The Mazda RX-7 is an excellent drift car because of its rear wheel drive limited slip differential configuration, near perfect 50-50 weight distribution, light weight, powerful twin turbo 13B-REW rotary engine, low center of gravity, and sport tune suspension.
Youichi Imamura drove the A’PEXi sponsored Mazda RX-7 FD3S to a championship win during the 2003 D1 Grand Prix Season. Although all three generations of the Mazda RX-7 can drift, the FD or third generation is the most popular RX-7 for drifting. Within the FD generation, there are three series of RX-7s:
- Series 6 (1992 – 1995) This is the only group of the RX-7 FDs sold in North America. In Japan, Mazda sold the 6 Series RX-7 under its Efini brand name as the Efini RX-7. Series 6 came with 230hp and 200ft-lbs.
- Series 7 (1996 – 1998) All 7 series RX-7s are right-hand-drive. In Japan, Mazda decided to sell the 7 Series RX-7 under the Mazda brand name instead of Efini. The Series 7 was sold in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Updates include a simplified vacuum routing manifold and a 16-bit ECU that increased boost and gave the rotary engine an extra 10 horsepower.
- Series 8 (January 1999 – August 2002) The 8 series RX-7 was the final RX-7 built by Mazda and was only available in Japan. More efficient turbochargers and a revised engine bay allowed for improved intercooler and radiator cooling. The seats, steering wheel, front and rear lights were all changed and an adjustable rear wing was added.
The Series 8 RX-7 had 3 variants. “Type RS” came equipped with Bilstein suspension, 17″ wheels, and a reduced vehicle weight to 1280 kg (2822 lbs). Power was officially claimed as 250 ps (276 hp, 208 kW) to satisfy Japanese horsepower limits although, realistic power is closer to 220 or 230 kW (290–308 hp). The “Type RZ” variant included all the features of the Type RS, but boasted an even lighter vehicle weight of 1270 kg (2800 lbs). It also featured custom gun-metal BBS wheels and a custom red racing themed interior. Further upgrades included a new 16-bit ECU and ABS system upgrades.
The most collectible RX-7s are the last 1,500 built. Dubbed the “Spirit R”, these RX-7s combined all the additional features Mazda had used on previous limited-run specials. All 1,500 Spirit RX-7s sold within days of being announced and they still command amazing prices in the Japanese used car market.
In Japan, the RX-7 has been a popular choice for racing teams. In 2006, the RE Amemiya Racing AsparaDrink RX-7 FD3S won the Super GT300 class championship.
The RX-7 has appeared in the Japanese anime series, Initial D, driven by both Takahashi brothers - Keisuke and Ryosuke, Keisuke driving a yellow twin-turbo FD3S and Ryosuke driving a white FC3S. Also Kyoko, the girl that likes Keisuke, drives a black single turbo RX-7 FD3S.
The RX-7 FD has also been featured in every film in the Fast and the Furious franchise. In the latest Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift, a highly modified Veilside RX-7 was featured as one of the stars. Veilside built three duplicate RX-7s for the film while the Tokyo Drift shop built three visual clones — including one destined for destruction using a Mazda RX-7 that appeared in both previous Fast and Furious films as its base.
The RX-7 was Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year in 1986 and 1993. When Playboy magazine first reviewed the FD RX-7 in 1993, they tested it in the same issue as the Dodge Viper and declared the RX-7 to be the better of the two cars. A popular modification to the RX-7 FD is a Mazda 20B engine swap. The main difference between the 13G and 20B is that the 13G uses a factory peripheral intake port and the 20B uses side intake ports. Besides that, the 20B is a 2.0L 3-rotor engine only used in the 1990-1995 Eunos (Mazda) Cosmo. The 20B 3-rotor configuration can produce up to 550 horsepower and a top speed over 200 mph with aftermarket performance parts. Still, RX-7 enthusiasts maintain that the 13B engine can achieve the same level of performance as the 20B, but the difference is in reliability since the 20B engine can handle the higher horsepower more effortlessly.
