By on April 24, 2015

12 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

First-generation RX-7s aren’t as common in self-service wrecking yards as they were five years ago, but it’s not hard to find a couple in a typical large yard in the Los Angeles or San Francisco areas. Most of the time I don’t photograph these cars, but we’ve seen this ’79, this ’79, this ’80, and this ’85 so far in this series, and now we’ve got today’s beat-looking but low-mile ’83 from Northern California.
03 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Do you suppose this is the actual mileage, or did the speedometer cable break in 1991? It seems unlikely that the car has 1,068,798.3 miles on it.

01 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

While California’s tailpipe-emission limits in 1983 seemed incredibly strict by the standards of the other 49 states in 1983, these grams-per-mile numbers are filthy compared to current standards. For example: in 1983, your new California car could spew 0.7 grams of nitrogen oxides per mile; in 2015, the limit is 0.05 grams/mile.

14 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

I hope these “GS” emblems weren’t applied by Mazda. At least it has the beautiful rotareeeee.

The more you look, the more you like!

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57 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Mazda RX-7...”


  • avatar
    Beemernator

    Three pictures dedicated to the GS emblem? It seems to have made a lasting impression.

  • avatar

    This was the car that got me into small, fun driving cars. My next car would be a ’94 Miata (in 1995). It was also cool to put down 0 for the Number of Cylinders box on NJ’s DMV registration card at the time.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Even when I saw these as a child in the late 80’s, they looked old and used up. I was never impressed by this one. However I love the long and low one which came after, round 88. Especially with mesh wheels.

    http://www.autosnout.com/editionimages/366.jpg

    Very much a Porsche 928 lookalike.

    • 0 avatar
      talkstoanimals

      Agreed. My father had a black-on-black ’91 that looked great and was a ton of fun to drive. I still have fond memories of that car, including trying (and failing) to do burnouts with it’s total lack of low end torque and whopping 160 hp; doing a 470 degree spin after taking a highway exit too, ehm, spiritedly; and racing it down an abandoned road against my buddy’s Yamaha Banshee. It’s amazing I was allowed to drive the car and made it out of my teen years…

    • 0 avatar
      Veee8

      I agree – the early years didn’t have the presence of the later models, they look more toy like.
      And the 928 influenced sooo many car designs both inside and out.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yep, lot of 928 in the second-gen. Problem was they got a lot heavier and became more of a touring coupe, which left the rotary really out of place (not as bad as the Roadpacer, though). You really needed the turbo to do anything in a gen2.

    • 0 avatar
      tobiasfunkemd

      I had a 1989 NA RX-7 as a high school beater. Great fun, still can’t believe my parents let me drive it. We would regularly go two in front, two in the trunk/hatch area for In N Out runs. Thankfully no one was killed. Sucked gas and motor oil, which convinced me to get a job at the local Kragen Auto Parts. That picture you posted brought back a lot of great memories!

    • 0 avatar
      typ901

      Never saw the 928 in them, more of a 944.

      • 0 avatar
        Speedygreg7

        I still have my 89 RX-7 from high school in 96. Incredibly fun car that has spoiled me for virtually any car that isn’t another RX-7 or Cayman/Boxster. The overall shape of the FC RX-7 was heavily influenced by the Porsche 924/944, but the shape of the doors is very similar to the 928 and the Dodge Daytona/Plymouth Laser of the early 80’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “Very much a Porsche 928 lookalike.”

      Which itself was influenced by the AMC Pacer, which coincidentally WAS going to use a rotary engine at one point.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Today’s Rare Ebay Find – two rare Chryslers! A very kitschy and overstyled 62 New Yorker Estate, and a very elegant 1965 factory produced Imperial Convertible.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/201336313840?forcerRptr=true&item=201336313840&viewitem=
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/391123455907?forcerRptr=true&item=391123455907&viewitem=

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Did you happen to notice Flybrian has a clean but high miles LH New Yorker on his lot in Florida?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I dunno what his site is, though I remember going there to do the “what two cars for $18k challenge” we did.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          http://www.motorsportsflorida.com/

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            He does a great job with pictures. I wouldn’t even look at that QX56 though, based on the ghetto-tastic wheels alone.

