Long gone, but hardly forgotten, the Mazda RX-7 arrived on the scene in the late 1970s as an affordable sports car with the Japanese automaker's peculiar Wankel rotary engine. But, strange engine aside, it would cement itself as one of a handful of Japanese sports car icons.
Donut Media returns with yet another video to trace the roots of Mazda's iconic sports car, which run deeper than its most successful sports car, the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Like most new Japanese sports cars, the RX-7 arrived as a bargain performance car, but would morph into more of a grand tourer in its second generation. Its tiny 1.5-liter rotary engine was small, but still delivered excellent performance, and contributed to a balanced front and rear weight distribution.
The RX-7 sold well and found even greater success in its second generation, which was introduced in 1985. Notable improvements included disc brakes, rack and pinion steering—not to mention the Turbo II model, which pushed the power to 200 horsepower. It was a good car, but the third and final generation would become the icon so many enthusiasts love today.
With an updated rotary engine and standard sequential twin turbos, the FD Mazda RX-7 was introduced in 1992 and absolutely embraced its sports car identity. The first turbo supplied extra torque at the low end, since rotary engines often lack torque down low, while the second turbo kicked in at 4,500 RPM for maximum power output.
But, like so many iconic Japanese sports cars, the economic crisis in Mazda's home country would make the third-generation RX-7 the last. Production of the RX-7 ended in 2002 and the last two series of RX-7 were only offered in Japan and Australia.
We're still holding out hope for a new rotary-powered sports car in the near future from Mazda. The automaker has once again confirmed it's continuing to develop the engine to meet emission and fuel economy regulations, but it's unclear if and when we'll see a true RX-7 successor, even as the engine celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.