Sports Car

The Mazda RX-7's 40th Birthday Makes Us Clamor For A Rotary Revival

Three generations of the RX-7. One for the RX-8. How about an RX-9?

In 1978 Mazda launched the first generation RX-7 rotary-engined sports car, immediately helping the Japanese automaker further establish its driver’s car reputation. The MX-5 Miata wouldn’t debut for another 11 years. Today, Mazda is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original RX-7 (codenamed FB) as well as the second and third generation models, all of which have achieved icon status. Back in the 70s, global automakers were dealing with a global fuel crisis, forcing them to cut back on powerful, V8-engined sports cars and muscle cars.

Example: the Mustang II. So Mazda figured the high gas prices also presented an opportunity. The result was a smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient sports car. One of the many good things about the RX-7’s rotary engine is that its design allowed it to be mounted lower and further back, resulting in better handling.

Sure enough, it was an instant sales hit, selling some 470,000 units before the second generation ‘FC’ turbocharged RX-7 arrived in 1985. In 1992, the third and last generation ‘FD’ RX-7 debuted and remained in production until 2002. The RX-8 replaced it the following year. Car and Driver also placed the RX-7 on its Ten Best cars, five times over the years. The RX-7 also competed in motorsport and won, as just one example, the 1981 24 Hours of Spa. To celebrate the RX-7’s big 4-0, Mazda produced a cool video highlighting all three RX-7 generations. Now, how about an RX-9, Mazda?

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