            That LH is clean, but boy is she tired. Rust invasion in the door jamb as well, and quite a bit of bump rash at the front.

            I can’t believe you didn’t mention the red Eldo!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The red Eldo has been there for quite awhile. I agree the LH looks tired, shame though less tired that sounds like a half decent buy.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      That 1965 Imperial Convertible is awesome. It’s one of the last ones with a unit-body on top of a full frame, so I’d love to see if it has any cowl shake. I used to drive a convertible Barracuda, and the top would try to rip off the windshield when it was up, such was the twisting of the chassis. That one had a 225 ci slant-6. I’d love to see how well the million dollar hemi Cuda convertibles drive, since they stiffened the suspension, added 300 lbs to the nose, but did nothing to stiffen the body. Anyway, I suspect the ’65 Imperial has the starch missing from most Mopars, being two cars in one.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    As revered as the AE86 is, I’m surprised these don’t have as big of a following.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Most of the “survivors” I’ve seen for sale have small block Chevy transplants.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The rotary scares off some people, and most of the 1st-gen RX7s were already used up before the drift craze hit.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        I see way more of these than even the most ravaged AE86 craigslist stragglers. Engine swaps are easy, and you can even find them with 4wheel discs and LSD’s. Anyway, a large portion of AE86’s owned by enthusiasts have something other than the stock 4AG, usually:
        -4AGE 20V (doesn’t just fit in there)
        -3S-GE BEAMS
        -Honda F20C
        -Nissan SR20DET

        On paper, the SA22/FB is a better car. People just like to play follow the leader. http://www.speedhunters.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/22c4_IGSo_1.jpg

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Pretty car which provided joyful driving, but sorrowful ownership.

    Sort of like that lover you fondly recall, who took all your money.

    Mazda can trace part of its current malaise in the US to this car. Anyone wishing for a return of the Mazda rotary may as well hope for a return of GM’s 350 diesel – both engines were destructive to their owners and their mfrs.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I worked for a Mazda store from 1978 until 1985. We sold rather a lot of these, and they gave good service. Mazda had a longish warranty on the engine, which was needed to overcome from the stigma left over from the early 70’s RX cars. We replaced exactly one engine, and that was for high oil consumption.

      These are simple cars, with a solid rear axle and MacPherson struts up front. The brakes on the early ones were disc/drum, and were adequate for street use, but that’s all they were. The early S model cars came with a 4 speed transmission, while the GS models came with a 5 speed. IIRC, both could be had with a 3 speed auto box, which I believe was JATCO sourced, but not many wanted the auto. I’m thinking maybe 9 seconds from 0 to 60, reasonably quick for its day but not overly so. Mazdas of that era weren’t overly durable, after six or seven years out in the southern sun the paint got bad and the interior started to crack, so they didn’t have a long llfe, and not many are left.

      If I were going to think of having an old car, this would be at the top of my list. I understand that the parts for the 12A engine are very hard to come by these days, so if someone wanted to keep the car original they might want to find one of the 13B equipped cars. One warning to any would be RX7 owners: If you let one sit for an extended period of time the apex seals get stuck to the rotor housings. The way to deal with this is to turn the engine backwards. If you turn it in its normal direction of rotation, you risk breaking a seal. This was known as “body shop syndrome” because the most common victims of it were cars that were wrecked and had some downtime before they were repaired.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        The 68k-mile example in Murilee’s photos was almost certainly junked due to a bad engine.

        The intact nature of the engine compartment tells me that there are so few surviving RX-7 engines that nobody even needs parts for them.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          I’d suggest you check out the online RX-7 community.

          I have six years practical experience with these cars, you have a picture on a blog post.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            Gimme a break; I’ve known people with RX-7s, RX-4s, and RX-3s.

            Mazda didn’t replace many engines because they barely outlasted the warranty, and/or the cars rusted into powder.

            Only True Believers yearn for the return of the rotary; it’s telling that no other mfr has attempted to field a production car with one. They have a 40-year questionable reputation.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The early rotaries were horrible, but they eventually provided reliable service. They weren’t durable, though, as the apex seals would inevitably fail. (I’ve always heard that surviving to 150k miles was the best case scenario.)

