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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

My 1979 Mazda RX-7 GS so impressed my friends that they each bought one, too | Hagerty Media

My first experience with a rotary-engine car came while test-driving an early '70s Mazda RX-2. I remember being impressed by its ability to rev so high and feel so smooth at the same time. Several years later came the May 1978 issue of Car and Driver, which featured a white RX-7 GS on the cover.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/magazine-features/my-1979-mazda-rx-7-gs-so-impressed-my-friends-that-t...
17 REPLIES 17
audiocage
Intermediate Driver

I had that issue of C/D; I went with the Scirocco. The Mazda was very cool, but no regrets.
MeJ
Intermediate Driver

Hey! A fellow BC'er. You in the lower mainland?
I remember my brother bought a brown used RX-3 way back in the 90's. I didn't know much about Rotary's back then. I think the clutch went almost immediately. After sourcing one from a parts place we proceeded to change the clutch in an abandoned lot. After we took it for a drive and I was shocked at how easily you could light the tires up! Not that the engine was a powerhouse, I just think the combination of a lightweight chassis and tiny tires were more the reason.
Cool little car.
GoFast
Intermediate Driver

Glad you found my preview after driving the RX-7 in Japan credible. I ordered mine that year as well and still enjoy it, albeit with extensive mods--13B engine, no emission controls, brakes that work, 15-inch centerlock wheels, Recaro seats, etc. I fear the rotary as we knew and loved it is now a dead player except in minor hybrid-electric range extending roles.
Mike70
New Driver

I bought a 2nd gen 1983 RX7 with 70K miles on it in 1999 for $600. I had the car till it it hit 180K on clock and sold it for $500 to another Mazda enthusiast. It wasn't a show car but it really wasn't beat. Great fun. I replaced the battery, brakes and clutch. I more than got my moneys worth out of it. It did need a qt. of oil every other month and I thought their was plenty of power on the high end. Mazda's have always treated me well.
Cdice
New Driver

Similar story. Read the article and ordered '79 GS at Columbus OH dealer. 1st truck came in August with 9 S's and one silver GS which was going to the dealership owner. Told salesman I'd wait for another truck with a GS. Next day, got call saying I could have the GS. Apparently, dealer's name on the sign got canned. Guess he didn't have majority ownership. Loved that car.
JSievers
Intermediate Driver

I remember test driving the RX-7 when new. While not overly powerful, the smoothness and willingness to rev were truly memorable. I looked at several rotary-powered models around that time, but never did pull the trigger.
tahend
Intermediate Driver

I remember my 72 Chevelle was loaded up with friends in 84 and an RX-7 pulled up next to us. It was the only car that whipped me back in the day. It was quick off the line.
Utopia1
Intermediate Driver

I remember one of my teachers in high-school had sort of a rust-coloured RX-7 that I'd say was about an '83 or '84 that was about 10 years old when I was in school. Nice car! She used to bring it to us to work on in the auto shop class for maintenance and such (gasp!). So I've changed the oil and spark plugs but never driven one more than about 50 feet. A shame for me, really. But I do remember the distinctive sound of that engine.
panammar
New Driver

I’m lucky enough to own a very early 1979 RX7, that was built in May 1978. It’s a gorgeous Sonic Bronze GS that has about 54,000 miles on it. It has only the driver side mirror, instead of dual side mirrors. The radio also has a Japanese orientation to it, meaning the volume and tuning knobs are reversed on it, as they would be on a right hand drive vehicle.

The radiator is the only item that I know of that has been replaced.

I’d consider selling it. If anyone is interested, please email me at panammar@yahoo.com.
Triumphant
New Driver

I've had 3 first generation RX-7s, and over 25 years and roughly 300k miles of service, never had engine failure. One clutch and one tranny rebuild, but those Wankels were bulletproof. They were quite remarkable cars; reliable, durable, and affordable. A real sports car, built to a high level of quality. One thing always surprises me is the comment that fuel economy is poor. My 1982 GS (12A engine) averaged 24 mpg over the two decades; and my two 1985 GSL-SE (13B) cars averaged 23 mpg. Average figures. Sure, mostly rural roads and open highways, but these are year-round averages. Road trip? Figure 25-27 mpg. Not bad for that wonderful powerband, which is similar to a 6-cylinder engine. Most owners who report poor economy must drive their cars in congested, urban settings. These old Mazdas were made for the open road and carving up canyons. Go get 'em.
zeus01
Pit Crew

Agreed on the fuel economy, or lack thereof. If I drove the ones I had like I stole them I got around 20 miles per imperial gallon (about 17 miles per US gallon). In combined city/highway driving I got around 24 mpig, and on long highway trips I got up to 28 mpig.
These numbers are not bad considering the Datsun 280ZX and Toyota Supras of the same era returned about the same performance figures and fuel economy.

