Mazda chose to use the name "cosmo", reflecting international cultural fascination with the Space Race, as Mazda wanted to showcase the rotary engine as forward-thinking, with a focus on future developments and technology.
The first Mazda to bear the Cosmo name (called the 110S on models intended for export) was (along with the NSU Ro80) one of the first production cars to feature a 2-rotor Wankel engine. A prototype was presented at the 1964 Tokyo Motor Show, one month before the 1964 Summer Olympics, and after the introduction of the NSU Spider at the Frankfurt Motor Show; 80 pre-production Cosmos were produced for the Mazda test department (20) and for dealership testing (60) between 1965 and 1966. Full production began in May 1967 and lasted through 1972, though Cosmos were built by hand at a rate of only about one per day, for a total of 1,176 (343 Series I cars and 833 Series II cars). The car was also featured in the show The Return of Ultraman.
Cosmos were built in five batches:
In 1968, Mazda went racing with the Cosmo. They selected one of the most grueling tests in Europe to prove the reliability of the rotary engine, the 84-hour Marathon de la Route at the legendary Nürburgring circuit in Germany. Two mostly stock Cosmos were entered, along with 58 other cars. One major change to the cars' 10A engines was the addition of a novel side- and peripheral-port intake system: A butterfly valve switched from the side to the peripheral port as RPMs increased. The engines were limited to 130 PS to improve durability.
The cars ran together in fourth and fifth place for most of the race, but the all-Japanese car was retired with axle damage in the 82nd hour. The other car, driven by Belgians, completed the race in fourth overall. This was to be the only racing outing for the Cosmo—the next Mazda race car would be a Familia Rotary (R100).