By on November 20, 2012

First-generation RX-7s aren’t uncommon Junkyard Finds, even though the youngest ones are 27 years old now. However, not many full-on early-to-mid-80s custom paint jobs show up at junkyards these days. Here’s one I found in Denver last week.
Purple, pink, and gold with pinstripes!
With a 5-digit odometer, there’s no way of knowing how many miles this car traveled during its 32 years on the planet. 88,000? 188,000? 288,000? It seems pretty clean, given its current parking space, so the first figure could be the right one.
It’s possible that this wild paint job got sprayed on while Jimmy Carter was still in the White House, or perhaps it was applied five years ago. So many mysteries with a car like this!


28 MPG in an early RX-7? Ah, for the days when highway fuel economy was calculated at 42 MPH… down a steep grade… drafting behind a line of tractor-trailers.

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17 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Mazda RX-7, with Incredibly 80s Custom Paint...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Prolly the original 88,000 miles as these fun cars could pass anything but a gas station or a repair shop….

    When new , they were the Car DuJour of the lower end drug dealers in So. Cal. , I breifly dated one’s girfreind while he was doing time and she loved the car but couldn’t afford the repair bills so off it went….

    My Son was more into Hondas but some of his Ricer Racer buddies were big time into these and they were *very* fast .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      That isn’t particularly true. Gas mileage on these is about the same as if they had a mid size V6. Poor compared to a four cylinder competitor for sure but not as bad as say a Camaro V8.

      Reliability is quite good as long as you keep up on the oil level (they are designed to burn oil) and don’t over rev it. But once the apex seals go the rebuild costs are cheap and they generally get junked. With a non-turbo car that has been maintained you should see 200k or so.

      Also they aren’t particularly fast – 0-60 in the 10 sec range. They are fun though.

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    When I was a kid, I always thought these were the best looking cars. Still think so, actually. I would love to own one, someday, but I’ll pass on the custom paint.

  • avatar
    Eldest Brother

    Repair issues? Maintenance was your issue. Change the oil and all filters religiously. Clean the plugs, and don’t flood the engine. All my Rx-7′s had NO repair problems. All my Seven’s got 25 mpg, and sometimes more. As with any sports car, if you want mileage keep your foot off the loud pedal. With the Seven keeping your foot light was not alot of fun as it was SO responsive at the higher revs. My ’90 Rx-7 with cruise set at 75 would get just shy of 30 mpg.

  • avatar
    econobiker

    Pre- 1986 paint job since it lacks the full mono-tone bumpers (has the black rub strips and ends), has no white tape lines over the brake lights, and doesn’t have any white tape lightning bolts on the any of the visible rear windows or other places.

    Plus the traditional pin striping details…

    Date that…

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Agreed, I’m not really understanding where all the unreliability mythos comes from. As long as one kept up the oil level and changes, they usually made it at least 100K before wanting some new apex seals. Some people made it longer. The price to be paid for a cool rotary engine – but doing a rebuild on one is a cakewalk. The home wrench guys figured it out rather quickly.

    The rest of the car was pretty bullet-proof, but the carb cars were always inherently “quirky” because of those cursed stone-age devices and the vacuum lines required to make them “work”. Had to get the GSL-SE to get injection on Gen I…

    Anybody else remember how ridiculous and cool these looked in full IMSA GTU trim? And the 935-esque flamethrowers they were on over-run? And that ‘not quite a 2-stroke not quite a 4-stroke’ sound at full tilt?

  • avatar
    belteshazzar

    why is this car even IN a salvage yard? the body looks way better than any of the zombie wankels rooming the streets where i live.

  • avatar
    AJ

    My first car was an ’80 RX-7 that had had a cheap paint job put on it. It was silver when I bought it and primer gray shortly afterwards. I had a lot of great times in that car. Perfect for weekend road trips with a hot girl…

    The only thing better was trading up to an ’84 GSL-SE, which was like going to a Cadillac. I ended up selling the ’80 to some drunk college guys for $400. That car probably ended up in a junk yard in short order. It had a mysterious vapor locking problem which I did disclose.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    An uncle had one , IIRC a 1980 model . He had always owned British sports cars before that , some of them pretty cool , including an Austin- Healey and a TR-6 . He traded a TR-7 which he didn’t like much for the RX-7 , which he said was the best car he had ever had . He became ill after he had it for a few years and his son inherited after his death . Don’t remember what happened but it caught fire and burned up .

