Welcome to Sunday Matinee, where we highlight classic car reviews or other longer videos I find on YouTube. Kick back and enjoy this blast from the past.

The Mazda RX-7 had an interesting evolution. It started life as an affordable sports car that excelled on the street and on the track. In the 1980s it graduated to doing battle with the Porsche 924 and 944. Then in the 90s it became one of the baddest, most balls-out performance cars of all time.

But with this advancement came a hefty price tag that was hard for Mazda to justify as the Japanese economy started to contract and customers found SUVs more appealing.

So in 1995, right as the RX-7 was about to be phased out in the U.S., Mazda deployed a stylish back-to-basics rotary sports car concept they called the RX-01. Top Gear presenter Andy Wilman (who is now the executive producer for the version with Clarkson et al.) takes it for a spin in this episode. He was impressed with its power and sound, and he seemed pretty confident it would see production.

The RX-01 is a pretty interesting little experiment. Powertrain-wise, it has a lot in common with the RX-8, as it ditched the 7's twin-turbos for a naturally aspirated rotary setup. It's also a 2+2 like the RX-8 but manages to be smaller and lighter than the RX-7.


In terms of design it looks like the RX-7 but advanced into the late 90s. I think it looks a bit like the MX-6 or the Millenia from the front. Those doors were definitely inspired by the last RX-7, though.

Alas, financial woes at Mazda and a lack of consumer interest in sports cars doomed the RX-01 to the annals of history. That's a bit of a shame, as it looked really great. It's a fascinating example of what might have been.

Would you have taken the RX-01 over an RX-8?