Review and Opinion by Phil Lee:
What’s to love about this old sports car from Japan with a strange rotary engine with a couple of hair dryers bolted on? Surely it’s obsolete by now? Well, there’s alot to love and it’s still a very up-to-date and exciting machine today. In fact let’s put it up against current price-range brand new sports cars….
What? Nobody’s making price range sports cars anymore? And what is a price range sports car anyway? Well a sports car is not a heavy family saloon with a massive gas guzzling V8 plonked in it (Sorry Ford and Holden)! And it’s not a four door sedan! And it’s not an overpriced European Porsche, Ferrari or Lambo for the Uber Wealthy. It’s not a hatch back (Sorry VW, Peugeot, Alfa and Renault). A proper sports car is a curvasceous two door coupe. It’s beautiful to look at, it’s compact, light and powerful (sorry new Toyota GT 86 non turbo slug)…. and importantly, the average enthusuast can dare to dream to really own one!
Come to think of it no-one is really making proper sports cars anymore that you and I can afford! When the RX7 Series 6 twin turbo was last sold in Australia in 1998 it was $89,000. Alot of people thought that was alot for a Japanese car… In hindsight I reckon it was bloody good value for money!
The Series 8 RX-7 is an amazing car – it is gorgeous, small and has curves. This shape is a classic one that hasn’t aged at all. It is light. It is very fast (with twin turbo set-up). It handles (rear wheel drive) It is affordable… (Please Japan…make cars like this once again – just a couple of turbos on your GT86 and you’d be there…!) Climb into the snug cabin and it feels like you are climbing into the cockpit of a fighter plane…. It sounds menacing with a rasp and subtle backfiring burble that can only be a rotary. When you acclerate out of a corner you can feel the back wheels, just behind your bum wanting to step out in a delicious oversteer / drifting attitude that is totally controlled by your right foot! Then there is the rubber-band like power-curve – this thing just wants to keep pulling all the way to the redline… The controls are light and precise with a slick quick and light gearshift that feels like a knife through butter… I love RX-7s!
The beauty of our import business is that we can still find immaculate and pristine examples of these briliant machines in Japan and get them landed on Aussie shores for affordable prices. Edward Lee’s will do a custom order RX-7 with a money back guarantee – tell us the colour, options, features you want and we will stick to your budget. Call Phil today 0416 285333…
Now I do hear you negative bunch out there winging about fragile rotary motors needing rebuilding…. we’ll I won’t deny that if you get a tired old RX-7 at the cheap end of the market you may encounter a few hurdles like this – however – stick to quality low milage cars and you won’t go wrong. In my experience – if it looks good, if it goes good, sounds good, smells good – it’s usually IS good. Get an independent inspection if you have any doubts…. Of the last 40 RX-7s I have imported I have been stung on 2 engine rebuilds – not a bad result…
When you own one of these beauties – you must adhere to the rules to keep your RX-7 running strong. Warm it up. Warm it down – no exception. Change oil and oil filter every 3 months or 5000 kms – no exception – and you will have years of trouble free exciting driving with no major bills.
|Body style(s)||2-door sports coupe|
The Mazda RX-7 is a sports car produced by the Japanese automaker Mazda from 1978 to 2002. The original RX-7 featured a twin-rotor Wankel rotary engine and a sporty front-midship, rear-wheel drive layout. The RX-7 was a direct replacement for the RX-3 (both were sold in Japan as the Savanna) and subsequently replaced all other Mazda rotary cars with the exception of the Cosmo.
The original RX-7 was a sports coupé. The compact and light-weight Wankel engine or rotary engine is situated slightly behind the front axle, a configuraton marketed by Mazda as “front mid-engine”. The RX-7 made Car and Driver magazine’s Ten Best list five times. In total, 811,634 RX-7s were produced.
