Join The Rotary Club: 1971 Mazda RX-2

032116 Barn Finds - 1971 Mazda RX-2 1

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Are you ready to join the Rotary Club? No, not that one, the Mazda Rotary Club. This 1971 Mazda RX-2 found here on eBay is a California survivor and it’s ready and waiting for you to finish it up and take this rotary for a spin. There are 40 bids on this car as I write this, bringing the price up to $4,600 with over 7 days left on the auction! Just in case anyone thinks that nobody cares about these cars.

032116 Barn Finds - 1971 Mazda RX-2 2

In April of 1970 Mazda started in the US with a handful of dealer franchises in the Pacific Northwest and then opened their first regional office in Seattle a month later. They sold a total of around 21,000 cars in 1971, this being one of them. The 1971 Mazda RX-2 models with an inline-4 cylinder engine had rectangular headlights whereas cars with the rotary engine received twin round headlights in late-1971. And, since rectangular headlights weren’t legal for importing to the US at the time, this car is then, of course, a rotary-powered RX-2. Confusing. Being a Rotary car makes it a no-brainer for a full restoration; yes, even on a four-door sedan. The seller says that this is a California survivor and you can see that although there is very little rust there are a few dents which will have to be sorted out. Here is a restored car that’s a bit too restomod for my tastes, but it’s a jewel. What a crazy sound!

032116 Barn Finds - 1971 Mazda RX-2 3

This car was known as the Capella Rotary in Japan but for export it was the RX-2. I like the name RX-2 much better, but that’s just me. Any older vehicle with an X in the name just sounds cool and futuristic to me. The first-generation of the RX-2 was made from 1970 to 1978 and these would probably be the most desirable for collectors. Cars with rotary engines in them would be especially sought after by vintage or nostalgic Japanese car fans. Again, yes, even sedans. Of course a coupe would be more valuable but a rotary sedan is still desirable.

032116 Barn Finds - 1971 Mazda RX-2 5

You’ll have to source a few bits and pieces here to get it ready for shows, but there are companies to restore the dash and other parts. I would add some Dynamat SuperLite under the new carpets that this car needs to make for a quieter ride. Add in some new upholstery and a few other details and you’re well on your way to having a show winner.

032116 Barn Finds - 1971 Mazda RX-2 4

Here’s what all the hoopla is about: Mazda’s 12A Rotary engine making around 130hp and with a top speed of around 120 mph. All in a 1971 Mazda sedan. In 1974, the 12A Rotary was the first engine that was built outside of the US or Western Europe to finish the 24 Hours of LeMans. This engine weighs a couple of times more than I do (about 350 pounds), which is less than a comparable 4-cylinder engine weighs. This a 4-speed car and in 1972 an automatic was a popular option, although it slowed the car a bit and the speed of the RX-2 was one of it’s major benefits. This particular engine will need to be gone through and brought back to running condition again but it can be done. These cars were fast in their day and there aren’t many left; yes, because rust was a problem in early Japanese cars. This one will undoubtedly be restored by the new owner and they’ll have a little gem on their hands. Are you a fan of these early Rotary cars or are you an American-V8-or-nothing person?

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  1. John B

    That’s nice but I’d still rather have the R5 from the beginning of the month that’s in the background.

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  2. Luke Fitzgerald

    Early Jap stuff is on a steep arc

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    I’d rather have an Opel Manta

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  4. HoA Howard AMember

    I remember when these came to Milwaukee. It was a bit later, ’73, ’74 maybe. I test drove a RX-4, the only one on the lot, the rest of the Mazdas were these and RX-3’s. I really liked the styling of the RX-4’s, but a huge cloud of smoke billowed out the exhaust when I started it up. “Oh, that’s normal” he said. The car had lot’s of power, right up to the buzzer when it hit redline. I was wary of the rotary, and stayed with my MGB. Turns out, the rotary wasn’t very popular, and they couldn’t give them away. The piston engine ones, however, did sell quite well. I knew several people that had them. Cool find, but I’d ditch the rotary for something more friendly, although, the newer rotary’s are much better. Cool find, not many of these around.

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  5. Alan Brase

    John B- You rather have the R5? Well personally, I’d rather have a Porsche 918, precious few being offered for $4000. Nor are there any R5 Renaults at $4000. Twelve times that. (Though I agree, the R5 is very near the top in Smiles per mile. Some have alluded to that when the turbo hit boost one could not inhale, the seat hit you so hard.)
    Mazda’s were surprisingly good quality and performance when they came out.
    Obviously, a few have figured this out. 20 years ago, one could have bought 20 a year for $100 a piece. Sort of a milestone vehicle in some ways.

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  6. Ken M

    I am a member of ‘that’ Rotary club :-) and was a member of this Rotary club, when I owned an RX4. I had a pal who was the sales manager for Mazda in Victoria Aust and had the pleasure of driving the 1st RX2 in our state. Very impressive for those years!

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  7. grant

    I remember my folks had an RX-4 for a short time back in the day. Fun car but my dad didn’t trust it and didn’t keep it long. And perhaps I’m in need of an education, but seeing how the “RX” in the entire lineup through the RX-8 stood for “Rotary Experimental” I’m not sure what all this talk of “4 cylinder” models is about. First I’ve ever heard of them. Rotarys of the day were equipped with 2 rotors housing 6 combustion chambers (3 each) fired by 4 spark plugs and 2 distributors. Not a cylinder in sight.

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    • Scotty GAuthor

      Hi, Grant. For a short time US Mazda dealers offered a “regular” inline 4-cylinder piston engine Capella known as the 616; the rotary was an extra-cost option.

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      • Ken M

        Scotty … here in Australia we had the same option. If I remember correctly, the Rotary model also had upgraded features to the Capella.

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      • grant

        Thanks Scotty. I learn something new every day. I always assumed anything in the “Rotary experimental” series would be rotary powered.

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  8. Henrie

    Damn , look at that white Renault Gordini in the background. Whould seriously like that one

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  9. HoA Howard AMember

    Does anybody remember the “Rotary pickup”, ( circa 1974) It actually was one of the nicer mini-pickup’s of the day.

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    • Ken M

      Howard … that one didn’t get to Oz. I guess we had too many home grown utes in the 1970s.

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  10. Brakeservo

    Over 40 bids with seven days left to go?? Hey boys and girls, can you spell S-H-I-L-L??

    Like 0

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