1980 Mazda RX-7
The first generation RX-7 was revolutionary car that has since become an icon. Although the Germans all but abandoned their Wankel rotary engine the 70s, they licensed the technology to companies around the world. Mazda was one of them, and they put it to good use, solving the chatter marks issue and gaining enough confidence to put their first commercially produced rotary engine in the 1967 Cosmo.
It wasn't until nearly a decade later, however, that their rotary engine would gain mass appreciation with its placement in the first generation RX-7, which would go on to sell almost half a million units.
There were so many factors contributing to success of the RX-7. It was the right car at the right time in the right place. The 1,145 cc 12A rotary engine produced a decent-for-the-time 100 horsepower to the rear wheels. Coupled with a stick shift, it was smooth, sporty, fast revving and relatively fuel efficient. This was when the two-door compact sports car segment was heating up, and the Japanese were more than happy to claim a stake in the ripe North American market hungry for small, economical but well-built and fun cars.
It also helped the RX-7 was wrapped in a styling home run. What's that saying? Often imitated, never duplicated? That's practically the design story of the RX-7, which basically set the aesthetic template for entry-level sports cars and influenced countless imitations for a good decade and a half after its debut. And understandably. It's so well done. The hood is long and sleek without looking ridiculous. The hidden headlights - a technological shortcoming - magically enhance the overall design, and the rear sloping greenhouse-canopied hatchback is brilliant, before it all tapers to the simple, minimal rear end, the whole thing not quite a wedge but more of a cool cigar shape, all the while remaining remarkably compact but still comfortable inside.
This example looks just fine in red and has a claimed 99k miles on the clock. The seller says it remains original and 100% stock after bringing it eastward from the Golden State. Mazda produced many of them, but a good deal have already been driven into the ground or rusted away and sold for scrap. However, well-kept survivors have been commanding steady amounts for a couple years now and show no signs of slowing down. Subsequent generations lost the charm and although the RX-8 was well intentioned there is now nothing remotely like it in Mazda's current lineup.
Available here on craigslist for $3,500.