Ultimate Mazda RX-7 FD Buyers Guide

The Mazda RX-7 FD was the third and final generation of the RX-7 line. It is one of the most loved Japanese cars of all time and has appeared in all kinds of different movies, video games and much more.

Like many other Japanese sports cars, the RX-7 FD is becoming a real classic. Good examples are getting harder and harder to find, and the price of them is increasing. There are so many money pits out there, so if you are looking for a RX-7 FD you need to know what to look out for.

That’s why we have made a buying and importing guide for the Mazda RX-7 FD. However, before we get onto the buyer’s guide, we are going to look at the history and specifications of the RX-7 FD. If you already know about the history of the RX-7 feel free to skip ahead to the buyer’s guide.

The History & Specifications of the Mazda RX-7 FD

Mazda RX-7 FD Concept

As an alternative to larger engined cars, the rotary-powered Mazda RX-7 made its debut in 1978. It featured a real-wheel drive layout with the power plant mounted slightly behind the front axle, which Mazda labelled as “front mid-engine”.

The RX-7 replaced Mazda’s previous rotary powered car, the RX3. Both of these cars were sold in Japan as Savanna. In 1985, Mazda launched the second generation RX-7, the FC. The FC differed to the first gen SA22C/FB as it was softer and less of a pure sportscar.

Following the RX-7 FC’s production end, the Japanese manufacturer launched the third and final RX-7. The RX-7 FD was launched in 1992 and returned to the lightweight design philosophy of the first generation.

Mazda’s new RX-7 was the work of designer Yoichi Sato and is one of the most striking and impressive designs to ever come out of Japan. It looked space-age in 1992, with its low-slung, shrink-wrapped body. The smooth lines of the FD were a complete contrast to the boxy shape of the previous RX-7.

With a curb weight under 1,300kg, a low centre of gravity and increased power, the FD was a car Mazda could be proud of. It was a true return to the sportscar feel of the original and was highly praised by motoring journalists from all over the world.

The car featured the impressive 1.3-litre 13B-REW power unit. This engine was the first mass-produced sequential twin-turbocharged system to be exported from Japan. Initially, the car produced 252hp when it launched in 1993, which was increased to 276hp by the time production ended in Japan in 2002.

The first turbo (10 psi) kicked in at around 1,800rpm, while the second (10 psi) kicked into life at 4,000rpm. Mazda offered a tight and precise feeling 5-speed manual transmission for those who wanted to feel involved with the car. A 4-speed automatic version was also available at launch as well.

Mazda continued to use the rotary engine for a few different reasons. The engine had an unusually high output for such a compact engine and it could hit an impressive 8,000rpm. In addition to this, the rotary had no need for a big heavy flywheel since the engine’s cylinders rotated around the crankshaft and there were no reciprocating components that would cause engine vibration.

Series 6 (1992 – 1995)

Exported throughout the world, this series of RX-7 had the highest sales of the FD model. It was also sold under Mazda’s luxury brand, ɛ̃fini as the ɛ̃fini RX-7. ɛ̃fini operated between 1991 and 1997. In North America, Mazda only sold the series 6 from 1993 to 1995.

RX-7 SP (1995)

The Australian market received a special version of the RX-7, the RX-7 SP. The SP was launched in 1995 and was created to meet homologation requirements for the Australian GT Production Car Series and the Eastern Creek 12 Hour production car event.

Only 25 were built initially, but Mazda produced another 10 models due to high demand. The SP made an impressive 274hp and 357Nm of torque, which was significantly higher than the standard RX-7 at the time.

Along with the power increase, Mazda made a number of other changes. A custom made 120-litre carbon fibre fuel tank was fitted, which was much larger than the 76-litre tank in the standard car. There was also a new race-developed carbon fibre nose cone and spoiler, 17-inch wheels, a 4.3:1-ratio rear differential, larger brake callipers and rotors, a new exhaust and a modified ECU. New Recaro seats were also fitted and the total weight of the car came in at 1,218kg.

