Mazda did something that no one in the world would have thought possible – mass produce a rotary engine. Well they did it, and over the years with progress the team at Mazda put together a car to fight head-on with Porsche. The last US version available was the third generation RX-7 FD3S selling from 1992 to 1995. The car was introduced at a time when gas prices were pushing higher and most households were closing their wallets to low MPG cars. In the end, maybe what the RX-7 is best known for is its greatest downfall – the rotary engine. Everything about this car is wonderful, except that little hot spinning ticking time bomb that struggled to keep up with efficient piston motors.
The car setup is perfectly neutral with a 50:50 distribution that handles each driver input with ease. The steering wheel is much larger than what most drivers are used to, but it allows for precise steering. It’s so large that heel-toe is nearly impossible since the driver’s thigh will be obstructed by the 6 o’clock area of the steering wheel. It’s nimble 2,800 lb frame is the prime reason this car was called a giant killer. Pair this car against any opponent and the odds were this car would leave it in the corners around the track – think Porsche again. They made the recipe for a great car easy – take the 2,800 pound body and pair it with Mazda’s 1.3 liter engine (13B-REW) which comes equipped with twin sequential turbo chargers that serves 252 ponies with 217 lb-ft of torque. In the end you get a machine that flies through all RPMs and even provides strong low-end torque. When we say flies – it redlines around 7,000 RPMs, while max power is produced at 6,500 RPMs. Just don’t try to work on the car alone. The engine bay was crammed to the fenders with a rats nest of tubing and pipes.
However the car does come with a learning curve. The unique operating procedure of the sequential turbos would leave some unknowing drivers spinning in their pants as there is a dip in power as the turbos shift from the primary to the secondary around 4K – 4.5K RPMs, causing a kick from the secondary turbo lag. A decent tune would usually eliminate this issue. Another area that made this car so great was the cockpit. That’s exactly how it feels. It’s not as if the driver gets into the car to drive it, but rather straps the car onto his/her back and blasts off. The tight cockpit has all buttons within arms reach and only provides the pilot with the necessary read outs. Everything else was discarded, including cup holders, making longer road trips a death trap if you choose to eat or drink while driving.
This car was designed to be a grand tourer in the USA, pairing the driver with the road. But if it was necessary to listen to music, fear not – the Bose Wave system was created especially for this car to help amplify the sound waves throughout the tiny cabin from the back of the trunk. Fuel capacity offers the driver 20 U.S. gallons of petrol – yes, it holds 20 gallons of fuel, which is pretty much unheard of these days.
However with every great story comes a tragic ending. The RX-7 FD was soon forgotten as a road warrior due to it’s fickle engine life. The little wankel engine worked itself to death and at 60,000 miles the engine would more than likely blow up (basically the seals within the engine would give). This catastrophic failure would cost the owner a pretty penny in repairs if not caught soon enough. These cars have since become more affordable, but it does come with a warning. The owner of this vehicle will be forever in fear of an explosion that will bring the car to a halt requiring a messy clean up. But for those brief moments of driving on the twisty roads this car is nothing but pure driving bliss.