Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mazda RX7 Convertible

The original RX7 was the car that put the Mazda rotary engine on the map in the US. They had been placing rotary engines in coupes and pick-up trucks for a number of years prior, but we weren't buying them. Compared to other Japanese imports, the rotary engined Mazdas were troublesome and thirsty. Mazda improved the rotary engine and, correctly, figuring that we wouldn't mind a few less MPG in a sports car, created the RX7.

The first generation (1979 - 1985) RX7 is a classic. It's a milestone in Japanese sports car history. The second generation is my favorite, though.

The second generation RX7 is quick, comfortable, dependable and easy to get parts for. It's styling is somewhat derivative of a Porsche 924 / 944, but, like those cars, it still looks good today. In my opinion, the convertible has aged better than the hardtop.

The convertible was introduced in 1988. It's a neat design. The center section can be removed without folding the top, making it a targa of sorts. The top is powered operated, but I have no idea why. Lowering the top requires unlatching two header catches, power lowering the top halfway, exiting the car, folding down the rigid section manually, and then further power-lowering the top. It makes no sense. If you have to get out of the car anyway, it might as well be a fully manual top. Why bother with the extra weight, cost and potential problems of electric motors? Only Mazda knows why.

The interior is typical 1980s Japanese, meaning it's well laid out, informative, but somewhat sterile.

It's the engine that makes this (and all RX7s) special. The rotary is powerful and will rev up to 7000 RPM (at which point a buzzer sounds to remind you that you're at the redline). It's smooth and almost eerily quiet.

There are not a whole lot of issues with the RX7. Rust isn't a major concern, but snow-belt cars should be checked over thoroughly. Interior pieces are a bit on the cheap side, but if you don't play air-drums on the dash or slam the doors with all your might, they should hold up. The brake calipers corrode on cars that have sat for awhile. The rotary engine is good for over 100K, but not as long lasting as a conventional piston engine. Rebuilding a rotary is tricky and not recommended for the average car geek, but Mazda still sells new blocks and they're relatively easy to install. The huge downside to this car, and really to all Mazdas, is the price of parts. Figure on paying Audi / Mercedes type of prices as opposed to Nissan / Toyota.

There were two series of second generation RX7s, called Series 4 (1986–1988) and Series 5 (1989–1992). (Series 1 - 3 were part of the first generation RX7.) Series 5 cars are quicker have a slightly updated design. They tend to command a bit more money.

Prices are all over the place for these cars. I spotted some as high as $10,000 and some as low as $2500.00. The best cars, good well taken care of drivers, seem to be in the $3500.00 to $6000.00 range.

The 1988 RX7 pictured above is located in Battle Creek, MI. Click here to see the AutoTrader.com listing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with how to take the top down? I have tried everything and nothing seems to work. I removed the clips and still don't have a clue how to get the top part off so I can lower the rest of the top. And, there is no manual :(