Insider's Look at Mazda's Underground Basement [Gallery]
Hidden underneath the Mazda USA research and development facility in Irvine, California, is the mother lode of all things Mazda. Motorsport relics, production icons and one-off concepts grace the floors of an underground basement — essentially a magical garage filled with Mazda treasures from the past and present.
The basement itself doesn't try to look like a museum, and it doesn't need to. Its modest, raw "garage" appearance is completely authentic. Various body panels, packaged bucket seats, plastic-wrapped wheels and wooden pallets litter the floor, reminding you that actual work, actual R&D, is conducted here. Every single vehicle sitting in the Mazda Basement is maintenanced regularly and kept in driving condition — something you won't find at many auto brand museums, if any. Visitors don't need a manicured, controlled environment to enjoy the basement. Mazda lets the cars do the talking, and man, do those things leave you speechless.
Speaking of speechless... when outside, there are many times when all speech must pause as you wait for the deafening roar of the commercial airplane screaming directly overhead to pass. When I say directly overhead, I mean it's really damn close, as in that giant plane literally lifted off from the John Wayne Airport runway just seconds earlier. There's a reason I'm telling you this. The fact that Mazda's R&D facility sits a mere mile or two from the Orange County airport is no coincidence. It's situated directly underneath federally protected airspace, so there won't be any random helicopters or drones trying to get spyshots of whatever top secret project Mazda is working on... So. Cool.
Take a look at the photo gallery at the top to see what other treasures the Mazda Basement is hiding.
Special thanks to Justin Pagtalunan of Mazda USA for hooking us up with this awesome tour!