6’s.
This Mazda 6 “i” (“i” being the 2.3L 4cyl model) used to belong to my grandfather and it’s a car that I nagged him to get ever since that Car and Driver article. It’s been a pretty special car to us, and I am so thankful to take the keys, and keep it in the family.
Here’s a little history:
Before this 6 was purchased new in 2004, my grandparents drove a 2000 Ford Taurus which was not quite as satisfying a daily driver as they’d originally hoped. It was problematic, handled like a boat, and the interior felt like it was held together with Elmer’s glue and hope. One free weekend came, and I suggested to my grandpa that we should “just go look” at one of those new Mazda 6’s and there happened to be a nice one with a manual in Farmington, NM, only 120 miles away from home. Finding one with a manual was tough at this time, so this was a rarity…especially in New Mexico. Grandma and grandpa agreed surprisingly, and we made a day trip of it. I remember walking into the dealership with grandpa and being approached by a friendly sales guy, Dean, and he directed us to this Pebble Ash Metallic 6 i 5spd on the showroom floor. It was loaded to the gills with the Sport package which means 17-inch wheels, electroluminescent gauges, titanium colored switch panels, fog lights, sport cladding, and oval exhaust tips. It also had the Comfort package, which included heated seats and exterior mirrors, leather upholstery, a power sunroof, a Bose audio package, homelink, and side and curtain airbags.
We instantly fell in love with this car at first sight. Despite not being a car person, even grandma did. She especially liked it for the sunroof. The whole “running the numbers” feeler process took place and soon we made an agreement on a price–yeah, we came to just look. Before signing the papers, grandpa and I happened to glance over to the back lot and saw a Blazing Copper Metallic Mazda 6 V6 being unloaded off of a shipping truck. Grandma could sense we showed interest and immediately gave us that look, “Don’t even think about it.” Metallic orange wasn’t her first choice in color, so Pebble Ash it was. We drove the 6 home with just 668 miles on the clock, somewhat high miles for a new car, but we were having too much fun to care. Today, it has 186,600 miles and 95% of those were all grandpa.
This has been a special car to all of us. It’s been one of my grandpa’s all time favorite cars he’s owned. It’s the car that rescued me when I crashed my Nissan Sentra. It’s the car that dropped me off for college, the car that took my grandma to hospice where I last saw her. It’s the car that grandpa and I took on a 9,000+ mile drive to the east coast and Quebec when I graduated college. It was a therapeutic drive for both of us after grandma passed away. It’s been coast to coast, border to border several times. And do you know how many times grandpa had to open the hood? Zero. Unscheduled repairs? Zero. The only finicky issue was a thermostat misbehaving intermittently at about 150,000 miles. Everything else has been absolutely bullet proof. Even the clutch and brake pads are original.
Grandpa has now handed the keys to me, and I plan to keep the legacy going. Grandma is still with us in spirit, and I know she’s still enjoying the trips from the passenger seat.
Here’s a little chronological photo stream of the history of the Pebble Ash 6:
The day we picked her up from Performance Mazda in Farmngton, NM. Unfortunately, there no longer is a Mazda dealer in Farmington.
Pulled it out of the garage for some photos the next day. First order of business was taking off that front plate bracket.
Only 789 miles after arriving home.
First road trip was a 300 mile drive to El Morro National Monument and the Large Array near Socorro, NM.
Back when I tried rockin’ over sized sneakers, baggy clothes and “anti-glare computer” glasses. *cringe*
Soon we displayed grandpa’s POW plate and his 91st Bomb Group frame.
Tucked away in the garage next to my stock RSX at that time.
Grandma and the 6 at Williams, AZ.
Outside Modesto, CA
Oatman Pass, AZ
Arches National Park, UT
Getting chilled in Colorado
Rescuing me after crashing my Nissan Sentra.
Testing out the traction control during one of those heavy snows. So much snow slid off the roof, we couldn’t get into the garage.
Northern Rockies in British Columbia
Montreal in Québec
Newlyweds: Grandpa and Delia outside of Colinga, CA. We were very pleased Grandpa met Delia. They keep each other young, giggling all the way. Note grandpa is wearing the same hat as in the day we bought the 6 new!
There was rarely a time when the front end wasn’t covered in a few layers of bugs. Grandpa is quite the traveler.
Mileage when I first took ownership.
First time bringing her home to Las Cruces and meeting the grey 6 stable-mate.
Remember those OEM chrome alloys I had on the grey 6? I felt they were more fitting for this color.
Custom “5SPD” plate.
Interior is still minty fresh!
Aside from a few OEM accessory add-ons (sunroof visor, those chrome alloys, rear chrome trunk trim), I plan to keep this car stock and as original as possible. It’s never had any body or paint work done, and the rubber and plastics are still like new from living in the garage. The grey 6 will still accumulate most of the daily miles, but I’m excited to bring aboard another steed to join us on future adventures. Stay tuned as I have the first drive with this car coming up!
This is awesome. I really have such a greater appreciation for the Pebble Ash 6 now that I’ve seen the whole back-story. It almost makes me wish I had read this introduction before taking it for a spin yesterday! I was shocked at how tight and crisp the handling still felt with over 180k on the clock. No rattles, no odd sounds, and the leather seats still look brand new. It’s truly a sweet car and I’m glad you are determined to keep and preserve it. I too remember when the 6 first came out. It was (and is) one of the best designs ever to hit mainstream automotive showrooms in recent decades. Frank must be proud that his 6 is still doing some exploration from time to time. I’m impressed that you were able to dig up those early photos of the delivery day, initial odometer, and your baggy jeans! Great post.
Thanks, Tyson! Glad you got to take the wheel for a bit yesterday. It’s holding up pretty well for a 13 year old car. I especially notice this when I step into the grey 6. lol.
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God, I’ve ALWAYS wanted one of these. I remember when I was about 4 or 5 my mom brought home a rental silver 2006 Mazda 6. (Or whatever year the refreshed version was). Even as a kid, I just could not get over how good looking that car was. Even to this day I just think its still a damn good looking car. Whenever my 95 Camry dies (which honestly, probably won’t be for a long, long time…), I definitely want to pick one of these up. I find myself constantly browsing cars.com or autotrader searching for a fully loaded 4 cylinder model, but those are really hard to come across. I’d go for the V6 but have heard things about the auto transmission and pre-cat failure
Thanks, Farid! Glad to see other folks being a fan of the first gen 6. I bet your Camry will be going strong for a long time (nothing wrong with two cars :D) Good condition, fully loaded models are definitely hard to come by these days, but they are out there. The V6 models do have their quarks (especially those darn pre-cats), but the 4 cylinders are darn near bullet proof.
Great car, even better history! So pleased that you’re keeping the car in the family and that you’ll continue to have some fantastic adventures with it. The fact that you managed to find a picture of you and your grand parents at the dealership when they purchased the car is so incredibly cool! Looking forward to your upcoming “first drive” post & for all future adventures in this car. Cheers Adam.
Thanks, Adam! This car is definitively staying in the family and I hope to find even more history/documentation as we sift through old files. First drive post is in the works as we speak. 🙂
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