1983 Mazda RX-7: Rescue Me from the Dirt!

Twelve years ago, this 1983 Mazda RX-7 was a running, driving car. On a given Sunday, or Tuesday, or whatever, someone pulled it into a covered barn, parked it, and walked away. That same someone, or another someone (probably the owner of the barn) has now ordered it sent to a new home. It is thus available here on craigslist. (Thanks go to tipster T.J. for this one.)  So if a rotary-engined runabout has been on your bucket list, this might be your chance. Does it mean anything that this car is in Bowling Green, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from where the Chevy Corvette is made? Absolutely not, but there is some irony in the juxtaposition of this barn and that ultra-modern plant churning out mid-engine supercars at a very decent price. OK, there’s a connection: this car is also a two-door sportscar, decently priced for what you get at an ask of $3995.

But the history of the car is a mystery. What don’t we know? If it really ran and drove, and how hard it would be to get it to do so again. The car looks good enough on the surface (at least on the side we see) that one imagines a certain degree of care has been afforded it over its lifetime. But we also have no clue what the interior is like. It might also be a bit troubling to note that the tires appear to have partly sunk into the mud floor of said barn. What moisture damage has this invited? You do have to give it points for being good-looking. This body style marks the second of three generations of RX-7, running from 1981-83, and this one’s red paint might just have survived the dirt that encrusts it. Sure would be fun to go at it with a hose, then some rubbing compound, and see that the potential is. (Note the rubbed-out spot in the photo, which shows that someone else also thinks this is a good idea.) The factory stock wheels (at least on the driver’s side) being intact is a good thing and might be taken as a sign of care.

This car is said to have 100,000 miles on the odometer, perhaps indicative of the need for a mechanical/engine rebuild based on use, if not condition. Unfortunately for many potential buyers, the RX-7 is also indicated as having an automatic transmission, obviously a miss in the tiny-sportscar-desirability-index. If this car still appeals, prospective buyers have some homework to do, or they can just wing it, get the seller south of the current asking price, and figure you can’t go too far wrong at three grand. Anyway, while you’re collecting the car from the Bluegrass State, you can spend a morning taking a tour of the ‘Vette plant, if they’re still doing that. I took one a long while ago, and I’ve never forgotten it.


  1. Big_Fun Member

    Ahhh! The first thing the comes to mind is rodents! Inside, outside, in every compartment! All that hay – they love that. At least in the Midwest. Maybe okay here? Wonder what it smells like in there….

    Like 14
  2. Big C

    100K and a rotary engine? At least we know why it was parked.

    Like 16
    • JMB#7

      Please explain? I do not know why you make that statement. I have seen 12A rotary engines running after 300k miles. I have frequently seen them run very well after 150k miles. How many rotary’s have you owned? Which version of engine were they and in which car?

      Like 7
      • Eric

        Agreed, my 1984 SE made to 180K before the oil seals started to go. Still ran great but was turning into a two stroke.

        Like 3
      • Joe

        I have had 2 RX-3 both with 12A and both motors failed early. Most owners of used ones they have changed hands so many times, they don’t know what engine they are on.Most won’t run 300k. Engine probably has rust on the housings, water and oil seals will fail. Mazda couldn’t even keep the RX-8 from going through engine. No where worth 4K. It will be a rust bucket underneath.

        Like 5
  3. Karl

    These were great cars at the time nothing smoother than a rotary. This would have been the 12A engine about 120 HP the car had a top speed of 120 mph. If the inside of the car isn’t to bad and the rust underneath is the same it’s a 2500.00 car. The engine is due for rebuild with new Apex seal plus all the other things just sitting causes. It’s going to cost a fair bit of money to get this back on the road.

    Like 7
    • tiger66

      12A never had 120 HP here. You might be thinking of the turbo versions sold in Japan. In ’83 U.S. Rx-7s it was rated at 100 HP.

      Like 8
      • Joe

        The RX-2 did have 120 HP when they came to the US in 1972.

        Like 1
      • Joe

        The RX-2 did have 120 HP when brought to the states in 1972

    • JMB#7

      The 12A could have 120 HP if mildly modified. But certainly did not have that from the factory.

      Like 1
  4. Sam61

    These are great looking cars, IMHO, and seemed to be everywhere!

    Another “stupid money” idea if I had “stupid money”. EV conversion. Has anyone seen any “hack” videos to go full electric, with good range, or pirating a Prius drivetrain/battery pack, etc?

