Mazda RX-7 FC3S Buying Guide
The Mazda RX-7 FC stands proudly among the most underrated JDM cars. It was history-changing for Mazda as an auto manufacturer when it was first introduced in 1984, as it had the first turbocharged twin-rotor engine. Its sharp aerodynamic design adopted from the FB RX-7 and Mazda Cosmo captured the hearts and enthusiasts. No car in its class could come close to what the RX-7 offered.
Today the RX-7 FC is a popular choice among first-time JDM car buyers despite the troubles that rotary engines can bring to their pockets. Live a little, they say. Furthermore, the maintenance costs don’t hurt as much since you can quickly get one for a few thousand dollars. If an RX-7 FC has been on your mind, we have composed this buying guide for you comprising of the pros and cons of buying one, issues to expect, and what you should look for when buying a Mazda RX-7 FC.
Mazda RX-7 FC Pros and Cons
One of the main reasons a considerable number of first-time JDM car buyers go for the RX-7 FC despite the disadvantages of rotary engines is the price. Finding one for less than $2,000 is easy, especially if you aim to find one sold locally during production time. You might even find a convertible for dirt cheap if you’re lucky.
For between $1,000 and $5,000, you have a nice project car that you either learn to work on rotary engines with or swap out the engine for a better one. The second option is common among RX-7 FC owners due to older rotary engines’ reliability and durability issues.
Well-kept units retail for between $5,000 and $10,000, with examples of turbocharged engines with manual transmissions priced on the higher end. Should you trust the seller? Well, it’s a gamble, but if there’s proof of the work done on the car and maintenance records, you might get a good RX-7 FC. There are also wildly modified examples which are mostly drift cars. If one excites you, don’t get blinded and ask to know the car’s history and request a list of mods. Ex-drift cars aren’t always a good idea.
It might be old, but the Mazda RX-7 FC will turn heads if neatly done. Mazda designed it to be as aerodynamic as possible, which is surprising since, in the 1980s, aerodynamics wasn’t a point of focus when making cars. As a result, the Mazda RX-7 FC has a low-slung profile at the front and sharp body lines flowing to the sloping rear end that is hatchback-like, but it’s a coupe.
Looking at an RX-7 FC and wanting to own it just because of its appearance is understandable, regardless of its condition. The pop-up headlights and hood scoop in turbocharged variants complement the front end perfectly, like any other JDM car with pop-up headlights. Some models have a sunroof that looks dashing open when cruising. If you want more air or live in a state that doesn’t get winter, go for a convertible RX-7 FC. The only downside of getting a convertible is that most units were made with the naturally aspirated 13B.
If cosmetic mods are a must, some wheels, and an excellent paint job would do more than enough justice to an RX-7 FC’s appearance. Please don’t go overboard trying to change that 1980s timeless look; you’ll only ruin it.
Rotary Engine Fun
Rotary engines might give you constant headaches and make you regret buying the car. However, they are some of the best engines to work on and build if you are brave and curious enough. This is because of their uncomplicated and lightweight design. Rotary engines have lesser moving parts than piston engines, in the case of the RX-7FC, typically consisting of two rotors, a crankshaft, and essential supporting components. Also, wouldn’t it be nice to learn how a Mazda managed to make a rotary engine work?
Given that most RX-7 FCs are cheap, spending the money you saved after buying one on modifications is almost irresistible. After checking if the engine is healthy, an aftermarket turbocharger and exhaust are among the first mods owners prefer. However, don’t bother with mods if there are signs of engine failure, such as excess smoke and failed compression test. The only thing that restricts the 13B engines in the RX-7 is age and the oiling system since the maximum you can get out of each is 300 horsepower.
Satisfying To Drive
The notion that all good sports cars should be rear-wheel-drive is a shared opinion among automotive enthusiasts and experts. And it’s even better when the engine is in the front, which is the case with the Mazda RX-7 FC. Due to its powertrain layout and a perfectly balanced chassis, the Mazda RX-7 FC has a near 50:50 weight distribution, setting it apart from most cars of its time. This makes it an easy-handling vehicle for drivers of all natures, whether amateurs or enthusiastic, even in the tightest corners.
The throttle response is slow, but only someone who has never driven a 30-plus-year-old car will complain. The best way to enjoy a stock RX-7 FC is by ripping through the gears and shifting at the redline, which is at 8000 rpm. Nothing comes close to listening to a rotary engine scream through the RPM range. And when you finally decide to modify the car for extra power, track weekends and highway night runs will become one of your favorite activities.
Uneconomical Maintenance Costs
Japanese cars are praised for their reliability and durability and are known to run with minimal maintenance. But if you own one with a rotary engine, such as the RX-7 FC, maintenance costs will make you question why you bought the car in the first place.
