By the late 1970s, new sports car introductions were a rare event. Sensing the same need that Nissan had in 1969 for an affordable, reliable and basic sports car, Mazda rushed to fill the niche that Datsun had abandoned when they irretrievably took the 240Z upmarket as the 280ZX. Mazda even had the nerve to invoke the beloved 240Z in the original ads for the RX-7.
Mazda in those days was heavily invested into Wankel/Rotary engine technology so it was a natural that the light, compact, and powerful engine would find a home in Madza’s new sports car. It gave near V-8 performance and a lofty redline, but it also saddled the car with V-8 fuel economy levels.
No matter, it was what enthusiasts had been clamoring for. Affordable, quick, and well-built, Mazda dealers were played the game that Datsun dealers had a decade before. Few RX-7s left dealer lots at anything near sticker price. GS cars were more heavily optioned and could be had with automatic and air conditioning. There were few changes (and few color choices) for the first several years, with the 100-hp 12-A version of the Rotary being the only engine available. It was enough to give the lightweight car more than adequate performance for the day.
Updated bumpers and tail lamps appeared along with different alloy wheel choices in 1981 and the GSL package which added disc brakes at all four wheels. In 1984, the 13-B Rotary became available as part of the ultimate GSL-SE package making it the quickest of the first generation cars.
Mazda RX-7s have yet to catch on the way the Datsun 240Z, which means that nice examples can still be found quite reasonably. Some fears (not totally unjustified) among collectors exist of worn out rotor tip (apex) seals and a lack of mechanics with enough familiarity to address engine problems, but a healthy first-gen car is a delightful basic sports car.
1981 Mazda RX-7 Info
2-cyl. 1146cc/106hp Rotary 4bbl
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