Japanese sports coupes were all the rage in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The first that come to mind are the Datsun/Nissan Z and Toyota’s Celica/Supra, which dominated the class and drove the trend toward more power, more weight, and turbocharging, and away from lightness and simplicity as the decades wore on. Perhaps less well-known, but no less well-regarded, was Mazda’s innovative RX-7.
First-generation RX-7s (1979–85) were relatively simple two-seat sport hatchbacks. As relatively simple rear-wheel-drive coupes, their defining characteristic was the smooth, light, and high-revving Wankel rotary engine.
A bit lost to enthusiast attention—between that classic first generation and the supercar-like third—was the second generation, introduced in 1986. Based on the basic premise of the original, it used an updated version of the larger 13B engine used that was optional in first-generation cars. The body grew and started to look a bit like the contemporary Porsche 944 (not the wheel arches and flares) as it moved upmarket.
The second generation later saw some innovations, as well, like optional turbocharging and (in 1988) the introduction of the convertible, one example of which serves as this week’s featured eBay find.
Remember, the Miata was still two years away when this convertible was introduced. Two-seater convertibles were fairly rare in the market and limited to higher-priced models like the Mercedes 560 SL, the Chevrolet Corvette, and the evergreen Alfa Romeo Spider. The RX-7 convertible even came with standard leather seats and a power top that featured a rigid section above the seats. This portion could be removed separately to create a bit of a Targa effect, but why bother? The hard section of the top was said to reduce interior noise and make the top more watertight.
Of course, the increased structural members, top, and power mechanism added weight, which made this more of a grand tourer than a track-friendly sports car. Mazda never offered the aforementioned turbo and convertible together. Prices also rose; with options these could cost around $28,000 back in the day. It’s easy to see why the RX-7 convertible left the market quickly after the MX-5 Miata took the market by storm at a fraction of that price.
Nevertheless, second-gen RX-7s are still interesting and attractive cars, particularly if one is passionate about obscure innovative engine designs. That Wankel might be the Achilles’ heel, though—as the cars age and need repairs the engine’s tendency to leak oil becomes more of a risk. But the rotary a fascinating engineering feat, nonetheless.
This week’s eBay find is purported to have accumulated only about 65,000 miles since new, runs well with no accident history, and carries original bodywork and paint. Indeed, in the photos the car appears to be stock down to the original BBS-style alloy wheels and rebuilt original stereo. With two days to go, bidding has been moderate and the reserve not yet met. According the Hagerty Price Guide, values have remained relatively flat on second-generation RX-7s the past few years. With other Japanese coupes from this era gaining interest, perhaps these are worth another look?