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?

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