The modifications to the RX-7 SP meant it was a serious road-going racer. It could easily match or beat the Porsche 911 RS CS and won a number of racing events; including the 1995 Eastern Creek 12 Hour race and gained podiums at the International tarmac rally Targa Tasmania.

To commemorate the RX-7 SP, Mazda developed the Bathurst R RX-7. This was exclusive to Japan and was launched in 2001.

Series 7 (1996 – 1998)

For the 1996 RX-7, Mazda made some slight changes. A new 16-bit ECU and improved intake system were fitted, along with a simplified vacuum routing manifold. These changes increased power by about 10 horsepower, however, this was only noticeable on the manual version as it only came into effect above 7,000rpm. Mazda also fitted larger brake rotors to the Type RX model and 17 inch BBS rims.

Series 8 (1998 – 2002)

The final series of the RX-7 was only available in Japan and it featured a number of changes over the previous model. New, more efficient turbochargers were fitted and a new front fascia improved the intercooler and radiator performance.

Moving to the inside of the car, the instrument cluster, steering wheel and seats were changed for the final RX-7. There was also a new adjustable spoiler on the back and the ABS system was updated to improve cornering while braking.

The series 8 RX-7 was available in three power levels; with the automatic version getting 251hp, the Type RB with 261hp and the top end models getting 276hp. Mazda fitted the Type RS with Bilstein suspension and 17-inch wheels. It also featured a reduced weight of 1,280kg. The Japanese manufacturer also launched the Type RZ, which was essentially a Type RS that was 10kg lighter in weight. It also featured a gun-metal grey BBS wheels and a custom red racing themed interior.

Power was increased for the series 8 model by installing more efficient turbos with abradable compressor seals and a less restrictive muffler. The changes meant that the car could now produce 276hp and 333.8Nm of torque which was the maximum allowed in Japan at the time. Mazda increased the length of fifth gear to increase fuel efficiency and reduce cruising rpm.

The most collectable RX-7 produced was the named the “Spirit R”. These were the last 1,500 run out specials and they combined all the features of the previous limited-edition RX-7s. They also featured cross drilled brakes. According to Mazda “The Type-A Spirit R model is the ultimate RX-7, boasting the most outstanding driving performance in its history.”

Click here for the complete history of the Mazda RX-7 range.

Mazda RX-7 FD Specifications

Body: two-door coupe “Space-Monocoque” steel, welded body with aluminium hood
Engine: 1.3-litre Wankel Rotary mounted longitudinal with twin sequential turbochargers
Power & Torque: 252 – 276bhp @ 6500rpm, 294 – 333.8Nm @ 5000rpm
Performance: 0-100km/h 4.9 – 5.4 seconds
Transmission: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Suspension Front: Independent, double-wishbones by unequal length upper and lower arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
Suspension Rear: Independent, double-wishbones by upper A-arms, lower transverse I-arms, transverse toe-control links, trailing links, coil springs, telescopic dampers. anti-roll bar
Brakes: front –  Ventilated discs with 4-piston, floating calipers – rear Ventilated discs with single-piston
Tyres: 225/50VR16 (Base)  225/50ZR16 (R1)  225/50VR16 (Touring)

For more information on the Mazda RX-7 FD’s specifications, check out this website.

Buying a Mazda RX-7 FD

Now that we have gone through the history and specifications of the FD RX-7, it is time look at buying one. Buying an RX-7 FD can be tricky business and there are more than a few money pits out there. While the rotary engine has got a bit of a reputation for being unreliable, you should still be able to find examples that won’t make you want to pull your hair out.

Many RX-7s have been modified, so before you go buying one you need to decide if you want an original example or one that has been altered.

Below we have listed some of the things you should watch out for when buying a RX-7 FD:

Rotary Engine

We’ve started with perhaps the most important part, the rotary engine. The rotary is both a blessing and a course, and there are a number of things you need to check out.

There have been so many books, videos and articles on maintaining, modifying and living with the much loved 13B-REW in the FD. While this is great, there are also a whole bunch of people who rip the RX-7 out for its reliability.

