Mazda RX-7 SA22C Buying Guide
The Mazda RX-7 FB is the car that Mazda showed what the rotary engine could do. It also provided a strong foundation for its predecessors as all of them were produced based on the RX-7 FBs design principles, lightweight, aerodynamic, and driver-centric. The engine used during production time, 1978-1985, was built from the 12A engine that Japan-based Sigma Motors borrowed from Mazda to use in their 1974 Le Mans Sigma MC74. However, Mazda engineers had to introduce reliability and emission upgrades since the 12A was not the most environmental-friendly engine.
After production of the RX-7 FB began, Mazda discontinued all cars with rotary engines except the Mazda Luce and Cosmo, a luxury sedan and coupe. This left the RX-7 FB as their only sports car; thus, they were able to refine it through the three generations of production. As a result, the RX-7 FB outsold other sports cars in its segment, and sales increased when a 1.3-liter 13A and turbocharged 12A joined the rotary engine lineup in 1983.
Is it worth buying a Mazda RX-7 FB Today? Most would advise against it, but why not own a piece of automotive history if you find a clean one? A car that outsold Porsches and Alfa Romeos is undoubtedly worth buying. Yet, owning a Mazda RX-7 FB has pros and cons, and ownership isn’t as easy as expected. If you’re considering buying one, this guide will help you make an informed decision.
Mazda RX-7 FB Pros And Cons
Besides the cleanest examples listed on auction sites, such as Bring A Trailer, Mazda RX-7 FBs are listed for pretty low prices. Finding one for less than $5,000 is possible, especially in owner forums and social media trade groups. However, some examples are slowly appreciating due to an increasing demand mainly by collectors who want to add them to their collections. One example is the Series 3 Mazda RX-7 FB Finale that Mazda produced to mark the RX-7s FB’s last production year. Turbocharged RX-7 FBs are also rare since they were only made exclusively for the Japanese market for two years.
It makes A Unique Project Car
Buying a project car and seeing it come together as you build it is one of the best feelings one could experience as a car enthusiast. However, the thrill of buying and working on project cars isn’t there anymore since people are building similar cars. Sure, there’s an advantage to that since aftermarket and used parts become readily available and cheaper. But have you ever considered building a unique car, something you will never see in driveways being worked on? In this case, a Mazda RX-7 FB makes the perfect example.
If you are a purist, a bumper-to-bumper restoration is the best way to build an RX-7 FB. Going the aftermarket way isn’t easy since parts aren’t available. But just for looks, some classic aftermarket wheels would do enough justice if you want your RX-7 FB to stand out among others. Also, it would be best to consider Swapping the engine for a later one, such as the 13B variants used in the RX-7 FC. Despite their issues, these are more reliable, and 12A engine parts are infrequent and expensive.
Classic Timeless Look
The Mazda RX-7 is one of the best-looking JDM classic cars. It displays elegance and style from all angles pleasing anyone who looks at it. As a car enthusiast, seeing where the RX-7 FD’s beauty came from is easy. The body lines starting at the slant-nose front end, flow seamlessly towards the rear, a design Mazda intended to reduce drag but still keep the car stunning.
The interior also looks the part as it’s driver-focused without compromising practicality. It has all the human comforts such as AC, a dual-channel stereo, storage compartments on the dashboard, and well-bolstered seats. However, some options, such as the AC, were installed by dealerships and not offered from the factory. Not much by Today’s standards, but enough and relevant for the RX-7 FB’s time.
Pleasing To Drive
100 horsepower might seem like nothing, but it’s more than enough to enjoy driving an RX-7 FB, as it weighs roughly 2000 pounds. It was so light that it could do 0-60 in under 10 seconds, and the turbocharged variant could do it in less than 8 seconds and achieve a top speed of 130 mph. Too fast for 1978? In addition to being fun to drive, the Mazda RX-7 FB handles great since the rear almost weighs the same as the front, with the engine mounted behind the front axle driving the rear wheels.