            They’re obsolete gas guzzlers, so there is no place for them today. But for a short time, the technology was good for its day.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I know the Mazda fanboys will burn me in effigy for ever suggesting this, but why doesn’t Mazda just become more of a coachbuilder? Skyactiv is just another GDI I4, diesel would have been interesting but we know that’s not gonna happen stateside. Would it have made more sense to hold back that Skyactiv development money and just license someone else’s drivetrain and concentrate on chassis and content?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            At this point, the company is independent and has no choice. The Ford relationship allowed Mazda to save money on some of these R&D items, but there hasn’t been any other company to replace Ford.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          One of my cousins bought one new in ’81. My college roommate bought it from her in about ’91 with ~130K on it. Ran like a champ even then. Rusted all to heck though, being a Maine car. Wouldn’t pass inspection so he just registered it in NH at my mother’s address. NH also did not require insurance… Fun car!

          At least in NE, the motors generally outlasted the bodies. My understanding is the motors are quite cheap and easy to rebuild, though they don’t last as long as a piston engine. Still a fair few around that weren’t driven in winter.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I had one of these when it was already almost worn out – probably late 90’s. It was a blast to drive, it was kind of strange looking out the window and have the tire of a buick higher than my head.

    It had an oil leak and kept catching on fire, which was annoying, but the zing to redline and go-kart handling was always a blast. I later bought a second gen car and didn’t find it nearly as entertaining.

    • 0 avatar

      “It kept catching on fire, which was annoying”

      You must be the world’s most chill person.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      I had one of these around 1991 (1983 model). It was weird, because it was so much lower-tech than my 1984 Mazda 626. The RX7 had a live rear axle, and you could definitely feel that huge mass moving up-and-down (and back-and-forth) over bumps (this coming from a guy who had driven FWD cars up to that point).

      You didn’t have to step on the gas pedal twice before starting: you pulled out the manual choke.

      The sunroof didn’t slide back: it came off and was stored in the hatch.

      Every surface was…gross. The sun ruined every petrochemical surface in no time at all. The steering wheel left sticky black goobers all over your hands.

      Yet, I have a place in my heart for that car. It was beautiful. The zingy engine was fun. Good times.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Re: “The steering wheel left sticky black goobers all over your hands”

        Mazda steering wheels still do this. My ’96 Miata did it and me ’12 Miata is starting too as well. It’s worse when it’s humid out.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I recall my Audi 5000 doing that. The leather had become very porous or something (IIRC the steering wheel was leather wrapped). After driving on a hot day it looked like you took a black pencil eraser to your palms.

          This was the only car where I ever had such a steering wheel issue.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Toyota dashboards now do the sticky goober thing. Sticky goobers for all my friends!!

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    This is slightly off topic, but Felix Wankel was a Nazi is a major way. He joined the Party in 1921, which was really early, when you had to be a true believer (as opposed to later when a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon for careerist reasons) and then he was thrown out of the Party in 1931 for being TOO militaristic. And then he joined the SS in 1940.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      …and ex-Sturmbannführer Dr. Wernher von Braun took NASA to the Moon, your point being?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not sure of his point, but I’d say that Wankel was an ideological Nazi, a true believer in Eric Hoffer’s words, while von Braun was more of an opportunist.

        While the fact that former German rocket scientists ended up working in both the U.S. and Soviet space efforts is pretty well known, what’s not as well known is that the U.S. got a lot of it’s biological warfare tech from the Japanese, who experimented with germ warfare in occupied China. I saw one reference that said that 250,000 Chinese were killed with weaponized cholera. One reason why Japan developed their submarine aircraft carrier, was that while the light plane it could transport and launch could not carry significant kinetic bombs, it could drop incendiary and biological weapons. Japan also hoped to use the long distance bomber they were developing to drop biologicals on the U.S. west coast.

        Over time, the Nazi’s atrocities have in some ways obscured and overshadowed Japanese war crimes during WWII.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Good post Ronnie. I knew about Unit 731 and the I-400 class subs but many don’t.