Despite the fact that the rotary is regularly mocked for its reliability, the engine is actually incredibly reliable when it has been properly maintained. It is important that the right type of oil is used and that it has been regularly changed. A well maintained rotary should be good for well over 200,000km, however, a poorly maintained one might need a rebuild at half of that.

Oil changes should be around every 3,000 miles or less, with some owners opting for 1,500 miles. The most popular weight of oil for the engine is 20w-50 in warm climates and 10w-30 in colder climates. Thinner oils used in newer cars are not recommended for the RX-7, because the fuel causes them to become even thinner.

Watch out for RX-7 FDs that have been run on synthetic oil. Synthetics don’t burn, and by design rotaries need to burn oil. Synthetic oils will produce deposits and will damage the apex seals as well as the soft seals inside the motor. It is common for FD owners to use mineral oil because of this. Mineral oil with a high zinc content is better for the rotary engine’s longevity.

When looking at a FD to purchase, always do a compression test. A rotary engine’s lifespan and wear can be judged by its compression. You will either need rotary-specific equipment to do this, or take it to a specialist.

The factory manual specifies 100psi (690 kPa) for each chamber, with a maximum variance of 21 psi (150 kPa) between the four. If you find anything lower than 85 psi, an engine rebuild could be on the cards. Poor compression may be linked to a broken apex seal or a leaking side seal.

Check the Turbochargers

If the car you are looking at feels down on power, it may be a sign that the turbochargers are not performing as standard. Check for any blue/grey smoke coming from the exhaust. Take the car through the rev range as the smoke will usually become more apparent as you rev the engine. Signs of any turbo smoke could be anything from a cracked turbo housing to blown seals.

All FD RX-7s came fitted with twin-turbochargers from factory, so if you see one with a single turbo it will be aftermarket. The turbos run at 10psi in sequential mode and you should be able to feel them from 2,000 rpm, all the way to the redline.

A common test that is done on test drives for the FD includes hooking up a boost gauge to the intake manifold and getting the passenger to check that the turbos are working correctly. You should see no more than 10psi until around 4,500rpm, where it will briefly drop to 8psi as the second turbo kicks in.

Apex & Other Seals

If the car you are looking at is running particularly rough and shaky with little power and poor idle, it could be a sign that the apex seals are broken. The most common cause of broken or failed Apex seals is because of detonation (from running too lean during boost). During detonation a shock wave shatters the apex seals.

Stock engines in the FD have a history of coolant seal failure between 50 and 75,000 miles. This is usually due to lack of maintenance and failure to carefully treat the car. If the car is showing signs of overheating, stop driving it immediately.

Cooling System

When the engine is cold, open the thermostat housing and check the coolant. It should be clean with no signs of any oil. Additionally, there should be no oil in the coolant overflow battle, however, you may see some brown material. Take a look at the engine oil dipstick and look for any signs of water.

Transmission

The transmission on an RX-7 should be pretty bullet proof. Shift the car through the gears and make sure it works smoothly. You should really try and drive the car both in the city (stop-start traffic) and on the highway. Pay particular attention to 5th gear.

If the car has a 6-speed gearbox it will be an aftermarket modification. While these are rare, some owners have done it. An RX-7 with a 6-speed transmission will produce more noise, have harsher shifter, and will require more frequent servicing.

Bodywork and Exterior

Avoid RX-7s like this!

As with any motorcar, the condition of the bodywork and exterior will largely depend on how it has been looked after. Always check that the body is straight and see if it has been resprayed. The best way to do this is under twilight conditions or under fluorescent light. Signs of a respray could indicate past repairs or even a crash.

Check the front of the car for excessive paint chipping and take a look at the rear bumper cover to make sure the paint looks all good.

While rust is not a massive issue with the RX-7, you should always check for it. Check around the windows, wheel arches and tight spots where water can sit. Any signs of the dreaded ‘rust bubble’ should ring alarm bells in your head. Rust can be fixed but it can quickly become very expensive. It is better to just find a clean example from the get go.

