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Low-Mile Rotary: 1987 Mazda RX-7

The JDM world has really sprung into life over the past few years, with cars such as the Honda Civic Type-R and Toyota Supra fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction. But the cars just before this 1990s resurgence are less popular, but really paved the way and build a base for the success of the future 1990s JDM cars. One such legendary car is the Mazda RX-7, which is in second generation (FC) guise is a lot less popular than the 3rd generation(FD) version which followed. So this is why they remain relatively affordable and ours is available in Goshen, Indiana on eBay here and is currently sitting at $6300 with 20 bids.

Whilst the first generation of RX-7 was designed and built for the Japanese market, the second generation was designed for the US market, given that the car had been a success there more so than in Japan. It was a big step forwards from the previous generation and won multiple awards in 1986 and 1987 for its driving, handling, and dynamics. However whilst it’s not as iconic as the FD version it still has a loyal following of fans who like the uncomplicated wedge design.

Now, of course, an RX-7 comes with the complex Wankel rotary engine – this is the 13B and is mated to a manual transmission. The car has been very well looked after, kept in a heated garage, and has covered less than 30,000 miles. This engine produced 146hp, but the rotary engine is very high revving, and it’s the delivery of this power that impresses most.

In fact, the only thing needing attention is the paint on the roof after it was caught in a hailstorm and some repairs were needed. All electronics work well, and it runs and drives perfectly. The seller has usefully provided lots of photos of the underneath of the car too – where there is very little rust, and any rust present is only surface rust and very minor.

Having a JDM classic in this good condition, it’s likely this seller kept this in case values shoot up in the future. So this leaves the new owner with a dilemma – leave it in a heated garage and keep it as close to the original as possible, or get it out and start opening up to some longer trips to stretch that beautiful 13B rotary engine.

Comments

  1. Cadmanls Member

    Had all three generations of the RX and had three of these. Still have a tub of FC parts I found in the garage that need to go on e bay. Fun on a twisted road. 13B is a good engine and regular maintenance will go 150k mi then the apex seals seem to give up. They ride nice even for a sports car. Had one very similar to this one at one time.

    Like 6
  2. healeydays

    If it was a ragtop, I might have been interested…

  3. Sebastian X1/9

    This generation lacks that cool, hard edge of the first and third in terms of design, but I agree that they’re very drivable sporty cars; your gf or wife could enjoy driving this. These are also roomier inside than the other two gens.

    Like 1
  4. Mr Exotherm

    “complex Wankel rotary engine”? This statement was clearly written from a position of ignorance. The Wankel engine, while clearly very different from a reciprocating piston engine, is far less complex.

    Like 5
    • Gerard Frederick

      Ignorance implies stupidity, ergo it is insulting. A far better choice of words would havwe been ¨ill informed¨¨.

      Like 3
      • Mr Exotherm

        Let me see if I can help your understanding Gerald.

        ig·no·rance
        /ˈiɡnərəns/
        noun
        Lack of knowledge or information.

        Like 4
      • FireAxeGXP

        Ignorance certainly does NOT imply stupidity. Ignorance means lacking knowledge. That’s it. Not an insult. You’re inferring things on someone else’s behalf. Let it go millenial.

        Like 3
  5. Ken

    I love these–talk about complex! A man I worked for when I was a teen had the twin turbo version. He got it’s second oil change at the dealership, and it was running rough on the way home. He turns around, and by the time he gets back to the dealership, it will barely run. After three weeks of trying everything they can think of, they install a new engine and transmission, which had to be shipped straight from the factory! It was smooth, quiet, comfortable and sporty, but he traded it in soon after it was fixed. Still a great car.

    Like 3
  6. Joe

    It has only been kept in a heated garage since 2021. It is not hard to read the Ebay listing to get things right.

    Like 1
  7. Motorcityman Member

    Always liked these but only drove one once in So Cal.
    Poor man’s 944.
    Had a mechanic tell me to walk away, he said when the engines start to leak oil they’re done!
    One I drove WAS leaking a bit.

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      You should have found a different mechanic. One who actually knew rotary engines. No offense intended, but I hear so much of this from people who know piston engines inside & out, yet never learn more than “hear say” regarding rotaries. They lump ever generation and every flaw into one general statement.

      Like 3
      • Motorcityman Member

        So, why not explain?

        Like 1
    • JMB#7

      About every engine I am aware of is toast when the oil all leaks out. The only oil leak I dealt with on a rotary was an oil cooler fitting that was overtightened and cracked. I do currently have a seeping oil pan gasket after 40 years and 130k miles. I do know that my 1982 has indicators for low oil, low coolant, and exhaust over temperature, in addition to an oil pressure gauge. There are certain generations that did have coolant o-ring failures. Those failures would be accelerated if the engine overheated for other reasons (just like any other engine). Maybe your mechanic meant to say burn oil? If that was the case, then much later models reduced the amount and method of oil injection to meet emission standards. (see, they inject oil into the chamber to lubricate the tip seals because a rotary does not pass enough oil into the chamber to lubricate that seal on its own) Speaking of emission standards, keep in mind that the standards are written to improve the emissions of piston engines. Therefore they continue to improve upon where piston engines currently are at. The rotary does struggle with NOx due to large surface area in the combustion chamber. Yet it yields lower emissions of other compounds. My goal is to educate. By the way, I always wondered why the RX7 did not use a transaxle like the 944. Probably due to three factors…Cost, Unfamiliar Shift techniques, and they achieved 50/50 weight balance without it.

