Is the Mazda RX-7 banned in the United States?

February 25th, 2021 by

The Mazda RX-7 is and will forever be one of the most sought-after two-door sports cars ever manufactured. Its timeless styling, exhilarating performance prowess, and unique powertrain were ahead of its time. The RX-7 earned a place in car enthusiasts’ hearts worldwide, but is it banned in the United States? Let’s take an in-depth look at the Mazda RX-7’s origins and models and determine if you can have one in your driveway.

Origins of the Mazda RX-7

Mazda first introduced the RX-7 coupe in 1978, and the rest is history. The RX-7’s radical exterior design is timeless, and it’s still inspiring sport car concepts of today. Mazda used the Wankel rotary engine to power the RX-7, determining this powertrain to be the most efficient way to achieve the power and handling desired in a sports coupe.

Though the rotary engine gained lots of popularity with RX-7 enthusiasts, the RX-7 isn’t the first car equipped with this engine. Launched over a decade earlier, the Cosmo Sport was the first Mazda vehicle to have the Wankel rotary engine but did not have the cult following the RX-7 was destined to have. There are three generations of RX-7s, the first-generation RX-7 FB, second-generation RX-7 FC, and third-generation RX-7 FD. From its inception to the modern-day, the RX-7 is still true to its exterior form, performance, and unique powertrain.

First-Generation RX-7 FB

1984 Mazda RX7 FB Series III Coupe

Image via Flickr by Sicnag | Licensed by CC BY 2.0

The FB was manufactured from 1978 to 1985, featuring a curved glass rear hatch, a long hood, and an overall exterior design, which drastically decreased the drag coefficient. It had a 1.1-liter rotary engine with 100 horsepower. The RX-7’s trademark handling is partly due to its engine’s placement, which is mounted just behind the front axle, giving it an almost perfect 50/50 front/rear weight balance and the lowest possible center of gravity. This combination allowed the car to provide the driver with responsive handling that has rarely been duplicated.

Other aspects of the first RX-7 adding to its performance capabilities were a manual transmission, rear-wheel-drive, and compact size with a curb weight of only 2,500 pounds. The original powertrain of the RX-7 provided the driver with an immediate, smooth response and a composed ride quality. Even though this first generation of RX-7 is now a classic car, it would be just as fun to drive today as it must have been so many years ago.

Second-Generation RX-7 FC

Second Generation Mazda RX 7

Image via Flickr by zanthrax-dot-nl | Licensed by CC BY 2.0

Introduced in 1989 and manufactured through 1992, the FC took the successful design of the FB and improved upon it. Though it took on a more boxy design, prominent in most vehicles from the 1980s, it kept its long hood and curved glass rear hatch. The FC’s stance and overall look were readily recognizable regardless of the exterior design changes; it was still an RX-7.

An increase in power was achieved with a 1.3-liter rotary engine with the option for an available turbocharger. The turbocharged 1.3-liter rotary engine produced 185 horsepower, nearly doubling the output from its predecessor. The response and handling of the FC were also improved with the addition of four-wheel disc brakes, a rear independent suspension, and a rack-and-pinion steering system to tie it all together. The FC also featured a quieter cabin and leather upholstered seats, making the car more practical for longer trips or everyday driving.

Third-Generation RX-7 FD

Third Generation Mazda RX-7 FD

Image via Flickr by sentxd | Licensed by CC BY 2.0

Produced from 1992 to 2002 (only from 1993 to 1995 in the United States), the third generation FD is the most popular of the three and with good reason. The FD design was way ahead of its time, and it’s still just as impressive today regardless of any modern sports car you would want to compare it with. The FD broke free from challenging Mazda’s competition and carved out its own niche in the automotive industry. 

Mazda incorporated what they had learned from the previous RX-7 and dialed it up to ten, creating quite possibly the most fun sports car of all time. The exterior design is comprised of sweeping curves and seamless lines that could only be described as fluid. The FD cabin holds to the original’s design in many ways, with a simplistic yet functional overall design allowing the driver to have impressive control over the car at all times.

Though it kept the manual transmission, rear-wheel-drive, and the near-perfect weight balance from earlier iterations, it now offered an available four-speed automatic transmission. One key element Mazda held to through all generations of the RX-7 was its modest curb weight, with the FD weighing in at 2,850 pounds.

The change Mazda made to set the FD apart from its predecessors, aside from the more modern design, was under the hood. Instead of just one supercharger, the 1.3-liter rotary engine boasted a twin-turbo setup, which produced an impressive, even by today’s standards, 255 horsepower. This was the pinnacle of the RX-7, and it is still on par with many of the two-door sport coupes manufactured today.

Is the Mazda RX-7 banned in the United States?

The answer to this question isn’t as forthcoming as you may think. The answer is actually yes and no, making it a quandary for anyone looking to own one of these thrilling vehicles. Any Mazda RX-7 produced after 1995 is not allowed or is banned in the United States. This is because of the left-hand driving configuration of the vehicle. This means that if you want to own one, you have a couple of options. One is to find a used RX-7 in the United States that is a 1995 year model or older. Another option is to have a 1995 Mazda RX-7 or older imported from a seller outside the United States.

If you are a genuine sports car enthusiast, you will agree that all three generations of the RX-7 are impressive. Though finding an RX-7 in the United States may be difficult, it is an endeavor worth pursuing if you want to own one of these exhilarating cars.  To have never experienced driving an RX-7 is a problem that should be corrected if at all possible. The RX-7 will forever be a legend and inspiration in the class of two-door sport coupes.

Posted in Mazda