Monday, July 25, 2016

How about a Wankel for your Monday?

I was making my way down 5th Ave in Brooklyn when I stumbled upon this well worn little chump:
This is a 1987 Mazda Rx-7 Turbo in Dove White. She's seen better days for sure but this was a pretty groundbreaking car when it was first introduced.
This is the second generation of the Rx-7 which debuted as a much smaller car in 1978. The redesign in 1985 added about 500 lbs to what was originally a tiny sports car with perfect 50/50 weight ratio between the front and back. Regardless of the increase in size this car proved to be a huge hit.
This one's taken a few hits as well but aside from some rumpling she seems to be alright for almost 30 years old.
The Rx-7 replaced the Rx-3 which had been around since '71. Those early cars are so funky and totally Japanese looking in the best way. This car was pretty much designed for North America.
That big hood scoop means that this is the turbocharged version. The use of the letters Rx on a Mazda means that it is powered by a Wankel rotary engine as opposed to traditional cylinders. Here's a nice Jalopnik article about the Wankel written when the last of its kind was built back in 2012. Suffice it to say that the Wankel looks like it shouldn't work at first glance; a triangular metal piece knocks around inside of a lozenge shape revving higher than normal engine and taking up less space. Mazda was far and away their biggest proponent for decades.
Those wheels are as '80s as a pair of Oakleys with orange lenses. I believe they are original to the car but have been painted white at some point in history. When you go back and look at cars from 1987 this is one of the most modern and aerodynamic. Besides the Ford Taurus most rides were super boxy.
From this angle you can see how shamelessly this design apes the Porsche 924 and 944.
Mazda built a small number of Sport models which were ultra lightweight versions of the Turbo. Among other things this rear wiper was deleted from the Sport. If you ever happen to run across a 2nd generation Rx-7 for sale that looks to have never had a rear wiper I would do my best to note the VIN if possible and grab it if it's genuine. Keep in mind they didn't have power steering either. 
For all its dings it really doesn't have any rust to speak of.
This car sports the removable steel sunroof as opposed to the retractable glass version. I feel like I've seen both but this is what you could've gotten with the older Rx-7s from 1978. Maybe the powered glass sunroof was an extra-cost option?
This ride has a funky aftermarket steering wheel and an upgraded gearshift. The fact that this has the 5-speed manual is great for getting the most out of this beast. You could've ordered a non-turbo with an automatic in '87 if you wanted so this is really the drivers edition. I love how monumentally out of place that tall square console is. It's like they fired the designer with just a few touches to go and some manager stepped in to finish the job.
Classic late-'80s paint just giving up entirely if you look at it wrong.
I've liked these cars since they were new and I was buying up Car & Driver every month. The Rx-7 Turbo was in the C&D Top Ten Cars list for both '86 and '87 so they printed a lot about it. Between 1988-1992 this generation Rx-7 could be had as a convertible too. Occasionally they come up for sale and I'm always tempted but having never had a rotary engine I feel like it would involve a learning curve that would require a parking space.

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