Mazda RX7 Series 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
By the early 1970's Mazda
had proved its commitment to the rotary engine, in 1971
alone Mazda building over 200,000 rotary-powered vehicles. However the road for the rotary has never been smooth, and for Mazda things took a turn for the worse when the oil crisis of 1973
turned peoples attention to the poor fuel economy of the rotary.
To remain viable as a company Mazda was forced to concentrate on manufacturing traditional piston
driven engines, however the engineers never gave up on their dream of creating a sports car using rotary power, and in 1978 (following 2 years of extensive development code named Project X605), they introduced to the world the fabulous RX-7.
While the car was released in the US in 1978
, it took another year for it to reach Australian shores, and what an impact it had, many traditional Holden and Ford V8 buyers deserting their traditional brands to savour the exciting new RX-7. Development of the car had been led by project head Moriyuki Watanabe, (who would eventually become chairman of the board), and unlike the complex and expensive to manufacture Mazda Cosmo
, engineers created a simple and more affordable sports car.
Certainly the concept of an affordable sports car was welcomed by the motoring public, however Mazda's cost cutting measures did leave the car with some minor shortcomings. First up, the Mazda used re-circulating-ball steering
instead of a more-expensive rack-and-pinion setup, and Mazda settled for rear drum brakes
rather than discs. But perhaps the biggest disappointment for the enthusiast was that Mazda
decided to use a live-axle located by four trailing links and a Watt linkage rather than a fully independant setup.
The original 12A two-rotor engine displaced a mere 1146 cubic centimeters, developed a mere 100bhp at 6,000 rpm and 105 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm - although production modifications saw power increase to 135bhp. In all, some 500,000 original RX-7's were built, making it, by a huge margin, the best-selling rotary-engine car of all time.
The Allan Moffat Mazda RX-7
In September 1980 Mazda
released a very limited run Mazda RX7. Called the Allan Moffat
Special, there were just 10 cars available, and these could only be purchased through selected dealers. The ten cars - basic spec minus air-conditioning
and sound system models - were originally brought in for a proposed Mazda works racing program, until the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport changed its mind and declared the peripheral port RX7 ineligible for touring car racing and Bathurst.
Without a future at the track, these 10 cars were instead turned into very special road machines, each having a sticker price of $13,995 – which was very good value considering that made them cheaper than the regular RX-7. For a lucky handful the Allan Moffat special really was special, sporting red/orange or white/blue paintwork, glass sunroof, Simmons 15 inch composite wheels shod with Uniroyal BR68 steels, 'Mazda RX7' rear reflector panel, front and rear spoilers and 'AMS' badging. The cars looked superb in their livery, far better than Mazda's previous limited run model, the Mirage.
Mazda RX-7 Update
Larger alloy wheels and 60-series tyres were the most obvious external changes to the 1984
update of the Mazda RX-7. The RX-7 "Limited", as the new luxury version was then known (although a basic-spec "Sports" was also available), featured four-wheel ventilated disc brakes
as its most significant mechanical improvement. Inside, redesigned seats, improved sound deadening arid an improved sound system with graphic equaliser were handy additions. A larger fuel tank led to the adoption of a "temporary" spare tyre in the boot - something that would really catch on 20 years later.
The "Sports" version made up around 10-15 percent of the RX-7 import total, these variants coming without air conditioning
or luxury appointments, and being distinguished by their steel wheels and rear spoiler. Its 12A engine was identical to the Limited, and substantially unchanged from the previous model. Prices as of 1984
started at $18,105 for the Sport, through to $23,270 for an automatic, two-tone Limited with the optional sunroof.