Rotary 101: What's the Right RX-7 for You?

When I bought my FC RX-7 a few years ago, I had no rotary friends in a 500-mile radius. But seeing the car, other people got "infected" by the same virus. Now, there are almost 20 people around me who have chosen to walk the same path. Some went straight for the FD, others opted for the first generation, while some chose the FC.
Rotary 101: What's the Right RX-7 for You? 15 photos
Photo: Bring a Trailer
4k-Mile 1983 Mazda RX-7 GSL 5-Speed4k-Mile 1983 Mazda RX-7 GSL 5-Speed4k-Mile 1983 Mazda RX-7 GSL 5-Speed4k-Mile 1994 Mazda RX-7 Touring20k-Mile 1994 Mazda RX-7 5-Speed20k-Mile 1994 Mazda RX-7 5-Speed23-Years-Owned Modified 1984 Mazda RX-7 5-Speed23-Years-Owned Modified 1984 Mazda RX-7 5-Speed40k-Mile 1993 Mazda RX-7 R140k-Mile 1993 Mazda RX-7 R147K-Mile 1988 Mazda RX-7 Convertible1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo II 5-Speed1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo II 5-Speed1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo II 5-Speed
While I'm certain that most petrolheads have at least some basic knowledge about rotaries, there are still people out there that haven't heard about this engine design. This guide is aimed at those of you that are thinking about making the first step towards the world of rotaries. You must do all of your research before buying a car, irrespective of the make and model. First of all, you'll need to figure out a few things.

Not all who wander are lost

So start by asking yourself a few questions. What are you going to use the car for? Do you plan on keeping it stock or modifying it? How much money can you afford to spend on an RX-7? Are you buying it for your pleasure, or do you intend to resell it for a profit? How much time are you going to spend behind the wheel? These are some good ones to consider before making any decisions.

Mazda built the RX-7 between 1978 to 2002. The first generation is the most common, with Mazda producing 471,018 units. 272,027 units of the second generation were up next. The FD is the rarest one, with just 68,589 ever made. There is a direct connection between these numbers and the current pricing for the RX-7. As a rule of thumb, if you're budget is about $20,000, try not to spend more than $10,000 on the car.

4k\-Mile 1994 Mazda RX\-7 Touring
Photo: Bring a Trailer
That way, you'll have the extra cash you need for upgrades, repairs, or worse, an engine rebuild. If you're going to spend all of your cash in one shot, you might end up parking the car for an extended period if something malfunctions. That's why, when you've finally decided on the exact type of car you want, always have it compression tested before buying. Ideally, have someone knowledgeable in these cars come with you.

Turbo Rotary: The only replacement for displacement?

Now, if you aren't running on a tight budget, I would advise you to go straight for an FD RX-7. The Spirit R is amazing if you can get your hands on one, and you can also make a profit by selling it in a few years. Keeping stock will help with the resale value. But if you want to take things to the next level, I suggest looking into a single-turbo conversion. FD's can start as low as $15K, but don't expect it to be running flawlessly.

Prices for these cars have soared, and this year a 1994 model went for $67,500 on Bring a Trailer. The FD works great as a street weapon or a time attack vehicle, but if drifting is more to your taste, why not look at an FC? You can get a rolling shell for a few thousand dollars and build it up from there. I've seen grassroots drifters using the naturally aspirated 13B unit, while still having fun.

1988 Mazda RX\-7 Turbo II 5\-Speed
Photo: Bring a Trailer
If you want to move on towards a semi-pro level, going upwards to about 400-450 horsepower is still achievable with a TurboII engine. If you'll look at the Japanese drift scene, Teruyoshi Iwai is drifting a turbocharged, triple-rotor FC, but we're already talking about a big-budget build here. The good thing about FCs is that they're roomier than the FDs. If you're over 6' (182 cm) tall, you're going to feel cramped in the FD, but not in the FC.

If I'd have to drive 10 hours straight in a Mazda RX-7, the FC would be my number 1 choice for sure. A top-notch, stock FC RX-7 is going to set you back less than $30,000. But if you're on a tight budget, have a look at either the convertible variants or the naturally aspirated ones. You're not going to gap any Mustangs soon, but they might provide a more exciting overall driving experience.

While prices for the first-generation RX-7 have started increasing as well, you can still find some solid cars for less than $10K. Finding the rare, turbocharged one can be quite tricky, but if you're not after power, the naturally aspirated engine will do just fine. These could be perfect for historic racing series or even for rallying if you can summon the courage. I would even go as far as using one as a daily commuter if you don't mind the smell of gasoline and oil.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)
About the author: Dragos Chitulescu
Dragos Chitulescu profile photo

The things Dragos enjoys the most in life are, in no particular order: cars, motorcycles, diecast cars, and drifting. He's seen (and driven) many vehicles since he started his writing career back in 2009, but his garage currently houses a 1991 Mazda RX-7 FC3S Turbo II and a 1999 Suzuki SV650-S.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories