Junkyard Find: 2004 Mazda RX-8

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Just about every kind of vehicle shows up at the low-priced, high-inventory-turnover self-service wrecking yards, sooner or later. It took until the late 2000s before I started seeing Mazda Miatas in such yards, and now it appears that the advance scouts for a steady flow of RX-8 s are here. I saw this silver ’04 at the same Denver-area yard that gave us the biohazardous 2009 Kia Rondo.

As you might expect, the RENESIS 13B engine and many more nice bits got snapped up within minutes of this car entering the yard’s inventory.

I reviewed the last of the RX-8s and I thought it was one of the greatest new cars I’d ever driven at the time. I was considering buying one … until I refueled it and discovered that the thing got 15 mpg highway. The original buyer of this car decided that he or she wanted terrible fuel economy and the no-torque acceleration that an automatic/Wankel combo delivers so well. How? Why?

Still, what this means is that RX-8s appearing in the 24 Hours of LeMons might dodge the billions of penalty laps they once earned. It turned out that these cars are not particularly fast in a real-world, wheel-to-wheel road race, but they should be fun for future low-budget racers.

The Japanese-market ads for this car were full of shrieking Wankels, burnouts, and utterances of the words “Zoom-zoom-zoom.”

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Dec 28, 2015

    Slightly off topic, but I read somewhere that replacing the fuel filter on the 3rd gen RX-7 required removing the rear axle. Is this true?

    • HiFlite999 HiFlite999 on Dec 29, 2015

      Nope. First, there's no rear axle. Second, it's on the fuel pump in the gas tank, reachable through a hatch in the top of the fuel tank.

  • HiFlite999 HiFlite999 on Dec 29, 2015

    As a current RX-8 owner, I'm happy to report it's just a car, not a magic carpet, but also not the devil's spawn. 1) Oil: 1 qt/1,500 miles is about right. 2) MPGs: 22-24 highway, 18-20 city, driven gently. If wound out in every gear, less; 7.9 mpg on a roadrace track. Still, I spend less on gas than insurance. 3a) How to fail the engine: Let the ignition coils go bad. (The duty cycle of the coils is far higher in a rotary, that is, the time between firings is shorter than in a normal piston engine.) This will cook and plug the cat. The plugged cat will drive exhaust temperatures too high and a seal will fail. 3b) How to fail the engine: Let the cooling system deteriorate. A single excursion above ~235 degrees F will cause enough differential expansion between the iron "centers" and the alloy housing to fail o-rings and get water into places it shouldn't go. 3c) How to fail the engine: Use 20W-50 without modding the oil pressure relief valve. This will give too-little oil flow at high rpm. (Applicable to many modern piston-engine cars too, BTW). My 110 hp RX-4 back in the day was stone-reliable. The 230 hp RX-8 engine, less so. Both had the same displacement. High hp/cc cars of any type (S2000, Ferrari, ...) run into the same sort of problems, mostly caused by ppl treating them like Camrys. Unfortunately, used RX-8s go for so little money these days that they get into the hands of kids unable to keep up with maintenance. Being cheap and/or ignorant will kill these engines in short order.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.