If the car is sporting an aftermarket bodykit, make sure that it is fitted correctly. If you want to revert back to the original bodykit or the original is damaged, you need to weigh up the cost of purchasing one. Talking to a specialist in your local area is probably your best bet, although you can still find original parts online.

Electronics and Interior

While the RX-7 isn’t loaded with electronics like modern cars, there are enough to cause problems. The RX-7 FD is getting a bit long in the tooth now, especially the ones built in the early nineties, so it is important to make sure everything works.

Check all the switches, dials and buttons while you are on a test drive. This can save you big expenses down the road. Also check any warning lights on the dash and make sure things like the ABS are working.

When it comes to the interior, check for signs of wear on the seats and trim. Take a look at the steering wheel and gear shifter as these can be good indicators of how far the car has travelled (if it has been wound back).

Rattles and other similar noises could be a sign of wear or neglect, so make sure you listen for them when you are out on a test drive.

Examine the interior plastic panels for peeling or cracking. While this isn’t a reason not to buy a car, it can be used to get a better bargain.

Other Helpful Tips

If you can, always view a car when it is dry. Wet cars and rain can hide a multitude of sins. If you have to look at a car in the rain or just after it has been washed, go back for a second view. Viewing a car in person is always better than not. Try to always go a view a car, however, it is simple not possible in some situations, especially if you are importing one.

As the Mazda RX-7 is getting on in age it may be hard to find a low mileage car in great condition. A car with low K’s in good condition will be more expensive, so if you have limited money to work with you may want to check out some cars that have more miles on the clock. RX-7s that have been maintained well can go quite far before they need an engine rebuild.

Additionally, always check that the car has no money owing on it. Many people like to buy cars like the RX-7 on finance, and in some rare cases they will try and pass the debt onto you.

Service History

The last piece of the puzzle is to check the service history. See if the owner can provide any receipts, documents and other information that shows the car has been well looked after. You want to know that the oil has been changed every 3,000 miles or so.

Ask the owner if the car has been in an accident and check the service history as well. Damage to the frame of the car is permanent. Try go over the car with a magnet to check for any repairs.

Ask if the car has ever overheated or if it gets excessively hot. If the temperature gauge shoots up to the hot position, then the engine may have been damaged. Look for any white smoke and take a look at the coolant system.

Test Drive

 

When you start the engine, you may see a small puff of smoke from the exhaust. Don’t worry, as this is probably condensation. If this lasts more than a few seconds it is an ominous sign. The car should go up to 1,500 or 3,000rpm, depending on if you started the car in neutral or in gear. As the car heats up, the idle revs should lower to its normal range.

Do not thrash the car when you first start driving it as this can damage the engine and make the owner very unhappy. Let it warm up, with the temperature gauge reaching a horizontal position on the dial (it should not go above this point).

Once the car has warmed up, it is time to check the boost. As you accelerate at wide open throttle in third gear, get the passenger to read the boost levels. At 3,000rpm and lower you should see about 10 psi, while at 4,500rpm you should see around 8 psi. The car should quickly recover to 10 psi and stay there until the redline where it will probably drop a couple of psi. Remember that at redline in third gear you will probably be going significantly faster than the speed limit in your area, so stop earlier.

As you take the car through the rev range, keep an eye out for any smoke coming out of the back. Blue smoke means that oil is being burned, which is a bad sign. White smoke probably means that the engine is getting antifreeze/water into the combustion chamber. Black or brown smoke typically means that the car is not burning all the fuel that is going into it. Large amounts of smoke are signs to move onto another car.

After checking all that, pull the car over and let it idle. Idle should be around 800rpm, however, it may drop a little if you have been giving it a boot-full. Turn off everything like the air condition, fans and headlights, and check the vacuum/boost gauge. It should read at least 16 inches of vacuum (inHG), with a good example reading up to 19. Less than 16 means that the car has issues.

The last thing to do is to turn on all the accessories (air conditioning, lights, etc.) and then put the brakes on. You may notice that the idle drops, this is perfectly fine. If the car struggles to run or dies, then you have problems.

Once you have finished all this, check for things like oil or coolant leaks.