The only downside is there’s a chance the engine is not making its original power output figures, considering the car’s age. Also, the fuel tank is small, so consider checking the gas gauge near a gas station. Rotary engines, despite their age, can be pretty thirsty. Nonetheless, it’s satisfying to drive a car produced nearly a decade ago and imagine what it would be like when it was new.
Finding A Clean RX-7 FB Isn’t Easy
Japanese classic cars such as the Mazda RX-7 FB are rarely well kept unless the owners have an emotional attachment to the car. Only the high-end ones that appreciate or hold their value are well maintained. Another reason why many RX-7 FBs are neglected is that maintaining any car with a rotary engine isn’t easy to add to the insufficient manufacturer and aftermarket support. If you’re considering buying one as a project car, ensure that the interior and all the body panels are intact or at least fixable. Everything else can be swapped from several other cars, such as the Mazda RX-7 FB, which has decent aftermarket support.
As a classic sports car, the Mazda RX-7 FB doesn’t have a commuter or trip-friendly interior. It’s too cramped and impractical to have storage for a newspaper, work documents, and a coffee mug. Furthermore, getting into the car might be a struggle if you’re tall, as the roofline is too low. The driving position isn’t excellent either, as the pedals and steering wheel are too near, and limited seat maneuverability makes driving an RX-7 FB for long distances tiring.
Mazda RX-7 FB Common Issues
One of the main advantages of buying classic cars such as the Mazda RX-7 FB is that major components, such as the suspension, are bound to fail. However, with the Mazda RX-7 FB, the rear beam axle is bound to collapse earlier due to corrosion or heavy usage, especially given the car’s age. If the car has been neglected, the front suspension won’t be spared from corrosion either, and the supporting components will rust and crack, deeming the car undrivable.
Luckily it’s easy to fabricate suspension components in older cars as they are not as complicated as in newer cars. Swapping the suspension components and changing to a new setup is a better option. For example, the independent rear suspension from a Mazda RX-7 FC fits in an RX-7 FB with minor fabrication works. This way, you’ll reduce the risk of suspension failure, and the car will handle better.
Rotary Engine Problems
The Mazda RX-7 FB faces the same rotary engine issues as its predecessors and other cars with rotary engines. Expect apex seal failure, high oil and fuel consumption, overheating, and catalytic converter failure, especially if you need to know the car’s history. Apex seal failure is the biggest problem rotary engines have. It’s the primary cause of minor issues such as compression loss, overheating, and high oil consumption.
Worn-out seal fragments fall off the rotor housing and get ground, thus denting the rotor and the housing. This causes excess oil to seep into the combustion chamber resulting in white smoke from the exhaust. In the case of the turbocharged 12A engine, the turbocharger might fail due to oil starvation. If not fixed, apex seal failure eventually leads to engine swaps, rebuilds, and replacements if the owner is brave enough to return to rotary engines. Other possible issues in a Mazda RX-7 FB include coolant seat failure and excessive carbon accumulation.
Chassis And Body Panels Rot
Rust in JDM cars is inevitable and should be among the first things you look out for when buying one. However, in others, especially older cars such as the RX-7 FB, it’s considered more of rot than rust. This is because it does exponential damage to the car’s frame, body panels, and any other metallic parts.
When pre-purchasing a Mazda RX-7 FB, check for rust on the hatch drain, underneath the car and floor mats, in the engine bay, and on the pillars and body panels. Surface rust is typical but check for Bondo and weld spots. Don’t forget to check the suspension components and other common rust spots, such as the fenders, latches, and behind the bumpers, particularly on the mounts, headlights, and taillights surrounds.
Rapidly Wearing Out Interior
The interior is the Mazda RX-7 FB deteriorates quicker than expected, which can only be blamed on old age. Applying a protective coating in the interior after you get a Mazda RX-7 FB is one of the ways you can ensure you enjoy the car for years to come. It also helps the car sell quickly, especially if the interior is original and has leather seats, and might fetch a little higher than its market value.
