Mazda RX-7 FD3S Buying Guide
The Mazda RX-7 FD ranks among the Toyota Supra MK4, Honda NS-X, and Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R, making up the most iconic JDM cars. It’s among the few of a dying breed that represents a time when car manufacturers prioritized true sports car personalities in their cars more than anything else. The RX-7 FD’s unique styling sets it apart, but the rotary engine is the greatest source of the Mazda RX-7’s stardom. Mazda engineers perfected the rotary engine through previous generations in different iterations and put in their best work when making the twin-turbo 13B for the RX-7 FD.
When introduced in 1992, the RX-7 FD quickly gained popularity among car enthusiasts and the motoring press industry. It became more popular after learning that it could do 0-60 quicker than the Honda NS-X, Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R, and a few other high-end sports cars produced during the RX-7s era. Mazda had made a significant leap in performance, design, and technology that was felt across the automotive world in the 1990s. However, some enthusiasts still believe the RX-7 FD would be better if Mazda made the three-rotor 20B engine optional. What do you think?
Buying a Mazda RX-7 can be an exciting yet complex process, especially if you’ve never gotten to experience one. The fear that you might buy a lemon or one that looks too clean that it raises questions about how long it will last before something breaks. Our Mazda RX-7 FD buying guide has all you need to know about the Mazda RX-7 FD, issues to expect, average prices, and what to look for when buying one, among other vital factors.
Pros and Cons
Wide Aftermarket Support
JDM cars are not always perfect, and every once in a while, something needs replacement or, even better, an upgrade. For this reason, buying a car with extensive aftermarket support, such as the Mazda RX-7 FD, is recommended since car manufacturers don’t make parts for older cars. You could get OEM parts, but they cost a fortune and are less durable than aftermarket ones. The only advantage is that you enjoy the car as a purist and an RX-7 FD with OEM parts that fetch more than one with aftermarket parts.
But looking at RX-7 FDs in the street or at a car meet, you’ll notice very few have cosmetic mods despite so many of them being available. Most owners only do wheels and exterior touch-ups, such as stickers, window tints, custom headlights, and taillights. It would be wrong to ruin the RX-7 FD’s timeless looks. Furthermore, why spend money on cosmetic mods when you could redirect it to the engine bay?
Everything you’d need to build a monster RX-7 is readily available from many aftermarket manufacturers. Also, if you are on a budget, used parts are easy to come across. The only question is, are you brave enough to tune a Mazda RX-7 FD should you decide to buy one?
Great enthusiast and owners’ community
The Mazda RX-7 FD was sold in the united states during production time, unlike most high-end Japanese sports cars produced in the 1990s. Sales only lasted for three years, 1993, 1994, and 1995, during which Mazda delivered around 14,000 cars. This enabled the growth of the RX-7 FD’s owners and enthusiast community which is still growing today due to an increasing presence of RX-7 FDs and the love of a car that we enjoyed seeing in movies and driving in racing games.
Enthusiasts help you appreciate your car more. On the other hand, owners’ communities help you navigate the troubles of owning a Mazda RX-7 FD, especially if you are a newbie. Almost all of them are free to join, where you’ll get information on where to get the best parts, how to maintain your car, and new technology in increasing your RX-7 FD’s engine lifespan. There are even exchange programs for parts and regular meets.
The Mazda RX-7 FD is not cheap since you can’t get one for less than $40,000 unless it has missing parts or major issues. Affordability is relative since it’s more affordable than the Toyota Supra MK4, any Nissan Skyline GT-R generation, and the Honda NS-X, which it compares to being a flagship sports car. However, prices are steadily increasing. Soon it might be impossible to find an RX-7 listed for less than $60,000 as its alternatives are hitting the six-figure price mark.
There’s nothing to hate about the RX-7 FD’s appearance. One will easily stick out like a sore thumb even against modern supercars and sports cars, pleasing the eyes from all angles. Mazda carried over the aerodynamic design from the RX-7 FB and FC, making the body lines smoother and rounder flowing curvaceously from the front to the rear. The pop-up headlights and one-piece taillight complement the front and rear ends like jewels on a crown adding to the RX-7 FD’s overall aesthetic appeal along with its low-slung profile.
Excellent Driver’s Car
In the 20th Century, most car manufacturers mainly had drivability and the driver in mind when making sports cars, and the Mazda RX-7 FD is no exception. It starts in the interior, where you get well-bolstered bucket seats that were standard across all trim levels. These provide enough support even in the tightest corners without compromising comfort. In addition, the cabin ergonomics offer an engaging driving experience featuring a well-placed and readable instrument cluster, intuitive controls, and a clear view through the front windshield.
