Mar 092012
 

I am trying something new here at Gearheads Anonymous. When I started my blog last year, I wrote a number of “tips for drivers” and “tips for owners” with limited success. I got almost no feedback and eventually I ran out of ideas. This time around, I am going for something that has a source pool that never dries up and will always be interesting to me: I am starting a “car of the week” feature.

The idea will be that, come the end of my week, I will assess the previous seven days and decide what car most piqued my interest in that time period. For each car I will briefly discuss why I chose it, give a brief discussion on what makes it interesting and unique and list some resources (online communities, etc.). The cars will be new and old, and the reason for choosing will vary weekly. I hope the variety keeps both you and me interested.

So, enough banality. On with the show. The inaugural Car of the Week is….

The 1993 Mazda RX-7

Why?

Though some interesting things have been transpiring for me, it’s been a pretty boring week, from an automotive perspective. During the day today, however, a tweet came across my feed from Mazda USA (@MazdaUSA) that read “This photo is dedicated to all the Rotary fans out there. Check out Theorie’s 1993 RX-7 in New York City: http://bit.ly/nphAn7 #Flickr“. The picture linked in that tweet sent me back a few years — about 18, in fact — to when I was a 12-year-old kid, just getting in to cars. It was also about the time when Japanese rear-wheel-drive turbo sports coupes were at their zenith. The Nissan 300ZX, Toyota Supra and Mazda RX-7 of this era were all arguably the finest examples of the breed to date.

All were sleek, powerful and fast. My favorite, though, was the rotary-powered Mazda and the picture linked from that tweet reminded me just how cool those cars were — and still are.

Unfortunately, that was also the period where American consumers were developing their erstwhile love affair with the SUV and interest in cars like that waned. First the 300ZX, then the RX and finally the Supra faded from showrooms. Though the Nissan Z car and the RX have both made modern-day comebacks, neither has the same raw feel and sex appeal (or turbocharger, for that matter) of its predecessor. That tweet reawakened my sense of nostalgia.

About the Car

According to MSN Autos, the third generation RX-7 ran from 1993 through 1995, although I can remember them in showrooms and newspaper ads in to 1996 as well. Though the Supra and the 300ZX were both available with non-turbo base engines, the RX-7 had just one option: Mazda’s 13B 3-rotor Wankel engine, fitted with a nice beefy turbocharger. The power plant was good for 255 horsepower and 217 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard, but buyers could opt for a 4-speed shitb-*ahem*-automatic as well.

The rotary engine was so small that it could be mounted low and well back of the front axle line, which resulted in a near-perfect weight distribution. The car was also light, coming in at just under 2900 lbs. (by comparison, the Supra weighed over 3200 lbs.). That formula proved to be extremely versatile — and extremely fun. Although Vin Diesel made the RX-7 re-famous as a straight-line drag racer in 2001′s The Fast and the Furious, I have seen these cars dominate on road circuits and autocross courses as well.

The rotary engine, however, also proved to be the RX-7′s Achilles heel. It was notoriously unreliable compared to its piston-driven counterparts and Mazda had difficulty keeping it within emissions standards as well. This only added to the reasons for its ultimate demise. In recent years, though, people have begun swapping V8 power plants in to this chassis, which has opened a whole new world of tuning and upgrades.

Since the styling is ageless and smooth, I expect the RX-7 to remain an enthusiast favorite for some time to come.

Other Resources

RX7Club.com
How Stuff Works: The Wankel rotary engine
Wikipedia: The Mazda RX-7 (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)

Photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Leave a Reply