          “Instead of being tried for war crimes, the researchers involved in Unit 731 were given immunity in exchange for their data on human experimentation.[8] Some were arrested by Soviet forces and tried at the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials in 1949. Americans did not try the researchers so that the information and experience gained in bio-weapons could be co-opted into the U.S. biological warfare program.[9]”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731

          “Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night was a 1945 plan developed by Shirō Ishii to wage biological warfare upon civilian population centers in Southern California, United States, during the final months of World War II, using pathogens created by members of Ishii’s Unit 731.”

          “During the last months of the war, Ishii was preparing for a long-distance attack on the United States. This operation, codenamed “Cherry Blossoms at Night”, called for the use of airplanes to spread plague over Southern California at night. The plan was finalized on March 26, 1945. Five of the new I-400-class long-range submarines were to be sent across the Pacific Ocean, each carrying three Aichi M6A Seiran aircraft loaded with plague-infected fleas. The submarines were to surface near San Diego and launch the aircraft towards the target, either to drop the plague via balloon bombs, or to crash in enemy territory. Either way, the plague would then infect people in the area and kill perhaps tens of thousands. ”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Cherry_Blossoms_at_Night

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-400-class_submarine

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        Two wrongs don’t make a right. Aside from the question of whether building the V-2 was itself a war crime since it targeted civilian populations, it may have the distinction of being the only weapon system where more people died building it (they used Jewish concentration camp prisoners as forced labor under horrible conditions) than it killed on target.

        That being said, it’s clear that von Braun was a rocket geek – he was always more interested in building rockets and going to the moon than he was in taking vengeance on London.

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      My house was built by a war criminal, there are dead POWs buried under the nearby railroad tracks, and my great grandfather lead a questionable military expedition into the Soviet Union. History is not nice.

  • avatar
    dr_outback

    I have always considered ‘war crimes’ to be an oxymoron.

  • avatar
    burnbomber

    Whew–that was a history lesson I did not know!

    On the subject topic, the Mazda 13B rotary engine has found another life as a light engine for builder-flyer home built aircraft.

    Do a google search on “mazda 13b rotary aircraft engine”

    Lots of good sites–down the list are parts suppliers, but here are the first hits–

    http://www.flyrotary.com/

    http://www.rotaryeng.net/

    http://www.rotaryeng.net/why-the-rotary-engine.html

  • avatar
    71 MKIV

    I want the engine and 5 speed for my Spitfire.
    Three times the horsepower and half the weight of the iron lump that’s in there now.

    71 MKIV

  • avatar
    skor

    Looking at this car and I can’t understand why there is so much hate for flip-up headlights today. I always thought the having the headlights folded away during the day made for a neater looking car.

  • avatar

    I had an RX-7 back around 1984. It wasn’t super fast but it was a nice sports car. Very smooth revving rotary engine and good handling

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Still better than Al’s stupid little and vegemite singing bands

  • avatar
    qwerty100

    I learned to drive, and drive stick, on my father’s new 1979. Good memories. The clutch was quite easy in its operation. The other thing that impressed me was how smooth revving the engine was at high RPM’s, not at all like a conventional one. It was my father’s pride and joy.

    He was quite relaxed as an instructor, but became perturbed only once, when I had driven many miles with the emergency brake on.

    “Check your instruments,” he yelled.

    But he was totally cool with all the wear I put on his clutch learning first gear.

    His evil second wife took it in his divorce in the early 1980’s, leaving him her old 280z, so all the RX7’s virtues and problems went to her.

    B**ch.

  • avatar
    sat7

    I worked as a line technician on Mazda in the late 70’s A truck load would arrive and during the pre-delivery inspection a road test was called for. All the rotary engines ran a little different from one another depending on manufacturing tolerance. The tighter the “seal” the stronger the car ran. The Wankel design is an outstanding design unfortunately very expensive to repair. This is why Mazda required any compression problem to get an engine swap and the core shipped back for diagnosis. Great company with customer service close at heart. Nothing rev’s like a good Wankel… screamers. They would still be in the U.S. except for emissions and cost… .

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