Digestible Collectible: 1989 Mazda RX7 GTUs

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Mazda just can’t quit the rotary. Magical spinning Doritos are such a significant part of their DNA that, in spite of overwhelming evidence against the Wankel existence thanks to its appetite for fuel, oil, and apex seals, they keep a team of engineers developing it.

In theory, the rotary is the perfect engine for a sportscar. Lightweight, rev-happy, and reasonably powerful — exactly the attributes needed for a lithe corner carver. Back in the late ’80s, just as another enthusiast-focused Mazda was coming on the scene, a special edition RX7 was released. Rather than tape stripes and excess frills, this one came stripped of excess weight, and loaded with performance goodies.

The 1989 Mazda RX7 GTUs helped commemorate the dominance of the RX7 in IMSA’s GTU series. Basically, the car was a base model, naturally-aspirated RX7, with big front brakes from the Turbo, and a numerically-higher rear end ratio on a limited-slip differential. A little lighter, but a good bit quicker than the regular car. Around 1,100 were built over two years.

This one has been lightly modified and fitted with a rebuilt engine that has been street-ported for probably around 50 more horsepower than stock. The odometer has around thirty-five thousand miles showing, which can mean death for a Wankel, as seals will dry out if the car isn’t driven regularly. The recent rebuild should have taken care of that. I’m not much for the stereo upgrades, as they add unnecessary weight, but I’d imagine a built-up rotary and the short rear end mean highway cruising is a bit loud.

At $12,500, it might be a bit much for a modified limited-edition car, but there are so few of these that it the price may be right. As it turns out, I’ll be in Cincinnati this weekend. I may need to check this out.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Nov 04, 2015

    I've been trying to find one of these for years, in STOCK condition. Price is insane and it's been molested AND left to sit.

  • Craiger Craiger on Nov 04, 2015

    I've always found the C4 to be simple and honest, with a little bit of 80s nostalgia. Can anyone comment on the wisdom of picking one up today as a DD?

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Defender looks way better than the Bronco in both 2-door and 4-door.
  • ToolGuy I found this particular episode to be incredibly offensive.I am shocked that eBay Motors is supporting this kind of language and attitudes in 2024.I will certainly keep this in mind next time I am choosing where to buy auto parts (I buy a LOT of auto parts).
  • SaulTigh When I was young in the late 80's one of my friends had the "cool dad." You know the guy, first to buy a Betamax and a C-band satellite dish. Couple of stand up arcade games in the den. Bought my friend an Atari 2600 as soon as they came out. He had two of these crap heaps. One that only ran half the time and one for parts in the yard. My middle school brain though he was the most awesome dad ever, buying us pizza and letting us watch R rated movies recorded on free HBO weekend. At the time I though he was much better than my boring father.Now with adult hindsight, I now know he was "dad who should have taken better care of his family" and not had so many toys.
  • Dave Has to be Indy 500. Many more leaders and front passes than NASCAR, and Monaco is unwatchable with the inability to pass on that circuit.
  • Jeff How did the discussion get from an article about a 56 billion dollar pay package for Elon Musk to a proposal to charge a per mile tax on EVs in California or paying increase registration on vehicles to make up for lost gas tax revenue? I thought such a discussion would better fit Matt's Gas Wars series.
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