It was 1978, the world was experiencing a global fuel crisis and drivers couldn’t be any less keen to run the big V8s that dominated the 60’s. Despite this gap in performance, some folks from Hiroshima, Japan figured that sporting vehicles need not come with big motors – heck it didn’t even need to come with pistons either. All it needed was a rigid body with sharp handling fitted with their then-new rotary engine; They called this vehicle the Mazda RX-7. Now forty years and roughly 800,000 units later, Mazda celebrates the iconic line of sports cars that put them on the map.
Upon release in 1978 the RX-7 sold globally, reaching places like the UK as well as the US. The lithe, 1.2 liter twin rotor sports car came in its first iteration (the SA22C and the latter FB) and took to winning several prestigious races including the 1981 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps as well as taking the BTCC title in 1980 and 1981. While the Japanese generally had difficulty with proving their products in the west, the RX-7 became Mazda’s placeholder as a renowned builder of sports cars following its victories.
In 1985 Mazda then updated the RX-7 with its second generation, the FC3S. This generation, while roughly 200kgs heavier than the first, made up for the increase in size and girth with the introduction of a turbocharger to help its 1.3L 13B Rotary engine along. This helped the FC make 205PS and gave folks a taste of the potential of rotaries when it comes to turbocharging. On the motorsports end, the FC can be recognized as the car that lent its silhouette to the quad-rotor 1991 IMSA GTO RX-7 that dominated its class.
In 1992 the third – and most familiar generation – of the RX-7 first appeared, the FD3S. Seeing as the FD became a common sight in movies like The Fast and The Furious as well as being present in video games like Gran Turismo, it easily became a sought-after sports car for the millenial generation. Being the pinnacle of rotary performance with its 50:50 weight distribution and its sequential twin turbocharged 1.3L 13B-REW, the RX-7 went into the hands of enthusiasts that took to enjoying the coupe in various disciplines. The aftermarket took to modifying the FD3S to the point of continuing to make various new products to this day to ensure that this model continues to run for years to come.
Characterized by its sleek body lines, sharp handling, and its quirky-yet-powerful engine, the Mazda RX-7 is easily a textbook example of the ideal sports car. Without any semblance of electronic wizardry and added weight to hold it back, the RX-7 truly delivers on an unadulterated driving experience. As someone lucky enough to own one, I’m certainly holding onto mine for a long time.