Forums > General > My new toy, Mazda RX-7 Type RS '96

MY NEW TOY, MAZDA RX-7 TYPE RS '96
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Since a couple of you were kind enough to express interest, I thought I'd post a thread about my new obsession.

A long time ago, before Gran Turismo was a gleam in Yamauchi's eye, before Initial D sanctified RWD, before I was out of shorts let alone behind the wheel, I read in Autocar & Motor about the latest in the nineties wave of science-fiction Japanese sports cars. No computer-controlled 4wd here, but it did feature obsessive weight reduction and two turbochargers that worked in sequence. How did they get the turbo valves to open and close at the right time? My 12-year-old brain struggled to work it all out. The brand new and very curvy Mazda RX-7 FD was beautiful, focused and super-cool.

Eleven years later in rural Japan, I got a passenger ride in one. While it wasn't as dramatic as a flame-spitting Skyline, it felt smooth, planted and very, very right. Moreover, the styling was incredible close-up - all subtly defined bulging forms melding purposefully one into another, with the classic double-bubble roof. That it felt cramped inside compared to my own Silvia only made it seem more special. Later I visited Mazda HQ in Hiroshima, saw the green-and-orange 787B, and felt how the quest to productionise the rotary engine is intimately tied up with the resurrection of this elegant, beautifully sited city.

Then a fellow Nissan-owner spoke with the enthusiasm of a convert, about just how special his new FD made him feel, how comparing numbers with S-bodies tells you nothing of what it feels like to drive. I looked, noted the fuel consumption and reliability challenges, admired from afar and continued with my economical four-pot turbo Nissan.

More recently, a combination of modestly rising pay and falling annual mileage allowed me to think I might be able to run a rotary. When I close my eyes and imagine my dream car, it is a curvaceous coupe, with a short, powerful engine nestled behind the front wheels, driving the rears. A Corvette was LHD and too expensive, a Cerbera even more scary to own, while a test drive in a GT86 proved that I couldn't go cold turkey on torque. The RX-7 FD was looking like the one.

A little research suggested that I should look for a fairly standard later-model car owned by a knowledgeable enthusiast, with good compression results. I just missed out on a rather nice blue '99-spec fresh import at £7,750, then saw a black '96 up for £4,750. Rebuilt five years ago and with nice high, even compression results, this car had been with the same guy for years, serviced twice a year at a rotary specialist. The seller took me for a drive (I couldn't sort insurance to test drive a modified car, albeit just catback and panel filter). He apologised for not being able to really push it in the wet, then promptly ran us up to over the ton on a sweeping A-road, car feeling totally planted. Everything seemed to check out, so we agreed on £4,500 and I paid over the cash on the spot - lucky really, since we'd barely finished counting the fifties when his phone rang with another buyer offering to take it.

Now I’m finally behind the wheel of my very own FD, and it is every bit as special as I’d been told. The 13B motor knows neither vibration nor harshness, only how to pull and pull with such ready willingness that the 7k beep comes as a rude surprise. The whole car moves instantly and linearly with the steering, with no delay - the sense of absolute control is similar to holding a toy car under the palm of your hand. The brakes, larger ones on my Type RS, reassure instantly. The smooth power and seemingly-invincible chassis make 100mph feel like the natural cruising gait (this may yet turn out to be a problem). While it makes speed natural, it never feels boring - you are intimately connected to the car.

I've already ruled out body kits, coilovers, or messing with the sequential turbo operation that blew my mind twenty years ago. Future plans are basically reliability mods so that I can take her on trackdays without fearing blowing the engine - I can't wait to see how this chassis feels at Cadwell Park.


"Aero wave" double-bubble roofline

Lure of the open road

50/50 weight distribution

Shades of the TVR Tuscan in this bonnet

Even the wing mirrors are elegantly sculpted. Everything on this car has been thought about and designed by someone who cared.

Dished Nardi wheel succeeds in giving me knee clearance. However, although the speedometer is clearly visible in this shot, it isn't from my driving position (!) A phone app helps here.

