Skip to main content

Here’s a touch of trivia I wouldn’t have known without browsing Cars & Bids: Ford rebadged a Mazda wagon as the Telestar and sold it in the JDM market. I knew Ford and Mazda had a decades-long relationship: early Escapes and Rangers were actually rebadged Mazda products (The B2600 and Mazda Tribute).

This makes sense if you think about it, Ford was losing market share to the small efficient vehicles from Toyota and Honda. Meanwhile Mazda was struggling to break into the North American market. So Ford paying Mazda for small trucks, SUVs, and cars, slapping a blue oval on them, then selling them at its dealerships is a great solution. The process is called “Badge Engineering.”

In North America we got the Mazda MX-6 as a Ford Probe, the Mazda B2600 as a Ford Ranger, the Mazda Tribute as an Escape, and the Mazda Navajo as a Ford Explorer. Now I know that the European Ford Fiesta was actual a Mazda 121. But for some reason, I didn’t think Mazda would welcome Ford badges into its home Japanese domestic market. But boy was I wrong.

Interior of a right-hand-drive Ford Telestar imported from Japan
1998 Ford Telestar | Cars & Bids

Ford sold the “Telestar” in Japan from 1982-1999, even though it was just a rebadged Mazda 626/Capella. It had a tranverse-mounted engine with FWD and AWD powertrains. It was available at points as a four-door sedan, five-door hatchback, and a 5-door station wagon. Mazda made these things with a variety of diesel and gasoline I4s, and even with a V6 at one point. As with many JDM cars, it always came with both manual and automatic options.

Why Telestar? The name came from a famous AT&T communications satellite. I don’t know if these cars were more expensive than their Mazda competitors, or whether the Fords were the more budget-friendly versions. I do know these cars are rare as hen’s teeth here in North America. But someone has not only imported one, they are now selling it on Cars & Bids.

The V6 engine under the hood of a Japanese Market Ford Telestar station wagon.
1998 Ford Telestar | Cars & Bids

The right-hand-drive Telestar up for sale (pictured) is an automatic station wagon with AWD and the 2.5-liter V6. That’s a pretty darn drivable configuration. Even better it only has 29,800 miles. Its bright red paint looks fantastic and it has groovy geometric-patterned cloth upholstery. It’s certainly not a stripped-down or budget car, like you find in some foreign markets. This Telestar has power windows and door locks, power adjustable mirrors, and a power-operated sunroof.

Honestly, if you show up at the local cars and coffee in this wagon, you’ll have everyone scratching their heads at the only Telestar they’ve ever seen. Even for non-Ford-fans, the RHD gives it some instant street cred. I will warn you, it’s in Quebec. So if you are in the U.S. you’ll have to re-import it, but the seller is willing to ship it to an import company which can take care of the details.

Next, see a JDM microtruck that’s both left and right-hand drive or watch a review of an older Ford Telestar in the video below: