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The Mazda RX-7: History, Generations, Specifications

All things Mazda RX-7 on Automobile.

Mazda RX-7 Essential History

First Generation (SA/FB) Mazda RX-7

When the first-generation Mazda RX-7 was launched in 1978, the little Japanese two-seat sports car was something of a game-changer. Not only was it powered by an unconventional rotary engine, but it was also relatively lightweight, practical with its large rear glass hatch, and thoroughly modern. Moreover, it was affordable, which allowed more enthusiasts to get behind the wheel. Early 1978-1980 cars were given the internal designation "SA," but a 1981 model-year facelift with re-styled bumpers and rear valance, a standard five-speed manual transmission replacing the previous four-speed, and a light interior refresh revised the car enough to re-code it "FB." Brakes were disc-front, drum-rear on base 'S' models, while upmarket, fully-loaded GSL models had discs all-around and a limited-slip differential. Suspension was independent front with a four-link, solid-axle rear-end located by Watts linkage. The FB RX-7's "12A" 1.2-liter rotary engine produced just 100 hp, but its compact size allowed it to be mounted low and behind the front axle for a superior center of gravity and weight distribution compared to a conventional reciprocating engine.

In 1984, the FB RX-7's interior was more comprehensively redesigned while a new GSL-SE trim added a 1.3-liter "13B" rotary with fuel injection, upping horsepower to 135 hp. Even with the mandatory sunroof and plenty of power and luxury accessories, the GSL-SE still weighed less than 2,500 pounds, though price had increased somewhat since the car's earliest days.

Second Generation (FC) Mazda RX-7

The second-generation RX-7 (internally known as FC series) replaced the first-generation car for the 1986 model year. The FC was larger and heavier than the outgoing FB series RX-7 with more derivative styling that took cues from the Porsche 944 and Dodge Daytona. Nevertheless, the car was heavily developed and more upscale, with 146 hp from a revised 13B rotary engine, electric power steering, and optional adaptive strut-type independent suspension. MotorTrend liked the 1986 RX-7 enough to name it Import Car of the Year, and Mazda was still only getting warmed up. The RX-7 Turbo II arrived for 1987 with 182 hp and a sub-7.0 second 0 to 60 mph time. A convertible RX-7 debuted in 1988, while in 1989 a lightweight, performance-oriented (yet, naturally aspirated) GTU version appeared, marketed at those who followed the RX-7's success in the GTU class of the IMSA racing series. The last model year for FB RX-7s was 1992.

Third Generation (FD) Mazda RX-7

It's said good things come in threes, and the third-generation RX-would be the last produced to date. By the 1990s, competition had dramatically increased, especially from Mazda's Japanese competitors Toyota and Nissan. Launched in 1993, the FD series RX-7 boasted elegantly organic styling from Tom Matano, more power than ever (255 hp) from a twin-turbocharged, twin-rotor 13B 1.3-liter rotary engine, and a newfound focus on creating a pure, lightweight sports car. The twin-turbo configuration featured a smaller primary turbocharger and a secondary larger turbocharger. By kicking in sequentially, the RX-7 had very little turbo lag and a sub-5.0 second 0 to 60 mph time. With a curb weight of just 2,800 lbs, the RX-7 was a strong performer—especially in optional R1 and R2 spec with uprated suspension, structural rigidity, and aero add-ons. In fact, the RX-7 again claimed MotorTrend's Import Car of the Year title in 1993. Unfortunately, an escalating MSRP and weak economy spelled the third-generation RX-7's demise after just three years in the U.S. , with 1995 being the final model year. The FD RX-7 soldiered on until 2002 in Japan.

Future Mazda RX-7

In 2015, Mazda released the RX-Vision Concept at the 2015 Tokyo auto show with a new Skyactiv-R rotary engine, but no production plans are forthcoming.

Mazda RX-7 Highlights

Mazda's RX-7 was extremely successful in motorsports, with the first racing versions finishing 1-2 in class at the 1979 24 Hours of Daytona. In fact, RX-7s won IMSA's GTU production-based racing class seven years in a row and winning IMSA's GTO championship an incredible 10 years in a row. These victories were often touted on RX-7s by stickers placed on the rear windows at the factory. Tom Walkinshaw Racing RX-7s won the British Touring Car Championship twice consecutively in 1980 and '81, and cars prepped by others won the 1982-'84 Australian Touring Car Championship, the 1983 Australian Endurance Championship, and three class podiums at the Bathurst 1000. RX-7s even competed successfully in the World Rally Championship in the early 1980s. Today, RX-7s continue to compete in amateur racing events around the globe, including spec racing series designed around the first-generation, 12A-powered cars.

Mazda RX-7 Buying Tips

Mazda sold some 332,850 first-generation RX-7s, 161,346 second-generation RX-7s and just 13,879 third-generation RX-7s in the U.S. As you might expect, first- and second-generation cars are the easiest to find and they are also the least expensive to buy. Third-generation cars, more than the earlier cars, have become highly collectible, with the strongest auction prices.

Because the RX-7 was sold as a relatively affordable sports car, many have been modified by owners, making in a challenge for purists to find a stock, unmolested RX-7. If you do find a clean, low-miles, original RX-7 of any generation, it will almost certainly be worth a heavy premium.

Do be aware that rotary engines are generally not very fuel-efficient and do take specialized knowledge and equipment to repair, so be sure to have a capable mechanic local to you if you're not able to do your own maintenance. While rotary engines are by nature simpler than conventional internal-combustion engines, with fewer moving parts, they do require oil to be mixed with gasoline in order to keep their internal seals lubricated, and this sometimes requires special care. Later turbocharged RX-7s can also be more maintenance-heavy than their earlier naturally aspirated brethren.

Mazda RX-7 Articles on Automobile

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Mazda RX-7 Recent Auctions

Mazda RX-7 Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 1978
  • Last year of production: 1995 (in U.S. )
  • Total sold: More than 800,000 globally
  • Original price (base): $7,195 (1978)
  • Characteristic feature: One of the most popular sports cars of all time, the Mazda RX-7 combines daily practicality with unique, smooth-revving rotary engine characteristics.

Mazda RX-7 FAQ

How much does a Mazda RX-7 cost?

RX-7 pricing is highly dependent on generation, condition and options. Generally speaking, a first-generation or second-generation RX-7 in solid running condition will start at a few thousand dollars and run past $10,000 for a standout example or a higher-spec version. Third-generation cars in good condition start at perhaps $15,000 and will run past $50,000 for the best examples.

Is the Mazda RX-7 legal?

All RX-7s first sold in the U.S. are legal to drive here. Global RX-7s sold before 1995 are legal for importation under the federal 25-year regulation, though not all states allow them to be registered to drive on the street.

Why are Mazda RX-7 so expensive?

Most RX-7s are not expensive, but you will pay a premium for those in excellent condition, and for third-generation examples, because they are quite rare relative to the previous generations.

What is the best year for a Mazda RX-7?

If performance is paramount to your RX-7 ownership dreams, we would opt for a final-generation car produced from 1993-1995. For those looking for the purest, lightest RX-7 possible, the first-generation cars from 1978-1985 will give a classic RX-7 experience.

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Mazda RX-7

Series of rotary powered sports cars

Motor vehicle

The Mazda RX-7 is a front/mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, rotary engine-powered sports car that was manufactured and marketed by Mazda from 1978 to 2002 across three generations, all of which made use of a compact, lightweight Wankel rotary engine.

The first generation of the RX-7, SA (early) and FB (late), was a two-seater 2 door hatchbackcoupé. It featured a 12A carbureted rotary engine as well as the option for a 13B with electronic fuel injection in later years.

The second generation of RX-7, known as the FC, was offered as a 2-seater coupé with a 2+2 option available in some markets, as well as in a convertible bodystyle. This was powered by the 13B rotary engine, offered in naturally aspirated or turbocharged forms.

The third generation of the RX-7, known as the FD, was offered a 2+2-seater coupé with a limited run of a 2-seater option. This featured a sequentially turbocharged 13B REW engine.

The RX-7 made Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list five times. More than 800,000 were manufactured over its lifetime.[1]

First generation (SA22C, FB)[edit]

Motor vehicle

First generation (SA)
1980 Mazda RX-7 SE Limited (17888386539).jpg

1980 Mazda RX-7

Also calledMazda Savanna RX-7
Production1978–1985
471,018 produced[1]
DesignerMatasaburo Maeda (1976)
Body style2-door coupé
PlatformMazda SA22
EngineAll Wankel rotary
Transmission
Wheelbase2,420 mm (95.3 in)
Length4,285 mm (168.7 in)
Width1,675 mm (65.9 in)
Height1,260 mm (49.6 in)
Curb weight1,043–1,134 kg (2,300–2,500 lb)

The series 1 (produced from 1978 to 1980) is commonly referred to as the "SA22C" from the first alphanumerics of the vehicle identification number. Mazda's internal project number for what was to become the RX-7 was X605. In Japan it was introduced in March 1978, replacing the Savanna RX-3, and joined Mazda's only other remaining rotary engine-powered products, called the Cosmo which was a two-door luxury coupé, and the Luce luxury sedan.

The lead designer at Mazda was Matasaburo Maeda (前田 又三郎, Maeda Matasaburō), whose son, Ikuo, would go on to design the Mazda2 and the RX-7's successor, the RX-8.[2] The transition of the Savanna to a sports car appearance reflected products from other Japanese manufacturers. The advantage the RX-7 had was its minimal size and weight, and the compact rotary engine installed behind the front axle, which helped balance the front and rear weight distribution, and provide a low center of gravity.

In Japan, sales were enhanced by the fact that the RX-7 complied with Japanese Government dimension regulations, and Japanese buyers were not liable for yearly taxes for driving a larger car. The rotary engine had financial advantages to Japanese consumers in that the engine displacement remained below 1,500 cc (1.5 L), a significant determination when paying the Japanese annual road tax; this kept the obligation affordable to most buyers, while having more power than the traditional engines having a straight cylinder configuration.

In May 1980, Mazda introduced a limited production run of special North American models known as the Leathersport Models. This package was essentially an uprated GS model with added LS badges on each B-pillar, special stripes on the exterior, and LS-only gold anodized wheels (with polished outer face and wheel rim). All LS editions came equipped with special LS-only full brown leather upholstery, leather wrapped steering wheel, leather wrapped shift knob, removable sunroof, LS-specific four-speaker AM/FM stereo radio with power antenna (though listed as a six-speaker stereo, as the two rear dual voice coil speakers were counted as four speakers in total), remote power door side mirrors, and other standard GS equipment. Two primary options were also available; a three-speed JATCO 3N71B automatic transmission and air conditioning. Other GS options such as cassette tape deck, splash guards, padded center console arm rest and others could be added by the dealer. The LS model was only ever available in three different exterior colours: Aurora White, Brilliant Black, and Solar Gold. No official production records are known to exist or to have been released. This series of RX-7 had exposed steel bumpers and a high-mounted indentation-located rear license plate, called by Werner Buhrer of Road & Track magazine a "Baroque depression."

Mazda RX-7 Series 2 GSL (US)

The Series 2, referred to as the FB (produced from 1981 to 1983), had integrated plastic-covered bumpers, wide black rubber body side moldings, wraparound taillights and updated engine control components. While marginally longer overall, the new model was 135 lb (61 kg) lighter in federalized trim.[3] The four-speed manual option was dropped for 1981 as well, while the gas tank grew larger and the dashboard was redesigned, including a shorter gear stick mounted closer to the driver.[3] In 1983, the 130 mph (209 km/h) speedometer returned for the RX-7. The GSL package provided optional four-wheel disc brakes, front ventilated (Australian model) and clutch-type rear limited slip differential (LSD). This revision of the SA22 was known in North America as the "FB" after the US Department of Transportation mandated 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number changeover. For various other markets worldwide, the 1981–1985 RX-7 retained the 'SA22C' VIN prefix. In the UK, the 1978–1980 series 1 cars carried the SA code on the VIN but all later cars (1981–1983 series 2 and 1984–1985 series 3) carried the FB code and these first generation RX-7s are known as the "FB" only in Northern America. The license-plate surround looks much like Buhrer's "Styling Impressions".[citation needed]

In Europe, the FB was mainly noticed for having received a power increase from the 105 PS (77 kW) of the SA22; the 1981 RX-7 now had 115 PS (85 kW) on tap. European market cars also received four-wheel disc brakes as standard.[4]

1984–1985 Mazda RX-7 (Series 3)

The Series 3 (produced 1984–1985) featured an updated lower front fascia. North American models received a different instrument cluster. GSL package was continued into this series, but Mazda introduced the GSL-SE sub-model. The GSL-SE had a fuel injected 1,308 cc (1.3 L) 13B RE-EGI engine rated at 135 hp (101 kW; 137 PS) and 133 lb⋅ft (180 N⋅m). GSL-SE models had much the same options as the GSL (clutch-type rear LSD and rear disc brakes), but the brake rotors were larger, allowing Mazda to use the more common lug nuts (versus bolts), and a new bolt pattern of 4x114.3mm (4x4.5"). Also, they had upgraded suspension with stiffer springs and shocks. The external oil cooler was reintroduced, after being dropped in the 1983 model-year for the controversial "beehive" water-oil heat exchanger.

The 1984 RX-7 GSL has an estimated 29 MPG (8.11 litres/100 km) highway/19 MPG (12.37 L/100 km) city. According to Mazda, its rotary engine, licensed by NSU-Wankel allowed the RX-7 GSL to accelerate from 0 to 80 km/h (50 mph) in 6.3 seconds. Kelley Blue Book, in its January–February 1984 issue, noted that a 1981 RX-7 GSL retained 93.4% of its original sticker price.

In 1985, Mazda introduced the RX-7 Finale in Australia. This was the last of the series and brought out in limited numbers. The Finale featured power options and a brass plaque mentioning the number the car was as well as "Last of a legend" on the plaque. The finale had special stickers and a blacked out section between the window & rear hatch.

The handling and acceleration of the car were noted to be of a high caliber for its day. The RX-7 had "live axle" 4-link rear suspension with Watt's linkage, a 50:50 front and rear weight distribution, and weighed under 1,100 kg (2,425 lb). It was the lightest generation of the RX-7 ever produced.[citation needed]12A-powered models accelerated from 0–97 km/h (60 mph) in 9.2 seconds, and turned 0.779 g (7.64 m/s²) laterally on a skidpad. The 1,146 cc (1.1 L) 12A engine was rated at 100 hp (75 kW; 101 PS) at 6,000 rpm in North American models, allowing the car to reach speeds of over 190 km/h (120 mph). Because of the smoothness inherent in the Wankel rotary engine, little vibration or harshness was experienced at high engine speeds, so a buzzer was fitted to the tachometer to warn the driver when the 7,000 rpm redline was approaching.

The 12A engine has a long thin shaped combustion chamber, having a large surface area in relation to its volume. Therefore, combustion is cool, giving few oxides of nitrogen. However, the combustion is also incomplete, so there are large amounts of partly burned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. The exhaust is hot enough for combustion of these to continue into the exhaust. An engine driven pump supplies air into the exhaust to complete the burn of these chemicals. This is done in the "thermal reactor" chamber where the exhaust manifold would normally be on a conventional engine. Under certain conditions, the pump injects air into the thermal reactor and at other times air is pumped through injectors into the exhaust ports. This fresh air is needed for more efficient and cleaner burning of the air/fuel mixture.[5]

Options and models varied from country to country. The gauge layout and interior styling in the Series 3 was only changed for the North American models. Additionally, North America was the only market to have offered the first generation of the RX-7 with the fuel-injected 13B, model GSL-SE. Sales of the first generation RX-7 were strong, with a total of 474,565 cars produced; 377,878 (nearly eighty percent) were sold in the United States alone. In 2004, Sports Car International named this car seventh on their list of Top Sports Cars of the 1970s. In 1983, the RX-7 would appear on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for the first time in 20 years.

RX-7 Turbo[edit]

Following the introduction of the first turbocharged rotary engine in the Luce/Cosmo, a similar, also fuel injected and non-intercooled 12A turbocharged engine was made available for the top-end model of the Series 3 RX-7 in Japan. It was introduced in September 1983.[6] The engine was rated at 165 PS (121 kW) (JIS) at 6,500 rpm. While the peak power figures were only slightly higher than those of the engine used in the Luce/Cosmo, the new "Impact Turbo" was developed specifically to deal with the different exhaust gas characteristics of a rotary engine. Both rotor vanes of the turbine were remodelled and made smaller, and the turbine had a twenty percent higher speed than a turbo intended for a conventional engine.[7] The Savanna Turbo was short-lived, as the next generation of the RX-7 was about to be introduced.

Second generation (FC3S)[edit]

Motor vehicle

Second generation (FC)
1986 Mazda RX-7 (FC) coupe (21105743820).jpg
Also calledMazda Savanna RX-7
Production
DesignerAkio Uchiyama (lead designer)
Body style
PlatformMazda FC
Engine
Transmission
Wheelbase2,431 mm (95.7 in)
Length
  • 1986-88: 4,290 mm (168.9 in)
  • 1989–92: 4,315 mm (169.9 in)
Width1,689 mm (66.5 in)
Height1,265 mm (49.8 in)
Curb weight1,223–1,293 kg (2,696–2,851 lb)
Mazda RX-7 Turbo (JDM), note the air-intake on the bonnet distinguishing it from the naturally aspirated models

The second generation of the RX-7 ("FC", VIN begins JM1FC3 or JMZFC1), still known as the Mazda Savanna RX-7 in Japan, featured a complete restyling which was reminiscent of the Porsche 924 and 944. Mazda's stylists, led by Chief Project Engineer Akio Uchiyama (内山 昭朗),[8] focused on the Porsche 924 for their inspiration in designing the FC because the new car was being designed primarily for the American market, where the majority of first-generation of the RX-7 models had been sold.

This strategy was chosen after Uchiyama and others on the design team spent time in the United States studying owners of the earlier RX-7s and other sports cars popular in the American market. The Porsche 944 was selling particularly well at the time and provided clues as to what sports-car enthusiasts might find compelling in future RX-7 styling and equipment.

While the SA22 was a purer sports car, the FC tended toward the softer sport-tourer trends of its day, sharing some similarities with the HB series Cosmo. Handling was much improved, with less of the oversteer tendencies of the SA22. The rear end design was vastly improved from the SA22's live rear axle to a more modern, Independent Rear Suspension (rear axle). Steering was more precise, with rack and pinion steering replacing the old recirculating ball steering of the SA22. Disc brakes also became standard, with some models (S4: Sport, GXL, GTU, Turbo II, Convertible; S5: GXL, GTUs, Turbo, Convertible) offering four-piston front brakes. The rear seats were optional in some models of the FC RX-7, but are not commonly found in the American Market. Mazda also introduced Dynamic Tracking Suspension System (DTSS) in the FC. The revised independent rear suspension incorporated special toe control hubs which were capable of introducing a limited degree of passive rear steering under cornering loads. The DTSS worked by allowing a slight amount of toe-out under normal driving conditions but induced slight toe-in under heavier cornering loads at around 0.5g or more; toe-out in the rear allows for a more responsive rotation of the rear, but toe-in allowed for a more stable rear under heavier cornering. Another new feature was the Auto Adjusting Suspension (AAS). The system changed damping characteristics according to the road and driving conditions. The system compensated for camber changes and provided anti-dive and anti-squat effects.

In Japan, a limited edition of the FC called Infini was available with production limited to only 600 cars for each year. Some special noted features for all Infini series are: infini logo on the rear, upgraded suspension, upgraded ECU, higher power output of the engine, lightened weight, 15-inch BBS aluminum alloy wheels, Infini logo steering wheel, aero bumper kits, bronze colored window glass, floor bar on the passenger side, aluminum bonnet with scoop, flare, and holder. The car was thought as the pinnacle of the RX-7 series (until the introduction of the FD). The Infini IV came with other special items such as black bucket seats, 16-inch BBS wheels, Knee pads, and all the other items mentioned before. There are differing years for the Infini, which denoted the series. Series I was introduced in 1987, Series II was introduced in 1988, Series III was introduced in 1990, and Series IV was introduced in 1991. Series I and II came in White or Black exterior colours, Series III came in Forest Green only, and Series IV came in Forest Green or Noble Green exterior colours. There are only minor differences between the Series models, the biggest change which was from the Series II being an S4 and the Series III and IV being an S5.

The Turbo II model uses a turbocharger with a twin scroll design. The smaller primary chamber is engineered to cancel the turbo lag at low engine speeds. At higher revolutions, the secondary chamber is opened, pumping out 33 percent more power than the naturally aspirated counterpart. The Turbo II also has an air-to-air intercooler which has a dedicated intake on the hood. The intake is slightly offset toward the left side of the hood. In the Japanese market, only the turbocharged engine was available; the naturally-aspirated version was only available for select export markets. This can be attributed to insurance companies in many Western nations penalising turbocharged cars (thus restricting potential sales). The Japanese market car produces 185 PS (136 kW) in the original version; this engine was upgraded to 205 PS (151 kW) in April 1989 as part of the Series 5 facelift. The limited edition, two-seater Infini model received a 215 PS (158 kW) version beginning in June 1990, thanks to an upgraded exhaust system and high-octane fuel.

Australian Motors Mazda introduced a limited run of 250 'Sports' model Series 4 RX-7s; each with no power steering, power windows or rear wiper as an attempt to reduce the weight of the car.

Convertible[edit]

1988 Mazda RX-7 convertible (FC)

Mazda introduced a convertible version of the RX-7 in 1988 with a naturally aspirated engine—introduced to the US market with ads featuring actor James Garner, at the time featured in many Mazda television advertisements.

The convertible featured a removable rigid section over the passengers and a folding fabric rear section with heatable rear glass window. Power operated, lowering the top required unlatching two header catches, power lowering the top, exiting the car (or reaching over to the right side latch), and folding down the rigid section manually. Mazda introduced with the convertible the first integral windblocker, a rigid panel that folded up from behind the passenger seats to block unwanted drafts from reaching the passengers—thereby extending the driving season for the car with the top retracted.[9] The convertible also featured optional headrest mounted audio speakers and a folding leather snap-fastened tonneau cover. The convertible assembly was precisely engineered and manufactured, and dropped into the ready body assembly as a complete unit—a first in convertible production.

Production ceased in 1991 after Mazda marketed a limited run of 500 examples for 1992 for the domestic market only. In markets outside the US, only the turbocharged version of the convertible was available.

North America[edit]

The Series 4 (produced for the 1986 through the 1988 model years) was available with a naturally aspirated, fuel injected13B-VDEI producing 146 hp (109 kW; 148 PS) in North American spec. An optional turbocharged model, known as the Turbo II in the American market, was rated at 182 hp (136 kW; 185 PS) and 183 lb⋅ft (248 N⋅m) of torque at 3,500 rpm. The turbo model was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1986, with a target of 20 percent of overall RX-7 sales.[10] The Series 5 (1989–1992) featured updated styling and better engine management, as well as lighter rotors and a higher compression ratio 9.7:1 for the naturally aspirated model, and 9.0:1 for the turbo model. The naturally aspirated Series 5's 13B-DEI engine was rated at 160 hp (119 kW; 162 PS), while the Series 5 Turbo was rated at 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS) at 6,500 rpm and 195 lb⋅ft (264 N⋅m) of torque at 3,500 rpm.

Though about 363 kg (800 lb) heavier and more isolated than its predecessor, the FC continued to win accolades from the press. The FC RX-7 was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year for 1986, and the Turbo II was on Car and Driver magazine's 10Best list for a second time in 1987.

Mazda sold 86,000 RX-7s in the US alone in 1986, its first model year, with sales peaking in 1988.

10th Anniversary RX-7[edit]

Mazda introduced the 10th Anniversary RX-7 in 1988 as a limited production model based on the RX-7 Turbo II. Production was limited to 1,500 units. The 10th Anniversary RX-7 features a Crystal White (paint code UC) monochromatic paint scheme with matching white body side mouldings, tail light housings, mirrors and 16-inch alloy seven-spoke wheels. There were two "series" of 10th Anniversary models, with essentially a VIN-split running production change between the two. The most notable difference between the series can be found on the exterior- the earlier "Series I" cars had a black "Mazda" logo decal on the front bumper cover, whereas most if not all "Series II" cars did not have the decal. Series II cars also received the lower seat cushion height/tilt feature that Series I cars lacked. Another distinctive exterior feature is the bright gold rotor-shaped 10th Anniversary Edition badge on the front fenders (yellow-gold on the Series II cars). A distinctive 10th Anniversary package feature is the all black leather interior (code D7), which included not just the seats, but the door panel inserts as well and a leather-wrapped MOMO steering wheel (with 10th Anniversary Edition embossed horn button) and MOMO leather shift knob with integrated boot. All exterior glass is bronze tinted (specific in North America to only the 10th Anniversary), and the windshield was equipped with the embedded secondary antenna also found on some other select models with the upgraded stereo packages. Other 10th Anniversary Edition specific items were headlight washers (the only RX-7 in the US market that got this feature), glass breakage detectors added to the factory alarm system, 10th Anniversary Edition logoed floor mats, 10th Anniversary Edition embroidered front hood protector and accompanying front end mask (or "bra"), and an aluminum under pan.[11][12]

GTUs (1989–1990)[edit]

In 1989, with the introduction of a face-lifted FC RX-7, and to commemorate the RX-7s IMSA domination, Mazda introduced a limited model labeled the GTUs. Starting with the lightweight base model, which came with manual windows, no rear wiper, the sunroof and A/C was dealer optioned, the GTUs added items found on the Turbo model such as four piston front brakes, ventilated rear brake rotors, vehicle speed-sensing power steering, one-piece front chin spoiler, cloth-covered Turbo model seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16 inch wheels, 205/55VR tyres, and a GTUs-only 4.300 Viscous-type limited slip differential (all other FC LSD's were 4.100). This allowed quicker acceleration from the non—turbo-powered 13B. Mazda are rumoured to have built 100 cars in 1989–1990. There have not been 100 of these models found and registered. The only way to verify the GTUs model is through the door ID tag and firewall vin number. It is the only model with turbo ID tags and a non turbo vin.[13]

Third generation (FD3S)[edit]

Motor vehicle

Third generation (FD)
Mazda-rx7-3rd-generation01.jpg
Also calledɛ̃fini RX-7 (1991–1997)
Production
Designer
Body style2-door coupé
PlatformMazda FD
Engine1308 cc 13B-REWtwin-turbotwin-rotor
Transmission
Wheelbase2,446 mm (96.3 in)
Length4,285 mm (168.7 in)
Width1,760 mm (69.3 in)
Height1,230 mm (48.4 in)
Curb weight1,218–1,340 kg (2,685–2,954 lb)

The third generation RX-7, FD (chassis code FD3S for Japan and JM1FD for the North America), featured an updated body design. The 13B-REW was the first-ever mass-produced sequential twin-turbocharger system to be exported from Japan,[16] boosting power to 255 PS (188 kW; 252 hp) in 1993 and finally 280 PS (206 kW; 276 hp) by the time production ended in Japan in 2002.

The chief designer was Yoichi Sato (佐藤 洋一, Satō Yōichi).[8] Another key designer was Wu-huang Chin (秦無荒), a Taiwanese automotive artist who also worked on the Mazda MX-5 Miata.[17]

In Japan, sales were affected by this series' non-compliance with Japanese dimension regulations and Japanese buyers paid annual taxes for the car's non-compliant width. As the RX-7 was now considered an upper-level luxury sports car due to the increased width dimensions, Mazda also offered two smaller offerings, the Eunos Roadster, and the Eunos Presso hatchback.

The sequential twin turbocharging system, introduced in 1992, was extremely complex and was developed with the aid of Hitachi. It was previously used on the exclusive-to-Japan Cosmo JC Series. The system used two turbochargers, one to provide 10 psi (0.69 bar) of boost from 1,800 rpm. The second turbocharger activated in the upper half of the rpm range, during full throttle acceleration — at 4,000 rpm to maintain 10 psi (0.69 bar) until redline.[18] The changeover process occurred at 4,500 rpm, with a momentary dip in pressure to 8 psi (0.55 bar),[19] and provided semi-linear acceleration from a wide torque curve throughout the entire rev range under normal operation.

Under high speed driving conditions, the changeover process produced a significant increase in power output and forced technical drivers to adjust their driving style to anticipate and mitigate any over-steer during cornering.[citation needed] The standard turbo control system used 4 control solenoids, 4 actuators, both a vacuum and pressure chamber, and several feet of preformed vacuum/pressure hoses, all of which were prone to failure in part due to complexity and the inherent high temperatures of the rotary engine.[19]

A special high-performance version of the RX-7 was introduced in Australia in 1995, named the RX-7 SP. This model was developed to achieve homologation for racing in the Australian GT Production Car Series and the Eastern Creek 12 Hour production car race.[20] An initial run of 25 cars were made, and later an extra 10 were built by Mazda due to demand.[21] The RX-7 SP was rated at 277 PS (204 kW; 273 hp) and 357 N⋅m (263 lb⋅ft) of torque, a substantial increase over the standard model. Other changes included a race-developed carbon fibre nose cone and rear spoiler, a carbon fibre 120 L fuel tank (as opposed to the 76 L tank in the standard car), a 4.3:1 final drive ratio, 17-inch wheels, larger brake rotors and calipers. A "three times more efficient" intercooler, a new exhaust, and a modified ECU were also included.[21] Weight was reduced significantly with the aid of further carbon fibre usage including lightweight vented bonnet and Recaro seats to reduce weight to 1,218 kg (from 1,250 kg) making this model road-going race car that matched the performance of the rival Porsche Carrera RS Club Sport for the final year Mazda officially entered.[20] The formula paid off when the RX-7 SP won the 1995 Eastern Creek 12 Hour, giving Mazda the winning 12 hour trophy for a fourth straight year.[20] The winning car also gained a podium finish at the international tarmac rally Targa Tasmania months later. A later special version, the Bathurst R, was introduced in 2001 to commemorate this victory in Japan only.[22] It was based on the RX-7 Type R and 500 were built in total, featuring adjustable dampers, a carbon fibre shift knob, carbon fibre interior trim, special fog lamps and a different parking brake lever.[23]

In the United Kingdom, for 1992, customers were offered only one version of the FD, which was based on a combination of the US touring and the base model.[citation needed] For the following year, in a bid to speed up sales, Mazda reduced the price of the RX-7 to £25,000, down from £32,000, and refunded the difference to those who bought the car before that was announced. From 1992 to 1995, only 210 FD RX-7s were officially sold in the UK.[24] The FD continued to be imported to the UK until 1996. In 1998, for a car that had suffered from slow sales when it was officially sold, with a surge of interest and the benefit of a newly introduced SVA scheme, the FD would become so popular that there were more parallel and grey imported models brought into the country than Mazda UK had ever imported.[25]

Information about various trims and models is listed as follows:

