Modern Classics: Mazda RX 7, 1979  1985 modern classics mazda
Mazda RX-7, 1979-1985; photographed by “Taisyo,” at the Mazda Museum. Click image to enlarge

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By Jeff Burry

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Mazda RX-7, 1979-1983

I can still remember when, as a young man, I headed down to my local Mazda dealership after being teased by television commercials of the new Mazda RX7. I remember the dealership being quite small at the time with barely enough “showroom” to display two vehicles. There was some literature displayed on a small rack and if my memory serves me correctly, information on the new Mazda RX7 was on a double-sided glossy brochure.

Upon entering the dealership, it was easy to spot the brand new black RX7, complete with a burgundy interior. I know there was another vehicle in the showroom at the time, but I honestly have no idea what the other model was. I was smitten by this sleek looking, shiny new Rotary-engined marvel.

Being only twenty years old at the time, and perhaps looking a little scruffy, I was quickly sized up by the salesperson. Upon asking if he could unlock the door for me, I was tersely informed that he would do so only for serious potential buyers. Oh, how I wished I could have whipped out a few crisp hundred dollar bills.

Mazda first entered the North American market in 1970. In the 1970’s and previous to the RX7, it sold the Mazda R100, RX2, RX3 and RX4 models. All vehicles came standard with the revolutionary Wankel rotary engine (named after designer Felix Wankel).

Modern Classics: Mazda RX 7, 1979  1985 modern classics mazda
Mazda RX-7, 1979-1985. Click image to enlarge

The newer RX7 was first unveiled in North America on April 24, 1978. It was promoted at the time as a 1979 model. The car sported a sleek design and was relatively inexpensive at just $6,395. At the time, Mazda claimed it was a “fun” car to drive.

Now remember, the late 1970’s was not particularly a kind period for automotive enthusiasts. Vehicles were big, bumpers were bigger (okay, not really, but you know what I mean), and gas prices were on the rise. Along comes a Japanese automaker introducing a sleek little two-seater with a cool 12A rotary engine (based upon the same powerplant as found in the Mazda RX3 but more fuel efficient) that was less expensive to operate and still offered decent performance.