By on October 7, 2010

More than a few of you had a simple question (or statement) regarding my Infiniti G20 Capsule Review, namely,

“Why didn’t you check the mileage of the dealer trade?”

The answer is simple: I wasn’t even permitted to call other dealerships, much less arrange trades. At that particular shop, salespeople weren’t even permitted to see the final numbers at deals. We were intended to be “product specialists”, not wheeler-dealers.

In fact, our rather idealistic general manager believed in specifically hiring people with no experience in the industry. His boss, the dealer group manager, had deep roots in the buy-here-pay-here biz. The conflict between these two philosophies occasionally led to trouble…

“AND ANOTHER THING,” the group manager boomed in our monthly meeting. “NOBODY, AND I MEAN NOBODY, DRIVES THAT F***ING MAZDA RX-7 WITHOUT MY APPROVAL. YOU F***ING CALL ME IF YOU HAVE AN UP ON IT!!!! NOBODY DRIVES IT!!! YOU IDIOTS WILL WRECK IT!!!” What was he talking about? I was always half-asleep on Saturday mornings. We had an RX-7? I walked out to the lot afterwards and sure enough, it was up on a metal display ramp: a 1993 RX-7 Twin Turbo, dark green, 8,900 miles.

Where did it come from? Nobody seemed to know. The other salespeople gathered around the car. We were: two recent liberal arts graduates, one middle-aged former trophy wife and one twentysomething current trophy wife who would later on both become representatives for the local upscale homebuilder, a former yacht salesman, and a trim, impeccably preppy African-American fellow who had just arrived from the only Brioni retailer in Columbus, Ohio. The group manager hated our guts and loved screaming at us about how we were suburban candy-assed homosexuals.

Everything we did was wrong in this dude’s opinion, so he prevented us from doing anything. We weren’t permitted to truly work deals. We were not allowed to quote any price to the customer but MSRP. We couldn’t make dealer trades, we couldn’t even book cars into the detailing shop without manager approval. The store had two sales managers, a general manager, and this “group manager” who worked in Louisville but made a monthly trip up Route 71 to scream at us. They “did the work”. We were expected to be like the shoji screens around the cars: upper-middle-class set dressing.

I was ambivalent about the job, to put it mildly, so the moment I saw this RX-7 I started out figuring out how I was going to get behind the wheel. In terms of raw acceleration, it would be the fastest car I’d yet driven, not that much slower in the quarter-mile than my tired old Ninja 600R. It was sexy. Years later, Jeremy Clarkson would call it the “Japanese E-Type”, and that’s a fair description.

After some thought, I decided on the simplest approach. Since everybody knew that death and fury awaited anyone who drove the car without permission, it followed naturally that anybody seen taking the car off the rack would be assumed to have permission. I therefore went back to the key box, grabbed the appropriate tag, and ten minutes later I was beeping the horn at my house as my seventeen-year-old brother ran out the door towards me.

“Dude,” I said, “let’s thrash this bitch”. For half an hour, we zipped around our square-mile subdivision like crazy men. I floored the throttle and the brake on entry to each corner, as I had read was the practice of the late great Mark Donohue, and exited each one sideways and smoking. Sure, we were doing fifty miles per hour at the most, but it was awesome fun. Then my brother had an idea.

“I should drive.”

“Why not?” I replied. After all, he had six months’ of experience driving a 1993 Jetta. After a few false starts and one very slow-speed bump up a rounded-off curb, he had the hang of it and was going crazy. We were looking at somebody’s lawn through the windshield, totally crossed-up, the tach bouncing wildly around, beeping, buzzing, when BANG! something went wrong. The Mazda coasted to a halt, smoking.

“That’s gotta be bad,” he said. We swapped places and I started the car. It ran, but it was slower than my 1990 Fox and it was smoking copiously. I dropped him off and considered my options. Nobody had actually seen me take the car off the rack. It was possible that nobody would see me put it back on. It was even more possible that nobody would see me pull it into the detail shop. I called Chauncey over.

“Hey man, a bird shit all over this thing.” Chauncey looked at it.


“How should I know? Group manager says clean it, I didn’t look.” That was enough for Chauncey, who cleaned an already clean car and drove it slowly up the ramp. If anybody saw him doing it, they didn’t seem to care. We were not encouraged to take an interest in the operation of the dealership.

I walked up to the front desk in what I believed to be an extremely nonchalant fashion. Our new salesperson was industriously composing a letter to be sent to his contact list of over 600 Columbus bigwigs. He’d created this list one whale at a time as he humbly measured our city’s bankers, judges, and newspaper owners for their 52S three-pieces. It was a killer contact list, believe me. Not a single five-figure loser on it. He walked away to answer the call of nature and I looked at the screen.

Dear [NAME],

My name is (blah blah) and I have recently left (name of clothing shop) to work at (name of Infiniti dealer). As you are aware, I have been associated with the finest in men’s clothing for over a decade and have now chosen to bring my unique perspective to the world of luxury automobiles….

Quick as thought, I replaced “clothing” with “pimping” and stood back to admire my handiwork. Wait ’till he saw this! This was so good, I decided to retreat to a nearby couch and watch as he walked up, scanned the letter…

…and hit PRINT. Six hundred letters, all on creamy paper stock chosen for the occasion, started to roll off the printer. Well, to misquote Harry Chapin, another man might have been sorry, and another man might have been regretful, but another man wouldn’t have replaced “clothing” with “pimping”. I hopped on my Ninja and went out for the second lunch of the day.

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32 Comments on “Capsule Review: 1993 Mazda RX-7 and The Finest In Men’s…...”

  • avatar

    this is it? where’s the ending, what happened? did the group manager find out who thrashed the RX7? did the letters manage to get mailed? please i have to know…

  • avatar

    A group manager from the buy-here pay-here market?  Somebody at Nissan/Infiniti sure knew how to build a properly upscale sales organization.

  • avatar

    Another fantastic peek into the car dealer world. Every word is true. Most general managers and sales managers came up through the ranks, know that most of their salesmen are fly by night heavy drinking smoking and drugging probable ex-cons, and treat them as such – like shit.

    In turn, the salesmen steal from the dealership – accessories to sell on ebay, gas for their beaters, take double lunches, come in late, leave early, bang the sluts that come in to buy cars, and general live only for the next 5 minutes. A decent salesman can get another job in about one day, and nobody really cares why you left the last place.

    As the complete opposite of most of my fellow co-workers, I sit at my corner desk and watch in amazement and amusement at what goes on. As long as I sell my quota, it’s all good. I will admit that I can’t resist testing out the occasional traded in sports car – who can?!

  • avatar

    My favorite Japanese car of all time.  The one in the pic looks immaculate, if that’s the way it looks today, I’m sure it’s worth a pretty penny.

  • avatar

    The group manager hated our guts and loved screaming at us about how we were suburban candy-***** homosexuals.

    So, that explains your rotten attitude! I’d have done the same thing at that age in that environment quite possibly.

  • avatar

    We were looking at somebody’s lawn through the windshield, totally crossed-up, the tach bouncing wildly around, beeping, buzzing, when BANG! something went wrong. The Mazda coasted to a halt, smoking.

    And this, ladies and gents, is why you do not—ever—use forced-induction with a rotary.

  • avatar

    Not only was it sexy then, but it has aged magnificently. I’d have never thought such a futuristic, forward design from 1993 would be so timeless as to still look fresh today (and out-look all the sport coupes in its price range that are for sale today.) Conventional headlamps or door handles would ruin it; it’s just about perfect.

  • avatar

    Psh, we all know that Jack Baruth trashed this Twin Turbo RX-7 while racing a mid 80’s, panda colored, Corolla GTS on the down-hill portion of the mountains surrounding Columbus Ohio…
    Err maybe I am thinking of a different story.

  • avatar

    Ohhh….that poor RX-7.  What did you do to it?  What happened when people discovered it was messed up?  Did the guy mail is pimpin’ letter?

    What a fantastic, but tragically unreliable, car.  No wonder Clarkson compared it to a jag :)

  • avatar

    the best thing about those FD3S mazdas is to install an LS1… about the only thing GM did right

  • avatar

    I loooved that era RX-7.  Still do, in fact.  At the time my old man had a ’91 RX-7 that was a hoot to drive.  I imagined – probably correctly, though I’ve never driven one to confirm – that the newer model was like the ’91 turned up to 11.  And far more beautiful. 

