The Legend Is Born
They say great things come in groups of three, and such is the case of the Mazda RX-7. When the first-generation Mazda RX-7 launched in 1978 (internally coded SA, then FB), its sleek coupe styling, lightweight rear-drive chassis, and smooth-revving rotary engine made it a revelation to sports car lovers around the globe. Its price meant it didn’t cost much to buy, and it was fairly practical with a capacious lift-up glass hatch— characteristics that provided all the more reason Mazda sold nearly 400,000 in the U.S. alone, and almost half a million worldwide. When the second-generation FC-series RX-7 hit the road for the 1986 model year, it was larger, heavier, and more of a touring car than a focused sports car. Still, new turbocharged rotary engines pumped out ever more power, and they helped put the RX-7 on a similar performance level to the Porsche 944.
And then, in 1992 for the 1993 model year, Mazda’s final FD-series RX-7 was born. First impressions were gleeful, with a return to purpose, performance, and unique styling that were sorely missing in the FC. Strict adherence to weight savings meant that even in the new airbag era, the third-generation RX-7 weighed in at about 2,800 pounds, with evidence of the policy visible in the race-inspired, drilled aluminum pedals. The engine was a twin-turbo, 1.3-liter 13B-REW rotary making some 255 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque. Better yet, the turbos activated sequentially to help eliminate lag, with one spooling up at 1,800 rpm, and the second coming in at 4,000 rpm. Large four-piston brake calipers up front, a limited-slip differential, lightweight 16-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels, and a slick five-speed manual gearbox (a four-speed auto was a rarely chosen option) rounded out the RX-7’s performance credentials.
FD Mazda RX-7 Through the Years, Quickly
At launch, Mazda offered the RX-7 in three different packages with three different prices: Base, Touring, and R1. Base models received a basic cassette-player stereo, cloth seats, and little more, with cruise control and leather seats available as options. Touring spec was the luxury option, with leather, a sunroof, cruise control, a rear window wiper, fog lights, and the premium CD-enabled Bose Sound Wave stereo, the sound-enhancing tubing of which took up about half of the rear cargo area. But if you could swing the extra cost and were a dyed-in-the-wool enthusiast, you sprung for the R1 package. Mazda knew R1 buyers didn’t want heavy options; they wanted a light, dialed-in sports car. To that end, R1s came equipped like Base models with cloth seats (leather being less breathable and more slippery), sunroof and cruise-control delete, and the basic cassette stereo. To that, they added an extra oil cooler (for two total), a front strut-tower brace with the RX-7 logo, sport-tuned springs and Bilstein dampers, and both a unique front air dam with brake cooling ducts and the Touring-style rear wing. If you felt extra sporty, you even went for the Competition Yellow Mica paint, only offered on R1-package cars.
The following model year, 1994, saw no real changes to the RX-7 outside of the way its packages were configured. The Base model continued on virtually the same as the year before, but the Touring model was accompanied by the Popular Equipment Package, which deleted the Touring-spec Bose stereo and rear wiper and made the fog lights optional. The R1 package was changed to the R2 package; its sport suspension was retuned for greater comfort after early RX-7 reviews complained about the R1’s bone-rattling ride. Things carried on like this into 1995, when evermore restrictive emissions standards and an ever-increasing MSRP (the updated price meant the RX-7 was now a $40,000 car) resulted in Mazda dropping the RX-7 from its North American lineup by the end of the year.
The RX-7 Party Doesn’t Stop in japan
Meanwhile, the Mazda RX-7 carried on in its homeland of Japan. The car was branded a bit differently in the Land of the Rising Sun, initially taking Efini badging (Mazda’s domestic sporty sub-brand; Mazda also sold the Japanese-market Miata this way). The U.S. Base package was called Type S, while R1/R2 models were dubbed Type R, and an even more extreme Type RZ option for the first two model years added Recaro seats, Showa suspension, and light-weighting that resulted in a 66-pound reduction. The RX-7 continued on in its home market until 2002, a full decade-long production run, ultimately reaching nearly 300 hp in top-spec variants.
Mazda RX-7: The Messy Aftermath
As we mentioned, the RX-7 was an expensive car when it was new, rivaling the Chevrolet Corvette which by 1994 boasted 300 hp, 350-lb-ft, and American V-8 reliability and serviceability. That meant many original Mazda RX-7 owners tended to be well-paid professionals who could afford Mazda’s asking price and who pampered their cars. But soon, steady depreciation for a misunderstood rotary sports car, and the onslaught of second, third and fourth owners on the used market in the heyday of Fast and Furious tuning culture, meant the RX-7 quickly became a favorite of street racers and of those who just wanted to be one. As used third-generation RX-7s fell into the pricing levels of new Honda Civics and Nissan Sentras, many an RX-7 was kitted-out with all manner of ill-advised modifications. Many cars were hopelessly tainted, while others were written off completely in crashes. Add in the special needs of a rotary-powered car, and many RX-7s were taken off the road too soon. It is thought that fewer than 14,000 third-generation Mazda RX-7s were sold in the U.S., regardless of price.