  • Series 6 (1992–1995) was exported throughout the world and had the highest sales.[citation needed] In Japan, Mazda sold the RX-7 through its ɛ̃fini brand as the ɛ̃fini RX-7. Models in Japan included the Type S, the base model, Type R, the lightweight sports model, Type RZ, Type RB, A-spec and the Touring X, which came with a four-speed automatic transmission.[26] The RX-7 was sold in 1993–1995 in the U.S. and Canada. The Series 6 was rated at 255 PS (188 kW; 252 hp) and 294 N⋅m (217 lb⋅ft).
  • In 1993, three North American models were offered; the "base", the touring, and the R models. The touring FD included a sunroof, fog lights, leather seats, a rear window wiper and a Bose Acoustic Wave system.[19] The R (R1 in 1993 and R2 in 1994–95) models featured upgraded springs, Bilstein shocks, an additional engine oil cooler, an aerodynamics package comprising a front lip and rear wing, and suede seats.[27] The R2 differed from the R1 in that it had slightly softer suspension.[19] In 1994, the interior received a small update to include a passenger air bag, and a PEG (performance equipment group) model was offered. This model featured leather seats and a sunroof. It did not include the fog lights or Bose stereo of the touring package. In 1995, the touring package was replaced by the PEP (popular equipment package). The PEP package contained a rear wing, leather seats, sunroof and fog lights, but didn't have the Bose Stereo nor the rear window wiper.[19]
  • In Europe, only 1,152 examples of the FD were sold through the official Mazda network, due to a high price and a fairly short time span. Only one model was available and it included twin oil-coolers, electric sunroof, cruise control and the rear storage bins in place of the back seats.[citation needed] It also has the stiffer suspension and strut braces from the R models.[citation needed] Germany topped the sales with 446 cars, while UK is second at 210 and Greece third with 168 (thanks to that country's tax structure which favored the rotary engine).[24] The European models also received the 1994 interior facelift, with a passenger air bag.[citation needed] Sales in most of Europe ended after 1995 as it would have been too expensive to reengineer the car to meet the new Euro 2 emissions regulations.
Series 6 (1992–1995)
ModelPower outputTorqueGearboxWeight
Type R 255 PS (188 kW; 252 hp)294 N⋅m (217 lbf⋅ft)5-speed manual1,260 kg (2,778 lb)
Type RZ1,230 kg (2,712 lb)
Type RB 1,260 kg (2,778 lb)
A-Spec 265 PS (195 kW; 261 hp) 1,220 kg (2,690 lb)
EU-Spec 239 PS (176 kW; 236 hp)294 N⋅m (217 lbf⋅ft)1,325 kg (2,921 lb)
Touring X 255 PS (188 kW; 252 hp)4-speed automatic1,330 kg (2,932 lb)[28]
  • Series 7 (produced from 1996 to 1998) included minor changes to the car. Updates included a simplified vacuum routing manifold and a 16-bit ECU which combined with an improved intake system netted an extra 10 PS (7 kW). This additional horsepower was only available on manual transmission cars as the increase in power was only seen above 7,000 rpm, which was the redline for automatic transmission equipped cars. The rear spoiler and tail lights were also redesigned. The Type RZ model was now equipped with larger brake rotors as well as 17 inch BBS wheels. In Japan, the Series 7 RX-7 was marketed under the Mazda and ɛ̃fini brand name. The Series 7 was also sold in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Series 7 RX-7s were produced only in right-hand-drive configuration.
  • Series 8 (produced from 1998 to 2002) was the final series, and was only available in the Japanese market. More efficient turbochargers were available on certain models, while improved intercooling and radiator cooling was made possible by a redesigned front fascia with larger openings. The seats, steering wheel, and instrument cluster were all changed. The rear spoiler was modified and gained adjustability on certain models. Three horsepower levels are available: 255 PS for automatic transmission equipped cars, 265 PS for the Type RB, and 280 PS available on the top-of-the-line sporting models.

The high-end "Type RS" came equipped with Bilstein suspension and 17-inch wheels as standard equipment, and reduced weight to 1,280 kg (2,822 lb). Power was increased with the addition of a less restrictive muffler and more efficient turbochargers which featured abradable compressor seals, 280 PS (206 kW; 276 hp) at 6500 rpm and 314 N⋅m (232 lb⋅ft) of torque at 5000 rpm as per the maximum Japanese limit. The Type RS had a brake upgrade by increasing rotor diameter front and rear to 314 mm (12.4 in) and front rotor thickness from 22 mm (0.9 in) to 32 mm (1.3 in). The Type RS version also sported a 4.30 final drive ratio, providing a significant reduction in its 0–100 km/h (62 mph) time. The gearbox was also modified, 5th gear was made longer to reduce cruising rpm and improve fuel efficiency. The very limited edition Type RZ version included all the features of the Type RS, but at a lighter weight, at 1,270 kg (2,800 lb). It also featured gun-metal colored BBS wheels and a red racing themed interior. An improved ABS system worked by braking differently on each wheel, allowing the car better turning during braking. The effective result made for safer driving for the average buyer.

Instrument panel of RX-7 spirit R

Easily the most collectible of all the RX-7s was the last model limited to 1,500 units. Dubbed the "Spirit R", they combined all the extra features Mazda had used on previous limited-run specials with new exclusive features like cross-drilled brake rotors. Sticker prices when new were 3,998,000 yen for Type-A and B and 3,398,000 yen for Type-C. Mazda's press release said "The Type-A Spirit R model is the ultimate RX-7, boasting the most outstanding driving performance in its history."

  • There are three models of "Spirit R": the "Type A", "Type B", and "Type C". The "Type A" is a two-seater with a 5-speed manual transmission. It features lightweight red trim Recaro front seats as seen in the earlier RZ models. The "Type B" shares all features of the "Type A" except has a 2+2 seat configuration. The "Type C" is also a 2+2, but has a four-speed automatic transmission. Of the 1504 Spirit R's made, 1044 were Type A, 420 Type B and 40 Type C.[29] An exclusive Spirit R paint color, Titanium Grey, adorned 719 of the 1504 cars produced.

In Japan the FD3S production span is categorized into 6 models: #1 from 1991/12, #2 from 1993/08, #3 from 1995/03, #4 from 1996/01, #5 from 1998/12 and #6 from 2000/10. The model number (1 to 6) actually shows as the first digit of the 6 digits long JDM VIN, for example in VIN# FD3S-ABCDEF the A is the model number. A total of 9 limited editions (type RZ in 1992/10 (300 cars), RZ 1993/10 (150), R-II Bathurst 1994/09 (350), R Bathurst X 1995/07 (777), RB Bathurst X 1997/01 (700), RS-R 1997/10 (500), RZ 2000/10 (325), R Bathurst R 2001/08 (650), Spirit R 2002/04 (1504)) and 2 special editions (Bathurst R 1995/02, R Bathurst 2001/12 (2174)) were produced.[30][31][32]

Series 8 (1998–2002)
ModelPowerTorqueGearboxWeightSeatingBrakesWheelsTyres
Type RB 265 PS (195 kW; 261 hp)294 N·m (217 lb·ft)5-speed manual1,310 kg (2,888 lb)2+2294 mm (11.6 in)16x8.0JJ (front)
16x8.0JJ (rear)
225/50R16 92V(front)
225/50R16 92V(rear)
Type RB 4AT 255 PS (188 kW; 252 hp)4-speed automatic1,340 kg (2,954 lb)
Type RB-S 265 PS (195 kW; 261 hp)5-speed manual1,320 kg (2,888 lb)225/50ZR16 (front)
225/50ZR16 (rear)
Type R 280 PS (206 kW; 276 hp)314 N·m (231 lb·ft)1,310 kg (2,888 lb)
Type R
Bathurst
1,280 kg (2,822 lb)
Type R
Bathurst R
Type RS314 mm (12.4 in)17x8.0JJ (front)
17x8.5JJ (rear)
235/45R17 (front)
255/40R17 (rear)
Type RZ1,270 kg (2,800 lb)2
Spirit R
(Type A)
Spirit R
(Type B)
1,280 kg (2,822 lb)2+2
Spirit R
(Type C)
255 PS (188 kW; 252 hp)4-speed automatic294 mm (11.6 in)

Reviews and awards[edit]

The FD RX-7 was Motor Trend'sImport Car of the Year. When Playboy first reviewed the FD RX-7 in 1993, they tested it in the same issue as the [then] new Dodge Viper. In that issue, Playboy declared the RX-7 to be the better of the two cars. It went on to win Playboy's Car of the Year for 1993. The FD RX-7 also made Car and Driver's Ten Best list for 1993 through 1995, for every year in which it was sold state-side. June 2007 Road & Track proclaimed "The ace in Mazda's sleeve is the RX-7, a car once touted as the purest, most exhilarating sports car in the world." After its introduction in 1991, it won the Automotive Researchers' and Journalists' Conference Car of the Year award in Japan.

