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Modern Classics: Mazda RX-7

Modern classics: Mazda RX-7

Of all the modern classic cars we’re going to highlight in this series, the Mazda RX-7 could be the most controversial.

Nobody who drives one can fault the car for sheer enjoyment, but the rotary Wankle engine is as problematic as it is innovative. However, while that may be the case, we’re going to make our case for it being a much better than car than many people believe.

Is the RX-7 the most beautiful Japanese car ever?

This is clearly a bit of a silly question because it’s without a doubt the best looking car to ever come from Japan (well, in our opinion)! More often associated with boxy turbocharged saloons and hatchbacks, the Mazda RX-7 (in all its versions) changed how we viewed Japanese cars, and its looks could, arguably, have been enough to sell the car alone, but when you’re up against the best Germany and Italy could offer, it was essential that the RX-7 was a driver’s car too…

Driving the RX-7

Every generation (there were three) of the RX-7 is a joy to drive, but it’s important to put them into context because they’re not set-up like a modern sports coupe. The rotary engines love to be revved hard, and you’ll be rewarded with a growling engine note unlike anything else on the road, so don’t be afraid to make the engine work! Surprisingly, one part of the driving experience that’s as good as a modern coupe is the gearbox. Perhaps it’s because the smaller engine puts the box under less strain than a modern beefy unit, but the gear change is smooth and responsive – even in the first generation cars, and they’re over 30 years old now.

Now, about that engine…

 The Wankle rotary engine always seemed like a good idea for a sports car. After all, it’s light, small, and has an incredible power-to-weight ratio, but it’s also very temperamental and requires the levels of TLC that make it a bit too needy for all but the most enthusiastic owner. Don’t consider an RX-7 or RX-8 if you’re the kind of driver who services his or her car once every few years, and thinks that oil magically tops itself up! No, the Wankle engine needs to be warmed up properly every single time it’s used and must never be used for short runs or the rotor seals will end up shot. Even if you do take care of it, it’s probably going to need a rebuild in the time you own one!

Saying all this, if you’re a mechanic and an enthusiast, the rewards are immense. The engine noise, power, and thrills of driving a car with such a rare beast of an engine are almost unbeatable.

We hope that we’ve convinced you that a Mazda RX-7 really is a modern classic, but if you want to argue the point with us, head on over to our Twitter and start a conversation!