    I remember that the 300ZX twin turbo, the RX-7, The Mitsu 3000GT VR-4/Dodge whatever-the-rebadge-was-called, and the Supra Turbo around this time were all absolute monsters – (sorta) poor man’s Ferraris.  I entertained many Walter Mitty fantasies that I was wheeling any one of the four while driving my 70 hp Civic CX to within inches of its low limits.

  • avatar

    So, was the car any good before your brother killed it?
    Sadly, I’ve never driven one of these. Looking forward to a tour of WV and eastern OH later this month in an RX-8, though.

    • 0 avatar

      On the handling front, the RX-8 actually is very respectable versus the 3rd Gen RX-7.  The 7 is a little stiffer and choppier over bumps, and is a little less friendly at the limit.  The short wheelbase and stiff setup does not suffer fools.  The RX-8 has a little more body roll stock due to softer springs and damping, but that’s makes it friendlier and more controlled over bumps. It has very good grip at the limits and is a friendlier and more forgiving car to drive overall.  At the limits on a track the FD would have higher absolute limits, but chances are the RX-8 driver won’t have to work as hard to hit those limits.  So, with mortal drivers, the 8 could probably throw a scare into the 7, and in a lot more comfort.
      However, the 7 has the mid-range torque that the 8 so desperately needs. Once you start modifying the cars, the 7 really starts to shine.
      I know when I was at the Deals Gap Rotary Rally last year, the 8s held their own on The Tail of the Dragon vs. the 7s. (Expect that pesky power thing, but you can’t really use it there.)

  • avatar

    Main plot involving a sports car and youthful intrigue and a subplot about a job search.  Then it ends like a cliffhanger season finale, fade to “to be continued…”

    I anxiously away the conclusion of this episode!
    PS- Jack, you were a “don’t touch the stove, it’s hot” kid, weren’t you?

  • avatar
    N Number

    I don’t know how well I’d get along with you (taking a car that’s not yours without permission and thrashing it goes against my grain, no matter how reprehensible the owner may be).  I do love your writing and perspective, however.  By all means keep it coming.

  • avatar
    Headroom Tommy

    Excellent writing, excellent story, excellent car, thanks!


  • avatar

    It was the summer of ’93, a hot Saturday afternoon. It was the day I learned some, shall we say, interesting things about physics. I was driving down one of the Columbus suburbs (Pickerington) steepest streets. The grade must have been almost 1%. I was returning from a expedition at Home Depot where I had scored several sheets of 3/4″ smooth-faced particle board. These were strapped to the roof of the Maxima. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but the car in front of me was suddenly stopped. I hit the brakes. That’s when two things quickly revealed themselves to me. The first is obvious, that heavy particle board, precariously perched upon a sedan roof and improperly secured, will faithfully obey Newton law stating that an object in motion will remain in motion. No problem, learned that in school. What I didn’t know up until that time, was that on a hot day, there’s enough of an air cushion between a sheet of particle board and the macadam that it will continue to obey said law of motion with little to resist it. The part I didn’t understand was where did the stopped car go as the surfin’ sheet of compressed wood byproducts had clear sailing for the 30 or so feet of its short-lived freedom. That’s it. Terror and wonder all in the space of a few seconds. That’s excitement Ohio suburb style.

  • avatar

    Jack, You’re a jackass, but your story telling talent is really good.  Write on!

  • avatar

    It’s hard to believe that your boss treated you like you were an idiot.
    Great story, but I’m glad I don’t share the road, neighborhood, or a payroll with you.

  • avatar

    That era RX 7 was a home run in the styling department (except for the ones that had a tacky spoiler).  The new RX-8 has nowhere near the same level of style.   The interior was also incredible, it wrapped around you like a glove.  I loved that era of japanese sports car, it was a shame they never sold that well.  They really brought affordable super cars, had they continued, who knows where they could have gone.
    These RX-7’s I’ve heard have an incredible amount of issues.  I remember Car and Driver tested one when it came out and they had to bring it to the dealership something like 7 times, just to do an article on it.

