47K Mile 1972 Mazda RX-2 Barn Find!

This 1972 Mazda RX-2 is already commanding strong bidding on eBay at the moment, no doubt a testament to the desirability of hard-to-find vintage Japanese sports cars. The rotary-powered RX-2 is rarely found in stock, unmolested condition, as most examples if they’re still among the running have been modified in some way to exploit the explosive power of the Wankel mill. The seller claims this example has been hidden away for years in the previous owner’s garage, left behind when a Navy man didn’t show much interest in the car upon returning home. Find it here on eBay in sunny and dry New Mexico with bidding at $10K and no reserve.

The RX2 earned high praise from the motoring press when new for its driver-focused cockpit and logical controls. It helps that the little Mazda has the unassuming appearance of a miserly hatchback but will still surprise most other imported sports coupes and sedans of the era. That’s the funny thing about the rotary engines – they’re not that remarkable around town, but get the revs up and they become a monster. I used to autocross with a group that had a number of rotary-engined entries, and while the sound they made was borderline annoying, the way those cars hauled while pegged at the top of second gear was mesmerizing. The RX2 shown here looks quite straight around the front and back, and you have to love those taillights.

The interior is simple and the gearshift laughably tall. But it’s that simplicity that makes the RX2 so appealing compared to the tech- and safety-laden sports cars of the modern era. It’s also partially why prices are strong for vintage sports cars from this era and later, as enthusiasts are realizing the glory days of simple cockpits and strong driving dynamics represents a dying art from. The seller notes that the RX2’s cabin is sun-baked, and he doesn’t go into detail – just mentions that the next owner should plan on replacing a few items. The transmission is said to shift fine and none of the glass is broken. The original keys for the ignition, gas tank, and trunk are included, along with a clean title.

The rotary mill runs for about a minute before dying, and the compression is a bit low. The seller suspects the troublesome apex seals are the source of this, given they are prone to loosening up and causing any number of symptoms. The seller notes the air cleaner base is missing but that the top of it is in the trunk. Otherwise, the RX2 seems largely complete, and due to living in New Mexico, rust is effectively a non-issue. With demand strong for Celicas, Z-cars, and other vintage sports models, it’s no surprise to see bidding so active – but I hadn’t counted on what looks like a likely sale north of $10,000. When’s the last time you saw an RX-2?

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Comments

  1. Miguel

    It is amazing what throw away cars are bringing these days. Most people didn’t give this car a second glance back in the ’70’s and for good reason.

    Like 3
  2. Doone

    Yeah those mazda wankel rotary engines just keep revving. Had an ’83;12a and an ’86;13b, both from new. Had the 86 on the interstate at 4 PM PD shift change and wound the clock up to 143 at about 7000 in 4th and the thing still wanted to rev higher. Occasionally achieved 8500 from a stop sign and there was plenty more to go. Rear seats, too. Put 145k on that one and when I sold it first guy took it. I miss that car!

    Like 4
    • Al_Bundy Member

      Very good engine with a long service life. Seals and castings improved through the years as did cooling. Not sure they we’re throwaway cars. Too few ever existed. The RX series from 1978 on were excellent performing cars across the board.

      Like 6
  3. Paolo

    Not too many of these left. My brother had one of these back in the day. He had the apex seals replaced under warranty. Later traded it in on a new RX7 and then later traded that for a new 86 Rx7. They are pretty neat. I know where one stashed in a spot under an apartment building. Judging by the dust it hasn’t moved in 30 years. That’s the last RX2 I know of around here.

    Like 2
  4. CCFisher

    Felix Wankel’s engine is an engineer’s dream and an engineer’s nightmare all rolled into one. The engine’s simple design, light weight, and smooth operation are all concepts engineers strive for. The dream turns into a nightmare when apex seal durability, fuel economy, oil consumption, or production costs come into play. Even period road tests called out the fuel economy and oil consumption issues.

    A buyer who understands and accepts the unique characteristics of the Wankel engine will have a great time with this RX-2. Someone who doesn’t know much about the Wankel will likely be very frustrated with this RX-2.