A 5-speed manual transmission was the majorly offered transmission for the Mazda RX-7 FD, earning it a spot among the most preferred JDM cars by enthusiastic drivers. And despite the car’s age, the transmission will glide through gears like when new if the car has been well maintained. However, it would have been better if Mazda offered a 6-speed manual transmission. Very few units were made with the 4-speed automatic transmission.
It’s no doubt that a Mazda RX-7 FD is fun to drive thanks to its front engine rear-wheel-drive platform with a close to 50:50 weight distribution. That weight distribution, low-slung profile, sport-tuned suspension, and lightweight chassis make the RX-7 FD one of the best-handling JDM cars. Throttle response is a bit slow when stock due to power loss over the years, but you’ll enjoy redlining the engine to the 8000-rpm mark.
Since it’s a sports car, you might disregard the Mazda RX-7 FD’s practicality. But it will come back to bite you when you stop at the mall for grocery shopping or take your kids to school in the car. Trunk space is decent but not large enough for large grocery or traveling bags, a non-issue for most. The only significant disadvantage is the two-seater cabin, making it less suitable for those who frequently need to carry more than one passenger.
Tall drivers and passengers might find comfort difficult due to the low roof and immovable seats. Entering the car can also be a struggle. Creature comforts only go as far as air conditioning which can be faulty since electronics in the RX-7 FD are known to fail. Does a Mazda RX-7 FD make a good daily driver’s car? No. In addition to having high maintenance costs, the RX-7 FD has limited all-weather capability meaning you cannot drive it in the rain or snow.
Pricey Maintenance And Running Charges
Most old JDM sports cars require tighter maintenance schedules than modern cars to keep them running like new ones, and costs increase as you start the modification and tuning journey. This automatically means that maintenance costs will be higher. However, the Mazda RX-7 FD requires more specialized maintenance than most cars with conventional piston engines, which can be financially draining. Even when running perfectly, fuel and oil consumption can be a pain in the neck. Some owners will even sell their cars after they realize they can’t keep up with maintenance costs.
Not easy to work on
Rotary engines are some of the easiest engines to work on but not the 13B-REW in the Mazda RX-7 FB, primarily because of the sequential twin turbo setup. Working on one requires a certain level of mechanical knowledge and expertise; you shouldn’t attempt it unless you know what you’re doing. Any mishap and you’ll be scouting for new parts online and calling shops that will give you quotes you won’t like.
Lack of engine varieties
The 13B-REW is a great engine, but it would be nice if Mazda made other engines available for the Mazda RX-7 FB. Perhaps a single turbocharged 13B engine and the three-rotor 20B used in the Mazda Cosmo? This would open up more aftermarket support for the Mazda RX-7 FD and enable buyers to pick cars based on their tunability, reliability, and durability, among other factors.
Engine Seals Failure
Rotary engines, in this case, the 13B-REW in the Mazda RX-7 FD, have three seals: the apex, side, and corner seals. Apex seals, the primary seals located on the apexes of the rotor, are known to fail more often than the side and corner. They prevent gas leakage by maintaining compression between the chambers. They can fail for several reasons, the most common being oil starvation and pre-ignition caused by glowing carbon deposits.
Additionally, poor maintenance and overheating can cause premature apex seal failure. If the apex seals are worn out, you’ll notice loss of power, spluttering, and misfires due to loss of compression. The side seals distribute oil to the apex seals through oil channels and prevent compression loss. In the 13B-REW in the RX-7 FD, they rarely fail, but if they do, failure can be blamed on the same issues that cause apex seal failure.
The corner seals create a seal between the apex and side seals, thus preventing leaks/compression loss as the rotor rotates. Overheating and normal wear and tear are the biggest causes of corner seal failure. Also, if the apex or corner seals are worn out, the corner seals won’t last long before going out.
Cooling System Issues
Overheating in the Mazda RX-7 FD is a widely reported issue. However, it’s easy to fix since it’s solely related to the cooling system. Causes can be as simple as leaking coolant pipes or a cracked or clogged radiator to complex issues such as a faulty radiator fan relay or a malfunctioning thermostat.
The best way to avoid overheating in a Mazda RX-7 FD is a cooling system overhaul. Replacing single components solves the problem temporarily. If the engine runs at optimum temperature, the seals will last longer since overheating is among the biggest causes of seal failure.
Excessive Oil Consumption And Oil Leaks
High oil consumption in the Mazda RX-7 FD, and any other car with a rotary engine, since oil is required to lubricate the seals. But something is wrong if you notice excessive oil consumption of more than the recommended one quart every 2500 miles. That figure only applies to stock FDs, and if you have a highly modified RX-7 FD, check the recommended oil consumption with your tuner or from owners pushing the same numbers.
