The car ‘bug’ bit early for Shinro Kinoshita, who spent much of his childhood taking apart his father’s Mazda three-wheeled tricycle truck.
The Mazda brand struck a chord with young Kinoshita. As he explains: “A year before I graduated from High School, Mazda introduced the Cosmo Sport to the market. I was entranced by its beautiful design and craftsmanship, but it was the car’s rotary engine that truly fascinated me. That’s when I decided to join Mazda.” Kinoshita joined the company’s Vehicle Development Division in 1968 and spent almost a decade evolving the necessary skills, from developing new engines to chassis tuning.
“I learned early on, the most important thing when planning a car is to understand the customers and markets,” he says. “I like to see them in person, find out what they want and what they’re unhappy with.” In 1980, Kinoshita was dispatched to the USA where he became known as the “The Man of Iron” for the fearsome test driving skills he honed on the track at the weekend. Kinoshita returned to Japan four years later where he was assigned to Mazda’s Vehicle Test Planning Deptartment. Here he oversaw the development of some of Mazda’s most successful vehicles. These include the legendary RX-7 FD, the first Mazda2, the rotary-powered RX-8, and the second- and third-generation Mazda MX-5s.
"As an advisor on the Mazda Restoration Project, Kinoshita's
knowledge is invaluable to the young engineers who are working
hard to give life back to some of Mazda's legendary cars"
Eventually, he took the reins of front line car development in Europe, the US and other markets. Kinoshita is still very much a visible presence at Mazda’s Hiroshima HQ. Now 68, the veteran engineer is seven years past the official retirement age. However, his skills are considered so valuable that a group of Mazda managers rallied and asked if he could stay after the retirement age. The company agreed to give him a new role as a special expert employee, so he now spends three days a week in the office, passing on his unique skills to the next generation of Mazda R&D engineers. He also acts as an advisor on the Mazda Restoration Project.