First generation (SA/FB)
|Engine(s)||1.1L 100 hp (75 kW) 12A |
1.3L 135 hp (101 kW) 13B RE-EGI
|Transmission(s)||3-speed automatic |
|Curb weight||2,300 lb (1,000 kg) - 2,500 lb (1,100 kg)|
In 1980 Mazda released 3000 special models known as the LS (Leather Sport). This package added an LS badge, full leather upholstery, sunroof, and gold-colored alloys. This model was only available in three different colors Aura White (1250 made), Brilliant Black (1250 made) and Solar Gold (500 made).
- Series 2 (1981–1983) had integrated plastic-covered bumpers, wide black rubber body side moldings, wraparound taillights and updated engine control components. The GSL package provided optional 4-wheel disc brakes, front ventilated (Australian model) and clutch-type rear limited slip differential (LSD). Known as the "FB" in North America after the US Department of Transportation mandated 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number changeover. Elsewhere in the world, the 1981-1985 RX-7 retained the 'SA22C' VIN prefix. As a result, enthusiasts outside North America never picked up the "FB" nickname. The license-plate surround looks much like Buhrer's "Styling Impressions."
- Series 3 (1984–1985) featured an updated lower front fascia. North American models received a different instrument cluster (the NA S3 RX-7 is the only rotary-engined car to not have a centrally mounted tachometer). GSL package was continued into this series, but Mazda introduced the GSL-SE sub-model. The GSL-SE had a fuel injected 1.3 L 13B RE-EGI engine producing 135 hp (101 kW) and 135 lb·ft (183 N·m). GSL-SEs had much the same options as the GSL (clutch-type rear LSD and rear disc brakes), but the brake rotors were larger, allowing Mazda to use the more common lug nuts (versus bolts), and a new bolt pattern of 4x114.3 (4x4.5"). Also, they had upgraded suspension with stiffer springs and shocks. The external air-oil oil cooler was reintroduced, after being dropped in the 1983 model-year for the controversial "beehive" water-oil heat exchanger.
The handling and acceleration of the car were noted to be of a high caliber for its day. This generation RX-7 had "live axle" 4-link rear suspension with Watt's linkage, a 50/50 weight ratio, and weighed under 2500 lb (1100 kg). It was the lightest generation of RX-7 ever produced. 12A-powered models accelerated from 0–60 mph in 9.2 s, and turned 0.779g (7.64 m/s²) laterally on a skidpad. The 12A engine produced 100 hp (75 kW) at 6000 rpm, allowing the car to reach speeds of over 120 miles per hour (190 km/h). Because of the smoothness inherent in the Wankel rotary engine, little vibration or harshness was experienced at high rpm, so a buzzer was fitted to the tachometer to warn the driver when the 7000 rpm redline was approaching.
The 12A engine has a long thin shaped combustion chamber, having a large surface area in relation to its volume. Therefore, combustion is cool, giving few oxides of nitrogen. However, the combustion is also incomplete, so there are large amounts of partly burned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. The exhaust is hot enough for combustion of these to continue into the exhaust. An engine driven pump supplies air into the exhaust to complete the burn of these chemicals. This is done in the "thermal reactor" chamber where the exhaust manifold would normally be on a conventional engine. Under certain conditions the pump injects air into the thermal reactor and at other times air is pumped through injectors into the exhaust ports. This fresh air is needed for more efficient and cleaner burning of the air/fuel mixture.
Options and models varied from country to country. The gauge layout and interior styling in the Series 3 was only changed for North American versions. Additionally, North America was the only market to have offered the first generation RX-7 with the fuel injected 13B, model GSL-SE. A turbocharged (but non-intercooled) 12A engine was available for the top-end model of Series 3 in Japan.
Sales were strong, with a total of 474,565 first generation cars produced; 377,878 were sold in the United States alone. In 2004, Sports Car International named this car #7 on its list of Top Sports Cars of the 1970s. In 1983, the RX-7 would appear on Car and Driver