By on April 25, 2014

01 - 1979 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFirst-gen RX-7s aren’t uncommon in wrecking yards in the western part of the country, as demonstrated by this ’79, this ’80 with incredibly of-its-time custom paint, and this fairly solid ’85. In fact, I don’t bother to photograph most of the examples I see. Today’s ’79, with its brown-and-beige tape stripes, seemed worthy of inclusion in the Junkyard Find series, though.
09 - 1979 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s fairly complete, the body is straight, and there’s no rust.
06 - 1979 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s difficult to get these cars through the California emissions test, though, even with the not-so-stringent requirements for the 1979 model year.
04 - 1979 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLooks like the dash and the door panels have been pulled.
08 - 1979 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPoor doomed RX-7.


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52 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Mazda RX-7...”


  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Unreal to see a 35 year old sports car in this condition being junked. Frickin’ California and its ridiculous emissions requirements.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Can you tell from the pictures that the running gear is in good shape? Parts for a 12A rotary aren’t the easiest thing to come by.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        From this altitude it looks in pretty good shape. It might even be rebuildable in a non-California rules state like Texas (where I live). Atkins Rotary and Racing Beat both have rebuild kits available for this engine for around $300 to $1300 depending on what the engine needs.

        I would be tempted by this, but I prefer the 13B engine in my GXL even if it is non-turbo. One never-ending project at a time.

        • 0 avatar
          Kaosaur

          As far as I understand it, if you need new rotors or side housings for a 12A, you are absolutely frigging screwed.

          Mazdatrix is right there in California, so it’s not hard to get something there if it’s available.

          Personally, I’d rather save good 12A parts for an R100 through RX4. SA/FBs should really be converted to 13Bs in anything but a show car, IMO.

          • 0 avatar
            DevilsRotary86

            That’s true. If it were me and I got my grubby hands on it though, I would probably take the engine out and take it apart and just see where things stand. If the irons, housings, and rotors looked good I might be tempted to just buy a rebuild kit. If they are hosed, then yes 13B it is.

          • 0 avatar
            Kaosaur

            Also, seems we’re both not at DGRR this weekend.

            Sad. :(

          • 0 avatar
            Redshift

            I run 13bs so don’t totally remember but I think the issue with 12as is the SCCA only allows use of original parts and not resurfaced/recoated etc parts. So, if you ate rebuilding for street use it isn’t bad, but still harder than a 13b.

            And no DGRR for me this year either unfortunately. Hopefully back next year.

          • 0 avatar
            Kaosaur

            That’s for sure, but Mazda is still manufacturing 13B parts but stopped 12A parts and ran out of stock a while ago.

          • 0 avatar
            Redshift

            It helps that you can use Renesis parts as well in an older 13b. (My track RX7 has Reni rotors, e-shaft and stat gears)
            But doing a more open rebuild on a 12A without having to meet ass specs or something at least you can get Goopy or similar to resurface the housings.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It’s probably there because it was burning a quart of oil every 100 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        tbone33

        I had one of these as my first car. The odds are good that it was towed to the bone yard when the apex seals went. There is a reason I stay away from rotary powered cars today despite my love for Mazda sports cars.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          In my experience, high oil consumption was due to the O rings on the sides of the rotors failing.

          I worked for a Mazda store when these cars came out. One of the things our service department did was to replace lots of RX-3 and RX-4 engines under the terms of a class action lawsuit. While we didn’t rebuild these engines ourselves (Mazda Technical Center in Jacksonville, FL did ours), we had a couple of mechanics who did their own engines, and that was the reason they gave. During the six years I was there we replaced exactly one RX-7 engine, and that was for high oil consumption.

      • 0 avatar
        Kaosaur

        Mine is about a quart every 1000. I’ve seen other cars without rotaries that go through about the same.

      • 0 avatar

        This year of RX-7 actually has an “Oil Metering Pump” that adds a drop or two of oil at a set interval right in the rotor housing to keep the seals lubricated… So… yeah… it burns oil, that is a given.

