Hooniverse Fastback Friday – The Rotary Powered Mazda Fastbacks of the 70's

Welcome to Hooniverse Fastback Friday. A couple of days ago I was reading Rob’s posting over at Jalopnik about a peculiar Mazda Rotary that was not an RX-7. That set me on a quest to see if there are any other vintage Fastback Mazdas that could possibly fit within “Fastback Friday”, and look what I found….

Let’s start with this 1973 Mazda RX-3 that is listed for sale on Craigslist. The RX-3 was introduced into the North American Market in 1972, and the American versions came equipped with the 12A Wankel Rotary engine from the RX-2. There were three body styles offered, and included a Coupe, Wagon and Sedan. This is a 2 Door Fastback Coupe, and according to the listing:

I have an 1973 Rx3 that i will sell or part out for the right price, no motor or trans. body in fair condition bumbers (front/back),glass(front ,back sides), lights(front sides rear), grille mask,light bezels, front seats, moldings, original steering wheel, datsun rearend. Looking for 1984-85 rx7 in good condition may consider trades.

Asking price for this rather incomplete car is unknown. See the listing here.

While the previous RX-3 is nothing but a shell, this is a rather nice and complete example, finished in a very period Green color. According to the listing:

I’m selling a super nice old school 1973 Mazda RX3, 5sp, 13b engine and fresh dupont paint job. This RX3 looks and runs awesome. I get lots lots of complements on the street. It will be posted on EBAY within the next couple of weeks. I’m offering it to craiglist members first. I’m accepting offers beetween 10K-12k. Make an appointment to come see it or test drive it. You won’t be disappointed.

Well, with the asking price between $10,000 and $12,000 it better be nice, and it does have the larger 13b engine. See the listing here.

One more RX-3, and this is from Killeen, Texas. Absolutely nothing is listed in the ad, not the condition, not the mileage, nothing. Funny, the sellers phone number is a Connecticut number. He (or she) wants $5,500 for it, so you can see the listing here.

And look what I found next. It’s a 1974 Mazda RX-4 Coupe, which was the Luce Rotary in its home market. The RX-4 was available in North America from 1974 through 1978, and was available with the much larger 13b Wankel Rotary producing 110 HP. This car is a “Barn Find” and according to the listing:

1974 Mazda RX-4, Arguably the most original, genuine low mileage Mazda RX-4 in the United States. 25K original, original paint in superb condition, interior in showroom condition, original tires. Original Hiroshima air in tires. Would be at home in a museum. Original 13B rotary engine was professionally rebuilt last year, no miles on rebuild. Needed apex seals from being dry stored in garage since 1990. Always garage kept, completely rust free vehicle. Carburetor professionally rebuilt at same time as engine. I am the 3rd owner, full history of vehicle available from previous owner, who purchased it from the first owner, an Army Sergeant stationed at Fort Hood, who was on his way to Vietnam at the end of 1974. Original dealership tag on rear of car: “Garland-Shelton, Killeen TX.” All original documents, manuals, etc. in like new condition. Still smells like a new car, sit in it and time warp back to the dealership floor in ’74.

Asking price for this like new gem is $18,500! See the original listing here.

Then there is this 1976 RX-4 Coupe in Florida. Like the first RX-3 above, this is a complete car without the Engine or Transmission. According to the listing:

Complete car, non-cut, need motor and transmission. Good conditions, just painted, needs minor interior repairs.

Asking price for this shell of a car? $3,800! See the listing here.

Of course I had to spotlight the Mazda Cosmo that ran on another blog. These were sold in the US for only 2 years, between 1976 and 1978. This one has some rather unusual styling add-ons, and according to the listing:

1976 Mazda cosmo maybe the only one in Florida, $ 10,000.00 or best offer just tuned 170HP all motor, 13B old skool, good in and out, A/C works

See the listing here.
Are any of these old school Mazdas worth the money their sellers are asking for, or is the first generation RX-7, that was offered as a replacement for all of these vehicles, the only one to really go after if you’re looking for a vintage Rotary Powered Mazda? Let me know in the comments section…

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  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    Okay, I'll admit that I drooled over the RX-5 Cosmo when I first saw it in magazine ads. The banjo steering wheel and goofy side windows are endearing. In high school, a friend's mom had an RX-4 4-door, and sometimes he'd drive it to school. I can remember the time we drag raced a '68 Satellite with a 318. There were four of us in the Mazda, versus one in the Plymouth, and we still beat it. I can still remember seeing that tach wind up to 7000rpm, and the distinctive sound it made.
    If you want to watch a mulleted Canadian rebuild a Cosmo, here's your YouTube collection:
    His last installment was two weeks ago. Don't miss the handy tip on Vaseline!

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    The RX-4 barn find ad has the dealer name wrong, by the way. It's Garlyn Shelton, and the dealership group is still around. They own several dealerships around Central Texas (though not in Killeen anymore).

  3. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
    Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

    A Hoon could do some interesting things with those empty Wankel boxes…very interesting indeed.__ <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2603/4011427937_51bf850dbe.jpg&quot; width="334" height="500" alt="74 lemans buchet canal agere mazda rx-3" />__<img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3589/3385590241_cac1d33361.jpg&quot; width="500" height="306" alt="72 tourenwagen@nurburgring mazda rx-3" />__Also, it appears Hoonibbles ate Morning Qualifying.

    1. muthalovin Avatar

      Damn! I was wondering what happened.

  4. buzzboy7 Avatar

    Green RX-3. All I need to say.
    I have always found the styling on early to mid 70s japanese coupes to be the best looking cars ever produced. The RX-3 may be at the top of that list(ok, so it may share that spot with the 240z, 510 and 73 Celica).

