1987 Mazda RX7 GXL 1.3L two-rotor Wankel from North America
You will get a lot out of it if you put a lot into it
Being a 22 year-old sports car, many of the braking and suspension components needed replacement. Many of these parts were upgraded with aftermarket performance parts as they were replaced.
Stock exhaust was severely rusted and the left muffler rotted off. A performance exhaust was installed to replace it.
The solder joints in many of the circuit boards go cold, causing electrical gremlins. Re soldering the joints fixes these problems.
If you want an appliance to get you from point A to point B, get a Toyota and read no further. If you want a challenging but rewarding sports car project, read on!
I bought this car to be a cheap amateur motorsports car, a weekend toy, and a mechanical project. The RX-7 does all three pretty well!
FC3S-chassis RX-7s (1986-1991 in the U.S.) are, at the earliest, 18 year old cars and you can expect a lot of wear items like ball joints, brake pads, and the like to need replacement. Most of these jobs range from easy-to-medium on the do-it-yourself scale, and parts are still easy to come by.
The unique rotary engine requires oil changes every 3,000 miles and must not overheat, without exception. Rotaries are designed to burn some oil to keep their apex seals lubricated, so expect it to use 1-1 1/2 quart of oil between oil changes. Many owners do not follow these rules, causing engine blowouts and giving the rotary a reputation for unreliability. If you follow those two rules, the non-turbos can potentially last 200,000 miles between rebuilds. This car has never failed to start for me and does not burn coolant.
The rotary loves to rev: the acceleration of the car builds as it revs higher, giving the car a slingshot effect. That being said, the non-turbo RX-7 is not fast but it is "quick." Tuning the engine for more power is simple, but speed-junkies will be better off starting with a turbo car or swapping a turbo rotary or V-8 into a non-turbo. Fuel mileage is poor, at 20mpg, but with non-turbo models, you can use 87 octane.
The RX-7's handling is exceptional, even for its age. It is communicative, forgiving, and lets you know when it is nearing its limit. The suspension was upgraded with new struts and feels taut but smooth. The stock brakes are also very good, with big 4-piston calipers up front and excellent pedal feel. GXL models come with a limited-slip differential, further enhancing its handling. It is especially rewarding on a winding road or racetrack, with the rotary screaming at redline!
The styling is understated but attractive - still a head-turner after all these years. Aside from the exhaust, there is very, very little rust - remarkable for an '80s Japanese car that has lived in the Northeast all its life. The interior is very '80s with rotary dials for many functions, but they are easy to adjust to. The shifter and pedals are well-placed for both comfort and performance driving. The shifter has a bolt-action feel to it. Visibility is good aside from two blind spots caused by the thick B-pillars. The GXL's velour seats are very comfortable. Sunroof-equipped models reduce headroom quite a bit, so taller drivers should seek out a hardtop model.
The RX-7 should not be your primary car - there will always be things to fix or upgrade and the fuel mileage is bad. However, if you're willing to put some time, effort, and money into it, you will get a unique, easy-to-tune, fun-to-drive toy that still draws eyes to it. It is a willing partner for when I want to go attack some winding B-road!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 11th October, 2009
25th Dec 2017, 17:57
I bought a 1987 RX7 new back and the day and it was running well when I traded it in after 190,000 miles. I used it intensively for work, traveling around New England and New Jersey and idling all day using it as a City Assessor consultant.
It was extremely reliable except for the HVAC control unit (about $500.00 if I remember). That went 2 times. I did not fix it the second time; I traded it in 1994. The oil cooler hose broke once - the only time it stranded me. Clutch went once, but that was ordinary wear and tear.