If you are looking for some more information on owning and maintaining an RX-7, the RX7club has some really useful links here.

What About Modifications?

Just a few bolt on modifications can make an RX-7 extremely powerful and many owners have done this. When looking at buying a modified RX-7 or doing the modifications yourself, always factor in any intake or exhaust alterations. The RX-7 needs proper fuel enrichment to run properly, and running it too lean can cause detonation.

If the fuel/air mixture is not adjusted correctly, along with the right intake or exhaust modifications, engine problems will undoubtedly occur.

Always check to see that modifications have been done correctly when looking to buy an RX-7, as all sorts of problems can occur if they are not. See if the owner has any receipts for the work done and check that it is legal.

Where to buy a Mazda RX-7 FD

The Mazda RX-7 FD is quickly becoming a collector’s item and good condition; unmodified examples are somewhat of a rarity. When looking for an RX-7 to buy, there are a few different options and we have covered them below.

Find a Mazda RX-7 Domestically or in Your Local Area

 

The first option and most obvious option is to take a look at the market around you. This will let you look at the car and test drive it before making a purchase. The main problem with this is you may find it difficult to locate examples or they may be incredibly expensive.

Depending on where you live and the market in your area, prices of FDs can vary quite a bit. In our local area in New Zealand, we found a number of different RX-7s at varying prices from around $15,000NZD and up. Interestingly, we found that almost all the RX-7s we looked at were modified in some way, with only one or two in original condition.

If you are looking for an original condition car or you are in no rush, it is probably best to wait six months to a year to see what comes up. This will give you an idea of what the market in your area is like and how much you should be paying. If you see an excellent example, you should probably jump on that as RX-7s are incredibly popular.

The major benefit of buying a car in your local area is that you can view it and go for a test drive. You do not have to worry about importing one and the added costs associated with that as well.

Below we have given you a few examples of where to look for a Supra in your local area:

  • Car dealer – Dealers are often a good place to start, but you will probably find limited examples or cars that are excessively expensive.
  • Internet – Websites such as eBay or TradeMe (NZ website similar to eBay) are great places to see what RX-7s are out there. You will often find dealers advertise their cars online, as well as most private sellers. These sort of websites are also a great place to work out how much you should pay for an RX-7. Other websites such as owner’s clubs or even Reddit are excellent places to look for an RX-7 as well. If there aren’t any for sale, someone in an owner’s club may be able to point you in the right direction.
  • Owners club or car meet – While most owner’s clubs have a presence online these days, there are still plenty that aren’t. You may have to physically meet some people from the club to ask about any RX-7s for sale. Another great option is to head to car meets in your area, and see if anyone knows about any RX-7s for sale.
  • Facebook groups – There are so many Facebook groups these days and there are loads of ones relating to the RX-7. Join one of these groups and see what is available on them.
  • Contacts – Asking people you know is always a great option. They may know someone who has an RX-7 for sale or they may be able to give you some more advice on buying one.

Import a Mazda RX-7 FD

While we always recommend looking for a car in your local area first, importing one is sometimes the best option. The RX-7 was exported worldwide, however, the best place to look is obviously in Japan.

Japanese law makes owning older cars more expensive and many were sold in the country, so you can find plenty for sale. Japan also has a very large car enthusiast market, which means you should be able to find anything from a modified RX-7 to a stock standard one. Read on below to find out more about how to import a Mazda RX-7.

Check the Internet

Hoping on your computer or phone and going online is a great place to start when looking to import a car from Japan. There is a ton of websites that sell and export Japanese cars, so that is where you should start first. You will be able to search based on the price, year and other features of the car.

Websites may be an excellent place to purchase an RX-7 FD, however, you should always ere on the side of caution. Make sure you check out the seller, the website and the company behind it before buying.

We’ve listed some examples of Japanese car export websites below.

What You Need to Know About Importing a Mazda RX-7 From Japan

 

Importing a Mazda RX-7 FD is definitely a bit more of a risk and challenge then purchasing one locally. Dealers will often get the best pick of cars as they are always in contact with their agents in Japan, however, it is still possible to find a good one.