        • 0 avatar
          Speedygreg7

          All years of RX-7s do actually. Mazda calls it a “Metering Oil Pump” (MOP)and it is mechanical through 1988. In ’89 it went electric and is a common failure point for 89-91 cars. For those cars, the popular work around is to have the ECU chipped to ignore the fault code and then premix your fuel. That is what I do in my ’89

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I’m pretty sure a 35-year old car doesn’t have to pass emissions in California, although it’s been a long time since I lived there.

      • 0 avatar
        Kaosaur

        California doesn’t start treating old cars fairly until they’re pre-1976.

        My FC will not be coming with me to California; I’m not spending $3k on catalytic convertors.

        • 0 avatar
          Speedygreg7

          I see FCs in San Francisco all the time. I think you might have to sell your car and get another in CA, as it is difficult to bring an out of state car in.

          • 0 avatar
            Kaosaur

            Yeah, I know they’re there. Mine even started as a California car, but the cats fell apart long ago and were replaced. Only a factory replacement is acceptable and they’re like $3k. :/

      • 0 avatar
        GoesLikeStink

        1976 is now the cutt off for smog exempt cars here. It is not how many years old, it is 1976.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Forget the rotary, plug in an aluminum SBC.
    (man those body shells are in solid shape)

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    If that smoggy rotary is swopped for say an LSx, would it pass emissions? Or are engine swops frowned upon by the green meanies?

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      You would certainly get better mileage with the LS. My RX *averaged* 17mpg in a 2300 pound car with 100HP.

    • 0 avatar

      Given how strict the emissions requirements are in California, it’s surprisingly easy to get a referee to OK an engine swap. Last I checked, you just need to provide the VIN of the engine donor vehicle, the new engine can’t be older than the car, and all the factory smog equipment (or CARB-approved aftermarket stuff) must be present. They give you a special underhood sticker that gets scanned at the emissions test. I know a few guys who have done this, and they describe the process as being fairly painless.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    This really tugs at my heart. My first new car was an ’80 RX-7S (the lower-trim model with a four-speed, two-spoke steering wheel, no body molding and 165-series tires).

    I went in to the dealer (128 Oldsmobile Mazda in Wakefield, MA) to look at used 280Z which had problems and ended up buying the RX instead. Back then, RX-7s were selling at a premium to the sticker. I really didn’t mind that so much as when I went to pick the car up, it hadn’t been properly prepped (it was dirty) and the salesman said “you don’t mind do you?”. I’ve been leery of car dealers ever since.

    Loved that car. I sold it after I got married to get money to buy appliances.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      “Loved that car. I sold it after I got married to get money to buy appliances.”

      Damn. I hope they were nice applicances!

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      They’re my favorite 80’s cars as well. If I were going to get a collector car, I’d look for an 81 – 84 model, I like the rear end treatment a little better. Realistically, I don’t have the desire to mess with a 30 year old car, so if I were in the position to get a car like that, I’d go for a Subaru BRZ, which I’d say is the successor to the early RX-7.

      I have a family, and almost all my driving is plodding along in traffic, so I don’t have any need for a sports car anyway.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Nothing says “70’s in Japan” quite like Chuck Mangione.

  • avatar
    vwgolf420

    Truly one of the best looking cars of that era. I like the 1979-82 models a little more because I think those little tail lights are quite appealing to me for some reason.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    Serious question, I have been working to get an old ’86 RX-7 GXL back in the road in usual “never-ending project” fashion. How common are the 86-91 models in self-serve junkyards?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    *sigh*

    I would consider one of these for a lapping car. Dirt cheap, blast to drive, gobs of people who have already paved the way for track duty – and unlike a Miata has a roof.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Only Wankers like the Wankel.

  • avatar
    ex-x-fire

    I wonder if anyone has ever swapped in a Subaru flat 4 in one of these?

  • avatar
    tungsten

    Heh. Even the Japanese home market car commercials are shot on Flower St. in downtown LA.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Did anyone else notice that at :09 the RX7 blows a stop sign?

