BUYERS GUIDES

LOTS OF RE­VIEWS

Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

The time came in 1978 for Mazda to launch the most ex­cit­ing new model in its his­tory – the RX7. With 1.1 litres of twin ro­tor en­gine re­plac­ing con­ven­tional pis­tons the low-slung coupe with its hid­den head­lamps and hatch­back ac­cess changed the shape and con­cept of sports car mo­tor­ing. Sell­ing in Aus­tralia for a whisker less than $15,000 the Mazda was pitched di­rectly against Alfa Romeo’s age­ing 2000GTV and un­der­cut Nis­san’s heavy­weight 280ZX by al­most $5000.

Mazda’s route to suc­cess was made eas­ier by the im­mi­nent demise of open-top Bri­tish mod­els in­clud­ing the Tri­umph TR7 and MGB. Cer­tainly the RX7 was fun­da­men­tal to re­vival of the lu­cra­tive North Amer­i­can sporty car mar­ket.

The orig­i­nal RX7 was not fast in ab­so­lute terms but made amends via a re­spon­sive chas­sis. The tiny en­gine ini­tially pro­duced only 77kW and needed to be spin­ning above 4000rpm be­fore de­liv­er­ing full per­for­mance.

From a stand­ing start the 12A en­gine didn’t win a lot of drag races but mid-range per­for­mance once the ro­tors were spin­ning hard would out-gun di­rect com­peti­tors like Nis­san’s 280ZX and the Alfa 2000GTV and come close to V8 pace.

Stan­dard equip­ment in­cluded air-con­di­tion­ing, with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion op­tional from 1981.

On the race-track, the Mazda’s light weight and dura­bil­ity en­sured ex­cel­lent re­sults. The most ob­vi­ous ben­e­fi­ciary was Al­lan Mof­fat, who aban­doned his long-run­ning Ford al­le­giance for a pe­riph­er­ally-ported RX7 that won the Cana­dian his 4th Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car ti­tle. Mof­fat’s in­ter­na­tional re­sults in­cluded first in class at the 1982 Day­tona 24 Hour sports car race.

Late in 1981 a Se­ries 2 RX7 ar­rived and paci­fied most of the orig­i­nal car’s crit­ics. Un­der the rear sat a very wel­come pair of disc brakes in place of the S1’s drums and be­neath the bonnet an ex­tra seven kilo­watts of power. Al­loy wheels in a dis­tinc­tive four-spoke de­sign were fit­ted but still only 13 inches in di­am­e­ter and car­ry­ing skimpy 185-sec­tion tyres.

For 1984 the Su­per Deluxe was re­named Lim­ited and sold in Se­ries 3 form at an in­creased price. Im­prove­ments in­cluded a larger 63-litre fuel tank, big­ger wheels (fi­nally) with wider tyres, a sun­roof, cruise con­trol and fairly re­dun­dant headlamp wash­ers.

Seats in later RX7s were sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than in S1 cars which were crit­i­cised for lack of sup­port. Head­room is tight if you’re tall and rear leg room with the front seats fully for­ward is only 190mm. The area be­hind the seats is best re­garded as a lug­gage plat­form.

RX7s run hap­pily on 91RON fuel (but not E10) or 95 Pre­mium. An­other bonus is that you don’t need to fid­dle with lead re­place­ment ad­di­tives as ro­taries don’t have valve seats that wear due to lack of lu­bri­ca­tion.

MAR­KET RE­VIEW

There is no ex­cuse for choos­ing a re­ally ratty RX7 un­less you’re in the mood for a full re­build. S1 mod­els are be­com­ing harder to find, how­ever the cost of a for de­cent car re­mains be­low $20,000. Ex­cep­tional cars in pre­served orig­i­nal con­di­tion will ex­ceed $30,000.

Se­ries 2 and the Se­ries 3 Lim­ited mod­els are also easy to find how­ever some ven­dors are look­ing for ex­treme money. In com­mon with the Se­ries 1, top con­di­tion ex­am­ples reach $30-35,000.

Con­sid­er­ing where and how you typ­i­cally drive has an ef­fect on which style of RX7 to choose. For pre­dom­i­nantly sub­ur­ban run­ning or as a daily com­muter the Lim­ited au­to­matic has more gear in it and com­bines easy op­er­a­tion with good per­for­mance.

If you plan some club-level mo­tor sport, one of the 13B-con­verted or even tur­bocharged cars with brake up­grades and rigid sus­pen­sions will be more vi­able. They gen­er­ally don’t cost any more than an ex­cel­lent stan­dard car.

Plenty of re­pair out­fits spe­cialise in ro­tary Maz­das, so find­ing parts and the ex­per­tise to keep your car run­ning won’t be dif­fi­cult.

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