Pretty much every company gets their vehicles in the same way. The main difference will be in how the cars have been treated and serviced, along with the amount of information that is given about the car (service history, etc.). Be cautious of websites or companies that don’t want to give you or translate the auction check sheet, as this could mean they are trying to hide something from you.

Car auction companies and houses tend to grade their cars based on the condition and history of them. The reason they do this is to give you a general idea of the condition of the car and how it has been looked after. Depending on the company grading the car, they may have different quality levels. This means that a grade 3.5 car may be a grade 3 or 4 in quality for other companies.

The grading system should be used to whittle down the number of RX-7s you are looking at, then use the auction check sheet to find the best one.

Many companies will actually use a two grade system for their cars; one for the mechanical and overall condition of the car (typically a number), and one for the interior (this will be a letter). Remember that different websites and auctions can use their own grading systems that are slightly different, however, they should all be roughly similar.

Information on the Japanese Car Grading System

Below is a quick rundown of how the Japanese grading system works and what you may find when looking to import an RX-7.

  • Grade 7 to 9 or S – New vehicle with only delivery mileage on the clock
  • Grade 6 – Essential the same as above, but with more miles
  • Grade 5 – Exceptional condition and low mileage
  • Grade 4.5 – Great condition with miles up to around 100,000
  • Grade 4 – Car in good condition but may have high or low miles.
  • Grade 3.5 – Pretty much the same as grade 4, however, the car may need some work and they will tend to have higher mileage.
  • Grade 3 – Will usually have either serious panel or paint problems. It may have also had panels repaired at some point. Can also be grade 3.5 condition, but with significantly higher mileage.
  • Grade 2 – Bottom of the barrel condition wise, buy at your own risk! They are not necessarily write offs, but are in very poor condition. You might find significant rust or mechanical problems with the car. Many older or classic cars are classed as grade 2.
  • Grade 1 – Will be modified in some way (could be something simple or much more complicated, like an aftermarket transmission.
  • Grade 0, A, R, RA – Repair history. This might range from a minor repair to a major one.
What About Interior and Exterior Grading of Japanese Cars

You will often find that the interior and exterior of a car you are looking at will be graded by a letter. A will be in exceptional to good condition, B is average and C is below average. The car map will also give you other information on the quality and grading of the car.

Check Your Country’s Importation Laws

Before you start looking at an RX-7 to import, you should find out your country’s importation laws. Different countries will have different riles, and in some places you may not even be able to import an RX-7. An example of this is many countries have laws that restrict the importation of cars that are under a certain age.

Go On Holiday to Japan

If you are not confident buying an RX-7 sight unseen or you just want a bit of adventure, take a trip to Japan. This is going to add cost to your overall budget, but I can guarantee you will have an excellent time. Japan is an amazing place and it will be nicer to view a car before you buy it.

Get Someone Else to Do It for You

Importing a car can be a daunting process, so why don’t you get someone to do it for you. There is bound to be a dealer in your local area who could do it, or you could even opt for a private importer based in either Japan or in your country. This will add extra cost, however, it can be a safer option.

Importing a RX-7 From Countries Other Than Japan

Japan is definitely your best bet for finding a quality RX-7 to import, but don’t rule out other countries. The Mazda RX-7 FD was exported globally, so you may be able to find one closer to home. There is less information about importing cars from other countries, which does make it a little bit more difficult.

Summing Up This Mazda RX-7 FD Buyers Guide

The Mazda RX-7 FD is undoubtedly one of the most iconic sports cars of all time and it is definitely one of the greatest to come out of Japan. It is becoming more and more difficult to find quality examples as they have either been thrashed to death, maintained poorly, or modified extensively. Remember to take your time when looking for a RX-7 and always thoroughly check the condition or quality of the car.

This guide is designed to give you a general idea of what to look for in a Mazda RX-7 and the history of the car. There is plenty more information, websites and videos to take a look at. The Mazda RX-7 is fast becoming a collector’s item and we have no doubt you will love owing one.

Now Read: The Complete History of the Mazda RX-7

 

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