Live Auctions

Quick Flip: 1979 Mazda RX-7

Update 5/8/20 – Looks like someone picked this one up and is trying to make a quick buck? It’s now listed here on eBay for $5,500 or best offer…

From 4/10/20 – Let me begin by thanking Ikey H. for submitting this great find! As Japanese classics become more and more and more prominent in the collector car world, original, unmodified cars like this early first-generation 1979 Mazda RX-7 are getting hard to come across. This one is listed for sale here on craigslist in the North Bay area (near San Fransisco) and the seller only wants $1,500 for the car. There’s just one catch, (isn’t there always?) and we’ll get to that shortly.

When the RX-7 was introduced in March 1978 as a 1979 model, it was somewhat surprising that such a sleek, clean design would come from Mazda. Prior to this, the upstart Japanese firm had produced several performance models utilizing rotary “Wankel” engines, but none of them apart from the original Cosmo coupe had the styling to match. The RX-7 was the mainstream sports car that would finally be a rival to Datsun’s Z-cars.

As I found out from this informative page, the VIN of this RX-7 places it as the 7,268th car produced, which makes it one of the very first cars imported to the US (the earliest cars were for the Japanese market). Unfortunately, I don’t see any badging labeling the car as a GS model, so it probably has the four-speed rather than five-speed manual transmission. But how many 1979 RX-7s are still wearing their original paint, especially in the unusual shade of “Spark Yellow”? No rust is visible in the pictures and the seller states there are no dents or dings either.

While there aren’t a lot of interior pictures, what we can see looks every bit as nice as the exterior. You are probably starting to wonder now about that low price — I suspect it would cost well over $1,500 just to get an interior that looks this nice, let alone the rest of the car around it.

The “catch” is that the seller states the car will need a new engine. Ouch. I’m hoping there’s at least some chance of rebuilding the original unit to keep the car intact, but if not replacement engines are available. Honestly, if the car is as nice as it appears in the pictures this seems like a very worthwhile project to take on. What do you think?

Comments

  1. RayT Member

    Jamie, my experience with a new ’73 RX3 with bad seals — turned the engine into a water pump — suggests that a rebuild might well send much of the engine to the scrap pile. Don’t remember exactly when Mazda fixed that issue, but if this RX-7 suffered a similar fate, I’d imagine what lies under the hood would need substantial renewal.

    If that is the case, I’d just bite the bullet and go for it. It looks to me as if the price is an absolute bargain, even considering the likely need to refresh brakes, tires, and other important parts.

    Wonder how difficult it would be to swap in a five-speed while the engine’s out? That wouldn’t be Original, but I’d be too busy driving it to listen to derogatory comments….

    Like 11
    • Joe

      Mazda has never fixed the coolant or oil seals. If the car gets a little hot they can go even faster than normal.There are plenty of RX-8 that have had to be rebuilt or parted out for those reasons. It is rare to get 100K on a RX-8 for the original engine. Mazda had to farm out all the rebuilds till they realized they were not better than the original engines and then they started doing it themselves.

      Like 1
      • Chas H

        The early engines had issues with water seals. By 1973 those were addressed. There were no issues with oil seal or apex seals either, except those damaged by misuse or poor maintenance. I think Mazda always offered rebuilds, but they were expensive and came from Japan. Mazda Tech Center was set up to address that issue around 1975.

        Like 2
    • Joe

      On the RX-8 club forum you will see many coolant and side seal issues. They still have issues even now.

      Like 2
  2. Moparman Member

    To my mind, this is a GREAT buy for someone within the local area. Not running would undoubtedly present difficulties for someone wanting to buy/transport this car long distances. Good luck to the next owner :-)

    Like 3
  3. MattR Member

    I live pretty close to Novato and I am a big fan of the original RX-7 since my Mom’s GSL so there is temptation. But a wankel motor rebuild sounds pretty scary to me.

    Like 1
    • DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

      Don’t fear the Rotor!

      When you can carry the big engine parts around, it tends to calm the nerves a bit.

      The whole thing weighs maybe 250lb., less than most bare blocks you are familiar with. And support is widespread.

