Weird spinning triangles: Early 80’s Mazda RX-7s

A weird and wonderful technical innovation thrown into a charming little sports car is exactly the kind of thing I’m into, which is why I’ve always been a big fan of the Mazda RX-cars. The Mazda rotary engine is a really interesting product; much easier to work on than a typical piston engine, while providing explosive power for its size with an astronomical rev limit. The 1st generation RX-7s depreciated pretty heavily in the 2000’s, and I’ve had a couple of them.

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My senior year of high school (2006-2007), I was looking for a new car after a bad experience with a BMW. I had already owned a 1986 Supra and liked Japanese sports cars, so the RX-7 was on my radar. One day, my father spotted a nearly pristine 1983 GSL model for sale on a side-street not far from our house; I bought it that day for $2300. A garage-kept survivor that had never seen snow, with a mere 53k miles on the clock, I absolutely loved the car.

I would soon be moving on to college, though; the car seemed too nice to ruin by parking it on the streets of Milwaukee, and I was afraid of ruining its value by modifying it to my liking or putting too many miles on it, so I ended up selling it. I managed to get $3500 from a radio DJ in Maine who flew out to pick the car up and drove it back.

1928833_536957116738_4284_nSome years later in 2011 I once again found myself looking for a new vehicle, and found a decent-looking 1984 GS model on Craigslist with an asking price of $2000. It was a pleasant blue color, had just over 100k miles, and seemed to be exactly what I wanted; nice, but not so nice that I would fear driving it as I wanted. I went out to drive it, and took it home for $1100 after talking the owner down because of loose steering and a slipping clutch.

Since I was now in college and had my own income, I modified the car with an exhaust system, solid motor mounts, a few carburetor tweaks and a removal of the horrid “rat’s nest” of 1970’s-era emissions equipment. I also replaced the clutch by myself, on the floor of my garage, in the span of about five hours! After these modifications the car was an absolute blast to drive; it was significantly quicker than my old 1983 and sounded like a pissed-off bumblebee the size of a fighter aircraft. Sadly, fuel economy was abysmal (8-13 miles per gallon depending on the trip…yeah) but the car was otherwise excellent.

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My ownership would soon end, though. One day I took it to a friend’s house to join a dinner party. When I walked out to my car to leave, I found that it had a massive dent on the driver’s side fender and a note on the windshield; someone had rolled out of a driveway across the street, and backed right into it! Luckily, the offending party was sincerely sorry and I got a reasonable insurance payout for the car, but my motivation crumbled. The damage could have been fixed with a new fender and some paint, but I had cash in my pocket from the insurance company and decided to just move on. I sold it on to another RX-7 enthusiast and started looking for something else.

I would love to have another Mazda rotary vehicle at some point; a 2nd or 3rd generation turbo RX-7 would be awesome, or maybe even a vintage RX-3 or RX-4. Their thirst for fossil fuels convinced me never to have another as a daily driver, though. It’s a shame that their fuel economy is so bad, as aside that small flaw, both RX-7s were among my favorite vehicles I have ever owned. Mazda no longer produces a rotary sports car after the death of the RX-8, citing development costs and the lack of a market for a vehicle with such fuel economy. Every couple of years, though, they tease the public with news of another breakthrough in their experimental rotary engine development. Hopefully, they figure out the economy issue someday and the world can enjoy another excellent rotary sports car.

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