Mazda RX-7 Series 4/5 - Future Classic

By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Mazda, Unique Cars archives

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Mazda was looking at new frontiers with the Porsche 944 in its sights

In the late 1970s when Mazda whipped the covers off their latest rotary weapon, the RX-7, it was clear the design recipe was following in the footsteps of the original Datsun 240 zed car.

A smallish two-door coupe with a long bonnet, short tail, rear hatch, front engine and rear drive with driver and front passenger placed with a rearward bias.

When the time came to replace the much-loved Series III RX-7 in 1986, Mazda was looking at new frontiers with the Porsche 944 in its sights.


To start with the Series 4 RX-7 was a completely new design, with a ‘Euro-style’ body, as Mazda called it.

Gone was the almost delicate silhouette of the first three RX-7 series and in its place a substantially bulkier looking car and while the dimensions weren’t dissimilar to the previous generation car, it tipped the scales at 1270kg a whopping 175kg more.

| Buyer's Guide: Mazda RX-7 Series 4/5

Progress and market competition demanded discs were fitted at both ends, the wheels grew an inch larger from 14 to 15 inches and the live axle setup was ditched for an independent rear end.


The rotary engine Allan Moffat had been crying out for in his early Mazda racing days, the 13B, was fitted and resulted in a power boost of fourteen per cent to 110kW. Despite it now being fuel injected it still drank like a sailor on shore leave guzzling a staggering 16lt/100km and worse around town. Zero to 100 km/h took 9.6 seconds when tested by Wheels magazine.

| 2020 Market Review: Mazda RX-7 Series 1-5

To resolve its power to weight deficit a turbocharged version arrived mid-1986 producing 146kW, along with a big lump of extra torque thrown in.


Zero to 100km/h still required a long, long stretch of road and though the time was a tad under eight seconds, it was unlikely to cause nose bleed.

Gearbox choices ran to a five-speed manual or a power-sapping four-speed auto.

While performance was more conservative than a liberal politician, in keeping with its hopes of a successful European invasion and a queue of potential 944 buyers, standard kit ran to power windows, air-conditioning, central locking, a radio-cassette player, metallic paint and a powered sunroof.


Most attractive to buyers comparing the RX-7 to the Porsche 944 in 1986 were the prices with the Mazda costing around $37,900 while its German rival was double that… and a bit more.

In 1989 when the Series 5 RX-7 washed up on our shores the upmarket features were kept along with the slow-selling and basically unloved non-turbo. Prices started at $53,650 for the turbo with a five-speed manual gearbox and while the body didn’t change it was modernised with the fitting of body-colour side-strips, a new rear spoiler and front air dam.


Also arriving here were around 50 non-turbo convertibles that weighed an extra 170 kilograms blunting already marginal performance even further. The privilege for owning one back then meant forking over almost 60 grand.

According to the most recent buyers guide on the Series 4 and 5 RX-7 by our resident industry guru Cliff Chambers, prices for turbo-engined examples have climbed steeply during recent years.


Good quality Series 4 RX-7s have hit $20,000 but newer Series 5s remain inexplicably cheaper. We’re also seeing a trickle of soft-top imports from Japan., priced at similar money to a coupe. Buying a quality car with lots of history and scrupulous service records will prove worthy in the long term.


1986 Mazda RX-7 Series 4/5

Body All-steel, integrated body/chassis two-door coupe & convertible
Engine Twin-rotor, 1308cc with fuel injection
Power & torque 146kW @ 6500rpm, 265Nm @ 3500rpm (S5 Turbo)
Performance 0-100km/h: 7.7sec, 0-400m 15.4sec (S5 Turbo)
Transmission 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension Independent with coil springs and struts, upper & lower control arms, (f); independent with semi-trailing control arms, coil springs, struts, anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes Discs front and rear


From Unique Cars #448, Februrary 2021

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