      Like 6
  4. Rx7 turbo II

    What a great buy for $1,500! Since my RX7 turbo got destroyed in a freak hailstorm Wednesday night here in Illinois oh, maybe I should think about transplanting the drivetrain into this. This thing would absolutely rock with a turbo 13B in it.

    Like 21
    • DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

      What, you haven’t bought it yet?

      Like 11
  5. healeydays

    My 1st Rx7 was a yellow 79 like this one in the fall of 1978. This car is definitely worth saving.

    Like 6
  6. Joel Soto

    Definitely save it

    Like 4
  7. Bradshaw from Primer

    the 73 and earlier rotaries had rubber seals that failed under heat letting water into the rotor area that hydro distorted the “block” …they were replaced with a metal teflon seal and that fixed that problem. By Nov 73 in Dallas i believe there were 5 Mazda dealers….by March there was one in association with an old dealership. When i went to my local dealer he had 35 RX’s in the sevice bay with water coming out the exhaust. Mazda did not admit an error, a class action suit got the owner reimbursed only years later and if he had spent $1500 for the repair. Even then it was partial. I scrapped my 2 year old RX-2.
    Wasnt tip seal but was o-ring seals on the water jackets

    Like 1
  8. redwagon

    even if you didn’t intend to rebuild the motor there are probably at least $1500 in parts on this car.

    would be a crying shame not to rebuild it tho.

    Like 2
  9. ccrvtt

    I had a ’79 which I bought with about 20K miles. Drove it to 50K+ miles and it started to lose a bit of power. I think the seals were beginning to wear at that point. Until then it was my second favorite car (behind the ’69 MGB).

    They were well built and well engineered and fun to drive. When I check the used car market it’s not unusual to find examples with over 200K miles on them. I’m pretty sure the seals have been replaced but there seem to be local guys who are familiar with fixing them. $1,500 is a steal.

    Like 2
  10. Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking RX-7. I remember when they looked like this. If only more pics were posted on Craigslist. IMHO, the more pics, the better.

    Like 1
  11. Rex Rice

    This should be gone by now. When my ’83 RX-7 hit 190,000 miles, I asked the Mazda Dealer how long can I expect it to last. Answer:

    “No limitations.”

    “Forever?”

    “Maybe, unless you lose coolent.”

    Like 1
    • Dave Mazz

      I had a ’79 RX-7 that had 150,000 miles on it when I sold it, and it still ran pretty good. I wonder why the RX-8’s Joe mentioned above wore out so quickly. Did Mazda build them with cheaper seals to save a few bucks? If so, that’s good first step down the road to losing repeat customers. It makes me think that the auto people who came up with ideas like rubber timing belts, plastic intake manifolds and near-impossible-to-reach spark plugs didn’t plan to buy the cars they made.

      Like 1
      • Joe

        No, they have never made the engine to last as long as a modern piston engine as the have unequal heating to the rotary housings. I have owned 2 RX-3’s both had new engines when I bought them, 1 RX-4 which a oil seal went at 43K, I knew how to take care of them, they were not raced. If you got 50K from a 70’s rotary you were doing good. 2004 to 2005 RX-8 had over 50% engine failures before 60K, many rebuilds lasted less than the original engine. You can go on Facebook and you will find a many being parted out out or sellers dumping them on new buyers who know nothing about them and they will last only months. Never buy one without a Mazda Dealer doing a digital compression test.

        Like 1
      • Chas H

        I serviced many RX-7s in my shop and prepared a few for racing and also built and rebuilt engines. Racing engines used many stock parts including the water seals and typically lasted well over 24 hrs as evidenced by their finishes at Daytona and LeMans 24 hr races.

        Like 2
  12. LotusS777

    If it wasn’t for the fact that I am here and the car is there, I’d already have it.

    Like 3
  13. TinCanSailor

    LS Swap candidate? This thing would scream with even a mild LS in it…

    Like 3
  14. Cdice

    Definitely an S model with the 4-speed as GS had sun roof. I bought my 79 GS off the first truckload to hit the dealer in August of 79 in Columbus OH. Paid $7,200. Owned for 6 years, sold it for $6 k with 90k miles. Loved that car.

