Low-Mileage Rotary: 1974 Mazda RX-3

The Mazda RX-3 is a great road car that also enjoyed a giant-killing reputation in saloon car racing across the globe. This RX-3 is no giant killer, but it is a survivor that you could enjoy on a daily basis. You will find it listed for sale here on eBay. Located in Valrico, Florida, it is offered with a clear title. The seller has set a BIN price of $28,000 although there is the option available to make an offer.

This Mazda had sat under a cover for a number of years before it came into the possession of its current owner. It has only travelled a documented 12,000 miles during its life-time. It wears its original paint, and is truly a survivor. There are a few marks, dings, faded areas and rust spots, but overall it presents well. The car underwent a Ziebart treatment when new. The owner wasn’t satisfies with the presentation of the underside, so he had this stripped. As you can see from this shot, everything is solid and rust-free underneath.

The seller then had the underside re-painted in the original color. I have to say that it looks really nice. This owner is keen on protecting this car’s originality, and this is why he went to these lengths.

The interior is also original, and it presents really well. There is a small crack in the dash pad, but the remainder appears to be quite good. It is nice to see that the original steering wheel is still present, as these were often replaced by aftermarket items. The only deviation from standard in there is the addition of an engine coolant temperature gauge, which is not a bad piece of insurance.

This car sports the 12A rotary engine backed by a manual transmission. The seller bought the Mazda in 2014 after it had been sitting for many years. He took the car home and performed a full service on it, rebuilt the carburetor, replaced the plugs and flushed the gas tank and lines, and the car fired right up. He has driven it around 3,000 miles since, and he states that it runs and drives like a new car. The original exhaust was pretty bad, so it has been replaced with Racing Beat headers and a matching muffler. The car also now has electronic ignition for reliability (the original comes with the car) and also has Koni shocks on all corners.

The rotary-powered Mazda RX-3 does not produce the torque of a V8, but it is capable of producing amazing performance from its high-revving Wankel engine. These little cars are not for everyone, especially those who are used to the power and torque of a V8 engine. This one is in extraordinary, original condition, and the asking price reflects this. This little Mazda is not a cheap car, but try finding another one in such original condition with such low mileage. It just doesn’t happen.

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  1. Howard A Member

    Wow, survivor isn’t the right word, maybe dinosaur is more like it. I almost traded my MGB for a RX-4.I liked the styling and aside from the huge plume of engine smoke when starting( normal, I was assured by the salesman), I tell you what, that car had all the steam of a stock V8, I was impressed. It was a 4 speed and there was a beeper on the tach when the redline was reached, and unlike a piston engine, you couldn’t even tell, it was that smooth. Also, the fuel economy turned me off, as I think V8’s got better mileage. Really cool cars, but just too much going agin it. I didn’t know enough about the rotary and kept the MG( for another 10 years) In the 70’s, foreign cars were a tough sell, especially with an unconventional motor like the rotary. They took special care, and with 12K miles on this, I’m sure someone had problems, and quit driving it. There were LOTS of low mileage rotaries, they didn’t last long enough to rust out. The RX series never made it, even though the RX2 did give better economy, they were few and far between. Unbelievable find here.

    • Jeff

      Appropriate summation. This is a special rare beast, but is definitely not for everyone. Amazing find, for certain.

  2. Steve R

    At least the seller came down from his $35,000 asking price last time he listed it on eBay.

    I know these cars have a cult following, but the price doesn’t seem grounded in reality.

    Steve R

  3. JoeNYWF64

    I thought these model 2 doors only came as hardtops, like the celica & this one …
    The white KYB gasadjust(not air) shocks were so stiff on my friend’s old 70’s trans am, he took them off the front, but left them on the rear cause of sagging leaf springs – a cheap “fix”, but you can barely push down on the rear of the car! That shock absorber i see on the back of this mazda sure looks like a KYB gas adjust & should be avoided if you have lousy roads in your area.

    • Steve R

      KYB = kills your back.

    • Dutch 1960

      RX3 2 doors came as a “post” hardtop, with a thin steel post ahead of the rear quarter window, and a frame around the front side window. RX4 2 doors were pillarless.

      • dweezilaz

        Then it isn’t a hardtop. If it has a post it’s a coupe or two door sedan.

      • Dutch 1960

        OK, it isn’t a hardtop. Mazda called the 2 doors “coupes” anyway.

  4. Tom Justice

    The buyer needs to be cautioned on how much oil these engines use. Engine oil is used to lubricate the rotors as they move against the case and it goes down a lot faster than you think. That is the main reason for the smokey start ups mentioned earlier. I would check at least once per week and keep a couple of quarts in the trunk. The gas mileage is also very poor for the size of the car; that and environmental problems killed the rotary but that last gen RX-7 twin turbo with a 1.1 liter engine and 280 HP would scream.

    • Howard A Member

      Didn’t the early ones have an anti-freeze injector for the lower combustion chamber. Something about sub-freezing temperature starts?

  5. Coventrycat

    Love seeing stuff like this – I haven’t seen a real one since the early eighties.