  • avatar

    Ah, one from the golden era of Japanese sportscars. I think only Mazda really hit the sex factor right, out of all the Japanese manufacturers. Too bad they seem to be so fragile. Certainly pushing a sports hard car seems like par for the course, though abusing one in that particular way is another thing…
    If I remember correctly, after Mazda killed it in the States it switched to a single turbo back in Japan. Turns out sequential twin turbos are really WAY more trouble than they are worth. Also helps that turbo development got rid of the worst of turbo lag issues. The first thing you do if you buy one of these: remove the twin setup and put on a single turbo.

    • 0 avatar

      The FD had stock twins for it’s entire life.  The “99 Spec” twins from the cars final refresh in Japan had tightened tolerances in the housings and a few other tweaks that made them more efficient and put out a bit more power, but they were still twins.
      We did a single-turbo conversion on a friend of mines FD this past winter, with supporting mods and the thing pulls like a train.  Haven’t had it on the dyno yet, but it’s a fairly well known set of mods that should support 380-400whp.
      Amongst my friends we have 2 RX-8s (one is mine) 3 * FDs (3rd Gen RX7s), actually 4 if you include the one a friend of mine crashed, kept for parts and then added another one to his fleet,  4 FCs (2nd Gen RX7s) including 2 Turbo’s and my NA race car, and an FB (1st Gen RX7).
      Not only are Rotary cars addictive to own, we tend to form tight social groups.  Partially so we can shout down the ignorant calls of  “LSx Swap!”

  • avatar

    Thrashing cars was the absolute best part of working in the business and the only part I miss.

  • avatar

    When I was still a salesman I was in my early twenties at a porsche dealer.  I was like a kid in a candy store. I never damaged anyhting though.  We did a lot of tech inspections on porsches for track days, so i would always borrow the customers modified 993 turbos for joyrides. They wre actually very good to me, I drove any used car i wished for a demo, but I always loved the aircooled stuff and we never had any around except for service.

  • avatar

    Shame you didn’t get to do a long term review.

    As a former owner, let me say, the car drives phenomenally, but is a gigantic piece of shit.

    And I’m not talking about the engine – the engine was a reliable gem.

    The trim, fit and finish, paint, electric, interior, exterior – it all falls apart.  Garbage.

  • avatar

    Right on regarding the 600R reference! I had an ’89 version, and despite being underpowered by today’s standards, the sudden rush of power that kicked in at 6000 RPM to past the 11000 RPM redline, and the short gearing (35 MPH first gear, 55 in second – nearly identical to my ’92 Jetta, except the bike ran low 12’s in the quarter mile and had an extra gear on the top end) made it a hoot. Trying to steer or brake the thing scared the hell out of me, and that’s coming from a guy whose subsequent rides were a GSX-R 7/11 and a Suzuki TL1000S (aka: “Widowmaker.”)

    One thing that this article reminds me of that makes me lament trading car ownership for a bike: in a car you can be a ham-fisted idiot without sliding ass-first into the gravel.

    I need to get me a Miata.

    And Jack: we definitely need to get the conclusions to this story.

  • avatar

    I seem to recall a review in CAR or Autocar that said that the final gen RX-7 was the closest thing to a perfect sports car being sold at the time.

    At the Toronto Auto Show there was a styling seminar and Tom Matano, formerly of Mazda, now at an art college in the Bay area, was there and I had a chance to ask him how it felt to be the world’s most successful sports car designer (this was a few years ago when they’d sold about 750,000 by then, a figure unmatched in the sports car world). Matano laughed and said that he was actually prouder of the last RX-7, that the Miata was styled after the Lotus Elan, while the 3rd gen RX-7 was a clean sheet design.

  • avatar

    This is such a gorgeous design and it has aged wonderfully. One of my favorites of the 90s along with the DSM Eclipse/Talon, 3000GT and the rebadge was called the Stealth. The 300ZX was a great ride also and has great styling.

    Jack it sounds like running the Rx-7 hard you guys just popped off an intercooler pipe/coupling/vacuum line with your neighborhood hooning. The same thing happened to me racing the Eagle one time at the drag strip during Test and Tune. Had a loud BANG in 2nd gear and lost power. It sounded like something big just went wrong but I had blown the aftermarket blow off valve off the intercooler pipe under high boost. Great story, I laughed out loud about the cover letter.

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