    Like 2
  15. Cdice

    Definitely an S model with the 4-speed as GS had sun roof. I bought my 79 GS off the first truckload to hit the dealer in August of 78 in Columbus OH. Paid $7,200. Owned for 6 years, sold it for $6 k with 90k miles. Loved that car.

    Like 1
  16. Pete

    I had one of these in Germany, Made the mistake of switching from petro oil to synthetic oil. It blew the seals and I was smoking a cloud a half mile long on the autobahn at 120 MPH. I would have to stop and add oil every 20 minutes. I switched back to Petro Oil and that meant I could drive it an hour before I had to add oil. Then I lost it on an icey road and snapped the front wheel off. Best driving car I ever owned. You could take a 90 degree turn at 70 MPH if you snapped down into 2nd gear and popped the clutch. It was like a sling shot. Pretty amazing vehicle.

    I wouldn’t be scared to buy this particular car even if I had to buy a complete motor to throw in it. I would invest in high speed parts to make it scream, then go out and taunt Hemi cars and Corvettes. LMAO

    Like 2
  17. Steve

    I’ve had one for years with a 350 chev and turbo 350 and 9 inch diff needless to say it goes well it has had the suspension and brakes upgraded as well

    Like 1
  18. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Can this be real? This sounds like an incredible bargain and it’s still available 2 days later?
    Of course, I know nothing about RX-7 values, but that amount of money doesn’t buy a lot, and this is in nice shape.

  19. bog

    If only… (space, not money). Bought an ’83 GS new from our local dealer. Loved it’s handling and my ability (tall & long arms) to remove sunroof when stuck in rush-hour traffic and stick it in the back. Not nearly as much torque nor off the line “Oomph” as the ’80 ZX I had previously, but more precise handling (IMHO). I “hot-rodded” mine late in my ownership & never had problems with the seals various people discussed here. I believe many owners didn’t pay attention to oil requirements and ruined their own cars, much like the first generation of turbo cars. Only 2 problems I ever had was rust (road salt in Chicagoland is AWFUL), and was on third starter when I sold it. Best thing about the starter issue was that it was easy to get at and change in my own driveway… My personal desire is to find an end of series twin-turbo RX7 !

  20. JMB#7

    1st gen RX7 are very reliable. Many have turn 150k to 300k on stock motors. Abuse can kill a piston engine quicker than a rotary.

    Like 3
  21. xrotaryguy

    Who would have guessed the “catch” was a blown rotary motor? 😥😝

    While not quite as dependable as a piston engine, they’re certainly not as fragile as some claim, especially the NA motors.

    Check the oil.
    Watch the oil injection hoses for leaks and repair properly if needed.
    Don’t rev it past the redline.
    Don’t overheat it.
    … And everything should be fine.

    150k-170k mi is common for these motors when maintained well.

    Heck, my Rx4 had 220k on the clock when it finally started using too much oil to keep the plugs clear.

    Like 3
    • JMB#7

      Your comments are well received. So while on the topic I will share advice for owners of piston engine vehicles.
      Check the oil.
      Watch oil for leaks and repair properly if needed.
      Don’t rev it past the redline.
      Don’t overheat it.
      … And everything should be fine.
      By the way, I did find that failing ignition coils will cause an engine to run hot. Keep things maintained!!!
      A piston engine has a natural rev limiter, it runs out of torque and shakes like crazy. Beware, the rotary appears very happy at high revs, but extended time in this range will accelerate the wear!!!

      Like 2
    • xrotaryguy

      JMB, yep, over reving is easy (and fun). Don’t do it. Crunching sounds result 😭🤣

      I’ve hammered on many these engines and they hold up very well. I never had one die before 150k!