  • avatar
    zeus01

    I’ve owned six first-gen Rx7s, and having been around cars and aircraft (yes, the rotary makes an excellent aircraft engine) since forever I know them very well. Very durable as long as basic common-sense maintenance was carried out, including adding a quart of oil every 1000-1500 miles (depending on driving habits) in order to lube the apex seals. Well-maintained 1st gens were getting 150,000-200,000 miles before requiring a teardown.

    But 7s bought by parents as grad gifts for highschool cheerleaders who didn’t know a dipstick from a hockey stick were often spitting out apex seals long before the fifth oil change would have been due—- IF even the first one had been carried out.

    Oh, and the gaudy paint-job example above? With the wear and tear I see on this car there’s no way it only has 88K. I’d say it’s at 188,000.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    This car is old enough to maybe have been dumped by an Estate. The heirs of a late Mazda buff just wanted to “get rid of that old car”.

    Maybe that relative had in a garage for years and “was going to someday fix it”.

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    Never owned a seven. Did have an rx3 and did not find it to be reliable. That was probably because neither I nor the mechanic I used really understood the beast. Pretty fast though.

    I always felt that when the engine went that a heart and lung transplant from a sbc or sbf was in order. They are common, light, and fast.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      RX3s were rather notorious for needing apex seals at 40K. Some people got longer, but I remember more than a few tales of woe, even from guys who usually got decent life out of their cars.There’s some aftermarket stuff out now (folks still running them) but I’m not really plugged into the rotary world.

      On the bright side. they did tend to last longer than the early NSU Ro 80s. Those things made Vegas look good…

      • 0 avatar
        zeus01

        Early RX3 engines still hadn’t shed some of the design flaws present in the RX2 and R100 models from 72 and prior. Later Mazda rotaries used nitrided irons and upgraded the apex seals for better wear characteristics.

        The biggest problems with the RX3 were:
        1. It LOOKED like an econobox, accelerated like a 240Z but unfortunately returned the same fuel economy as a 240Z— terrible for an econobox, but perfectly acceptable in say, an RX7.
        2. If the masses are still clueless even now about the importance of topping up the oil at least once between regular oil changes on an engine designed to meter a small quantity of oil to the combustion chambers, just try to wrap your mind around just how daft they were back in 1973 regarding proper care and feeding of a rotary. But of course, it’s much easier for the owner to mask one’s incompetence by blaming the design rather than the owner’s laziness.

        However, the rotary’s requirement for addition of oil between changes renders this engine best left to people who are diligent about obeying the owners’ manual and following proper basic maintenance on ANY car they own. For those who cant be bothered to do this I guess they’ll have to get by with a Cavalier that’s likely to die (without proper maintenance) before 100,000 miles, or a Civicthat’s likely to die before 200,000 miles.

  • avatar
    Motorhead10

    My first car was an ’85 GSL – silver. Had a deal with my dad if I got a scholarship to college he’d buy (actually he leased) me my first car. Got a full ride and was allowed to pick out a NEW car. No V8s and no manual transmissions were his rules. He knew I was taking this thing to New Hampshire for school so the sky wasn’t the limit. I wanted a “sporty” car – 2-seater so I didn’t have to be the taxi for my friends. I decided on RX-7 and one Saturday my pops took me to the Mazda dealer telling me he had some questions about the car before we committed to it. As we pulled in, there was a silver GSL and as soon as I saw it I knew it was mine – drove it home that day (and I actually didnt even have my license yet – just a learners permit). I remember turning on the radio (I was unprepared so I hadn’t made a first drive mix-tape) and hearing “Babe” by Styx as the first song ever in that car.

    Never a single break-down in that car and actually handled NH winters as well as could be expected. It was slow as hell but looked really cool. My first true love was that car.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    These early RX-7s do look nice, but I never really cared for rotary engines myself, at least when used in cars.

    They get gas mileage like a big 4 cylinder or a V6 (but without the torque), they’re easy to rev and yet apparently they’re not built for that, and I for one don’t have the time nor patience to oil an engine every 1000 miles.

    They’re seen as unreliable simply because the RX-7 wasn’t built for the common man, but the thing is they’re sports car, they’re built to have fun in and throw out once something breaks.

    And no I’m not some lazy non-car buff, I maintain my own car as required by the owners manual. I just have my patience with with a cars “quirks”.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The kid who lives next door to me would be all over this. He got a similar one in yellow with a bunch of work done to it: full areo kit, roll cage, huge turbo, rims, stereo, etc. His father has a 10 second Lexus with monster turbos. They aren’t messing around either, they got a fully enclosed trailer in which they tow some other cars. Here a video of the Lexus in action at the strip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY85zjXdeYY


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