Oh, and I've also taken the chance to pick up this, which I really like

1996 Mazda RX-7 Type RS (FD3S)

Power: 265hp
Torque: 217 lb ft
Weight: 1270kg

Changes from OEM spec:
Racing Beat cat-back exhaust
Panel filter
99-spec rear spoiler
Nardi steering wheel
Alpine CD player

That's lovely. Always loved the styling on those. I remember letching at a black one in traffic when they came out.

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Knackered old hairdresser's sh1tter

Very nice. Well done.

Always liked 'em. 8)

Lovely looking cars, definately something I'd like to own.

You "need" to provide a fao of Mik video ;)

Well done sir 8)

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“If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.”

Very nice indeed 8).

I've never really paid much attention to them so what's all the rumours about the scary running costs etc?

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3 - 2 - 1 - Go.................

That is a the mutts nuts 8)

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artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

Bloody lovely. Nice write up too. Always liked em, such a shame there are so few that havent been ruined aesthetically.

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Caterham 7 - Seat, steering wheel, pedals, er... Lights?

Dr.(tbc) Alex said...

Very nice indeed 8).

I've never really paid much attention to them so what's all the rumours about the scary running costs etc?

According to tinterwebs : Rotor tips, rebuilds, fuel, oil. Not necessarily in that order.

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Knackered old hairdresser's sh1tter

Thanks samoht, great write up and photos. Loved the steering analogy to playing with a toy car :)
Is there much turbo lag with these?

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My Flickr

Invisible Speakers

Thanks for all the comments.

Dr.(tbc) Alex said...

I've never really paid much attention to them so what's all the rumours about the scary running costs etc?

Well, lets just say they're not recommended if you're doing a lot of miles.
I got 19.6mpg from my first tank, and most of that wasn't flat out. There are lots of similarly fast cars that will go 50% further on a tank - my previous Nissan, for one.

You need to top up the oil every three tanks of petrol, but that's not a huge cost, just something to remember to do.

Running right, they shouldn't need rebuilding more than every 60-80k. This car had a £5k rebuild in 2007, and last year was compression tested and still had mid 8 bar on all six rotor faces, which is 'nearly new' - 9 is 'new' spec and it shouldn't need a rebuild til the low 6s.

So all being well, if I'm driving 5k miles a year I should have many years before I need to worry about the rebuild.

The big problem is that the engines are totally intolerant of any detonation whatsoever. If the engine gets too hot, this could cause detonation. Thus it's recommended to get something to keep an eye on intake temps, so you know when to back off to save your engine. It shouldn't a problem on the road, but is something to consider before my first trackday.

Thing is, the way the car makes me feel to look at, and to drive fast - I'd happily go bankrupt to keep her on the road :!:

carlos said...

You "need" to provide a fao of Mik video ;)

Yes you muthafunkin' do. :)

mattcambs said...

Thanks samoht, great write up and photos. Loved the steering analogy to playing with a toy car :)
Is there much turbo lag with these?

Well, I'm not the best person to say as I've not really driven any powerful n/a cars.

In terms of powerband they're pretty broad, the first turbo comes in low down and the second one comes in at 4500 and keeps the boost going all the way to 6500 peak power and above. Once you're above the rotary's off-idle flatspot, it's very smooth and even oomph til the beep comes in at 7k (8k redline).

In terms of throttle response, I'd guess it's worse than an n/a car but as the two turbos are pretty small, better than most other turbo cars. It's not something I notice when driving or that spoils the experience.

As a toy it sounds absolutely perfect 8)

Nice write up, very nice looking car.

Lovely car, more pics please!

Very nice 8). And in my favorite color for them too.

About time someone around here bought something worthwhile. I salute you :)

I thought the "claimed" mpg was about 17, and that ~14 was more common amongst owners. 19.6 sounds pretty good! :)

You lucky SOB. Well done.

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I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day and tomorrow don't look good either.

delightful car.

i remember seeing a gt3/gt-something spec race version when I was a young'un, with fixed headlamps. nom nom nom.

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