Once and for all.
Okay, look. If you’re reading this, you already know all about how awesome Japanese sports cars were in the 1990s. You know the 300ZX and the 3000GT and the Supra and the Skyline and the RX-7. You don’t need me to tell you how awesome they were—but how rare are FD RX-7s these days, amirite?
I don’t know about you, but here in Phoenix, I see Skylines and 3000GTs at least once or twice a month each. The Fairlady and the Supra are a bit more rare, but I still see one of them or the other at least every second or third month. But the FD RX-7, I seldom see one more than once or twice a year, tops.
The FD RX-7 is probably the sleekest, most elegant of all the 90s J-tin. Where the Supra is a sledgehammer and the Skyline is Godzilla, the FD is lithe and seductive. The sequentially turbocharged, two-rotor 13B adds lightness and balance in all the right places.
It’s an amazing machine!
[tgp] Introductions: My understanding is two years ago, you found your dream car—an FD RX-7—and have been living the dream ever since. Is that correct? Anything else you’d like to mention?
[you] You’re absolutely correct! After searching for years, and finally being in a financial situation where I could buy the car, my wife and I agreed that we could afford to get my dream car once and for all and make it exactly how I wanted it to be. Every time I see my car, I smile, or when I park it, I find myself looking over my shoulder to catch a glimpse. At times it’s almost unreal that I actually own my dream car.
On FD RX-7s…
[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As an FD RX-7 owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them? (They’re ridiculously rare as far as I know.)
[you] As an owner of a rotary sports car, the most common thing I hear is misinformation about the rotary engine itself; IE: reliability, apex seals, water seals, etc. People think that they can operate the engine as they would with a piston engine, and it’s that kind of thinking that causes them to fail. You wouldn’t go jogging in high heels, so why would you treat a rotary engine the same as a piston engine when they operate differently?
What is most common is that most rotary-powered car owners are not the first owner and it’s hard to know 100% if the previous owner treated it as it should have been treated. So, in those situations, most of the engines have been treated poorly and fail.
An owner who takes the proper steps to let the engine warm up to the right temps, allows for proper cool down, maintains a proper ECU tune, and replace known faults (IE: plastic air separator tank) can expect the rotary to last for much longer than what armchair mechanics say on the internet.
My first car was an 86′ Mazda RX-7 that hit 200k miles and the only reason I didn’t go further was that a lady hit my car while doing her makeup while driving.Aaron @azfdrx7
What I enjoy most about owning an FD is exactly what every car magazine has said… the driving experience. The chassis, the handling, the styling, the high revving engine… it has everything you could ever want in a sports car.
The FD RX-7 is for those who want to be engaged in the driving experience. Those who own them understand that you need to respect the car and not take it for granted, because that’s when things go bad. It has been said that the RX-7 is the tinkerer’s car… meaning it’s for people who want to know everything about their car and how it works and to make it their own.
The styling is classic and still looks beautiful 27 years later. Many car journalists have said that it is one of the most beautiful cars to come out of Japan in the ’90s. Every time I drive my car, someone on the road takes photos or gives me a thumbs up. Although the Supra has higher selling prices, people feel like the RX-7 is rarer and less likely to be seen at car events… especially while still having the rotary engine rather than an LS swap.
When it comes to rarity, mine ranks among some of the rarest. Mine is a Silverstone Metallic exterior with a red leather interior. They only made 187 of these color combos. Also, I was able to import the red rear JDM seats (even rarer) making my car that much more unique in the USA.
Last I checked only about 1/3 of all FD RX-7s in the USA are still registered on the road. Many have been crushed or turned into race cars; once again making them even rarer.
As far as things to dislike about the FD RX-7 is the availability of parts, especially in Arizona. Many parts for the FD RX-7 are either discontinued or have to be ordered from the dealer or out of state. You can’t just go to any AutoZone and expect the parts to be on hand. So any time I need to work on a project, I have to set the expectation that I need to prepare and order as much as I can in advance so the project doesn’t get delayed. If I don’t, then I have to wait for priority shipping to send me the parts I need a couple of days later.
Another aspect I don’t care for about the FD is some of the electrical gremlins. It’s widely known in the FD community that the electronics in the gauge cluster will eventually go out and your tach won’t work as it should. Combine age with heat and your wiring can get sketchy. So it’s not uncommon to see people switch to running a different ECU and engine harness if theirs become too old and brittle.
The thing I dislike the most is cabin space. I’m 6 ft and weigh about 200 lbs. and I fit just enough. The cabin is very snug. The FD RX-7 has more interior width than a Honda S2000 but lacks knee and headroom for taller persons. I wish Mazda had made the car with an adjustable steering column so I could have a little more room for the steering wheel and my legs.
[tgp] How did you end up in this camp? Why have you stuck around as long as you have?
[you] As previously mentioned, the very first car that I owned was white-on-red ’86 Mazda RX-7. It was my father’s daily commuter but my father is also a bit of a clean freak. The engine was so clean that you could eat off of it. The door panels and the interior was reupholstered and made to be like new. My father decided to buy a newer Porsche and said that if I could come up with a $200 down payment and make monthly payments of $100 a month, I could buy it for $1,000; which was the bargain of a lifetime.
