Generally held to be the most beautiful car ever to hail from the Land Of The Rising Sun, the Mazda RX7 could delight and frustrate in equal measures. Here is a car that is stunning to look at, electrifying to drive, agreeably rare, relatively affordable to buy, yet is horrendously thirsty and fiendishly complex mechanically. As the final custodians of the rotary engine concept, the Mazda RX series had its highs and lows. This last RX to be sold here was Mazda's way of going out with a bang. Unless you want similar pyrotechnics from your used RX7, pay close attention.
The formula for new car development goes something like this. Successive generations get bigger, heavier and more upmarket until somebody stands up and has the courage to tell the emperor that he's up for an indecency charge. At Mazda that man was Takahura Kobayakawa, who demonstrated his disgust at the way Mazda's 2nd generation RX7 had developed by lapping the Miyoshi test track quicker in a 14bhp kids go-kart. Mazda's senior management finally saw the error of their ways and gave Kobayakawa license to work on the 3rd generation car, with a philosophy of light weight and keen handling.
Smaller, lighter and more powerful than the outgoing generation, the 3rd generation Mazda RX7 first arrived in the UK in July 1992, priced at £33,999, within a hairs breadth of its chief rival, the Porsche 968. The Weissach company was about to spring a rude surprise on the boys from Hiroshima though, soon afterwards introducing the now almost legendary Porsche 968 Club Sport for just £28,975. In early 1993, Mazda's response to weak UK sales was to slash £1,500 from the list price and boost the spec with the fitment of an airbag, but still sales were haemorrhaging. It was then that Mazda decided on an extraordinary course of action, knocking £6,500 off the list price.
The £25,950 RX7 was something of a bargain, but any goodwill Mazda hoped to accrue was drowned beneath the howls of anguish from the owners who had thought that £1,500 off was a good deal. Resale values fell through the floor and Mazda ended up paying compensation to disgruntled owners who felt that Mazda had deliberately misled them over pricing. The price crept steadily back up to £35,950 at the time of the car's withdrawal from sale due to increasingly stringent emission and noise regulations in 1995. Development of the RX7 continued apace in Japan, with the Type RS version still finding customers in 2002. The RX-8 replaced the much loved RX-7 range in early 2003.