RX-7, XJ6 AND VN CELEBRATIONS
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.