©2019 Courtesy of RM Auctions
  • 255-hp 1.3-L turbocharged Wankel rotary engine
  • Five-speed manual transmission
  • Engine rebuilt by marque specialist Chips Motorsports
  • Optional Touring package, power sunroof, rear wiper, fog lights, leather interior and Bose CD stereo system
  • Offered with window sticker and warranty book

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1993 Mazda RX-7 Touring
Years Produced:1993–95
Number Produced:13,879
Original List Price:$32,500
SCM Valuation:$34,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Chassis Number Location:Under the windshield, driver’s side
Engine Number Location:Front of engine, behind distributor
Club Info:Mazda Rotary Club
Alternatives:1990–2005 Acura NSX, 1990–99 Mitsubishi 3000GT, 1993–2002 Toyota Supra
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 1113, sold for $28,600, including buyer’s premium, at RM Auctions’ Auburn, IN, auction on September 1, 2019.

The ’90s are back in fashion. If you doubt that, just look at the turnout for period car shows like RADwood or the JCCS (Japanese Classic Car Show). It doesn’t seem so long ago (like, last month) when we were profiling Japanese sports cars of the 1970s here in Next Gen, and now we’re up to the 1990s.

But that’s the way it happens in the car-collecting world, isn’t it? Particular cars gain acceptance gradually, even grudgingly, until all at once they’re respectable. Add in the fact that the generation that grew up on Japanese cars now has the time and money to go collecting, and you’ve got a movement.

When you get into Japanese sports cars of the 1990s, you’ve got some excellent choices in front of you. Every Japanese automaker had something special, whether it was the Acura NSX, Toyota Supra, Mitsubishi 3000GT, Nissan Skyline, or the third generation of the Mazda RX-7. Yet among all these powerhouse sports cars, the RX-7 was unique with its sequential twin-turbocharged rotary engine and sinuous, flowing lines.

The last, best RX-7

This generation of RX-7 was developed while Mazda was enjoying huge success with its affordable Miata, and you don’t have to squint to see the family resemblance. But where the Miata is cute and unthreatening, the RX-7 is clearly the pure expression of the same design inspiration. The RX-7 is wide-bodied — so much that Japanese buyers had to pay a special tax to drive them on the streets. Mazda’s design team had specific goals to produce a car that was “tempting, enticing, and seductive.”

Performance was the bottom line for this RX-7, and in 1993, Mazda said it would hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, run the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds, and pull 0.95g on the skidpad. By comparison, a 1993 Ferrari 348 tb took 6.0 seconds to hit 60, and was a full second slower in a quarter-mile run. Even the hot-rod 348 GTB was half a second slower to 60 and 0.1 seconds slower on the drag strip. Banzai!

The RX-7 achieves all this with a 1308-cc two-rotor engine, equipped with two turbochargers running in series to produce up to 255 horsepower and 217 foot-pounds of torque. Buyers could choose between a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission, but almost no one took the slushbox.

In the United States, most buyers chose between the base trim and a more luxurious Touring package with leather, sunroof and a nice Bose stereo. Serious boy racers could choose the R package with stiffer springs, Bilstein dampers, suede upholstery and an external aero kit with a lower front lip spoiler and rear wing. Only minor changes were made in 1994 and 1995, the last year of U.S. import.

For serious JDM Otaku, Mazda continued RX-7 production for the right-hand-drive world until 1998, and then in Japan only until 2002. The final “Spirit R” edition of 1,500 cars is considered the most collectible of all RX-7s, but there are plenty of good left-hand-drive RX-7 models to choose from in America.

What about reliability?

Rotary engines scare many people away, but their bad reputation is mostly a myth that got started by people who abused them. It’s a lot like those who left British or Italian cars outside through a Midwest winter and then complained about reliability.

A rotary engine is essentially a two-stroke, so oil usage is part of the design. If a rotary owner has used the recommended oil and been diligent with oil changes, the engine should last well past 100,000 miles between rebuilds. Since all RX-7s are older cars at this point, a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection at a rotary-engine specialist cannot be considered optional.

Finding a good deal

Most third-generation RX-7s have been trading in the $20,000–$30,000 range, with better cars peaking up to $40,000. One outlier with 4,000 original miles sold earlier this year on Bring a Trailer for $70,000. It’s safe to say you probably don’t want one that’s selling for less than $20,000.

The subject sale looks pretty good on the surface, and it sold for correct money. Earlier this year the owner had it listed online with an asking price of $37,000, but clearly that didn’t work.

Two factors may have kept this sale from reaching its full potential: The first is that the car didn’t make it into the auction catalog. Buyers may not have known the car would be available until they got to the auction. The second factor is that RM Sotheby’s stated that a CARFAX report shows prior accident damage. This is not uncommon on older sports cars, but the nature and extent of the prior damage isn’t disclosed in the online auction listing, and that probably limited value here.

Looking to the SCM Platinum Auction Database, only two of these cars have crossed the block this year, selling for $50,400 (SCM# 6899257) and $34,100 (SCM# 6895729), respectively. The market for these cars is really found on places like Bring a Trailer and similar online auctions, and maybe that’s another sign of the times. ♦

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