    My neighbor had a ’79 with 200K miles on it, with no engine rebuild. He bought it when he was dating his wife, so had hung onto it for sentimental reasons, but eventually offered it to me for a hundred bucks. I turned it down because I already had too many cars. It will be a desired classic just because they are not as easy to keep on the road as other cars. Amazing how it can look futuristic and dated at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’m sure there is someone out there with a working 1980 GM 350 diesel, too, but they’re as rare as hen’s teeth.

      • 0 avatar
        Kaosaur

        Actually as long as you give them slightly-above-minimum maintenance, the NA rotaries will easily hit 120K and beyond without hinting at a rebuild. It’s the Turbo rotaries that seem to have the shortened lifespans. Mine has probably got another 20k in it or so before it needs a rebuild.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Behold, the primary reason Mazda’s US fortunes are stalled.

    They’re still known as the company that slavishly stuck with the doomed rotary engine, and ‘zoom-zoom’.

    The RX-7 was beautiful, exciting, and awful. The Miata was cute and exciting. But that’s all in the past – what uniquely good car do they offer today?

    Sadly, it looks like they won’t even get the diesel over here for the 6, which was their best shot at offering an alternative to VW’s death grip on diesels.

    • 0 avatar
      Kaosaur

      > Behold, the primary reason Mazda’s US fortunes are stalled.

      I love how car guys have been crying the death of this company for years because there isn’t a product they’re happy with. Meanwhile, Mazda reported the best March sales since 2007, best March Miata sales since 2009 (despite it being a disliked, aging and outgoing platform) and the best month of sales for the CX-5 ever. Last year, Mazda _quadrupled_ their net profit and still is forecasting growth into next year even with the Yen moving out of their favor.

      > The RX-7 was beautiful, exciting, and awful. The Miata was cute and exciting. But that’s all in the past – what uniquely good car do they offer today?

      What brand has a uniquely good car period? The first two generations of RX-7 weren’t unique at all (save maybe for price) and the third gen had all the baggage of the Wankel’s reputation and poor fuel economy to scare away potential buyers (unique, overpriced, sold poorly). The Miata was only briefly unique because all the other autos were too stupid to offer something there was clearly a huge market for. Look how quickly they rushed to fill that gap since?

      Personally, I think the 3, 6 and CX-5 are fantastic cars. I’m glad they’re not unique. Unique cars don’t sell that well.

      Forget what’s unique about their cars and focus on what’s unique about their engines. Skyactiv is a huge win for the company and it sharply contrasts the way the rest of the industry is going for fuel economy. It seems to be paying huge dividends for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Mazda isn’t doing that bad, EXCEPT in the highly populated rust-zone Great Lakes and northeast. The CX-5 would do well against Toyota, Honda and Subaru if only Mazda would do something about rust proofing. This car would have been converted to iron oxide long ago in those areas.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I agree, this was a very nice and modern looking car for 1979. Just think of how much cleaner it was than everything else rolling around, at least in the design department.

      I bet if this car had a regular non-wank engine, it’d still be on the road today.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    My wife was driving an 83 (?) GSL-SE when we met. It was a great car and held up well when it was her daily driver. When her commute changed and it was relegated to fun and weekend duty, it fell apart. Apex seals and flooding became a big problem. It needed work about every 700 miles and her mechanic said it has to be driven regularly. Final straw was when we moved to the country and its sporty ride became punishing on washboard dirt roads. We sold it with about 70k mikes and used the money to buy a generator (it was 1999).

    So long story short I can definitely see why it ended up junked.

    • 0 avatar
      Redshift

      An NA rotory driven regularly and slightly hard will last forever. Neglect and “gentle” will see them have a lot more problems.

      And the GSL-SE was 84 and 85 in North America.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    15 years at 5K per year? Doesn’t sound so bad to me. I haven’t tried one, but If I were in the market, I’d definitely give their products a test drive. There’s a Mazda Millenia in our parking lot. Average to good condition for its age. No show car. Just a really handsome practical and comfortable looking car.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You get into trouble with the Millenia unless you get one of the very early ones, which are getting pretty rare and old these days. The Millenia is on Steve Lang’s used cars to avoid list.


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