Mazda RX7s are a special breed of sports car, and there’s a lot to consider when buying one. There are multiple versions of each generation, from 1978-2002, and not one of them is the correct choice, but rather they all do at least one thing well. That being said just as important as what the RX7 does reasonably well, is what the car gets horrifically wrong. Are you looking at RX-7s for sale? Here is what you should know before pulling the trigger.
The first thing to remember about the RX-7 is possibly the thing it’s most famous, and infamous, for and that is its engine. The RX-7, across all three generations, uses what’s called a rotary engine designed by Wankel. This is an internal combustion four stroke engine but accomplishes the intake, compression, ignition and exhaust steps with a spinning rotor instead of having multiple pistons and cylinders. It by rights should not work, but it miraculously does.
There are different schools of thought as to whether or not the Wankel rotary is reliable, suffice it to say if it is properly maintained then it should last at the very least 150,000 miles. One thing to remember is you may learn from other people that the rotary burns a lot of oil. This is because the engine by design uses oil to lubricate internal seals, so if you check your levels before a regular 3000-mile oil change, you’ll probably notice a quart missing. Don’t worry, that’s normal. And in fact, it’s been said that the car will produce a white puff of smoke when you start it up, and that means the car is running normal and the internal lubrication system is working properly.
Every generation has a turbocharged version, and the general consensus is that the turbocharged Wankel rotary engines are considerably less reliable, so be aware of that if considering a third generation, or FD, which has two turbochargers. It makes almost 300 horsepower, which in a small and light car like that is mad, but for a running decent car, it’ll cost more than $10,000. So be sure you have money set aside for turbo contingencies.
Some cars had limited-slip differentials (LSD) so you’d need to have a look or run some tests to see if the car in question has one. LSD just means that both tires spin under acceleration, as opposed to an open-wheel differential which just spins the outside tire.
Talking of drivability, the FC RX-7 is a joy. Acceleration isn’t terrible, but the car makes an interesting sound and when you shove the throttle down mid-corner, the rear end will slide out into a controllable drift. The car is very light, so the car will brake with relative ease. Of course a set of cross-drilled and slotted brake rotors can’t hurt, neither can some good tires such as the case with any car, but mashing on the brakes too much can cause brake fade in RX7s which is when everything feels mushy and the car won’t stop as quickly because there is no longer as much friction between the pads and rotors.
The car is small and light, but you can make it lighter. Good things to make note of is convertible RX-7 FCs had aluminum hoods and wheels, so swapping those into your hatchback FC will save a lot of weight. It’s also not unheard of to swap a V8 into an RX-7 from any generation, as the engine bay is accommodating. More so for the first and second generations, but less so for FDs.
Don’t overstep your boundaries when it comes to modifications. The engine swap is only recommended because the Wankel is expensive to rebuild, and because of the performance gaps between the V8 and Wankel it’s almost not worth rebuilding if what you’re after is performance. If you like the Wankel just because, then hold onto it.
If you’re looking for an RX-7, chances are it’s because you want one above anything else. It’s a hobby car, and requires a lot of attention and love. For a first generation RX7 in decent condition you can expect to pay around $3,000-4,000, while a second generation could run you around $4,000-5,000. Third generation RX7s are in demand, since probably not very many are left, and could cost as much as $20,000 depending on its condition. If you treat the RX-7 with regular maintenance and tender loving care (TLC), then it’ll last a good long time and provide plenty of great experiences.
Basically, if you’re looking to buy the Mazda RX-7 the only thing to really consider is its engine. It comes down to if whether or not the engine is in good condition, and if so then you’re good to buy. If not, then you need to consider alternatives engine options, even buying another rotary and have it waiting in the wings.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.