Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!  

The Wankel engine has always proved that Mazda marches to a different beat. As it's getting toward convertible weather, Nice Price or Crack Pipe has a flambe-painted '89 drop-top at a price you might find hard to beat.

Yesterday's big oil-burning benz pulled out a shocker- a 55% Nice Price win. And that despite the twin challenges of a salvage title and a paint scheme most likely favored by those with a cee-ment swimin' hole in their backyards. That's two Nice Price victories in a row this week, so today we'll try for a hat trick with a car in which you can actually wear your hat.


In the mid-‘70s, Mazda's fuel-thirsty rotary engined fleet was driving the company to the poorhouse, one gas station at a time. Their first salvo in regaining relevance was the piston-powered, 40+ mpg GLC, an unassuming econobox that, due to its simple design was able to offer aggressive pricing. But their broadside was the game-changing, and wholly unexpected 1978 introduction of the RX3 replacing RX7. At less than 2,500-lbs, the lithe rotary-powered RX7 made the contemporary 280Z seem raphaelesque in comparison, and its 12B twin-rotor engine's 100-bhp nearly matched the similarly sized Porsche 924. The German however, listed at nearly 50% more than the Mazda! The RX7 reestablished the wankel as a viable engine in the minds of U.S. consumers, established Mazda as purveyors of sports cars, and paved the way for the Miata.


But by the time the second generation rolled out of Hiroshima, the car had experienced its sophomore spread, gaining about 300-lbs, and growing in all dimensions. Looking very much like the recently introduced 944, including horizontal flares on the fenders and a large glass hatch, it wasn't objectionable in appearance, but was far from original. Along with the added weight came a more powerful motor. The 13B, which had been introduced in the series III first-gen cars, received a boost in the second generation to 146, and finally to 160-bhp in naturally aspirated form. A turbo version of the engine bumped that to over 200. Other improvements over the earlier cars include a better handling IRS set up replacing the live axle, recirculating ball steering being superceded by rack and pinion, and four-wheel disks sending the rear drums to the scrap heap. One other noteworthy change - made about half-way through the second gen's production run - was the introduction of the only convertible RX7 ever offered by the factory.

This 1989 RX7 convertible rocks the 160-bhp 13B with DEI variable intake, the turbo never being offered in U.S. soft top cars. Backing that up is Mazda's 5-speed gearbox for all you lacking a slush fund. The top on these cars gives you plenty of options with either completely open, completely closed, or a surrey with no fringe on top half-way position that leaves the glass window back in place, but ditches the hard top portion directly above the two seats.


The second gen 7s were known to be overall more competent than their older siblings, although a good deal softer-edged. As this car is now of legal drinking age, there's probably been some even greater flabification with which to contend. Other considerations are the crappy seat covers (covering what, you wonder?), and the kind of nondescript aftermarket rims - what are those, Ronals? Enkeis? - usually consigned to the bargain section at Tire Rack.


Playing in its favor are the recent drivetrain work and the killer flame job on the hood. If you're an introvert, this burgundy over black color scheme may make you sweat a little bit, but if you're itching to jump into the flame wars, this would make a good weapon of choice. The 160K on the clock looks to have been very kind to the car as there's nothing more than some scuffing on the front bumper that's obvious from the pictures. Also, the fabric section of the top looks like it hasn't spent too much time in either up or down over the past 21 years, and appears in good shape. By the time the 13B rolled around, Mazda had designed enough durability into the engine that it was no worse than many competing piston engines, but, of course, this one remains a mystery.

What doesn't remain a mystery is the asking price, which is $2,600. The resale value of the older RX7s has never been particularly strong, and this price reflects that. Despite the potential for a continuing diminution, that's already not much cheddar for a working car, much less one with a pedigree that also lets you put the top down and comes with such a most-excellent paint job.

But what do you think of it? Is $2,600 for a flame-painted RX7 convertible a price that gets you all fired up? Or, does that price leave you cold?


You decide!

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