68,589 produced 
|Engine(s)||1.3L 265 PS (195 kW/261 hp) 13B-REW
1.3L 280 PS (206 kW/276 hp) 13B-REW
|Wheelbase||95.5 in (2426 mm)|
|Length||168.5 in (4280 mm)|
|Width||68.9 in (1750 mm)|
|Height||48.4 in (1229 mm)|
Series 6 (1992–1995) was exported throughout the world and had the highest sales. In Japan, Mazda sold the RX-7 through its Efini brand as the Efini RX-7. Only the 1993–1995 model years were sold in the U.S. and Canada. Series 6 came with 255 PS (188 kW/252 hp) and 294 N·m (217 lb·ft). In the UK only 124 examples of this model were sold through the official Mazda network, Only one spec. was available and this included twin oil-coolers, electric sunroof, cruise control and the rear storage bins in place of the back seats.
Series 7 (1996–1998) included minor changes to the car. Updates included a simplified vacuum routing manifold and a 16-bit ECU allowing for increased boost which netted an extra 10 PS (7 kW). In Japan, the Series 7 RX-7 was marketed under the Mazda brand name. The Series 7 was also sold in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Series 7 RX-7s were produced only in right-hand-drive configuration.
Series 8 (January 1999– August 2002) was the final series, and was only available in the Japanese market. More efficient turbochargers were installed, while improved intercooling and radiator cooling was made possible by a revised frontal area. The seats, steering wheel, and front and rear lights were all changed. The rear spoiler was modified and gained adjustability. The top-of-the-line “Type RS” came equipped with a Bilstein suspension and 17″ wheels as standard equipment, and reduced weight to 1280 kg (2822 lb). Power was 280 PS (206 kW/276 hp), with 313.8 N·m (231 lb·ft) of torque as per the maximum Japanese limit. The Type RZ version included all the features of the Type RS, but at a lighter weight (at 1270 kg). It also featured custom gun-metal colored BBS wheels and a custom red racing themed interior. Further upgrades included a new 16-bit ECU and ABS system upgrades. The improved ABS system worked by braking differently on each wheel, allowing the car better turning during braking. The effective result made for safer driving for the average buyer. Easily the most collectible of all the RX-7s was the last 1,500 run-out specials. Dubbed the “Spirit R“, they combined all the “extra” features Mazda had used on previous limited-run specials. They still command amazing prices on the Japanese used car scene years later.
There are three kinds of “Spirit R”: the “Type A”, “Type B”, and “Type C”. The “Type A” has a 5-speed manual transmission, and is said to have the best performance of the three models. The “Type B” has a 2+2 seat configuration and also sports a 5-speed manual transmission. The “Type C” is also a 2+2, but has a 4-speed automatic transmission. Clarification of the build number breakdown for each type is sought as Mazda hasn’t publicly published the production figures.
There is also a “Touring Model” which includes a sun roof, and Bose stereo system. Compared to the R1 and R2 which both don’t have a moon roof, and they have an extra front oil cooler in the front bumper, and other race modification equipment.
The third and final generation of the RX-7, FD (with FD3S for the JDM and JM1FD for the USA VIN), was an outright, no-compromise sports car by Japanese standards. It featured an aerodynamic, futuristic-looking body design (a testament to its near 11-year lifespan). The 13B-REW was the first-ever mass-produced sequential twin-turbocharger system to export from Japan, boosting power to 255 PS (188 kW/252 hp) in 1993 and finally 280 PS (206 kW/276 hp) by the time production ended in Japan in 2002.
The FD RX-7 was Motor Trend‘s Import\Domestic Car of the Year. When Playboy magazine first reviewed the FD RX-7 in 1993, they tested it in the same issue as the [then] new Dodge Viper. In that issue, Playboy declared the RX-7 to be the better of the two cars. It went on to win Playboy‘s Car of the Year for 1993. The FD RX-7 also made Car and Driver magazine’s Ten Best list for 1993 through 1995, for every year in which it was sold state-side. June, 2007 Road&Track magazine proclaimed “The ace in Mazda’s sleeve is the RX-7, a car once touted as the purest, most exhilarating sports car in the world.
The sequential twin turbocharged system was a very complex piece of engineering, developed with the aid of Hitachi and previously used on the domestic Cosmo series (JC Cosmo=90–95). The system was composed of two small turbochargers, one to provide torque at low RPM. The 2nd unit was on standby until the upper half of the rpm range during full throttle acceleration. The first turbocharger provided 10 psi (69 kPa) of boost from 1800 rpm, and the 2nd turbocharger was activated at 4000 rpm and also provided 10 psi. The changeover process, between 3500 rpm and 4000 rpm, provided 8 psi (55 kPa), was incredibly smooth, and provided linear acceleration and a very wide torque curve throughout the entire rev range.
