Own­ing a Mazda RX-3 Coupé

Classic Cars (UK) - - Mazda Rx-3 -

‘I bought my car on the 22 December 1989,’ says Philip Palmer, whose RX-3 coupé is still equipped with its orig­i­nal 10A engine. ‘My fam­ily had a Mazda deal­er­ship back then. It wasn’t one au­tho­rised to sell the ro­tary cars – that was a thing back then – but we were tooled up to re­pair them. We had one of the en­gines on a stand in the work­shop – it al­ways fas­ci­nated me, so at 16 I bought my RX-3 as a project. It wasn’t un­til I was 19 that I got it to a point where it was driv­able; from then I grad­u­ally im­proved it, stock­pil­ing parts as I went. Ob­vi­ously be­ing the son of a Mazda dealer made that eas­ier, but find­ing cer­tain bits was still a chal­lenge, and still is. Of course, back then we didn’t have ebay. I had to source some bits from Aus­tralia – the RX-3 is pop­u­lar over there – which meant a lot of time spent on the phone at unso­cia­ble hours. I had to bulk­buy those phone cards with good rates on in­ter­na­tional calls.

To­day I also have an RX-7 and an RX-8 R3 – that tends to hap­pen once you get bitten by the ro­tary bug – so I only do a few hun­dred miles per year in the RX-3. The fact I’ve stock­piled bits and that I do all the work on it my­self means it costs me hardly any­thing. If you’re able to find one for sale, be aware that the engine doesn’t re­ally give any in­di­ca­tions it’s un­happy un­til it’s too late to do any­thing. You have to let it warm up prop­erly and check fluid lev­els of­ten – ro­taries use more oil than other clas­sics. I also pre­mix for ex­tra lu­bri­ca­tion when cold. The most com­mon killer of ro­tary en­gines is driver mis­use and im­proper main­te­nance.’

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