    Like 4
  5. Superdessucke

    Mazda enthusiasts are, for whatever reason, a lot higher up on the economic food chain than, for example, Volvo, Saab, or Volkswagen enthusiasts. That’s why the price is so high relative to most cars of this vintage/class.

    Quite frankly I’m surprised it’s not even higher. These usually sell for a small fortune in original complete condition. My guess is covid-19, coupled by the fact that this one needs a lot of work, is keeping the price relatively low for one of these.

    • Poppapork

      the reason why these are priced higher is simply due to rarity and obscurity and direct lineage to the mazda rx7 FD.

      Id take a nice two stroke SAAB over this anyday. Just imagine a saab96 or a gt750 running down Michigan ave in Chicago with clouds of smoke and the 3cyl two stroke amplified by tall buildings!

      Like 1
  6. Chas H

    Rotaries don’t use any more oil than many piston engines. Typically a qt every 1000-1500 miles. Take your expensive German car into the dealer and complain about oil consumption of that rate and you’ll be told be thankful it’s not higher.
    The all important air filter is in the trunk, in dry dusty NM. No wonder there might be some engine damage.
    I prepared an RX-2 for the IMSA Radial Challenge back in the ’70s. It was great not be fussing with the engine or changing it out, like the teams with piston engined cars were doing.

    Like 2
  7. Billy1

    Paolo, what State are you in and is the stashed RX2 a 2 door?

    • Paolo

      California. The car is in the basement of an apartment building on Franklin Street in San Francisco. It’s been a while since I looked in there so I can’t say for certain that it is still there.

    • Paolo

      Yes, a red 2 door with black vinyl top and interior.

  8. MOTRV8D

    So what makes this coupe a “sports car?” The fact that it has two doors? Serious question.

    Like 1
    • Major Thom

      Sometimes even four doors are called “sports cars”. Remember Nissan advertising labeling the Maxima a “4DSC”? (4 door sports car)

  9. MGSteve

    Had an RX3 wagon. Was amazing to be at speed on a freeway, and decide to pass someone. Just put your foot into it, and that thing simply took off. No strain, no pain. Bought that car “cheap” at a wrecking yard, under some kind of Mazda warranty program + some of our cash, got a new engine, and new radiator and all new cooling components, guaranteed for 50K. Sounded to be too good to be true, but it was.

    • Chas H

      Had a RX3 wagon also. Great car in the snow, 100lbs of weight in the back, 2nd gear was good for over 60, never had to shift.
      I bought the car as practice for rebuilding the engine.
      I hit a big dog with it one really dark rainy night. Killed the both of them.

      Like 1
  10. Royal

    My dad bought one of these a 73 RX2 sedan with Auto when it was brand new. We drove it into the ground for a decade. Being in NYS rot is what did it in. This car had balls whether on the local roads or the interstate, so much so it scared my mother for whom it was purchased. I think he put 130k on it with it being mostly local driving. We had the seal issue and Mazda replaced the motor, but the only one still ran but would only kick in on one rotor and put out a slew of oil smoke until rotor #2 would kick in later about 1 to 3 miles down the road.

  11. Howard A Member

    Unusual find, indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s worth anything. They were never popular, especially in the midwest. The RX2 and 3 were the ones to have, that gave any kind of gas mileage, the RX4, which I thought was the nicest, could only muster mid teens. Couple that to the hatred for foreign cars with a motor nobody heard of, it was doomed from the start. I’d refurbish this cosmetically, put it in a museum, with all the other “swing and a miss” car offerings. I think Mazda made the best Asian vehicles. This, sadly, wasn’t one of them.

  12. Paolo

    Holy Frijole! This one sold for $12,199. That is insanity. Perhaps the rotary’s time has come again.

    Like 2
  13. Billy1

    Paolo I agree. Rotaries have brought big bucks in recent years. Was looking for an R100 for awhile, but gave up.

  14. steve b Member

    I had a 73 RX-2 in college. Really fun and quick little car but at 5 years old, the tin worm had already had it’s way with her. Easy to understand why there are so few left.

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