The Mazda RX-7 was a sports car in more than just name and sleek, stylish look. It was actually used in motorsports like its predecessor, the Mazda RX-3. The racing version of the first Mazda RX-7 was entered in the renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Over the course of several years it placed at various levels, even winning the prestigious race in 1991. The rotary-engined car made Mazda the only Japanese car manufacturer to ever win that race outright.
Later on, the Mazda RX-7 brought more attention to the Australian racing scene, with a prominent touring car driver named Alan Moffat winning the 1983 Australian Touring Car Championship and three Bathurst 1000 races. The Mazda even made an appearance in the World Rally Championship, finishing 11th on its debut.
The original Series 1 Mazda RX-7, a two-seat coupe sports car with exposed steel bumpers, pop-up headlamps, and the compact Wankel rotary engine, was introduced in 1978 and lasted through 1980. The Series 2, which was offered from 1981 to 1983, added plastic-covered bumpers, wide black-rubber body-side mouldings, wraparound taillights, and updated control components for the engine.
From 1984 to 1985 Mazda came out with the Series 3 of the RX7, which featured the updated lower front fascia, improved suspension, and the reintroduction of the external oil cooler. Australia had a Mazda RX-7 Finale released to cap off the series that featured power options and special designations.
The Series 4, released from 1986 to 1988, began the second generation of the Mazda RX-7. Its engine was upgraded to a naturally-aspirated, fuel-injected 13B-VDEI, with the option for a turbocharged model. The Series 5, offered from 1989 to 1992 was released with an updated style and improved engine management. Other second-generation changes included better handling, steering, and brakes. The sixth and seventh series proved to be the last in Australia.
One of the most compelling features of the Mazda RX-7 and other Mazdas in the RX series was the inclusion of a Wankel rotary engine. It was a uniquely powerful engine in an affordable and quality vehicle, creating a revolutionary car that proved to be a hit in both Australia and America. Under the bonnet of the first series, the original Mazda RX-7 had a naturally aspirated, 12A, 1.1L engine that gave it 77kW of power, 144Nm of torque, and a fuel consumption of 13.7L/100km. This kind of performance in such an affordable car was a big part of its success.
The third series of the Mazda RX-7 represented a major step up. The 1984 RX-7 GSL had fuel consumption of just 8.1L/100km, with an engine that put out 101kW of power at a torque of 183Nm. In addition to the better engine, it had upgraded suspension with stiffer springs and shocks for excellent handling and performance.
One of the latest entries of the Mazda RX-7 was an Australian-only road version of the factory race car that had been used in the Bathurst 1000 race from 1991 to 1995. Called the RX-7 SP, this super sports car had 204kW of power and 357Nm of torque, a major boost over the 176kW and 294Nm of the standard trim. This RX-7 SP won the title. Still, even the standard 1995 RX-7 was a great performance sports car.
The original Mazda RX-7 came with either automatic or manual transmissions and a variety of engines, including the 12A, the 12A Turbo, and the 13B RE-EGI. The LS version had some great standard kit, including full brown leather upholstery, leather wrapped steering wheel, leather wrapped shift knob, removable sunroof, and remote power door side mirrors.
Later series added more powerful engines with better suspension and additional exterior touches. Specifically, the second generation, Series 4 Mazda RX-7 featured an optional turbocharged model, Dynamic Tracking Suspension System, and Auto Adjusting Suspension. Disc brakes became standard, and rear seats were included. An Australian-only sports model of the Series 4 RX-7 came without power windows, power steering, or rear wipers, in order to reduce the car’s weight and make it easier to accelerate.
Though the Mazda RX-7 was in a league of its own when it came to the unique Wankel rotary engine, it still faced stiff competition from the Porsche, particularly the Porsche 944, which had 176kW of power and 305Nm of torque. Fortunately, one noteworthy aspect to the Mazda RX-7 was the way it retained its value. With a number of limited editions in Australia like the SP or the Series 4 RX-7, there are plenty of excellent and enticing Mazda RX-7 options.