The First Generation RX-7 Is Like Stinky Tofu

The premise of this weekly column is that it’s fun to search for cars on a limited budget.  Many consumers find themselves looking in this price range, I’m here to help you car shop.

The only rule here is that RULES are meant to be broken:

  1. The car must be listed on or,, or
  2. It must be for sale by the time this article comes out.
  3. It must be under $5,000.
  4. It can be any type of car. Bonus points for enthusiast cars.
  5. It must be for sale in the United States (local in DC is best).
  6. Creativity (I know it when I see it) is welcomed.
  7. I’m open to submissions,

This week’s winner, a 1986 Mazda RX-7, is for sale in Silver Spring, Md., on Craigslist, buy here.

NOTE: Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware.  This is not an endorsement of this particular car for sale.  I have not driven it nor do I know the seller.  


In a previous post I compared the Mazda RX-8 R3 to kimchi. If the Mazda RX-8 R3 is kimchi, then the first generation RX-7 (chassis codes SA/FB) is stinky tofu. Most enthusiasts dismiss the FB RX-7 as the forgotten, unloved, underpowered RX-7, but if you can get past its “stinky” reputation — the FB RX-7 is the a true automotive delicacy.

Most first-generation RX-7s have been sent to the crusher, with their daft rotary engine labeled as unreliable. That’s why if you can find a nice one, you will have unlocked the car world’s greatest treasure: a sharp designed, high-revving, lightweight, cheap, balanced sports car.

When Mazda introduced the RX-7 in 1979 it shocked the sports car world.  Sports cars of the time were bloated by manufacturers attempting to meet new crash test standards. The RX-7 was the answer to enthusiast’s prayers because of it was affordable, and lightweight..

During its six year run, RX-7 had two different rotary engine configurations. The first was known as the 12A, a 1.1-liter rotary engine making 100-hp at 6,000 rpm and 105 lb-ft of torque at 7,000 rpm. The 12A could push the RX-7 to 60 mph in 10 seconds flat a good sprint, not a great one. But the small displacement engine allowed the RX-7 to have a near 50/50 weight distribution.


The 13B engine debuted in 1984 and it’s the one you want.  It was available from 1984-85, displacing a mighty 1.3-liters.  It made 30 percent more horsepower and torque over the 12A (135-hp at 6,000rpm and 133 lb-ft of torque at 2,750), and dropped the 0-60 time by two seconds.

Enthusiasts have focused all their attention to the FD RX-7 (1993-1997). Its twin turbo engine, Fast and the Furious credibility and sleek design have hypnotized folks into paying top dollar. The first generation RX-7 is listed on “John Phillips: Ten Cars That Most Surprised 10 C/D Editors,” stating the RX-7 has the ability to breathe life into the soulless sports car world.  If you can get over the “stink” of the first generation RX-7, it should in your garage.

That’s why when I found this 1985 RX-7 on Craigslist for $6,000, I had to post it here. Even though it breaks one of my “unbreakable” rules, cracking the $5,000 limit.  I was so enthused by this RX-7, I reached out to the owner to find out more. Roger told me that he purchased this RX-7 from the ORIGINAL OWNER and he has every service record. Having the total service history is super important when you are buying a 30 year old sports car. It had been sitting in a garage for the last 10 years, when Roger saw it at a garage sale and had to have it. I asked if it was the desired GSL-SE model, but he was unsure.  It has been looked over by his mechanic and is in new working order. It has new tires, no leaks, new carburetor, new fluids, and a near perfect interior. It’s rare to find an RX-7 with such low miles (49,000) and in this kind of original condition.

Doing this weekly series of cars is tough, because each week I fall in love again.  Like all the great sport cars of the past, eventually enthusiast will catch on and prices will go up.

Here are the pictures from Craigslist.









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