      Like 2
      • bog

        xrotaryguy – Just read an old (2017) Hemmings article about an unraced Euro Rallye spec version for sale. 1985 model. Tach went to 12K. Didn’t meet auction estimate of with bid of 205K. They got podiums in other cars twice at the Acropolis Rallyes.
        Wonder what those guys pushed the revs to….Anyway, all of the other 7 cars & parts were sold off to various & sundry. Mazda realized that converting the RX7 to 4WD was too expensive, so switched to 323s. I recall my new ’83 have a decal (and key fob) showing the IMSA champs of ’81, ’82, and ’83. Went on to win ’84 as well…(don’t recall more wins) Zoom, zoom !

        Like 2
  22. 70kingswood

    LS candidate for sure!

    Like 1
  23. Jerry Soncrant Member

    Had a engine rebuild/mechanic tell me about 20 years ago that the problem with rotary engines is that when the seals start leaking they are DONE……its new engine time.
    Problem is he said that they’re fragile and leak too easy!
    I wouldnt pay more than $750 if it needed a new engine.

    Like 1
    • bog

      Jerry –
      Having followed the guys that campaigned the various Rotary Rocket cars, I doubt they’d have the same opinion. Those guys built 3, 4 and 5 rotor engines, along with super-tuning 2 rotors. Salt flats racers & IMSA cars along with parts that a guy who owned one (’83 GS) could use on their street cars. Zoom zoom !

      Like 2
      • JMB#7

        Mr. Bog… thank you for chiming in. It drives me up a wall when people cite how they killed rotary engines. It is the same stuff that would kill a piston engine (often much more quickly). Gasket failures??? I bet Chevy never had a coolant gasket failure or Ford for that matter (ha ha). Or what about Chevy roller cams wearing out before 80k miles when most vehicles go 150k with little more than oil changes. I hope I don’t get banned from this forum because I do love Barn Finds. But the Roto-phobics just drive me bonkers… Thank you for your support. Yes, I do currently have a 1982 RX7, mostly original with 130k miles and running strong. It has often seen 8k rpm, but only for a split second during shifts.

        Like 2
      • Jerry Member

        Fair enough….I was just passing along what that engine builder/mechanic told me……he had decades of experience with motors, just saying.

        Like 1
  24. Jerry Member

    I always liked the style of the 86 and up RX7s..untill they jumped way up in price in the 90s……

  25. Jerry Member

    Fair enough….I was just passing along what that engine builder/mechanic told me……he had decades of experience with motors, just saying.

  26. TimM

    I think this would be a perfect candidate for an LS swap!!! Don’t need to worry about the seals anymore!!!!

  27. Major Thom

    At least the Craigslist seller was honest about it needing a new engine…which is more than can be said for the flipper trying to sell it for 400% markup on eBay.

    Like 1
    • DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

      Well, the eBay seller does say:

      When running it shakes and rattles with loss of power but keeps idle

      Silly person admits that he tried to give it a basic parts tune-up (plugs and wires) but apparently that was not enough to make it run acceptably.

      Someone with a good-running rust-belt car may pick it up and swap in their own engine to get a nice driver. But the price is pretty optimistic. There is a “Make Offer” button, I wonder if the seller will be miffed when someone offers what it is actually worth?

  28. Ten50boy

    Ecoboost transplant car. That would be awesome……….

  29. Joe

    Report it on ebay, fraud or misrepresenting.

  30. Rex Rice

    I drove my 1985 GLS-SE for many fun miles; one of the best of the 60+ cars I have owned. A growing family caused it to leave us but I wish I had it now. I notice there very few left on the road today. Lack of attention will do them in faster than most.

    • bog

      Rex Rice – I had my ’83 GS for quite awhile, initially as a primary vehicle, then secondary, then only rarely. Had it for 14 years…souped it up. Many drivetrain and some chassis changes. Finally sold it when it was necessary to go back to just one vehicle. Think the guy was going to race it. Only significant problem at the end was bottom of both doors rusting out. They weren’t made for the horrible Winters (lots of salt) in Chicagoland ! Nor was it fun driving on crowned roads covered with packed snow or ice…

      Like 1
  31. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever
  32. Joe

    I had messaged him asking about the compression numbers for the car and he never responded.

    Like 1

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