    1. tonyola Avatar

      I personally think the best-looking of the early Mazdas was the RX2 coupe. It's a little sleeker and cleaner than the RX3.
      <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3370/3177276067_922cc5e05a.jpg&quot; width=500>

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        I always liked their steelies with trim rings setups.

      2. highmileage_v1 Avatar

        I totally agree. I had an RX2 as a teenager and it was an entertaining car. The rotary was rev-happy and the RX2 handled quite well for the times (I had a '74 Celica and a '74 RX3 wagon at the same time, alas no pics have survived). Apart from an almost total lack of torque, the only other complaint I had with the vehicle was the rapidity with which the Rex2 rusted. It almost disintegrated before your eyes. But it was fun. You could induce massive backfires by taking it up to ~8,000 rpm, turning off the key, then turning it back on when you had slowed down. Even more impressive with a straight pipe, flames would spew out the back. Yes, I was an idiotic kid.
        As an aside I was pit crew at St Jovite for a short while and there was a rotary racing class that involved heavily modified engines and bodies. In fact, I think the bodies were space frames with fiberglass shells. Can't remember the category but I can remember the sound of rotaries well above 10,000 rpm ripping past.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          I talk about the RX3 backfiring elsewhere in this post, but I didn't know the RX2 was prone to that too.

      3. facelvega Avatar

        I saw a restored RX2 driving around Brisbane last summer, at first only catching glimpses of it from the back and rear 3/4 view through traffic, and I wondered what that delightful little Italian hatchback was. I was shocked to finally pull up closer to it, recognize what it really was, and finally realize that I've been underestimating the charm of the older Mazdas. Unlike a lot of cars, they are much better in person than in pictures.

    2. Destry Avatar

      THX that’s a great anserw!

  5. dukeisduke Avatar

    There's a rotary specialty shop near here (Rotary Performance, in Garland), and there's usually a couple of Mazda Rotary pickups there. I met the guy that owns the place over 20 years ago, when he owned a radiator shop in Plano. He was a rotary freak even then, and he told me then that the rotary engines were bulletproof; you just had to crank up the oil injection as they got older.
    It's too bad they've never been able to make the engine's more fuel efficient (my high school friend said his mom's RX-4 got 14mpg), as they offered a lot of promise.

  6. tonyola Avatar

    A friend of mine in college had a '73 RX3 with an interesting and frightening quirk: if he gave it a long, hard blast then suddenly let up on the go pedal, the car would sometimes backfire with the sound of a twelve-gauge going off under the floorboards. It was as if the exhaust system was being blown off. Road & Track mentioned the tendency to bang in their road test of the '73. Wonder if the car for sale does the same thing? For $12,000, you better be a big fan of quirky '70s Japanese styling. I'm not, and I'd put that $12K towards a nice RX7 instead.
    As for the nice RX4, it's too pricey and why has the car not been driven at all since the rebuild? Worrisome. I voted Crack Pipe with some regret on J******* for the Cosmo. Skip the red car – no info. The shells might make an interesting base for a project but they need to be looked at really closely.

  7. tonyola Avatar

    Wow – never knew about the bus. The Roadpacer was a major flop in Japan – twice the price of a Cosmo, too big, could barely manage 100 mph, and horrendous gas mileage on the order of 9-10 miles per gallon.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      That's funny. I'd heard about the bus, but not the Roadpacer.

  8. muthalovin Avatar

    <img src="http://hooniverse.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Fullscreen-capture-3242011-95809-PM.bmp.jpg"&gt;
    I dig it. Not quite $12K dig, but if this was in Central Texas, I would check it out.

  9. LTDScott Avatar

    I love the funky Japanese styling on all of these. There was a surprising number of them on display at the Japanese Classic Car Show at the Queen Mary last year. If you like old JDM tin, you have to check out that show.

  10. dukeisduke Avatar

    Also, Mazda sold piston-engined variants alongside the rotaries, like the Mazda 808, and 616. The first rotary engined coupe they sold here was the R100. Anyone remember that one? That was the first one I saw.

  11. oldcarjunkie Avatar

    I've got one of the piston powered Rx-3s – the 808 (known as the 818 in Europe because Peugeot claimed anything with a zero in the middle).
    some pictures – http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/sets/72157
    <img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5131/5487939988_186b60b3c3.jpg&quot; width="500" height="375" alt="1973 Mazda 808 Coupe" />

    1. tonyola Avatar

      The later 808s (1975-1976) were restyled with single headlights and re-named Mizer. The GLC replaced the Mizer for 1977. There was also a short-lived and rare piston version of the RX-2 sold in the US as the 616 or 618.
      <img src="http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a391/se325919/pak%20car%20not%20datsun/PICT0847.jpg&quot; width=400>

      1. oldcarjunkie Avatar

        The Mizer also only came with the 1.3L engine was much more plain looking in my opinion. My 808 Coupe has nice wood steering wheel and shift and has the 1.6L engine (same as B1600). Canada seemed to get more piston powered cars than the US.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          The earlier piston Mazdas in the US were a bit dressier than the later cars. By 1975, Mazda was in real trouble in the US because rotary sales were collapsing mainly due to fuel economy concerns. The Mizer was a desperation bargain-basement econo special in order to keep some sales going until the GLC was ready.

  12. Mister X Avatar
    Mister X

    A buddy of mine had a sweet little blue R100 back in the early 80’s that I did some work on at my auto repair shop, tiny car, bet he wishes he never sold it.

  13. R.LINDSEYJR. Avatar


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