Wankel Wagon: 1974 Mazda RX4

Mazda RX4

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No, it’s not an RX2, 3, 7, or 8! This unusual RX4 wagon is currently in Sanford, Florida and is for sale here on eBay, where the buy-it-now is $4,000, but the opening bid is only $2,500. Let me start by saying I’m biased here; I like Wankels (rotaries). To a mechanical engineer, the whole idea of drastically reducing the number of moving parts in an engine is a good thing. Mazda struggled for years to find the right market niche for the rotary and finally did so with the RX7 and RX8; where enthusiasts don’t care quite as much about fuel economy but are interested in the performance aspects of the engine. So putting it into what at the time was not-quite-a-compact wagon puzzles me (almost as much as the rotary pickup, but that’s a whole other story).

Mazda RX4 Wagon

Hooking the rev-happy but comparably low-torque rotary to an automatic makes even less sense to me – and apparently the American public agreed. As of 2007, there were exactly 14 1974 RX4 wagons registered in the entire US. I’m guessing a few more of those are gone by now, so it’s probably safe to say this is one of 10 or less on the road in this country! That makes me a little more able to overlook the oversized wheels, substitute steering wheel and neatly done but completely unoriginal dashboard coloring. A small amount of rust in the passenger rear underneath is worth looking into, and what actually worries me the most is trying to come up with the rear bumper corners. Would you give this Wankel wagon a home?

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  1. E55

    When I was growing up in the 1970’s, we had one just like it. My dad was a total car guy. We followed this car with a Datsun 810 sedan – which was a Camry-sized vehicle with a Datsun 260z engine in it! Both of these cars were fast as hell, which, of course, appealed to him. I also think he liked the understated nature of these rigs (which he referred to as “Q-ships”).

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  2. Ed P

    A steering wheel for a backseat driver is the worst option ever.

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  3. DolphinMember

    Ads like this make me think of scenarios like…..

    Young man in Florida buys unusual, scarce, cheap car in Washington state and has it shipped about the max distance possible within the US. Car looks nice. New owner buys special wheels and new steering wheel to make it sportier. Puts old ones in back seat, not the best place for them. Engine turns over but won’t start. It’s a rotary, so seals might be bad. Likely needs engine rebuild at more than the price of the car. Car goes back on the market.

    I don’t know if that’s true but something along those lines probably is, unfortunately.

    It’s a nice rare import wagon and I like it, even the color. Buy a good used engine and it would be a fun daily driver—if you don’t mind the auto transmission.

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  4. Mike D

    My dad had an RX4 two door, it had things that were ” standard” , that were options, or even not available on American cars, it was fast, . if I had the $$ ,, I would be all over this one even with the engine issues you can’t find ANY Rx4s anywhere

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  5. Cory

    Tow hitch? Really? I’m guessing the motor is toast. Would an rx7 power plant swap in?

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  6. jim s

    for the $4000 BIN i think you could get a running RX7 with a manual trans. the trailer hitch makes me wonder about the transmission/rearend on this car also. interesting find.

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  7. HoA Howard AMember

    Wow, an RX-4 is indeed a rare piece. Any RX-4. Too bad there isn’t a view of the front. Nice styling. In the mid-70’s, I went to the local Mazda dealer to test drive a new RX-4 2 door, 5 speed ( I think) with the intention of trading my MGB in ( I know, horrors, hear me out), if I liked it. Salesman was more than happy to go for a ride ( I think he really wanted my MG) 1st, when it started, HUGE cloud of blue smoke ( brand new, mind you) We get onto the road, the 2nd thing I did, was floor it. It revved almost instantly, until about 8 grand when a buzzer went off.( indicating redline was reached, freaked me out) I remember the car was a nice car, but really a dog at low rpms, and it needed to spin. I told the salesperson, I’ll think about it,but was so happy to get back in my MGB, and never thought nonsense like that again. ( trade the MGB, what was I thinking?)

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  8. BradL

    Between the wavy rear bumper with missing ends, missing rear window chrome, and twisted rear hatch, I’d say this one took a rear ender at some point. And that has got to be the worst job ever at recovering a dash panel.

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  9. Steve

    If I had the time, money, ect. I would buy this thing build up the motor, swap in a manual, those rotory style wheels and drive the crap out of it.

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  10. 71 MKIV

    am I the only one who thinks this looks like a Hornet wagon?

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    • Jamie Palmer JamieAuthor

      I hadn’t noticed that before, but you’re right!

      Like 1
  11. alan

    Its a wagon, right? Why not fold the back seat down and put the wheel/wheels in the trunk and not leave tread imprint in the upholstery.

    An AMC Sportabout had a ridiculously small luggage compartment that also had a ridiculous high lift over height

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  12. Axel Caravias

    This one is local to me so if anyone needs a ppi feel free to contact me caravias1969@hotmail.com

    Axel Caravias

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  13. roger

    I had a 74 wagon. It was fun. Bought new. Dealers were a joke at that time. Most Mazda had slight rust do to container ships sitting in harbor a long time. When I picked mine up I complained about paint. Dealer painted car and everything good. Mileage sucked but nobody told me that oil consumption was bad too.

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  14. Mike

    You forgot to list the RX5 / Cosmo. I had a 1976 model. Bought it on Guam new and had it shipped to California. Only about 2000 made it here from what I understand.

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  15. Cary

    Had a 1974 RX-4 5-speed wagon. Many good times. Loved to rev it out (had RX-7 later). Yea, it burned oil, but oil was cheap. Camping, hauling the dogs, slogging it through the esses. Had those seat belt tensioners with explosive charges to set them. Always wondered if they would work when needed.

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  16. Bryan

    Mazda suffered mightily during the fuel crisis of late 1973 and again in 1979. Their rotary engines recorded roughly the same gas milage as a full sized American car! Outside of the RX7, I don’t think I’ve seen any other seventies rotary powered Mazda (RX2/3/4) for almost thirty years. The conventionally powered 4cyl GLC saved their bacon when it debuted in 1977.

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  17. Peter


    I missed the twisted hatch, but I do see it.

    Can anyone tell me why there appears to be a ONE-INCH-GAP between the rear of the R.F. door and the front of the R.R. door? I mean, the top of the window frame seems like it’s in place, and the bottom of the R.F. door doesn’t look too bad, so what is going ON there?

    I am proud to say I test drove a beat, ’73 (?) RX3, while in college. It sounded…tired, idled rough, and smoked. So I walked away–but it was a cool, little, stick-shift car–one I wouldn’t mind seeing/driving/possibly owning today, if it were in much better shape.


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  18. PRA4SNW

    This brings back memories, thanks for posting it. We also had one – Dad bought one on ’78 when my mother decided she wanted to drive again. It also coincided with getting my driver’s license, so I got to enjoy it too.
    Automatic like this one, but still fun to floor until a little “click” was heard and then the revs would build up and it would fly.
    I hope someone picks it up and does what is needed to bring it back – a rarity for sure.

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  19. Peter Borja

    Bought one from a friend of my teacher spent $50.00 for it. Replaced the fuel pump and it ran great raced it too, it was a sleeper only few friends knew about what I had under the hood. Looking for one so I can show my boys what a real car looks like.

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  20. Giles Pope

    This was my first car. Bought it used in 1981 for $1000. Mine was a stick but the same color as this one. It drove fine, I had it a few months until one day when it stalled on the Dan Ryan in the high speed lane. I think it was the timing belt that failed but could be wrong. In the time that it took me to get a tow truck, about an hour, it was hit at high speed and turned it into an accordion. R.I. P. My RX4.

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