What To Look For When Buying A Mazda RX-7 FB
Assessing the structural condition of the car is critical with older cars such as the Mazda RX-7 FB. Check for signs of the common issues listed. These determine whether you’ll get the RX-7 FB of your dreams or ownership will be a nightmare of garage visits and sleepless nights working on the car. If the car looks neglected, only proceed to negotiations if the damage is fixable at low costs in line with your budget if you buy it as a project car.
The engine is the next place to inspect, and it’s wise to do so with the car running. Check for oil and coolant leaks and smoke from the exhaust. Also, listen to hissing sounds and pay attention to the idling to detect compression leaks common in rotary engines. Due to old age, owners have reported fluid leaks, so check the vacuum, brake, and coolant line leaks. Any of these could be catastrophic.
The Mazda RX-7 FB might be a classic, but prices have yet to start going through the roof. You can get one for around $5,000 or less if it has minor issues. The cleanest examples retail for figures above $10,000; if you’re in the market for such, it’s completely worth buying.
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Models And Specifications
Mazda introduced the first RX-7 in 1978 to replace the RX-3 as their flagship sports car. Initially, it was known as the RX-7 SA22C, with the name prefix representing the first five alphanumerics of the VIN and the first four representing the platform number. The FB prefix was first used in 1981 when the first-gen Series 2 RX-7 entered production but mainly for the North American market. Today the first gen RX-7 is generally known as the RX-7 FB and rarely referred to as the RX-7 SA22C since the second generation followed as the RX-7 FC and the third generation as the Mazda RX-7 FD.
1978-1980 Mazda RX-7 (Series 1)
The Series 1 Mazda RX-7 was produced with a 1.2-liter twin-rotor engine driving the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic transmission which was optional. There were a few optional features in the two trims, GS and LS, which included an AM/FM radio, leather upholstery, a manual sunroof, and seat armrests, with the last two being installed in dealerships.
1981-1983 Mazda RX-7 (Series 2)
The Series 2 Mazda RX-7 got a minor facelift and adopted front and rear plastic bumpers compared to the steel bumpers in the Series 1 for weight-saving purposes. In addition, it brought new wheel options, wheel arches, and side trims to give it a sportier appeal than the Series 1. No engine and transmission changes were made for this generation, but Mazda introduced a clutch-type limited-slip differential and all-around disc brakes in the GSL trim, known as the GSL-SE in Japan. In 1983 the first turbocharged engine in the RX-7 mated to a 5-speed manual was introduced exclusively for the JDM Mazda Savanna RX-7 Turbo.
1984-1985 Mazda RX-7 (Series 3)
For the last model year, the RX-7s design remained unchanged except for a new duck lip rear spoiler and new paint options. However, the wheel and brake rotor size was increased, and the suspension shocks were upgraded for better ride quality and handling. Some units were produced with the 1.3-liter 13B mated to a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission.
There’s no difference between a Mazda RX-7 SA22, SA22C, and FB. The SA22 represents the platform the first-generation RX-7 is built on, and the SA22C is lifted from the first five alphanumerics of the RX-7 Series 1 VIN. On the other hand, the FB prefix is gotten from the Series 2 model number and is the most widely used name prefix when referring to the first-gen RX-7.
Yes. Mazda Introduced a 1.2-liter turbocharged engine option in 1983 while producing the Series 2 Mazda RX-7 FB and went on to use the same engine in the Series 3.
Most JDM car importers rarely import and keep cars as old as the Mazda RX-7 FB in their inventories. But importing one through them is the best option since most available locally are either too expensive or too banged up.
Mazda Produced the RX-7 FB in three generations. The first, Series 1, was produced from 1978 to 1980, Series 2 from 1981 to 1983, and Series 3 from 1984 to 1985.
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.