Handling in the FD was regarded as world-class, and it is still regarded as being one of the finest handling and the best balanced cars of all time.[33][34] The continued use of the front-midship engine and drivetrain layout, combined with a 50:50 front-rear weight distribution ratio and low center of gravity, made the FD a very competent car at the limits.[citation needed]

Motorsport[edit]

Racing versions of the first-generation RX-7 were entered at the prestigious 24 hours of Le Mans endurance race. The first outing for the car, equipped with a 13B engine, failed by less than one second to qualify in 1979. The next year, a 12A-equipped RX-7 not only qualified, it placed 21st overall. That same car did not finish in 1981, along with two more 13B cars. Those two cars were back for 1982, with one 14th-place finish and another DNF. The RX-7 Le Mans effort was replaced by the 717C prototype for 1983.

Mazda began racing RX-7s in the IMSAGTU series in 1979. In its first year, RX-7s placed first and second at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and claimed the GTU series championship. The car continued winning, claiming the GTU championship seven years in a row. The RX-7 took the GTO championship ten years in a row from 1982. In addition to this, a GTX version was developed, named the Mazda RX-7 GTP; this was unsuccessful, and the GTP version of the car was also unsuccessful. The RX-7 has won more IMSA races than any other car model. In the USA SCCA competition RX-7s were raced with great success by Don Kearney in the NE Division and John Finger in the SE Division. Pettit Racing won the GT2 Road Racing Championship in 1998. The car was a '93 Mazda RX-7 street car with only bolt-on accessories. At season end Pettit had 140 points—63 points more than the second place team. This same car finished the Daytona Rolex 24-hour race four times.

The RX-7 also fared well at the Spa 24 Hours race. Three Savanna/RX-7s were entered in 1981 by Tom Walkinshaw Racing. After hours of battling with several BMW 530is and Ford Capris, the RX-7 driven by Pierre Dieudonné and Tom Walkinshaw won the event. Mazda had turned the tables on BMW, who had beaten Mazda's Familia Rotary to the podium eleven years earlier at the same event. TWR's prepared RX-7s also won the British Touring Car Championship in 1980 and 1981, driven by Win Percy.

A Mazda RX-7 Group B rally car which competed in the 1979 Monte Carlo Rally
IMSA RX7 Supercar drivers Peter Farrell and Willy Lewis.
Mazda PR Supercar Team.jpg

Canadian born Australian touring car driver Allan Moffat was instrumental in bringing Mazda into the Australian touring car scene which ran to Group C regulations unique to Australia. Over a four-year span beginning in 1981, Moffat took the Mazda RX-7 to victory in the 1983 Australian Touring Car Championship, as well as a trio of Bathurst 1000 podiums, in 1981 (3rd with Derek Bell), 1983 (second with Yoshimi Katayama) and 1984 (third with former motorcycle champion Gregg Hansford). Privateer racer Peter McLeod drove his RX-7 to win the 1983 Australian Endurance Championship, while Moffat won the Endurance title in 1982 and 1984. Australia's adoption of international Group A regulations, combined with Mazda's reluctance to homologate a Group A RX-7 (meaning that a base number of 5,000 had to be built, plus another 500 "evolution" models), ended Mazda's active participation in Australian touring car racing at the end of the 1984 season. Plans had been in place to replace the RX-7 with a Mazda 929, but testing by Allan Moffat in late 1984 had indicated that the car would be uncompetitive and Mazda abandoned plans to race in Group A.

The RX-7 even made an appearance in the World Rally Championship. The car finished 11th on its debut at the RAC Rally in Wales in 1981. Group B received much of the focus for the first part of the 1980s, but Mazda did manage to place third at the 1985 Acropolis Rally, and when the Group B was folded, its Group A-based replacement, the 323 4WD claimed the victory at Swedish Rally in both 1987 and 1989.

IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Series

The third generation Mazda RX7 entered its first professional race in the world on February 23, 1992, at the Miami Grand Prix. The cars made it to the podium many times and won the IMSA Supercar race at Sebring in 1994. Peter Farrell Motorsport also fielded RX7's in the IMSA Firestone Firehawk Endurance Series dominating many races and finishing runner up in the overall Championship two years in a row.

Revivals[edit]

Mazda has made several references to a revival of the RX-7 in various forms over the years since the RX-8 was discontinued. In November 2012, MX-5 program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto indicated that Mazda was working on a 16X based RX-7, with 300 horsepower.[35][36]

In October 2015, Mazda unveiled the RX-Vision concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show, powered by a new rotary engine and featured design cues reminiscent to the third generation RX-7. A production-ready concept could have followed suit by 2017, marking 50 years since the revealing of Mazda's first rotary-powered sports car, the Cosmo.[37]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ abcdeLong, Brian (2004). RX-7. Dorchester: Veloce Publishing. p. 206. ISBN .
  2. ^Lewis-George, Elliot (2013). Berg, Nik (ed.). "Mazda Heroes #1 – Ikuo Maeda". Zoom-Zoom Magazine (16): 6. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  3. ^ abHogg, Tony (ed.). "1981 Buyer's Guide". Road & Track's Road Test Annual & Buyer's Guide 1981 (January–February 1981): 105.
  4. ^Büschi, Hans-Ulrich, ed. (March 10, 1983). Automobil Revue '83 (in German and French). 78. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag, AG. p. 363. ISBN .
  5. ^"Development of Low-Emission Rotary EnginesArchived 2010-01-16 at the Wayback Machine", Mazda Motor Corporation
  6. ^Dieudonne, Pierre (1983-12-15). "Ballade Japonaise: à la découverte des Mazda Turbo" [Japanese ballad: Discovering the Mazda Turbos]. Le Moniteur de l'Automobile (in French). 34 (784): 40.
  7. ^Dieudonne, pp. 43-44
  8. ^ ab望月, 澄男 (2017). マツダRX-7(PDF) (in Japanese). Japan: Miki Press. p. 21. ISBN . Archived from the original(PDF) on 2020-02-19.
  9. ^Cranswick, Marc (2016). Mazda Rotary-engined Cars: From Cosmo 110S to RX-8. Veloce Publishing Ltd. p. 136. ISBN .ISBN 9781845849436.
  10. ^Smith, David C., ed. (March 1986). "Mazda eyes midsize U.S. market". Ward's Auto World. Ward's Communications. 22 (3): 30.
  11. ^McCourt, Mark J. (2015-03-23). "A Decade of Delight: 1988 Mazda RX-7 10th Anniversary Limited Edition brochure". Hemmings. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  12. ^Constantine, Chris (2018-01-08). "Limited Edition 1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo 10th Anniversary for Sale". The Drive. Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  13. ^Tonn, Chris (2015-11-04). "Digestible Collectible: 1989 Mazda RX-7 GTUs". Retrieved 2019-04-19.
  14. ^Yuan, Dave (2016-12-28). "25 YEAR CLUB: FD3S Mazda RX-7". Japanese Nostalgic Car. Retrieved 2019-09-01.
  15. ^Long, Brian (1 December 2003). RX-7 Mazda's Rotary Engine Sports Car: Updated & Enlarged Edition. Veloce Publishing Ltd. ISBN . Retrieved 9 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  16. ^"Mazda pays tribute to the RX-7". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  17. ^"Design Central". Los Angeles Times. 30 January 1995.
  18. ^"Mazda RX-7 FD - review, history, prices and specs". Evo. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  19. ^ abcde"Your definitive Mazda RX-7 FD buyer's guide | Hagerty Articles". Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  20. ^ abcRobinson, James (2016-09-16). "Uber rare RX-7 at Shannon's". motoring.com.au. carsales.com Limited. Archived from the original on 2016-09-17.
  21. ^ ab"Mazda Australia's RX7-SP and RX7-SP2 (3rd Generation RX7)". 2001-03-22. Archived from the original on 2015-05-27.
  22. ^"Mazda RX-7 Type R Bathurst R Review". TradeUniqueCars.com.au. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  23. ^"2001 Mazda RX-7 Type R Bathurst | Review | SuperCars.net". Supercars.net. 2016-04-24. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  24. ^ ab"Top Gear's mk3 Mazda RX-7 buying guide". Top Gear. 2018-03-12. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  25. ^"The Complete History Of The Mazda RX-7 - Garage Dreams". Garage Dreams. 2018-02-05. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  26. ^"Detailed specs review of 1994 Efini RX-7 Touring X model for Japan". www.automobile-catalog.com. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  27. ^"Looking Back: Driving A Bone-Stock 1993 Mazda RX-7 R1". DrivingLine. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  28. ^"1993 Efini RX-7 (FD-series) Type 2".
  29. ^"Mazda RX-7 FD3S Spirit-R". GTR-Registry.com. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  30. ^I Love FD3S RX-7, book in Japanese ISBN 4-87366-999-5
  31. ^Mazda official RX-7 chronology page http://www2.mazda.com/ja/stories/history/rx-7/chronology/
  32. ^"Mazda RX-7 FD3S Series 8 (Version V + Version VI)". GTR-Registry.com. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  33. ^"The Mazda RX-7 (FD) is Beautifully Engineered". beautifully engineered. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  34. ^http://www.jdmcarboy.com/category.php?id_category=1392[permanent dead link]
  35. ^"New Mazda RX-7 to launch by 2017". leftlanenews.com.
  36. ^"Mazda RX-7 to Return in 2017". CarBuzz.
  37. ^Tisshaw, Mark (2015-10-28). "Mazda RX-Vision rotary-engined sports car concept revealed". Autocar.co.uk.

General sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Mauck, Scott & Haynes, John H. (1986). Mazda RX-7 Automotive Repair Manual. Haynes North America. ISBN .
  • Yamaguchi, Jack K. (1985). The New Mazda RX-7 and Mazda Rotary Engine Sports Cars. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN .
  • Heimann, Jim, ed. (2006). 70s Cars. TASCHEN GmbH. ISBN .
  • Matras, John (1994). Sports Car Color History Mazda RX-7. Motorbooks International. ISBN .

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mazda RX-7.
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mazda_RX-7
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Mazda RX-7 FD - review, history, prices and specs

The RX nomenclature plays a massively important role in Mazda’s past – historically, anything bearing the name has also had a rotary engine, but the RX-7 always had just that little bit more panache than its related RX family. The RX-7 is arguably most recognised by UK car buyers in FD form, the third and final generation that was built over the course of 10 years, between 1992 and 2002. 

Imported in relatively low numbers to the UK, the FD RX-7’s core defining feature was its use of a twin-turbocharged twin rotor 13B-REW engine. The RX-7 produced 237bhp upon its release in the UK, but thanks to a lithe kerb-weight was hardly lacking against more powerful rivals like the Toyota Supra, Honda NSX and Nissan Skyline GT-R.

> Click here for more information on the upcoming all-new Toyota Supra

Today the RX-7 is a rare beast, especially one that has been untouched by the greasy fingers of backyard tuners, but find one with a good history and sensible previous owners and the rewards are considerable. There is a caveat with the RX-7 though, as with all rotary-engined Mazda’s, the RX-7’s highly-strung engine not only requires lots of TLC to remain healthy, but also cyclical engine rebuilds thanks to the deterioration of rotor seals.

RX-7 in detail

The original RX-7 was launched in 1978 – its light, compact fastback style and rotary engines proved a hit among buyers. Buoyed on by a strong Japanese economy, Mazda subsequently launched the larger and heavier FC model in 1986 with more of GT bent, but it failed to entertain like the previous car which lead to Mazda’s decision to return to its lightweight roots with the third and so far final generation FD.

The model launched in 1992 was definitely one of the most striking designs to come out of Japan up until then, its low-slung, shrink-wrapped bodywork being a complete contrast to the boxy FC. Launched exclusively with the aforementioned 13B-REW twin turbo engine, the RX-7 was available with both 5-speed manual and sluggish 4-speed automatic options.

The engine itself was based on the one used in Mazda’s Cosmo coupe – a Japanese domestic market four-seater GT that not only combined turbocharging and a rotary engine for the first time, but also introduced the first application of digital sat-nav.

Featuring a sequential twin-turbo setup, the RX-7 employed just the one turbo at lower engine speeds to increase response, with the second only coming into play above 4000rpm. Although it reduced turbo-lag, that very 90s of issues still plagued the RX-7’s rotary engine, chiefly due to the engine's natural lack of torque. The other compromise of the turbos was the loss of the previous RX-7’s dizzying rev limits, this time the motor was limited to a relatively normal 8000rpm.

Launched in the UK in a single high specification to rival the Porsche 911, the RX-7 cost a substantial £32,000 in 1992, but after a year of slow sales, Mazda dropped it down to £25,000. UK cars were set up with the stiffer suspension and strut braces of the Japanese market R model but the second hand car market has subsequently been flooded with privately imported models, making it difficult to pin down the specific specifications due to the endless confusing Japanese model variants.

Later cars eventually upped power to the 276bhp 'gentleman’s agreement' benchmark, with kerb weight always hovering around 1300kg, but the most focused models like the iconic Spirit R and Type RZ made famous in racing games were all specific to Japan.

Jordan Katsianis

Mazda RX-7 (1992)
EngineTwin-chamber rotary, twin-turbo
Max power237bhp @ 6500rpm
Max torque218lb ft @ 5000rpm
Weight1284kg
Power-to-weight184bhp/ton
0-60mph5.4sec (claimed)
Top speed156mph (limited)

We were lucky enough to drive a standard UK specification car, keep scrolling for our full review by Richard Meaden...

Mazda RX-7 review

I can still remember the last time I drove a third-generation, ‘FD’ RX-7. But that’s because it was also the first time. It was way back in 1993, when the car was new and causing a stir in the UK. There was a real buzz about it, and I’m not just talking about its audible rev limiter. Even those who would not normally be drawn to Japanese performance cars found the fast and voluptuous rotary-powered Mazda very hard to ignore. 

The same was true of Toyota’s bewinged A80 twin-turbo Toyota Supra and Nissan’s slightly more discreet, but no less appealing, 300ZX. That this was also the heyday for Honda’s NSX makes it clear how strong the Japanese brands were in the early to mid ’90s. Factor in BMW’s equally fresh E36 M3 and Porsche’s 968 and you’ll appreciate this was something of a golden era for fans of fast, front-engined and relatively affordable rear-drive coupes.

As you’d expect from Mazda, the RX-7 was the oddball of the bunch, courtesy of its twin-turbo 13B-REW Wankel engine. With twin rotor chambers (each displacing 654cc) and turbo equivalency applied, the RX-7 was deemed to have a 2.6-litre motor. The unit’s compact size and light weight made it easy to package behind the front axle line and low in the chassis for a 50:50 weight distribution and low centre of gravity.

> Mazda MX-5 review - Latest roadster impresses... up to a point

Mazda RX-7: twin-turbo Wankel rotary engine

The engine was unusual for its use of twin sequential turbos. Indeed, it was amongst the first of its kind. The concept was simple, the first turbo boosting from 2000rpm, with exhaust gases then fed directly from it into the second, identically sized, turbo to further reduce lag. It was an effective, if complex system that relied on precise electronic control of boost pressures to work seamlessly. 

In Japan it was tuned to deliver 255bhp, but in Europe it developed a slightly softer 237bhp at 6500rpm, with 218lb ft of torque at 5000rpm. That still put it on a par with the four-cylinder 968, but some way short of the more potent six-cylinder M3, Supra and 300ZX. Nevertheless, the 1284kg RX-7 remained an appealing and rapid machine, capable of hitting 60mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds and touching 156mph flat-out. That was quick in the early ’90s, kids.