Being 15, $1k might as well have been $100k. But I chose to work all summer digging ditches and doing landscape work for my father’s friend who owned a landscaping company. Before I could even get my driver’s license, I owned my first car. From that point onward, I enjoyed the sound, the high revs, and the overall experience of driving a rotary-powered sports car; which is not like anything else.
In regards to the FD, that is an extension of my relationship with my first car and my father. Even before I owned my FC RX-7, my father and I went to a car meet up event in La Jolla, CA. Although it was mostly Porsches in attendance, there were many other types of cars present.
At the age of 14, I saw a silver-on-red leather FD RX-7. At this point, my father was still using the FC as his daily driver but pointed out to me that the vehicle I was looking at was the 3rd generation of the RX-7. This was truly one of those ‘love at first sight’ moments. Although I had posters of exotic cars on the walls of my bedroom, this silver FD RX-7 was the most beautiful car I had ever seen. The combination of colors in addition to the curved body and great proportions was all I needed to be hooked for the rest of my life. I knew at that point that I wanted a silver-on-red leather FD RX-7 as my dream car when I grew up… and now I have exactly that.
The RX-7 community…
[tgp] How’s the RX-7 community doing these days? Where do y’all hangout, share tech, and whatnot?
[you] The RX-7 community and rotary engine community is very close-knit. Because we are the oddball in the automotive world with few mechanics who know how to work on our cars, we tend to lean heavily on the knowledge of each other.
The RX7club.com page is a forum of vast knowledge and information that has helped me numerous times. In addition to the forums, social media pages on Facebook have made it easier to find parts from around the world that would have been nearly impossible to find otherwise.
There are local clubs and groups around the world, but the biggest event in the USA is Sevenstock. This annual event is typically held in November at the Auto Club Speedway in Riverside, California, and celebrates all things rotary-powered.
Not only do owners, tuning shops, and aftermarket parts makers show up, but Mazda also brings out their Le Mans winning 4 -rotor race cars in addition to other historic rotary-powered race cars. At the end of the gathering, a parade lap takes place where everyone is allowed to drive on the track, with the famous Mazda 787 leading the way. I have been unable to attend this event due to various reasons, but I hope to attend this year; assuming COVID doesn’t prevent it from happening.
This gearhead life…
[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?
[you] The biggest issue that I see in the automotive community is the lack of supporting others and their personal build choices. Personally I am not a fan of everyone throwing a wide-body kit onto every car. But, it’s not my car, it’s not my build, so who am I to argue with your personal choice? If you are making a change to a car that makes you happy, then do it! If you ask my opinion, I’ll give it to you, but if you don’t take my advice, then so be it, it’s still your car and if you enjoy it, then that’s the important thing.
The only exception I see is if someone is doing something that could be viewed as unsafe or could lead to known problems that will end in a bad result. At that point, it’s not sharing an opinion about the build of another enthusiast, but rather trying to coach them into making a choice that will save them from hurting their car or even themselves in some cases.
[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?
[you] The person who has made the biggest impact on my life when it comes to cars is my father. From the time I could hold a wrench, my father always took the time to teach me how to work on cars. It may have taken him twice as long to fix something, but he always found time to teach me how things work, why they do what they do, and how to make repairs and changes the right way. Because of this, I take great efforts to make sure that when things are taken out of a car, they are cleaned, replaced, and/or restored before they go back into the car. So in a way that clean freak attribute my father has, has rubbed off onto me.
Aside from my father, I’d have to say that fellow FD owner Tim Eull has been a great inspiration. His IG name is Rotordaddy, and as a fellow FD owner, he’s been a huge mentor in how to take the right steps in owning, maintaining, and modifying my car to have my own signature look.
The other person who has made a huge impact on me would have to be brother-in-law Drew Billings (IG: Eighty_sixxed). I was lucky to be married into a family with such great in-laws. Drew and I are similar in age and equally share a passion for all things automotive. It was in part due to him that I was able to get my RX-7 and also because he actually helped me pick up my car from Vegas when I purchased it two years ago.
At the time I obtained my car, it needed a new engine, and transmission, in addition to other bits and pieces. [And] at that time, I was living in a townhouse with no garage. Drew allowed me the space of his garage and access to his tools for many months while I took the time to get my car into working order. Although I now have a great garage with many tools, I couldn’t have gotten my dream car if it wasn’t for his help and support.
Last but not least, I have to give a huge shoutout to my wife who has given me great support in getting my dream car. As soon as I found the exact car I’ve been looking for since I was 14, at a price that we couldn’t pass up, she has supported me the entire journey and is happy that I’ve been able to obtain something so important to me for nearly two decades.
Dreams come true.
Sometimes it really is love at first sight. Have you ever felt that way about a machine? I know I have. I walked into a Jeep-Eagle dealership to order a 97 TJ—and drove away in the base model Eagle Talon on the showroom floor. The heart wants what the heart wants.
Aaron’s RX-7 is a testament to dreams coming true. And it just goes to show, if you really love a machine, the effort required to make it right is worth it. There will be good times and bad, but our love of the machine makes all the difference in the world.