    Like 4
    • JMB#7

      If you do a few searches, you will find Warp9 conversions. There have been a few drag cars with dual-Warp9 conversions. I considerer converting my 1982 to electric, but am too fond of the rotary engine. If I do an EV conversion in the near future, it will probably be a BMW320 or 328.

      Like 3
  5. Karl

    Thanks for the correction tiger it’s been a long time since I owned one, maybe I was thinking of the 13B?

    Like 3
    • Derrick S

      Probably. The GSL-SE had 130 horses from the 13B. The 12A was 100.
      I had close to 160k miles on mine when I sold it. Compression was great and never gave me trouble. My biggest complaint was the recirculating ball steering box. I’ve had rack and pinion most of my life, and there is a huge difference in feeling on a small chassis such as this.

      Like 2
      • JMB#7

        There is an adjustment procedure for that version of recirculating ball. If followed properly it really makes it a non-issue. However it seems to be some obscurely highly guarded secret. I adjusted mine when I acquired the car from my brother at 70k miles. It now have 127k miles and there is still no need to do the procedure again. Mine is manual (not power steering) but the procedure is similar.

        Like 1
      • Dave Peterson

        I agree with JMB. The other types of steering have their pluses and minuses but can be dealt with by knowledge and trial. The recirculating ones I had were as easy as lifting the front get a large straight screwdriver and a 13/16 open end wrench. This car has the options of a GSL, but I am not familiar past 1982. They were sure fun when new.

        Like 1
    • tiger66

      No problem. I bought one of these new in 1982 and knew it didn’t have 120 HP. Back then 100 HP in a car this size was considered decent power. Certainly better than the 626 coupe I traded in that had maybe 75 (yes the early 626s had 80 hp but the later ones had less and felt underpowered).

      Like 1
  6. John C.

    Apparently some folks in the Latino community have not seen this ad yet, they love these cars! It will sell soon.

    Like 2
    • JMB#7

      There are 3 first generation RX7 at Fillmore’s in Florence KY almost every Sunday night for the cruise-in.

      Like 1
  7. JimZ Member

    My ’89 RX7 Convertible was probably one of my ‘fun-est’ cars ever.
    Miss it!

    Like 6
  8. John C.

    Atco raceway in Atco NJ. had the Pan American races lat weekend, you can see some of the videos on FB and YT, there were probably a hundred of these RX7’s there.

    Like 3
  9. Cdice

    Yea, technically this is a 1st gen series 2, but with exception of GSL-SE option with a 13B engine in 84/85, there is very little other than cosmetics between series 1 (79-80) and series 2 (81-85).

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      on the GSL-SE 13B 84/85 you also get rear disk brakes and a stronger rear axle with a different bolt pattern on the wheels. If shopping for the first gen body style, I would definitely go with the GSL-SE 13B 84/85. Also the parts and support for 13B are plentiful.

      Like 2
  10. briank Staff

    Fantastic comments here in all cases. BF needs to do more of this kind of car–there’s obviously pent-up enthusiasm and a need to be heard. I appreciate all of your comments here.

    Like 2
  11. LilLost2

    A boyfriend of mine, well Ex now. had an RX7 with the standard transmission the car was white and would haul ass thru the dessert back roads in Arizona we hit a rabbit doing around 120 mph happened so fast not a single drop of blood on the car anywhere and yes it rabbit definitely didn’t make it thru that ordeal. It was sad, but at the same time, the aerodynamics of the car were pretty impressive! It’s a fun car/toy great on gas mileage but definitely not a 3 person car especially with the tiny console/arm rest in the middle between the bucket seats his little brother and I took turns being the b*tch in the middle let me tell ya it’s way funnier seeing him in the middle being 6ft tall and neck cramped over and trying to not not the sunroof off with it’s 1 broke hinge.lol! Whoever buys this is gna have a fun car once they get it fixed up! 😘 Good luck Lil Red RX7 hope you get a good home!

    Like 1
  12. tiger66


    Mazda rotary HP ratings in the U.S. 1972-84:

    1972 Rx-2 (12A) 102 (Motor Trend says 97)
    1972 Rx-3 (12A) 90
    1976 Rx-3 (12A) 95
    1974 Rx-4 (13B) 110
    1974 Rotary Pickup (13B) 110
    1976 Rx-5 Cosmo (13B) 110
    1979 Rx-7 (12A) 100
    1984 Rx-7 (12A) 101
    1984 Rx-7 GSL-SE (13B) 135

    Like 1

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