  6. Bingo

    Original apex seals lasted maybe 20k miles on my friend’s. 9k overrun backfires with flames had everybody ducking in the days before Islamic terrorism was popular.

    • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

      Carefull. You can’t say such things here in Canada where our Prime Minister Tur D’Oh welcomes People-Kind of all diversities !!

      • Ken Member

        Keep your political views to yourself. We talk cars here.

  7. Bradshaw from Primer

    i had a new RX-2…..easily outran most v8’s back then on top speed. MPG was 17 so not so bad…gas was still under 50 cents in 72. and not getting 23 mpg like a celica wasn’t bad when you went 30 mph faster! Revs were speed…it was not a torquer like a chev v8 was a revver like a Lotus twin cam or alfa……was fastere than the alfa or tii….R&T compared all three. BUT, in late 73 coolant o-rings on all the rotarys FAILED….the 5 dealerships in Dallas at the time had 20-30 cars in the line waiting for very expensive repairs 1/3 of the cost of the 2 year old cars. Most owners joined a class action suit that only paid if you had the car repaired and then not for years. within 6 months Dallas had only one mazda dealership combined with an olds dealership, so it survived. the rubbery o-ring was replaced by a steel teflon sandwich….I think sales stayed low until the RX-7 appeared in 79. Loved that engine.

    • Tom Justice

      A few years ago, a local veterinarian with her first real job bought an RX-8. I was telling her about keeping the oil checked and if the engine failed, as they did more than you would think, you had to order a reman from Mazda as no one really at the tooling to rebuild one. She said it came with one free replacement engine, that should tell you all you need to know.

  8. Mr. Bond

    We raced one of these in my GTV down highway 93 from Kelowna, BC to Penticton one night in the early ’80’s. He got ahead of me on a corner he knew well. We kept up just fine, but could never find a way to get by him. We were surprised when he told us it was pretty much stock.

  9. Tom Fitch Member

    I had a ’73 RX3(silver) that I bought new at the end of the season in ’74. They had some sort of a rebate program as I recall that I just couldn’t refuse. After a few weeks, I could see why. It got very disappointing mpg’s for a car that size. What I hated the most was the backfire between shifts and at shut down. The dealer could never correct that. Traded it off after only one year for a Fiat 124 sport. I will agree though – it was a great driving car with power and very smooth. I had high hopes for the rotary engine, not sure why we don’t see more of them today.

  10. Ted Shannon

    Bought a 73 RX3 in 1980 for $300. Kid said the clutch was fried, thing was mint, red on black, stick car, local Richmond car so figured it was worth a look. Clutch was so out of adjustment the car barely moved, I paid for it, adjusted the clutch in the driveway, left with it with the kid almost in tears, and drove it for a year. That car was more fun than some of the legit musclecars I owned. Flat foot shifting when the rev limiter beeper came on, and I was earning so much then I didn’t care how bad the mpg was. And did that car handle, I seem to remember it having Michelin radials but regardless of buns it was glued to the road. Mine barely burned a drop oil in all the time I had it so the rotaries weren’t all smokers. I only sold it when I went to put tires on it and three of the lugs snapped off because someone had used a millionteen ft/lb worth of torque air gun to put them on……..man I miss that car to this day. As for this car, put 73 bumpers on it, and drop the price another 15K and I might be interested……….. ;)

  11. Geoff A

    Bought a 77 RX 3 new the year I got married, Wife could not drive my 69 GTO manual steering and brakes, oh well,I am still married . Ran it for 5 years till the rust and the computer got it. Rust in Maine gets a lot of cars. So much fun with MGB, Sprites and TR’s smoked them! New engine at 25,000 seals went and the computer was an ongoing problem but fun car. They have quite a following in Puerto Rico. Might end up there. I would buy this first rather than some rusted out Porsche project that when pushed to the limit will swap ends with no warning. RX3 is very predictable as it track record indicates

  12. Dutch 1960

    These may have not been giant killers, but they would nip at their heels. My RX3, back in the day, with a header and the smog stuff pulled off, would turn high 15’s, which was not too shabby for a run what you brung Saturday night at the drag strip, about 40 years ago. A buddy with an RX2, with a series of junkyard 13B RX4 engines with home porting jobs, header, welded up rear, and a Holley, revving it until your eyes would bleed, could turn mid 13s. He made a bit of money on the side with that thing. Go look at what factory V8s would turn in the 1/4 in the late 70s, not pretty.

    It’s not that there is a lot of demand for these, it is that there is no supply. He’ll probably get something in the $20k’s for it.

  13. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Sold for 28K. I didn’t think it would go cheap.

  14. Navi318

    Don’t under estimate the rotary…. my friend had a Rx2 with a 13B swap. It had bridged and polished ports. Along with a list of other performance upgrades and i kid you not, he was running mid to high 9’s in the 1/4!!! No NOS, no turbo! This thing was amazing and would kick the front teeth in on lots of V8’s at Moroso. Super beautiful find here….. I’d prefer the Japan spec bumpers instead of these anchors, but still beautiful.

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