The FD Mazda RX-7 Market Today
After bottoming in the mid-teens in terms of dollars a decade ago, RX-7 prices today are rebounding strongly. Collector car insurance expert Hagerty says the average price of a 1993-95 Mazda RX-7 is some $26,600 for a good, solid car that presents well and has no obvious needs. Step up a rung to a show-worthy car and you’ll spend around $44,000. Want the best third-gen RX-7 in the world, with ultra-low miles and a showroom-fresh vibe? Don’t choke on your sushi, but you’ll want to budget $64,400, or about the price of a new 495-hp, mid-engine 2021 Chevrolet C8 Corvette. That’s a heck of a steep price for a near-30-year-old Mazda.
As far as the most collectible models, the especially low-production and performance-focused R1 and R2 packages are worth more than Base or Touring trim levels. Total 1993 R1 package production numbers are tough to track down, but Mazda sold just 350 in the exclusive Competition Yellow Mica color, making for a very desirable variant today. The company sold just 452 R2 cars between 1994-95, so those examples are tough to find as well.
Speaking of colors, Vintage Red was the most popular hue for the third-generation Mazda RX-7, with nearly 40 percent of U.S. production being found in this shade. White RX-7s are exceedingly rare, while Montego Blue, a pretty blue-green metallic color, is the second most populous paint option.
The JDM Mazda RX-7 Option
What about Japanese domestic-market cars? With so few U.S.-spec RX-7s to choose from, you may go looking abroad for a Japanese-market car to import. While you can occasionally find what appears to be a better deal in Japan, keep in mind that all JDM cars are right-hand drive. That might seem cool, but driving a right-hand-drive car on left-hand-drive roads can take some getting used to. JDM cars also have a reputation for having been used harder than many U.S. cars, while receiving just as many aftermarket modifications.
Also, unless you fly to Japan to inspect your potential purchase before plunking down your hard-earned yen, you may be surprised to find your new RX-7 isn’t quite in the condition you thought it would be. To this last point, there are several U.S.-based companies that import JDM cars for U.S. sale (adhering to the 25-year-old Federal import law, which allows importation of vehicles up to model year 1995 this year). By searching for a pre-imported RX-7, you can usually drive and inspect the car in person before committing to buy. These JDM cars will often come at a discount over a similar-condition U.S.-spec car for all of the above reasons, and selling your pride and joy to its next owner could be that much more challenging.
The Third-Generation Mazda RX-7 at Auction
Because mid-1990s Japanese sports cars have become so popular, the market has risen across the board. The Toyota Supras and MR2s, Nissan 240 SXs and 300 ZXs, and Mitsubishi 3000 GTs that were once haphazardly street-parked and run on shoe-string budgets, are now cherished collectables. For the best cars, like pristine third-generation Mazda RX-7s, that also means they’ve been discovered by upscale collector-car auction houses, where premium prices are the norm. RM Sotheby’s, for example, has sold several 1993-95 Mazda RX-7s during the last few years with prices ranging from the low-$20,000 space to well beyond $50,000. Bringatrailer.com, a popular online auction site, has sold more FD RX-7s than any other collector-car auction house, with prices ranging from about $20,000 to more than $40,000.
The FD Mazda RX-7: Wise Investment?
What does the future hold for the third-generation Mazda RX-7 in terms of being a wise place to park your money? Based on history and the market for similar cars, we expect prices will continue to rise, but not at the rate experienced throughout the past decade. After the RX-7’s recent meteoric gains, prices have generally leveled off. The recent rise in value also shook many excellent-condition cars loose from their owners’ garages, and they now reside in new long-term collections. That means some of the best examples we’ve seen sell previously may not come up for sale again for quite some time.
As always, it’s best to take your time when looking for an FD RX-7 and to search for the cleanest car your targeted price-range will allow. While a full buyer’s guide is out of the scope of this article, rotary engines aren’t cheap to rebuild, and cars that were modified in the past will generally never be as valuable as an unmolested original Mazda RX-7.
1993 Mazda RX-7 Specifications
|PRICE||$32,500 (base in 1993); $26,660 (used average price today)|
|ENGINE||1.3L twin-turbo twin-rotor four-port rotary/255 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 217 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||15/23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||168.5 x 69.3 x 48.4 in|
|WEIGHT||2,800 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH||5.0 sec|
|TOP SPEED||156 mph|