Cars Mazda RX-3_50th anniversary

Published on March 2nd, 2021 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Mazda RX-3 Is Now 50 Years Young

50th Anniversary of the rotary powered imaginative Mazda called the RX-3.

This is the year, 2021 that sees the 50th Anniversary of one of Mazda’s most interesting and successful sports car. It is also one of the forgotten Mazda cars.

It is car that was sold in Malaysia, in very limited numbers and can still be spotted on occasion in small towns and at ‘retro havoc’ events. It is car that was powered by an engine that no other car manufacturer was using. 

Very often overlooked when a car enthusiast is looking for a classic Japanese car to ‘play’ with and sadly, very hard to find for sale, unless it has rusted to become as brittle as a cream cracker. 

BHP_Euro5 diesel_RX-3

Not as sleek as the RX-7 sports car or as luxurious as the even rarer Mazda Cosmo, we are celebrating the Mazda RX-3 coupe. Replacing the Mazda RX-2, this rear wheel drive car featured dual round headlights and a separate grille between them. There was a sloped rear window, making the car look even smaller. In the rear, the Japanese designers installed another pair of dual taillights.

Mazda RX-3_coupe anniversary
Mazda RX-3_side view
Mazda RX-3_rear lights
Mazda RX-3_cockpit
Mazda RX-3_radio
Mazda RX-3_speedometer
Mazda RX-3_steering wheel
Mazda RX-3_rotary logo
Mazda RX-3_side view mirror
Mazda RX-3_badge

Inside this Mazda you got vinyl-covered seats with embossed “pleats” and emblems. The instrumentation was complete with two main dials in the instrument cluster, and four additional gauges mounted high on the center stack. The Japanese designers placed the radio above the HVAC system. They also installed a badge in the middle of the three-spoke steering wheel with the rounded triangular shape of a Wankel rotary engine piston.

The RX-3 coupe was a landmark car in Mazda’s history which was a car that cemented Mazda’s association with the rotary engine at home and abroad, while its export success helped put Mazda on the map as a global automotive company.

Not only that, its success on the racetrack led the way for the accomplishments of the later and more famous RX-7. By the time production came to an end in 1978 where a total 286,757 units of this RX-3s had been produced, making it the biggest selling rotary powered Mazda outside of the RX-7. 

There was also a ‘family version’ of the RX-3 and it carried the name Mazda 808 and was rather popular in Malaysia with middle class families and can still be seen today running around in our small towns and garaged well with some JDM car collectors. 

Launched in September 1971, this Mazda arrived as a coupe, saloon and there was also a station wagon model. in 1973 the RX-3 coupe arrived equipped with a 982cc 110bhp 10A engine rotary engine was tested and it delivered a 0-60mph performance of 10.2 seconds and it was praised for its slick gear change, solid build quality and nice driving controls.

Testing the 1,272cc 4-cylinder piston engine running to deliver 81bhp, the Mazda 808 Saloon recorded a more leisurely 15.3 seconds 0-60mph time, while fuel consumption of 32.7mpg highlighted the piston engine’s slightly more economical cruising ability against a rotary engine. 

Riding on an independent front suspension with coil springs while the rear was a live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, this was sadly not the best handling coupe. Brakes were discs at the front and drums at the rear. 

Today, finding a used unit for sale that has been fully restored could cost you anywhere between RM30,000 to a high RM45,000. Rusted running units can be purchased from RM2,000 and might cost too much to restore. 

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