Mazda has long built sporty, athletic cars, even when no one noticed. The Cosmo put them on the map, using the high-revving, efficient, small, and lightweight Rotary engine invented by Felix Wankle. Other Rotary-powered cars expanded the lineup like the R100, RX2, RX3, RX4, RX5, and of course, the hugely popular RX7. The RX7 made Mazda a household name in most instances – designed and engineered as a proper two-seat sports car to compete most closely with the Datsun Z, its wedge-shaped profile featured pop-up headlights, chiseled styling, and a small overall size. Using the Rotary allowed for fantastic weight distribution and the RX7 handled like few cars could. It was immensely popular and, like the Z, earned Japanese built performance cars a lot of respect. The final iteration of the RX7 was a mind-blowing borderline exotic with a fluidly styled body that sustained all of the characteristics RX7 had become known for. Offered with or without twin turbos, the Rotary engine had been dialed into a masterpiece of engineering which, with the turbos, could rocket the car from 0-60 mph in an astonishing 4.8 seconds.
The 2002 model year would mark the last for the RX7, the RX8 taking the baton in 2003. Offering seating for four (kind of), unique rear-hinged half back doors allowing easier access to the back seat, a higher roofline, and a slightly softer sprung suspension, the RX8 seemed to be designed for RX7 graduates – people who’d done the whole two-seater sports car thing and were now looking for something a little more comfortable but still offering an exceptional and fun driving experience. Several iterations of the RX8 were produced, and people had fun making them handle better and go faster, and this one largely looks the part with its custom paint and bolt-on aftermarket accessories. Originally built for a competition, this car’s first owner was supposedly Chip Foose.
The grand prize in the 2010 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, the owner bought the car from the winner who mostly took it to car shows. Having covered only 9,200 miles at the time the seller bought the car two years ago, it now shows 10,344 miles on the odometer. While some modified cars from this era can be seriously tweaked, this one remains fairly stock, with only performance brakes, a titanium exhaust, cold air intake, custom wheels, and the custom paintjob, sections of which are protected by 3M film. The owner says the ECU remains in factory specification, and the car has received exceptional care and maintenance it’s whole life. Driven about 20 miles per week to ensure that all systems are go, this RX8 has a unique history and is interestingly appointed to give it quite a nice edge. Definitely an attention getter, it’s surely a unique piece of automotive history.
While the price is a little steep, the history, extremely low miles, exceptional condition, and general fun factor make us wonder if it’s worth the premium. Finding another in such good shape will likely prove to be a high challenge, but will it ever be worth anything more? Hard to say, except to look at the Model A. Original Model A’s that were hot rodded in the 1950s and 1960s while still retaining their aftermarket parts are hugely sought after today and command a very healthy premium over other hot rods. We think that someday in the not too distant future, these Japanese hot rods from the late ‘90s through the early New Millennium will be like those A’s. What do you think?