First appearing in 1978, the RWD Mazda RX-7 has one of the longest-lasting sports car production runs, and is the vehicle that made the Mazda rotary engine the renowned name it is today.
Mazda had production vehicles powered by rotary engines from 1965, but the advent of the RX-7 was when this quirky, but highly effective engine became famous. And thanks to its incredible tuning potential, it’s still hugely popular today – with some examples pushing out close to 1,000bhp – a level impossible by conventional piston engines.
In its various guises it has won countless awards by the motoring press over the years, even Playboy magazine car of the year, thanks to the looks, handling and performance you’d expect from a car over twice its price.
All three generations of RX-7 have been hugely successful in many forms of motorsport too, with RX-7s winning the BTCC in ’81 and ’82, running 6sec 1/4 miles on the drag strip, winning endurance races, competing at LeMans 24hr, taking the Japanese GT300 series and 1993 D1 drift series, dominating RWD class Time Attack events worldwide, and steamrollering the American IMSA GTU and GTO championships a huge seven and ten years in a row. These cars really are outstanding motorsport legends.
Over 800,000 RX-7s have been made, and though the first generation’s production ended nearly 25 years ago, it was quite a car, with light weight, 50-50 weight distribution, 7,000rpm rev limit and the top models were even turbocharged.
In the UK tuning scene, it was the curvy third generation (FD) twin turbo RX-7 that really got the rotary tuning scene popularised. In more recent years, though, there has been a backwards step and the second generation (FC) RX-7 has also become a hugely popular car to tune, especially for drifting, thanks to its light weight, vast selection of parts available from Japan, and cool looks.
With production of the RX-7 only ending in 2002 and a large amount of FC and FD models being tuned daily, this legend is still likely to be with us for decades to come.
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