One Owner: 1983 Mazda RX-7 GSL

The original owner of this 1983 Mazda RX-7 GSL kept an incredible documented history of the car’s life until it was parked in 2003. It has been coaxed back to life, but it will need work to return to the road once again. It is a classic that is now looking for a second owner, so it has been listed for sale here on eBay. The little Mazda is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and 28 bids have pushed the price to $3,050 in this No Reserve auction.

The little Mazda wears Havana Brown Metallic paint, but it is showing significant deterioration. A cosmetic refresh will be on the cards, including addressing the few minor dings and dents that the car has accumulated over the past 28-years. The seller says that the Mazda is rust-free, but there is evidence of ongoing exposure to damp across various areas of the car. There is also some surface corrosion visible, so the RX-7 might require a closer inspection. The original owner ordered the Mazda with a sunroof, which will be an excellent addition on those sunny days. The plastic and glass have survived quite well, but the alloy wheels show enough oxidization to suggest that they will need to be professionally restored or replaced.

Mazda poured a considerable amount of time and money into the ongoing development of the Wankel rotary engine. When properly maintained and treated with respect, these little units can be a revelation. They aren’t blessed with loads of power or torque, and they are at their best when backed by a manual transmission. Thankfully, this car was ordered with the 5-speed manual, making it a satisfying thing to drive. The car has been sitting since 2003, but the owner has coaxed it back to life with a battery and some starter fluid. It will need some work before it could be deemed to be roadworthy, and my only concern is that it does have 122,000 miles on the clock. However, the car comes with comprehensive service records that date back to day 1, and these indicate that the vehicle has been meticulously maintained throughout its life. That means that the odometer reading might be irrelevant given Mazda’s success with this engine in long-distance events like the Daytona 24 Hour.

This journal provides an indication of how thorough the owner has been with this RX-7. In addition to the previously mentioned service history, this book is where the owner kept a record of every fuel fill that the car has received from 1983 until it was parked 20-years-later. We’ve seen some thorough recordkeeping over the years here at Barn Finds, but the ones for this Mazda rate amongst the best ever. It does give potential buyers confidence that the owner has had an eye for detail with this car.

The photos that the seller supplies of the Mazda’s interior make me slightly nervous about this car. The upholstery doesn’t look bad, but there’s plenty of the sort of mildew that can develop when a vehicle has been sitting in a damp environment for years. The carpet in the rear cargo area is also rotted, and it is these issues that lead me to believe that this is a vehicle that will require an in-person inspection. The accumulated mildew also makes me suspect that it might not smell that good either. Replacing the carpet would make a big difference inside the Mazda because the upholstery and plastic should respond well to a thorough clean. The original radio/cassette player has been replaced, but there have been no other additions. As well as the sunroof, the RX-7 comes equipped with air conditioning and power windows.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to drive a rotary-powered Mazda, that means that you’ve missed out on one of life’s little pleasures. If you are the sort of person who likes lazy engines with bags of torque, this car probably won’t suit you. However, if you like cars that provide an engaging motoring experience and reward people who are willing to concentrate on extracting the most from any vehicle, this could be the one for you. The bidding on this 1983 RX-7 has been spirited, and it is easy to see why because it is a project car that does show some promise. If it remains around the current level, it could be an affordable project car for the right person. The big question is whether that person is you.

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Comments

  1. Terrry

    122k miles on a rotary is a lot. Racing is one thing, but everyday use and stop and go is another. These motors are usually pretty tired by 100k, so I’m thinking that’s why this one sat.

    Like 4
    • Curt Lemay

      Tired at 100K? More like 60K. Must have been a lot of HWY miles to get her that far. All the engine seals are going to have to be replaced. These used too much oil as it is. Despite all of that, these were a pretty car back in the day. I drove a few for short distances, always impressed by the smoothness, esp as compared to the roughness of the unbalanced fours of the day. I always wondered if Mazda had ever considered putting a regular engine in these, if they would have sold better? A lot of people scarred of the rotarys. Why didn’t the Miata ever get the Wankel? Ever put that thought in your pipe and smoke it?

      Like 4
      • Kenny

        It sounds like YOU were one of the ones scared of rotaries. I owned a Mazda specialty shop for nearly 30 years. I have owned and/or repaired literally hundreds of these cars. The 1981-1985 12A rotary was a very developed engine by then (the GSL-SE 13B was even better), and I very commonly saw my customers drive over 200K miles on an original engine. The Housings and Seals were all hardened by then, unlike the early ‘70’s rotaries… boy! Old reputations die hard! Since the engines were DESIGNED to use some oil by injecting it into the carburetor, if Mazda did make a mistake, it was to have only 5 quarts in the oil pan. Some people just can’t be troubled with checking their oil…

        Like 15
    • xrotaryguy

      No, 122k miles on an old 12a isn’t so bad. These motors tended to last 150k to 170k miles. So it’s not exactly low miles but you’ve got a few to go yet.