Handling in the FD was regarded as world-class, and it is still regarded as being one of the finest handling and best balanced cars of all time. The continued use of the front-midship engine and drivetrain layout, combined with an 50:50 front-rear weight distribution ratio and low center of gravity made the FD a very competent car at the limits.
In North America, three models were offered; the “base”, the touring, and the R models. The touring FD had a sunroof, leather seats, and a complex Bose Acoustic Wave system. The R (R1 in 1993 and R2 in 1994–95) models featured stiffer suspensions, an aerodynamics package, suede seats, and Z-rated tires.
Australia had a special high performance version of the RX-7 in 1995, dubbed the RX-7 SP. This model was developed as a homologated road-going version of the factory race cars used in the 12hr endurance races held at Bathurst, New South Wales, beginning in 1991 for the 1995 event held at Eastern Creek, Sydney, New South Wales. An initial run of 25 were made, and later an extra 10 were built by Mazda due to demand. The RX-7 SP produced 204 kW (274 hp) and 357 N·m (263 lb·ft) of torque, compared to the 176 kW (236 hp) and 294 N·m (217 lb·ft) of the standard version. Other changes included a race developed carbon fibre nose cone and rear spoiler, a carbon fibre 120 L fuel tank (as opposed to the 76 L tank in the standard car), a 4.3:1-ratio rear differential, 17 in diameter wheels, larger brake rotors and calipers. An improved intercooler, exhaust, and modified ECU were also included. Weight was reduced significantly with the aid of further carbon fibre usage including lightweight vented bonnet and Recaro seats to reduce weight to just 1218 kg (from 1310 kg). It was a serious road going race car that matched their rival Porsche 911 RS CS for the final year Mazda officially entered. The formula paid off when the RX-7 SP won the title, giving Mazda the winning 12hr trophy for a fourth straight year. A later special version, the Bathurst R, was released in 2001.
In the United Kingdom, for 1992, customers were offered only one version of the FD which was based on a combination of the US touring and base model. For the following year, in a bid to speed up sales, Mazda reduced the price of the RX-7 to £25,000, down from £32,000 and refunded the difference to those who bought the car before that was announced. The FD continued to be imported to the UK till 1995. In 1998, for a car that had suffered from slow sales when it was officially sold, with as surge of interest following its appearances in videogames such as Gran Turismo and the benefit of a newly introduced SVA scheme, which meant an influx of inexpensive Japanese imported cars, the FD would become so popular that there were more parallel and grey imported models brought into the country than Mazda UK had ever imported.
Racing versions of the first-generation RX-7 were entered at the prestigious 24 hours of Le Mans endurance race. The first outing for the car, equipped with a 13B engine, failed by less than one second to qualify in 1979. The next year, a 12A-engine car not only qualified, it placed 21st overall. That same car did not finish in 1981, along with two more 13B cars. Those two cars were back for 1982, with one 14th place finish and another DNF. The RX-7 Le Mans effort was replaced by the 717C prototype for 1983. In 1991, Mazda became the first Japanese manufacturer to win the 24 hours of Le Mans. The car was a 4-rotor prototype class car, the 787B. The FIA outlawed rotary engines shortly after this win. To this day the rotary powered Mazda is the only Japanese manufacturer to have ever won the prestigious 24 hour Le Mans race outright.
Mazda began racing RX-7s in the IMSA GTU series in 1979. That first year, RX-7s placed first and second at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and claimed the GTU series championship. The car continued winning, claiming the GTU championship seven years in a row. The RX-7 took the GTO championship ten years in a row from 1982. The RX-7 has won more IMSA races than any other car model.
The RX-7 also fared well at the Spa 24 Hours race. Three Savanna/RX-7s were entered in 1981 by Tom Walkinshaw Racing. After hours of battling with several BMW 530i and Ford Capri, the RX-7 driven by Pierre Dieudonné and Tom Walkinshaw won the event. Mazda had turned the tables on BMW, who had beaten Mazda’s Familia Rotary to the podium eleven years earlier at the same event. TWR’s prepared RX-7s also won the British Touring Car Championship in 1980 and 1981, driven by Win Percy.