One of the things that could cause excessive oil consumption is apex seal failure which causes increased clearance between the rotor and housing. This allows internal oil leakage into the combustion chamber resulting in grey smoke from the exhaust. Apex seal fragments could also cause excessive oil consumption since they damage the rotor housing, allowing oil to creep through the apexes and into the combustion chamber.
Using incorrect oil is another cause of excessive fuel consumption in Mazda RX-7 FDs. For the 13B-REW, it’s recommended to use synthetic oil that can handle high engine temps and preferably with premix or any other helpful additives. Some manufacturers make RX-7 FD-specific oil, such as Motul 5100 ESTER 10W-40, which eliminates the need for buying a premix solution for mixing with engine oil during an oil change.
External oil leaks in the Mazda RX-7 FD are caused by worn-out oil seals and O-rings that crack due to old age. This rarely happens, but checking the oil level regularly while inspecting for leaks is good since they can go undetected, leading to oil starvation.
All the abovementioned issues, especially excessive oil consumption, could lead to turbo failure in the Mazda RX-7 FD. The turbochargers need a constant supply of oil to keep them lubricated and cooled, and if there are oil issues, the internals will overheat due to excess friction. If not solved, the overheating will lead to a cracked turbo manifold or, even worse, broken internals (seals, shaft, compressor, and turbine blades), ending up in the engine as they break into tiny bits.
If you’re running on the OEM turbochargers, the maximum you could get out of the engine is around 300 to 400 horsepower. Anything more than that is over-boosting and could also lead to turbo failure. The stock turbochargers cannot handle excessive heat and pressure, which causes the housings to crack and leak boost.
Signs of turbo failure in a Mazda RX-7 FD include excessive exhaust smoke, increased oil consumption, hissing noises from worn-out seals and cracks on the manifold or housings, and loss of power, especially in higher RPMs.
What To Look For When Buying A Mazda RX-7 FD
If you have your eyes settled on a Mazda RX-7 FD, here are some issues to look out for when buying one. Before we dive into that, should you import one, buy one from a JDM car dealership or buy a locally used RX-7 FD?
There’s not much difference in price since every seller will list at market prices. But locally used Mazda RX-7 FDs with extensive mods are priced slightly higher, especially if those mods revolve around frequently occurring issues. For example, an RX-7 FD with a rebuilt engine with bigger turbos will sell for more than a stock one.
Buying a Mazda RX-7 FD from a JDM car dealership or having them import one for you, since most offer that option, guarantees a better chance of getting a clean car. However, the importation process isn’t easy. It involves searching for the perfect car, inspecting it, and repairing any imperfections before shipping which will cost more and take longer than buying a local inventory unit.
If you want a locally used Mazda RX-7 FD, you should buy one you already know. Either from a friend or a recommendation from someone you know. This way, it’s easier to know the car’s history, the mods installed, and the owner’s driving habits.
Mazda RX-7 FDs are rarely abused, so most would pass an exterior quality check. Some even look too clean to want to buy and drive right after first sight. However, it’s advisable to check for rust which is unavoidable in most JDM cars. Common rust spots in the RX-7 FD include inside the wheel arches, undercarriage, door sills, behind the taillights, and on suspension components and bumper and wing mounts.
In the interior, test all electricals, especially the AC and pop-up headlight switches. Doing so lets you know if the car has any electrical problems. Another way of checking if a Mazda RX-7 FD has electrical issues is by revving up the engine and checking if the headlights will dim after a while. Also, test the door locks, window switches, and remote locking, which was optional in later models.
Smoke from a Mazda RX7 FD is never a good sign, and it’s usually wise to avoid buying one if this is the case. It can indicate catalytic converter failure, which is relatively easy to fix. Or major issues such as apex seal or turbocharger failure. If you’re still stuck on buying the car, you can arrange for a compression check before making an offer after verifying all documents.
Mazda RX-7 FD prices average around $35,000, but some factors make some units worth more. For example, a low mileage RX-7 FD Type R will cost you not less than $55,000. Others with aftermarket parts, such as the highly sought-after Veilside Body kit, can retail for figures close to $100,000 or more.
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Mazda RX-7 FD Models And Specifications
Mazda unveiled the last generation RX-7 in 1992, chassis code FD3S for the Japanese market and JM1FD for the North American market. The new RX-7 FD carried over an aerodynamic design from its predecessors but with curvier angles and body lines to give it that modern look. Mazda also made it longer and wider, and as a result, it fell under the upper luxury sports car segment as per Japanese traffic laws. One reason that led to low sales was buyers didn’t want to incur higher road tax and opted for the Mazda Miata, known as the Eunos Roadster in the United States.
