Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

In hind­sight, Mazda’s de­ci­sion to go ahead with a 1978 launch of its RX-7 was coura­geous. Sure it was the most ex­pe­ri­enced maker of ro­tary-pow­ered ve­hi­cles on the planet, but re­ally it seemed like the plat­form’s best days might be over as the bulk of the car mar­ket clearly loved its four-strokes.

Though a long-nosed two-door coupe was hardly a new con­cept, the pro­por­tions of this car was among the best of its era, and ar­guably a pret­tier car than the roughly equiv­a­lent Porsche 924-and-on se­ries.

As Cliff Cham­bers re­cently pointed out: 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 GTV 2000 and un­der­cut Nis­san’s heav y weight 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 RX-7 was fun­da­men­tal to re­vival of the lu­cra­tive North Amer­i­can sporty car mar­ket.

The orig­i­nal RX-7 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.

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 RX-7 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.

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