I think the rap on the RX7's fuel economy stemmed from two things:

1. Its low displacement, which was (arguably) 1146cc - a displacement that, in piston engines, returned at least 40 mpg back then (albeit, with a zero-to-sixty time of several minutes).

2. Its low horsepower of 101 - (vs. around 145 hp in the 280ZX and Supra).

True, the rotary DOES use more fuel per hp than piston-poppers do - about 10 to 15% more. But that lower hp number in the 12A-powered 1st gen RX7s is deceiving: first, the car was lighter than its competitors, around 2400 lbs. Second, that hp band hangs in there over a much wider power band in the mid to high rpm range vs. the piston engines of the day. Third, the "power stroke" in a rotary engine lasts 50% longer than that of a piston engine - 120 degrees of crank rotation in the rotary vs. 90 degrees in the piston engine.

The end result was a light-weight rotary-powered sports car that produced comparable power-to-weight ratio figures while making it's limited power more useful. Once past the weak-torque-at-under-3000-rpm obstacle (not to mention the 4-barrels kicking it very shortly thereafter) these engines came on strong and stayed there effortlessly.
bobfreer
New Driver

In 2004 I bought an RX8 as a gift to myself on my 70th birthday. I drove and loved it for 14 years and it DID get too hard to get in and out of!
SLD
New Driver

Quick question: which car looks to be in better condition – the one on the cover of Car and Driver, or Alan’s? I’d say Alan’s (looks like there's dirt accumulating on the rocker panel and under the bumper of the Car and Driver car). Congratulations sir, on keeping such a great car in such great shape!
hughesrj
Pit Crew

I had an '83 RX-7 for 14 years. It was a summer car only and used by my son when he turned 17 and also by me once he left home. We drove it roughly 100,000 km and it had 230,000 km on it when we sold it. It was extremely reliable. Big removable sunroof, loads of room in the hatch, lots of fun on a twisty road and that great rotary sound. I subsequently had an RX-8 for a few years and also really enjoyed it. Much different car but both a fun drive.
bemrfst
Pit Crew

I had the 6th RX7 in Roanoke Va.. had to wait 6 months for it to come in. It was sonic bronze met.. I had it for 6 years and then crashed it. Then I got an 86 RX7 had it for 3 years. When my son turned 16 I found him an 91 RX7 GTUs the rarest of all RX7s. Unfortunately he sold it to get an RX8 because he liked mine. We both still have the 8s. We tried to find the GTUs again but had no luck. Love the rotors!! Like my Viper better though..
zeus01
Pit Crew

I've owned six of these first-gen RX7s - all FB GSL packages (GX in Canada in 81 and 82 - thereafter re-badged GSL like their US counterparts, being that they were otherwise the exact same option package). Mine were (in order) an 81, a pair of 82s, an '85, an '84 and then another '85.
Good to see such a pristine and low-mileage '79 SA. These are becoming very hard to find in anything even close to concourse.

One suggestion if I may: Go out and buy from Mazda a new oil metering pump and gasket ASAP - assuming they can still be had. Then, once you put it over 100,000 kms, swap the new metering pump in. These pumps do wear out, usually around 120,000 to 150,000 kms. When they do this there's no warning light or buzzer to let you know it's no longer supplying oil to your apex seals via the carb. Apex seals starved of proper lubrication murder your rotors and housings before committing suicide by shooting out the exhaust ports.
Geok86
Advanced Driver

Maybe it’s because I was too young to drive when these came out, and never rode in or drove one until the late 80s and beyond....but they never did anything for me (still don’t), and the only one I would personally even consider owning is the last generation rx7 with turbo. To each his own I guess.