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RX Lineage: 1979 Mazda RX-7

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Many 1970’s cars have yet to receive the recognition they deserve, even in the Japanese realm. The first generation Mazda RX-7 is a great car that many may not yet see as a classic. Mazda is known for making cars that are rewarding to drive and this 1979 RX-7 is for sure a rewarding driver. 1979 was the first year for the RX-7, and this car is in phenomenal original condition with less than 19,000 miles. The color and the awesome graphics really hit home on this cars 1970s roots. This original first year RX-7 is offered at $9,800. Find it here on craigslist out of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Let’s not be shy and discuss the hot topic about the RX-7, the rotary engine. There are mixed opinions about rotary engines, but this 1979 model has a 12a engine which is often described as “bullet proof” from the rotary community. The 12a in this ’79 is clean and original, aside from the oil cap. The engine bay and the accessories look new. There are many alluring factors to the RX-7 and its rotary power, the compact engine sits nicely against the firewall giving an excellent weight bias, in fact a perfect one at 50/50. These first generation cars are not fast, but they are zippy and offer a great deal of fun.

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We love the looks of this RX-7, the color and the graphics are fantastic. The exterior of this first generation RX-7 often brings to mind the Datsun/Nissan Z car line. Although the RX-7 is smaller and has slightly different proportions. The exterior of this 79’ looks mint. Did we mention we like the graphics? We would love to see more detailed photos of this car, preferably with the nose bra removed. The seller looks to have taken very good care of this example by driving it with a bra to protect from rock chips and bugs. The early style alloy wheels are a plus and really fit the early looks.

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We prefer the early style gauge cluster with the analog clock in the early first generation RX-7’s. This brown interior looks mint. There is a tiny bit of puckering on the driver side seat, but there is no apparent wear to the seat. The steering wheel looks clean and unblemished and looks like it would transmit all of the wonderful inputs any one would desire from a sports car. The interior of this RX-7 looks to be free of blemishes what so ever, giving some evidence of being garaged and being a truly low mileage car.

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We think the first generation RX-7 is on the cusp of becoming a classic. Although made from 1979-1985, the 1979 and 1980 model year cars have different taillights, as well as a different bumpers compared to the later 1981-1985 cars. We prefer the ’79-80 model cars as they are not as common and have a certain “retro” aspect to them that the 81+ cars lack. This one has a lot of pluses going for it. It is a low mileage survivor, with an interesting color and graphics. It’s also a first year car, making it an excellent example of the beginning of the RX-7 Lineage. What do you think, is this RX-7 a classic, or do we still have some time to wait for it to reach classic status?  And what would you do with this RX-7?


  1. Dutch 1960

    The interiors on these rot away quickly if the car is not always garaged, so this one is a good find. Low mileage, always garaged, good original condition. The only way to go with one of these.

    The 79 and 80 use a thermal reactor exhaust rather than a catalytic converter, which can be trickier to pass smog in states like California. The 79 also has old school points and condensers, instead of electronics in the distributor.

    Like the first Miata and 240Z, these had a long waiting list to buy, when they first came out. That is a good sign for future collectibility, if that is your thing.

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  2. nessy

    Much newer looking than a late 70’s sports car, although the graphics keep this example in the 70’s. When this car was introduced in the summer of 78, the styling blew everyone away. The car looked like a rocket, however, performance was a let down. The RX7 did not really become a true “sports car” to compete with the likes of the Datsun Z car and a few years later, the new Supras and Starions, ect until the GSL-SE model was introduced in mid 83 as a new 84 model. That car gave everyone a run for their money.

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  3. Eric Dashman

    If the picture uploads, this is my 84 GSL in the same color as the instance car above.

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    • Eric Dashman

      I’ve had this since 1988 when I bought it with 5K miles. It now has 188K. I did replace the engine at 160K (but later discovered I didn’t need to do so, and still have the original). It has a brown leather interior and the only issues are a small wear-tear on the left driver’s bolster and the rear area carpet fading. Dash is perfect, with everything working. I did replace the original radio/cassette/equalizer. Came with dealer-installed chrome trim around the wheel wells and pin-striping along the belt line. It has power windows, brakes, cruise, rear wiper and power antenna (has a broken piece of plastic that I need to replace that makes it work). No PS or DL. 4 wheel disks. I installed racing springs that lower it by 2 inches. I never fail to get comments, head turns, and conversations about it when I take it out. The 12A engine has no pep in stock form, not kicking in power until about 4K rpm. Handles great even at speed, but has next to no acceleration. I personally think that this color works best for the car with its tinted windows, but it’s a rarity. Usually they’re in black, silver, gray or red.
      I did own a 1979 model for a time but sold it. It definitely was faster than my 84, but it was vastly more primitive. It did have a sunroof, but none of the power options, and only front disk brakes. Much less comfortable ride and louder…but fast.
      Street porting would help these, with bridge porting only for racing types.

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  4. Pfk1106

    Nice looking. My wife’s cousins boyfriend had one of these. He traded in his 1967 427/435 vette for it. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.

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  5. ccrvtt

    I had a ’79 that I compared favorably to my MGBs. My brother in law did a beautiful job painting it bright red. It had the stainless targa applique over the back of the roof which set it off nicely. The power from the rotary was linear in my opinion, smooth right on up to redline. It was not particularly neck-snapping fast but it handled very well. They were called the Poor Man’s Porsche in some circles.
    Years ago I read some snooty English car guy saying that anyone can drive a fast car fast (i.e. us Corvette drivers) but that it takes real skill to drive a slow car quickly. True to an extent, but much as I liked the Rx7 and the MG’s I’ll still take 300hp & 340 ft./lbs. any day.

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  6. duke

    that is one terribly ugly color combo—-

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  7. Wiley Robinson

    I’ve always been amazed that the RX-7 isn’t one of the most desirable of the 70s-80s Japanese sportscars. These were very competitive in SCCA racing back in the day and one of the most buildable cars out there. I had an 81 GS that was pretty much worn out when I got it and even then it was an absolute joy to drive on a tight road or an autocross track. I just don’t get the lackluster enthusiasm for these now.

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  8. Pete

    I had a 79 in Germany when I was stationed there. Now you say these aren’t fast or don’t handle all that well. Hummmmm. I disagree. What other car can you go 90MPH in and take a left hand 90 degree turn by down shifting to 2nd and popping the clutch as you go side ways and pow your going straight ahead again. That thing drove like it was on rails. Except in the snow. LOL. One of the funnest cars I have ever owned. It seemed pretty quick if you didn’t mind watching the gas needle falling when you put your foot in it. Down side to them is the body on it can be dented with your thumb as they are very thin skinned. Also the fuel filters will shut that car down with a quickness if it gets the least bit of trash in it. Even if you never do a thing to it other than stock maintenance it will still hold it’s own in SCCA races which many folks appear to like them for.

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