Owning a Mazda RX-3 Coupé
‘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.’