Why is this? Rotary engines have higher oil and fuel consumption than typical cylinder engines. So, it’s recommended to use special oils and fuel additives that we can’t say are expensive, but they’re not cheap either. In addition, routine maintenance should be done more often to increase the engine’s lifespan, adding more costs to the maintenance and running costs budget.
If you have friends you’d like to take with you during long road trips, you can’t do so with an RX-7 FC as it’s not built for that. It only accommodates two, and trunk space is a challenge, especially if you are the type of person who overpacks for their trips. There are annoying issues when driving an RX daily7 FC, such as the need for cupholders and storage in the cabin for office documents and a coat. The only thing that would justify dailying an RX-7 FC is that it stands out in the parking lot at school or work.
Mazda RX-7 FC Common Issues
Compression loss is one of the most common issues affecting rotary engines, including the 13B in the RX-7 FC, despite age. In most cases, it’s brushed off as normal, but once you notice hard starts, misfires, rough idling, loss of power, and hissing noises from the engine bay, you should have a compression test planned. Sometimes the engine will cut off when idling or when at low RPMs. So, what causes compression loss in the RX-7 FC?
The primary cause of rotary engine compression loss is worn-out apex seals. These keep the chambers in the engine airtight and can wear out due to several issues, including old age. This is expected, but most owners continue to drive the car anyway due to the costs involved. Something that could lead to expensive repair costs since an engine rebuild is the only solution. Other causes that could lead to apex seal failure include insufficient lubrication and overheating.
Read more on apex seals failure here; Mazda RX-7 damaged apex seals
Weak Rear Differential
Mazda built the RX-7 FC when drivetrain components weren’t the best, at least by today’s standards. One of the parts that prematurely wears out is the rear differential. It’s not a major issue if you only drive the car on commutes or enjoy a little evening drive. But if you plan on drifting or driving long distances, the rear diff is one of the parts you should change first. If you stick with it, watch out for clunking noises, grinding, and vibrations when accelerating and braking. At times uneven tire wear could also indicate differential failure.
Turbo Failure in the 13B-T
Besides low compression, turbo failure is also one of the leading causes of rotary engine failure, specifically in turbocharged engines such as the 1.3-liter 13B-T in the RX-7 FC. The turbocharger could either be too old and needs a rebuild or replacement. Or the car has oil supply issues that deprive the turbocharger of oil. Worn-out turbo seals and over-boosting can also lead to turbo failure in the RX-7 FC.
Build Quality Issues
When buying an old car, build quality issues are unavoidable. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an American Muscle or a small JDM sports car such as the Mazda RX-7 FC. In the interior, expect seat fabric wear and cracked or faded interior plastics that rattle when driving over the tiniest speedbumps.
The seats are surprisingly comfortable, according to most owners, so upholstery should do the trick if they are too worn out. For the plastics, such as the center console, dashboard, and door trims, visiting the salvage yard should get you what you need. If they’re just faded, repaint them and apply a protective coating. Failing seatbelts are also common, according to owners’ forums. But there’s a lifetime warranty for seatbelt failure; you only have to walk into a Mazda dealership and request a replacement.
It’s on the exterior that you’ll get issues that will have you spending hours in your garage. Problems range from fading and cracked paint to leaking rubber weather strips that can be strenuous to remove and replace. Also, the side trim comes off often; you can remove or re-glue it. The second option will require you to sand the car and the side trims before reinstallation.
Failing electronics are also an everyday issue in RX-7 FCs. The pop-up headlights could stop working, or the AC only blows hot air. The best solution is to rewire the entire car replacing every harness and fuse. It might take a while, but it’s better than fixing one thing after another, which might take ages.
Buying an old JDM car and expecting it not to have rust is close to impossible. Unless it’s a rare car kept in a monitored storage facility, the Mazda RX-7 FC is not among the rarest JDM cars. Sure, there are rare ones, such as the convertible and Efini variants, but even these are sometimes neglected to rust. Keeping them in mint condition won’t raise the value by much.
If you’re inspecting an RX-7 FC before buying, check for rust behind the wheels, in the engine bay, on the seat rails, pinch welds, front and rear quarter panels, and on the A-pillar, especially if you’re buying an abandoned car. Additionally, check the bottom of the doors, trunk lid, and sunroof trims since these spots leak in water due to worn-out rubber weather strips.
Read Our Complete Mazda RX-7 Buying Guide
What To Look Out Four When Buying A Mazda RX-7 FC
So, you’ve decided to buy a Mazda RX-7 FC. What should you look out for to avoid problems during ownership? Before anything else, ask the owner to start the engine and observe the exhaust and engine bay while inspecting other car parts. If there’s smoke during startup, there’s nothing to worry about. But if it persists after startup, the engine either has excessive carbon buildup or burns too much oil. It’s wise to avoid a smoking RX-7 FC, but don’t show a sudden loss of interest. Noises and a foul smell from exhaust indicate catalytic converter failure, so check for these.