Mazda RX-7 FD in the UK

Just 210 of these curvy coupes were officially imported to the UK, and this is one of them. Of course, many more subsequently arrived from Japan in the late-’90s, courtesy of the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) import scheme, but the FD RX-7 remains a rare sight on our roads, especially in unmolested condition. The Fast and Furious movie franchise has plenty to answer for.

Like all cars of this era, the RX-7 seems so small and compact. It might be small, but its curves (evolved from a concept penned by Mazda’s US design studio) ensure it has plenty of presence. It’s funny, though, how your mind plays tricks; cars that you thought looked low and wide and had big wheels don’t actually look that spectacular these days. No wonder, when a quick glance at the pretty five-spoke rims shows they’re only 16 inches in diameter and wrapped in 225/50 rubber. No matter, for the innate rightness of the shape and the courage of the design mean the FD’s looks remain surprisingly avant-garde. 

There wasn’t really anything like it before, and there hasn’t been anything quite like it since. The smoked, one-piece, full-width tail light still makes a dramatic statement, while the pop-up headlights are proper ’90s nostalgia. They were actually a necessity due to the low-line nature of the RX-7’s nose.

The door handle is positioned unusually high, up above the waistline and nestled against the B-pillar. You open the door expecting the glass to be frameless, but instead you find a heavy black surround framing the side-glass lenses like a pair of thick-rimmed spectacles. The interior mirrors the exterior with its organic curves, but advances in materials mean the RX-7’s black-plastic cockpit has dated badly. It doesn’t feel that great quality-wise, but it’s a comfortable place to be thanks to squidgy seats that yield nicely, allowing you to sink into them for support.

You don’t sit as low as you might expect, and the steering wheel is quite big in diameter with proud stitching that also features on the handbrake and gearknob. Equipment levels are pretty basic by today’s standards – leather upholstery, a pair of plastic luggage bins instead of rear seats, air conditioning, electric windows, powered mirrors and a stereo are all there is to shout about. The instruments are simple but really quite handsome, with a bold typeface, a speedo that reads to 180mph and a tacho that reads round to 9000rpm, even though the red line itself starts at an altogether more modest 7000rpm. Gauges for oil pressure, oil temperature and fuel level sit to the left of the tacho to complete a proudly analogue binnacle.

The view though the windscreen is dominated by curves, the rising line of each extremity swooping up towards you while each door mirror captures a reflection of the long arc of the door tops that flow into the rear wheelarches. Everywhere you look, sections of the RX-7’s fulsome shape swell into view to remind you you’re driving something special.

Mazda RX-7: on the road

The engine starts with a characteristic chunter before settling into a rapid idle, rotary tips whizzing round at a busy and rorty 2500rpm for a minute or two before the revs eventually settle down. The clutch is modestly weighty; the throttle has a nice measured resistance. The stubby gearlever hints at a snappy, short-throw gearshift that’s clean and accurate, but the first few miles reveal the five-speed transmission is blessed with a good rather than brilliant shift.

The steering weight is more substantial than I was expecting, and that’s a welcome surprise, for it confirms the sense that the RX-7 is a communicative car with well-matched control efforts and carefully measured responses. The cast-aluminium pedals look attractive, feel good under your feet and are widely spaced across the footwell. The relationship between brake and throttle was clearly signed off by someone who enjoyed heel-and-toe work, and the exhaust is soon popping and crackling nicely with each easily blipped downshift.  

Of course, the 13B motor was what made the RX-7 unique amongst its contemporary rivals, and it’s what continues to add curiosity value today. The engineering differences between rotary and conventional internal combustion engines might be large, but the tangible differences from behind the wheel are surprisingly subtle. Yes, of course that has something to do with the motor not being in a screaming state of tune, unlike in the legendary Mazda race cars, but it also shows that while rotary engines are still seen as eccentric, they are impressively straightforward in the way they go about their business. 

This car has an aftermarket exhaust, which is a bit more vocal than an OE system, but strip away the snorty soundtrack and you find an engine blessed with refinement and good manners. Rise through the revs and it has a finely serrated smoothness that confounds your senses and encourages you to work it hard. It’s a genuinely enjoyable engine; torquey with little lag, it delivers a solid shove from 3000rpm through to 6000rpm. Beyond that it runs out of puff a bit, yet still pulls meaningfully to the red line – signalled by the infamous buzzer as a reminder to take another gear. If you’re remotely intrigued by a car’s oily bits, the RX-7’s motor is special. It doesn’t dominate the whole character of the car, but it asserts itself nicely and sets the tone for a driving experience that’s outside the norm but delivers the goods.

This particular car has clearly lived a life, one in which it has covered more than 90,000 miles. That said, while the dampers and bushes aren’t in their first flushes of youth, and despite the front axle running on a different brand of tyre to the rear, it still manages to feel tidy. It rides with pliancy, masking minor surface imperfections and absorbing potholes without too much fuss, though there are a few creaks from the interior plastics! More impressive is the way the innate balance of this front-mid-engined, rear-drive chassis shines through, and how you rapidly build a clear picture of the sharpness and agility for which the third-gen RX-7 was rightly praised when new.

Funnily enough, of the memories I have of my first drive in an FD RX-7 back in 1993, the most lasting impression is of a car that demanded respect – something the 22-year-old me had just enough of to keep the Mazda out of the weeds. One moment in particular sticks in my mind. The road was damp and chased across hilly terrain. Travelling at enthusiastic but not silly speed, the RX-7 squeezed into a gently curving compression. As the suspension got towards the bottom of its travel, the vertical and lateral loads pushed the tail out of line with little warning. It was one of those moments caught by luck and youthful, sparky synapses rather than sage car control, not least because these were the days when I was testing my own limits as much as those of the car. It certainly taught me a lesson. 

My driving skills – and judgement – have come a long way in the last 20 years, but I still can’t help but feel a little wary of this old Mazda for the first few miles. The nicely weighted steering is complemented by a calm rate of response that’s typical for fast cars of this era (just under three turns lock to lock) and which makes it easy to confidently place the RX-7 in corners with intuitive precision. You need only encourage it into long curves with a small squeeze of steering input, then relax the lock as the corner opens out. It finds a very satisfying and easily sustained flow.

The balance is beautifully neutral, with just enough bite from the front tyres to generate decent grip and response but not enough to induce oversteer. Likewise, the rear end has strong traction – not a surprise given the rear tyres aren’t exactly over-burdened with torque. In short, the perfect weight distribution and sweet ratio of grunt to grip ensures a harmony that lets the chassis work unhindered by dynamic imbalance. That it’s not fighting with an engine that’s too potent underlines the fact that sometimes less really is more.

Carry meaningful speed into a second- or third-gear corner, chase the throttle from apex to exit, and you feel the car and its Torsen limited-slip diff load up nicely, sitting down on the outside rear as the loads increase and those sequential turbos start to blow. It’s at this point I feel something of the RX-7 I recall, for when pushed hard it rapidly makes the transition from just on the limit to some way over it. It’s fun and harmless enough in the dry, but I can clearly see how I nearly came unstuck all those years ago. 

The brakes are up to the job of fast road driving, with progressive response, but they don’t have the capabilities of those on today’s high-performance cars, so you have to be a little sympathetic. You’d toast them on track, but then cars of this age weren’t developed with as much in reserve as today’s performance models. 

It’s been great to be reacquainted with the FD RX-7. Two decades of rampant engineering progress and sky-rocketing performance mean Mazda’s flagship sports car is no longer the force it was back in 1993, but it remains a thoroughly charming, fascinating, intriguing and usefully rapid car. It does things differently – as you’d hope – but it does them well. Well enough to remain the high point for Mazda’s rotary efforts. Here’s hoping last year’s glorious RX-Vision concept makes the leap to production and rekindles some of this RX-7’s abundant magic.

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