      Like 3
  8. Gerard Frederick

    Well Mr. Exotherm, thank you for your wisdom. However, a word´s meaning is found in its common usage, kind of like ¨arrogance¨, a concept you are no doubt well familiar with.

    Like 2
  9. MoragaPulsar

    Loved these cars – however … I had trouble driving mine as I never ever felt comfortable rev’ing the engine to 7k-8k, as was necessary to get out of your on way (no torque down low). The engine was always happy, but I never felt good about it. And, the car was a bit tail happy, scared me too many times – so the car had to go. Pretty to look at (IMO), but not so fun to drive.

    Like 1
  10. Emel

    Always liked the RX-7 and was first brand new car was a Mazda MX-6.
    If I could easily get in and then out… of a sportscar like this….I would bid.
    But I can’t…..so therefore I won’t.

    Like 3
  11. h60memo

    As this was most likely sold new for the US market the term JDM would not apply. JDM would be a car sold new in Japan.

    Like 3
  12. BC42

    I have to say, this are some of the snarkinest comments that I’ve seen here…
    Is this a regular JDM thing?

    • JMB#7

      No, not a JDM thing. Actually I am quite certain that “JDM” is used out of context, since this appears to be an American Market car, not a Japanese Market that was later imported. I think that the “snarky” comments come from the Rota-Phobic urban legends. Few of them have much basis, Most of them are distortions of specific issues with a particular variant. From the 40A to the 13B-MSP Renesis they all get lumped in together. The history and innovation is fascinating and what makes automotive engineering exciting. I am here to inform, and try my hardest to not speak about what I do not understand. I also try my hardest to learn more about technology in which I am ill informed. But hey, thanks for your concern

      Like 2
      • Motorcityman Member

        Why reinvent the wheel?
        The regular ICE engine works fine, what’s the benefits of a Rotary engine other than high reving?
        Lots of negatives.
        Low torque.
        They use more oil.
        Worse mpg.
        Some mechanics won’t work on them.
        There’s too many negatives that’s why they never were as popular as a regular piston motor.
        Why buy one???

      • Joe

        Most people won’t understand unless they own one. Great engine if you want to be different.I don’t care about MPG, a RX-8 uses very little oil, and I have had no issues with both that I have owned.

        Like 2
  13. Motorcityman Member

    No, just a regular Rotary engine thing……

    Like 1
  14. Motorcityman Member

    JOE……I remember Mazda stopped production on the RX8 for a couple years, wasn’t it because of oil consumption or was it another engine problem?

    • Joe

      RX-8 was sold in the US from model years 2004 to 2011. The first 2 years they had the most problems and failed engines, production never stopped d though. Two reasons the RX-8 ended were, 1 was poor sales due to the poor economy during 2008 to 2011 and even though it had 4 doors the rear seats, sport cars during those years were selling less. Today we can see how few cars are left in each car makers line up. SUVs and trucks are what people are buying. Second was tighter emission standards that were coming that the RX-8 couldn’t meet, I have a 2010 with almost 93k on it, with no issues at all being a Series 2. For that model year they only sold about 1000 units, didn’t make sense to keep the car production going, 2011 was the last year in the US. Gas mileage was always a issue, I had 2 RX-3, 1 RX-4 and they were all 15 to 17 MPG vehicles, they RX-8 is just a bit better,

      Like 2
      • Motorcityman Member

        I was told by a MAZDA dealer back then that production was “put on hold” I didn’t see any cars on the lot for quite awhile.

    • JMB#7

      I heard reports of a coolant seal in early RX-8 models. Literally an O-ring creating an internal leak. Similar problems have occurred in various piston engines (both Ford and Chevrolet). I have first hand experience with such an issue destroying a GM V6, and having miraculously saved a Ford 4.2 V6 before serious damage occurred. In all cases the belief is that the coolant becomes too acidic and breaks down the polymers in the gasket or O-ring. In the diesel community, it is more common to actually check the PH level of the coolant and use additives to correct it. On a different topic, I still average around 22 mpg on my 1982 12A RX7 5 speed. Oil consumption is still right on the factory specification which is primarily from the metering pump as designed. I do add some 2-stroke oil to my fuel approximately 256:1 ratio as an added assurance (5 oz. in 10 gallon). About every time I drive it will see a few shifts at 7k to 8k rpm. Torque is better than most 4 cylinders of the same era. Power delivery is smooth throughout the full range with a small surge when the secondary opens. Yes it is happiest between 3500-7000 rpm, but very tractable in traffic at any rpm. Very low rpm it does not pulse like a 4 cylinder. If the day comes where the motor does need to be rebuilt, I have begun investigating swapping in the 13B-MSP Renesis from the RX-8. There are few items to solve related to sensor feedbacks that can limit power. Personally the experience of driving a rotary powered car worth experiencing.

      Like 2
  15. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I had a co-worker who had one of these when it was about 25 years old. His family always had non-Rotary Mazdas, so he figured it would be a fun car to own. He had no money or mechanical skills, so I advised him to sell it to the next person who said “Nice car, is it for sale?” because they require more than basic maintenance when they get to be that age.
    He ignored me and that car died a few months later. Since he really needed transportation and was really low on finds, I located him a really nice 2 door Civic manual so he could still have some fun and look “sporty”.

  16. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Made it to $8,900, Reserve Not Met.

    • JMB#7

      Would have been a good buy at $8,900. I wonder what the reserve was.

      Like 1

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