In the engine bay, check for fuel spots on the exhaust manifold caused by the fuel dampener. It’s known to be quite faulty and if not replaced the engine could catch a fire which could be catastrophic. Also, while inspecting the engine bay, check for oil leaks and hissing sounds, indicating the engine is losing compression. Another way of checking for low compression is listening to the idle and revving the car during the test drive.
The engine’s health is vital when buying a Mazda RX-7 FC, but the car’s condition also matters. Parts are challenging to find, so prioritize neat-looking examples more than dinged ones. If possible, get underneath the vehicle and inspect the frame, brakes, and suspension components. Any signs of welding or new paint should be considered a red flag.
Petrol heads would automatically go for a manual RX-7 FC since there’s no better way to enjoy a car than having it with a manual transmission. Furthermore, the automatic transmission in the RX-7 FC can be full of problems given the car’s age, so buying one with a manual transmission is sensible. The only problem you’ll get is a floppy shifter which some tightening should take care of.
Mazda RX-7 FC average prices vary depending on the model year (series), condition, engine, and mileage. In pristine running and driving condition, a Series 4 RX-7 FC is cheaper, with prices beginning at roughly $3,000, while the Series 5 retails for figures above $5,000. Rolling and neglected examples are often listed for sale, so the sellers can quickly get rid of them, and you can get one for a few hundred bucks. Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are The best places to hunt for such deals. Some sellers try and overprice RX-7 FCs based on modifications done to the car. However, the time and money invested in the car don’t justify asking for more than twice the market value.
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Models and Specifications
Featuring an aerodynamic design adopted from its predecessor and a Porsche-inspired Grand Tourer design, Mazda launched the second-gen Mazda RX-7 (FC) in 1985. Initially, only the naturally aspirated 13B twin-rotor engine was offered as the only option mated to a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission. The turbocharged 13B-T didn’t enter production until 1987.
Like its predecessor, the RX-7 FC has an FR platform but slightly better weight distribution. There’s not much difference between the RX-7 FB and FC except that the FC got a new independent suspension setup. In addition, the suspension in the RX-7 FC features Mazda’s Dynamic Tracking Suspension System (DTSS), which induces toe depending on the driving conditions. Mazda also introduced AAS (Auto Adjusting Suspension) optional in the Series IV, which changes suspension stiffness depending on the road surface, working like active dampening as we know it today. The RX-7 FC was quite advanced for its time.
Mazda produced two versions of the Mazda RX-7 FC during its 7-year production run, the Series IV and Series V. These were continued from the Series I and Series II from the first-gen RX-7 FB, also known as the SA22C.
1985-1987 Mazda RX-7 (Series IV)
The series IV RX-7 was produced from 1985 to 1988 and is often called the pre-facelift model. The easiest way to tell if an RX-7 FC is a Series IV is by checking the rpm redline, wheel lug nuts, tail lights, and seat belts. Both engines, 13B and 13B-T redline at 7000 RPM, base trim models have four-lug nut wheels, the tail lights are square, and the seatbelts are manual, unlike in the Series 5, which got electronic seatbelts.
The series V RX-7 FC is the better option as it looks nicer, has lesser engine issues, has better features, and is easier to build and tune. The RPM redline is at 8000 RPM due to thicker engine irons, higher compression, and an improved and more efficient air intake.
If you’re in the market for a Mazda RX-7 FC, have a budget of around $5,000 to $15,000 since most average around those prices.
All generations have similar characteristics, but the FD is the best RX-7. It looks better, has better engine options, and looks timeless, among its other desirable qualities. The only downside is the prices which start at approximately $30,000.
Yes. Mazda started using the 1.3-liter turbocharged 13B-T engine in the RX-7 FC in 1987. However, there are more Series V RX-7 FCs with turbocharged engines than Series IVs.
Besides the obvious visual appearance, the RX-7 FD is more advanced than the RX-7. The RX-7 FD has a more refined powertrain and chassis with better weight distribution for better handling and driving dynamics. Engine build structure and management in the RX-7 FD is also better, enabling it to make more power when stock and with modifications.
Between 1985 and 1982, Mazda made 272,027 RX-7 FCs.
Only 22,00 Mazda RX-7 FCs convertibles were from 1988 to 1991 made, making them quite rare.
More Info about The Mazda RX-7
The Mazda RX-7 is a legendary vehicle and can’t be squeezed into a single guide. We’ve put together an “Overview” buying guide as well as individual buying guides for each generation of Nissan Skyline.