Unlike previous generations, the Mazda RX-7 FD was produced with one engine option, the 13B-REW, which had naturally aspirated and turbocharged engine options. However, the 13B-REW got performance and reliability upgrades mainly to fix issues in older engines and handle the heat from the new sequential twin turbo setup. For instance, Mazda reinforced the rotors and apex seals and added an extra oil cooler and cooling channels.
The 13B-REW also features Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) upgraded from mechanical fuel injection in the 13B-T for better control over fuel delivery and engine performance. All these upgrades not only make the 13B-REW more reliable but also make it have higher performance capabilities than older rotary engines.
1992-1995 Mazda RX-7 (Series 6)
The Mazda RX-7 FD Series 6 preceded the RX-7 FC Series 5 and refers to early production units produced between 1992 and 1995. Initially, Mazda offered the RX-7 FD in base, Touring, and R1, all with the 1.3-liter twin-turbocharged 13B-REW making 255 horsepower. All got the 5-speed manual transmission except the Touring trim that was sold with a 4-speed automatic.
Later, Mazda introduced sportier trims such as the Type RZ, A-spec, and Type RB and rebadged the R1 to R2, lighter than early RX-7 FDs. These got upgrades such as Bilstein shocks, Pirelli tires, strut braces, a modified ECU, a larger intercooler, larger brake rotors and calipers, and an aero package consisting of a front lip and the iconic RX-7 FD rear wing. Also, comfort features such as a Bose Stereo, multi-zone climate control, a glass moon roof, and leather seats were optional for the sportier RX-7 FD trims.
Mazda sold the RX-8 FD Series 6 globally, including in the United States, from 1993 to the end of 1995 before making changes and releasing the Series 7 in 1996. During the FD Series 6’s production period, a passenger airbag was introduced in 1994, and some minor exterior changes were made.
1996-1998 Mazda RX-7 (Series 7)
In 1996 the Mazda R-X7 FD got a new vacuum routing manifold, an improved intake system, improved engine internals, a revised ECU, and changes to the turbocharger design. These upgrades resulted in a 10-horsepower jump from the Series 6 but only in cars with the manual transmission. The exterior also changed, including a new taillight design and a revised wing to enhance aerodynamics. Trim levels remained unchanged from the RX-7 FD Series 6, and no units were sold in LHD markets.
1998-2002 Mazda RX-7 (Series 8)
Mazda made the last changes to the RX-7 FD from 1998 to 2002, when they discontinued it. Post-1998 units made nearly 300 horsepower from the twin-turbocharged 13B-REW due to more efficient turbochargers and a new intercooler.
Cosmetic-wise, the Series 8 RX-7 FD has larger vents on the front bumper to allow more airflow to an enlarged radiator and new headlights. The interior was not left out as Mazda introduced new seats and redesigned steering wheel and instrument cluster. Touring trims, Spirit R Type A and Type C got removable rear seats that can be covered by lids sold with the car. The Spirit R was Mazda’s last RX-7, and they limited production to 1500 units with some special features such as Recaro seats, BBS wheels, a Bose stereo, and cross-drilled brake rotors, to mention a few.
A Mazda RX-7 FD’s reliability depends entirely on how the car is maintained and driven. However, the 13B-REW in the Mazda RX-7 FD is slightly more reliable than rotary engines FB and FC due to reinforced rotors, apex seals, and better oil cooler and cooling channels, some of the biggest flaws in rotary engines.
Besides the obvious performance and visual appeal difference, the Mazda RX-7 FD has a lighter aluminum chassis than the RX-7 FC. The RX-7 FD also has a lower ride height and double wishbone suspension, better than the FC’s four-wheel-independent suspension.
Mazda RX-7 FD prices start at roughly $35,000 and can go to over $100,000 depending on the spec, mileage, and work done on the car.
Mazda discontinued the RX-7 for several reasons, the biggest two being changing consumer priorities and stricter emission regulations since the 13B-REW was not environmentally friendly. Coupes became irrelevant in the early 2000s, and most manufacturers were phasing them out to make passenger-oriented cars.
Like previous generations, the FD name prefix in the third-generation Mazda RX-7 stands for the first two letters in the VIN.
Between 1992 and 2002, Mazda produced roughly 68,589 RX-7 FDs, of which 13,789 cars were sold in the United States between 1993 and 1995.
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.