The RX-3 was just one of a family of pioneering Rotary-engined production cars  built by Mazda in the ‘Seventies. While its predecessors had made do with conventional internal combustion, the RX-3 (known as the Savanna in some markets) was originally launched in its native Japan with a 982cc version of its ‘10A’ twin-rotor engine, followed closely by the 1146cc ‘12A’ powerplant. European and UK cars retained the 10A for much longer, which was still effectively the equivalent of a two-litre piston engine, with the 12A arriving in 1973.

The car was available in coupé, saloon and estate guises. The car was well received by the public and press alike. It also enjoyed its fair share of success in racing: Japanese Touring Car Championship (JTCC) titles and wins at Bathurst were particular highlights for this rotary Mazda. The oil crisis more or less killed off an entire generation of Mazdas in 1975 – their rotary powerplants drank too much fuel and oil and were rendered prohibitively expensive to run in many of their primary markets. It was a sad end to a special car – thankfully though, Mazda continued its rotary legacy with the RX-7 which took a bow in 1978.

* The RX-3 is a ‘Seventies Japanese car and so rust is almost guaranteed to be an issue. Check every seam in the bodywork for signs of corrosion
* The distinctive front end of the RX-3 is particularly susceptible to rust
* Sills, wheelarches, plus the front and rear valances are all particularly rust prone hot spots
* Check for rust around the rear light clusters and the distinctive rear three-quarter vents on the sportier models

* Rotary engines are notorious for burning through oil rapidly. Even in period it was recommended that oil checks take place at every fuel stop
* Engine oil should be changed at least every 4000 miles with a good quality 10w40 mineral oil
* Oil filters should be changed at 8000-mile intervals
* The original advice was to check engine compression at least every 12,000 miles or yearly – do so more regularly today
* Change the fuel filter at least every 12,000 miles or every year
* Coolant should be checked and topped up regularly – replace with fresh coolant least every two years
* Regular checks and adjustment of the ignition timing, idle speed and fuelling mix are recommended

* Check the clutch fluid level every 4000 miles
* Change the gearbox oil at least every 12,000 miles or yearly with 90 EP oil
* Differential oil should be changed at 12,000-mile intervals or yearly with 90 hypoid oil

* Check the brake fluid level every 4000 miles
* Check the steering lubricant every year or so
* Front wheel bearings benefit from cleaning and repacking with fresh grease every two years or so
* Regularly check the discs, pads and shoes on the front and rear brakes respectively – at least every 12,000 miles

YEARS MADE:                  1971-1978        
NUMBERS MADE:          285,887
ENGINES:                         Twin-rotor rotary ‘Wankel’: 982cc (10A), 1146cc (12A)
POWER:                            105bhp (982cc)
TOP SPEED:                      110mph (982cc)
0-60MPH:                           10.8secs (982cc)
GEARBOX:                         four- or five-speed manual
ECONOMY:                        18mpg (982cc)
WEIGHT:                            930kg

The RX-3 is an extremely rare sight in the UK. The car is more readily found in America and Australia, along with its native Japan. A hunt for a decent example of this classic rotary icon could easily lead to an import from one of these far-flung destinations. Values are high but not unreasonably so – the best examples typically sell for the equivalent of around £20,000. Cheaper examples will not have benefitted from the same level of attention – so obviously you will need to proceed with caution. While the bulk of the car’s mechanicals are fairly solid, the engine will have suffered significantly If it has not been properly maintained.

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