      Like 3
      • JMB#7

        I agree with you comments, but need to add a minor exception. I have seen a few that were into 300k miles (no rebuild). Specifically the 12A motor.

        Like 5
    • JMB#7

      That’s funny. I am not sure when Rotaphobia became a thing but it is hanging in there. Are these comments from personal experience? My personal experience is that a 12A rotary from the early 80’s will outlast just about any 4 cylinder from the same era. The miles on this car don’t bother me at all. I do wonder why they didn’t take the time to clean it up better before listing it for sale.

      Like 4
  2. Raymond L Saunders

    Why is the shifter and steering wheel blue?….nevermind, it’s a money pit…

    Like 3
    • Rick Shute

      The Blue hues on the shifter and steering wheel are simply mold.
      I own one of the 79 Rx7’s
      and can verify those parts are often black.

      Like 2
  3. Derek

    You also want to have a shot of one with a Janspeed exhaust. Sounds like tearing calico…

  4. Steve Clinton

    My wife and I almost bought one of these, but couldn’t find one without a plaid interior.

  5. marlon w smith

    I had an 82 GS fun car

    Like 2
  6. Greg

    I have owned a 72 RX-2 and an 86 RX-7. I loved both of them, especially the RX-2 for it’s Q ship sleeper quality….many a surprised BMW2002 owner fell to the power of the ‘hummm’.

    Like 2
  7. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Rust free?
    Hardly.
    Too much mold says that it has been in a damp environment!

    Like 1
  8. JMB#7

    This car has potential, it appears mostly original and well maintained. But it will need some attention. It may not have visible rust now, but I advise removing the door cards and cleaning and ospho inside the the lower parts of the doors. Make sure that the ignition components are in good shape, fail coils or ignitors can cause these to run hot which will lead to other problems if not addressed. Why they did not take the time to clean up the interior is beyond me. The current price seem fair, but it will need attention before driving on a regular basis. There are several good forums for this generation, and several US suppliers of OEM type and performance parts.

    Like 3
  9. Mike

    I’ve owned a couple of these. A 79 and an 81. They were a blast to drive. 130mph was no problem for the car, although the 13 inch tires were the weak link. Finding the good high speed tires was tough to do back then. Living in New England, back then, they were rust buckets.

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      14″ rims were available in 1995 (maybe sooner). I have 14″ Enkei rims on my 1982 that date back to when the car was fairly new. The problem is finding the bolt pattern which is much less common today. Performance tires for 14″ & 15″ are much easier to find.

      Like 2
      • xrotaryguy

        14s were available on the Limited Edition model in 1983. They were a gold mesh wheel.

        And of course, 15s were standard on the GSL-SE.

        Like 1
      • Kenny

        Xrotaryguy— you’re close to correct there… the ‘83 Limited edition had silver, not gold, mesh Enkei wheels, 14”, on the correct but unusual 4x110mm bolt pattern, which all carbureted Rx7’s used. But the attractive GSL-SE wheels were a 4x115mm bolt pattern, which is exclusive to the fuel-injected Rx7’s. They do not interchange.

        Like 2
      • Xrotaryguy

        Hi Ken. That’s interesting you’ve seen other silver LE wheels. Until recently, I’d only ever seen gold. I was thinking the recent silver sightings were blasted and cleared. Were there actually silver LE wheels back in the day? Maybe there were two color schemes?

      • Kenny

        Perhaps the wheel colors varied regionally? I’m in the Seattle area. I remember in the ‘90’s working in my Mazda shop that occasionally an Rx7 from another part f the country would come n painted a color that was not available in our area, so maybe the wheels varied as well.

        Like 1
      • Xrotaryguy

        Ken, I was in Eugene, OR sighting the gold meshies in the 90s.

        This seems like a mystery almost worth solving haha.

      • jaker76

        Different regions got different color combos on wheels and interior. Had a black black interior GSL came from Texas region, which in Omaha region we could not get. Earlier car but by the time you all talking about I only remember silver wheels and the gold wheels were on cars from other regions!

        Like 1
      • JMB#7

        Enkei currently sells a “Classic” rim ENKEI92 but only in 15″ and not in 4×110 pattern (maybe special order, IDK). Available with Gold/Silver/or Black centers. The 92 is a single piece rim. The 14″ rims on my 1982 RX7 are two piece 14″ with gold centers, 4×110 pattern, but were not original equipment. The pilot hole is oversized but they mount lug centric very well. If you look long enough, adapters are available but will then change offset. The other option is to swap out hub & brakes.

        Like 2
      • JMB#7

        correction, 14″ rims were available in 1983 (originally I meant 1985 not 95).

      • xrotaryguy

        Jaker76, thanks for the info!!

  10. jaker76

    Owned many RX7’s in those days and sold them new!! Never had a single issue with the rotary! The trick was when new to run em hard and drive em like you stole em!!! No excessive oil usage on any of the 6 I owned over the years! And a note the GSL in the states all had sunroofs, one did not order a Mazda with any options, you got what was available in your region!!!

    Like 2

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