Find of the Week: One-Owner 1983 Mazda RX-7

Our Find of the Week this week is a modern classic. Not the first to use a rotary engine, but definitely the most popular nameplate to use that engine design. Mazda has used the RX badge to let you know you're looking at a rotary on multiple vehicles, but the RX-7 is the one that put the spinning triangles on the map, at least in North America. This model is from the first-generation of that iconic car. A 1983 RX-7 with just one previous owner.

The Mazda RX-7 was launched in 1978, while Mazda was in - or at least close to - peak rotary mode. It was a replacement for the RX-3, also sold as the Savanna, and moved the RX name from a tiny coupe to a still small but much more sports car body.

Back then, Mazda's design theory used the slogan "the pursuit of driving pleasure." We'll call that the predecessor of Zoom-Zoom. The much sportier new RX-7 looked the part of the sports car with a bold for the time body, sleek roofline, and the always awesome pop-up headlights.

This was a small car, designed to fit into Japanese regulations that piled on taxes for larger cars. That same tax system is what helped drive Mazda's use of the rotary engine. Keeping displacement under 1.5L meant much less tax, but that gave buyers much less power. The rotary engine delivered much more power than any contemporary engines of similar size, which meant buyers could run this sports car affordably.

And it's that Wankel rotary engine that helped make the RX-7 the three-generation legend it is today. Instead of pistons going back and forth, the Wankel has triangular rotors that spin. Intake, exhaust, and combustion all happen in different places around the spinning triangles, and the result is a powerful and smooth engine.

The 12A engine in the first-generation RX-7 displaces just 1.1L, even if the name rounds up to 1.2. It uses two rotors and is able to generate 100 hp. That doesn't sound like a big number, but remember that the same-year Honda Prelude made the same power using a much larger (and so higher taxed) 1.8L four. And a Chevrolet Camaro needed 5.0L and eight-cylinders to make just 145 hp. Plus it weighed nearly 50 percent more. The smooth-running engine could sing, spinning to more than 7,000 rpm and revving more quickly than nearly anything else at the time.

Acceleration was brisk for the time thanks to a curb weight of just 1,000 kg. The small engine helped make the rest of the car smaller and lighter, which helped performance and handling. The little car could out-corner the contemporary Lotus Esprit and Ferrari 308.

Our Find this week is special. It's a car that has had the same owner since 1983. That's 35 years, or eight Prime Ministers. In that time, the car has covered just under 163,000 km. The seller calls it collector grade. The car has been restored and maintained, and very well documented. That includes the original brochure, window sticker, and all service and restoration invoices since day one. By itself, the documentation is an interesting part of history, but it makes for a very nice package with the rest of the car.

This car, for sale in Winnipeg, MB, is well equipped for the time with alloy wheels, air conditioning, power mirrors, and a sunroof. Since it's a Series II model, it has the updated bumpers front and rear that better integrate with the body, as well as some interior improvements. And of course it has a five-speed manual. This little rotary sportster could be yours, ready to zing your favourite drives this summer.

Rev-happy rotary classic 5/23/2018 1:31:28 PM