Canadian/Australian touring car driver Allan Moffat was instrumental in bringing Mazda into the Australian touring car scene. Over a four year span beginning in 1981, Moffat took the Mazda RX-7 to victory in the 1983 Australian Touring Car Championship, as well as a trio of Bathurst 1000 podiums, in 1981 (3rd with Derek Bell), 1983 (second with Yoshimi Katayama) and 1984 (third with former motorcycle champion Gregg Hansford). Australia’s adoption of international Group A regulations, combined with Mazda’s reluctance to homologate a Group A RX-7, ended Mazda’s active participation in the touring car series at the end of the 1984 season.
The RX-7 even made an appearance in the World Rally Championship. The car finished 11th on its debut at the RAC Rally in Wales in 1981. Group B received much of the focus for the first part of the 1980s, but Mazda did manage to place third at the 1985 Acropolis Rally, and the Familia 4WD claimed the victory at Swedish Rally in both 1987 and 1989.
The RX-7 is considered as a popular choice in import drag racing, during the late nineties toward 2004 Abel Ibarra raced a spaceframe FD which averaged no less than high 6 seconds passes, until he replaced it with a spaceframe RX-8, the FD was later to shipped and sold to an Australian.
The FC and FD is considered a popular choice for drifting contests, given the long wheelbase and an average of 450 bhp (336 kW). Youichi Imamura won the D1 Grand Prix title in 2003 and Masao Suenaga narrowly lost his in 2005, both in FDs.
The RX-7 is a popular choice among autocross drivers.
In Japan, the RX-7 has always been a popular choice in domestic events, competing in Group 5 based Formula Silhouette to its modern day incarnation, the Super GT series from when the Japan Sport Sedan series would become the GT300 category which it had been competing in. Its patience would pay off as in 2006, RE Amemiya Racing Asparadrink FD3S won the GT300 class championship.
In New Zealand a large and growing motorsport class called Mazda Pro7 Racing makes use of the series 1, 4 and 6 RX-7s for one make circuit racing. They run an average of 8 x 2 day meetings a season and racing can see up to 30 RX-7s on the track at any one time.
Recently, Mazda has revived the rotary engine in the form of the RX-8. It produces approximately 232 hp (173 kW) naturally aspirated, while the Japanese market version also produces around 232 hp (173 kW).
It’s also been said by Automobile Magazine that a new generation of RX-7s will be returning in 2011.
Ever since its debut on Full Throttle in 1987 the RX-7 has appeared on numerous motoring-based video games and other popular media appearances, most notably on games such as Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, Kaido Racer I & II (Tokyo Xtreme Racer), Enthusia Professional Racing, The Fast and the Furious movie and its sequels, Initial D (in the anime ,videogame and Movie), the Forza Motorsport series, the Gran Turismo series, Need for Speed: Underground and its sequels, Project Gotham Racing 2, as well being the first appearance of the SA22 on Sega GT 2002 and on the cover of Auto Modellista and the PS2 version of Battle Gear 3.
In Initial D, the Takahashi brothers both drive RX-7s, hence their other moniker, The Rotary Brothers. The older brother Ryosuke drives a white FC, and the younger brother Keisuke drives a yellow twin-turbo FD. There was another character, Kyoko Iwase, who drove a single-turbo FD.
The RX-7 FB was also featured in the tokusatsu show Uchuu Keiji Shaider, as Annie’s yellow-colored civilian patrol vehicle.
Another appearance in popular culture is the inclusion of the RX-7 as a Transformer. Unlike the RX-8 however, the character is very obscure, being the toy-only Autobot known as Camshaft, an ironic choice of name considering the RX-7 has no camshafts. It was part of a group of three Autobots called the Omnibots. The toys were only ever available in the West as mail away premiums. Camshaft’s team mates were Overdrive and Downshift. An early version of “Zoom-Zoom”, a replicant of the Autobot Jazz, was used to launch the Mazda RX-8.