The Mazda RX-7 is one of the world’s most iconic JDM sports cars. This incredible car married the fun of Mazda with the Wankel engine.
Although most of the automotive world admired the Wankel rotary engine, only Mazda truly put it to use. The Mazda RX-7 lasted for three generations, each of which used the Wankel engine for power. This car is one of the most attractive and impressive cars in history, showing up in some of the most fun car movies, including at least two versions that appeared in the Fast and Furious franchise.
Let’s take a look back and see what makes this car a true icon.
How did the Wankel engine come into existence?
The Wankel rotary engine is named for its developer, Dr. Felix Wankel. This engine offered power advantages over traditional cylinder models with a power-to-weight ratio of 3:1, making it a preferred choice for Mazda. This engine revs at higher rpm, has fewer moving parts, and is much cheaper to produce than a standard piston-driven engine. Unfortunately, the Wankel engine is also extremely inefficient, which is why many automakers never adopted it for their vehicles.
What did the first-gen RX-7 include?
The first generation of the Mazda RX-7 was the FB model. This car borrowed design inspiration from the Lotus Elan. The small rotary engine enabled Mazda to build this car with a long and low hood, which meant impressive aerodynamics and a sporty style. The first model had a curved glass rear hatch and a lightweight build that delivered nearly perfect weight distribution.
This first model was powered by a twin-rotor rotary engine mounted behind the front axle. This position allowed a new phrase to be used regarding engine location, with this position being called the “front mid-engine” position. The nearly 50/50 weight distribution and lower center of gravity pushed Mazda forward in terms of handling. The RX-7 was smooth and easy to control, which meant this car was fun to drive.
The rotary engine wasn’t instantly a hit, but the RX-7 was. To ensure consumers would be more accepting, Mazda toned down everything else about this car, giving it a standard suspension and steering system.
The second generation kept things going for this Mazda sports car
The second generation of the Mazda RX-7 was called the FC version, and the success of the first model allowed Mazda to set its sights pretty high. The target market for this new RX-7 included the Porsche 924/944. This new RX-7 derived more power from the 13B rotary engine, producing 146 horsepower, which was 46 more than the first-gen model. This new version brought features that were toned down in the first model to make it a much better sports car. Some of these items included a rack and pinion steering system, an independent suspension, and disc brakes on all four wheels.
The 1986 version of the RX-7 was so impressive that it won the MotorTrend Import Car of the Year Award. This second-gen model brought a convertible build to the mix and evolved to the RX-7 Turbo II in 1987, which produced 182 horsepower and delivered a 0-60 sprint time of 7.0 seconds.
Saving the best for last in the Mazda RX-7
The FD model, which is the third generation of the Mazda RX-7, was the most famous and the best of the three versions of this lightweight JDM sports car. The incredible design still makes us swoon with delight when we see this car. This RX-7 uses one of the first mass-produced sequential turbocharged engines, offering smooth power delivery and plenty of power. The sequential nature of this engine meant very little turbo lag, enabling this car to hit 60 mph in only 5.0 seconds. This engine topped out at 255 horsepower, which is still more than enough for some fun in this car today.
The RX-7 took the world by storm
Mazda sold 70,000 FD-generation versions of the RX-7 during the 1990s, setting the tone for sports car history. The RX-7 brought us the rotary engine and some incredible new tech for driving on a track or carving up the roads. This car also won several races in Motorsports, including the 1974 24hrs of Daytona, the ISMA’s GTU production-based racing class (the RX-7 won this seven times in a row), and it won the IMSA’s GTO championship for a full decade.
The Mazda RX-7 is an incredible sports car that cemented its place in history by using the Wankel Rotary engine and offering futuristic performance features.
This car is still one of the most sought-after sports cars by amateur racers today.
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