Does This Restored 1973 Mazda RX2 Restore Your Faith In Rotary-Powered Cars?

Mazda once touted the superiority of its cars by claiming that while reciprocating engines went boing-boing-boing, rotaries went hmmmm. Today’s Nice Price or No Dice RX2 is a throwback to that “humm-ble” time. Let’s see if its asking price makes this restored coupe a real humdinger.

Apologies to Huey Lewis for lifting his song title for the intro to yesterday’s 1996 Volvo 850 GLT story. Huey seems to be a nice enough guy, and I think he would be flattered to know folks are still getting the reference all these years down the road.

Many of us also got the Volvo the phrase honoured. Well, to be more clear, we got the point that you could be both cool and boxy at the same time. We got that the $US3,950 ($5,427) asking price was pretty cool too. That earned the car a solid 70% Nice Price win, although that result might also have had something to do with the Volvo being the first car we featured this week not to have spent some time in a salvage yard. Yay, staying out of car purgatory!

Buying a car in need of significant work can be a challenging, and at times, frustrating undertaking. In the end, though, the reward of a job well done and a finished product you can enjoy can make the whole ordeal well worth the blood, sweat and beers that went into it.

On the other hand, why go to all that trouble when you can just spend a little more (or oftentimes a lot less) and enjoy the fruits of other people’s labors?

As an example of that puzzler, have a gander at this 1973 Mazda RX-2 rotary-engine coupe and ask yourself, doesn’t this seem like the way to go?

The RX-2 started its life in Japan as the Mazda Capella and as either the 616 or 618 in export markets. Here in the U.S. of A., however, nobody remembers the piston-packing editions of this car. All people really remember is the Wankel-powered RX-2. That is, of course, if you’re old enough to remember any of them at all.

The Capella, and by extension the RX-2, featured handsome styling that echoed the “Coke bottle” designs that had been popular in American cars beginning in the late ’60s. This wasn’t the first rotary-powered car that Mazda offered in the U.S. That honour fell to the smaller R100, the lineal ancestor to today’s Mazda 3.

With its larger size, hipper styling and available automatic gearbox, the RX-2 would prove to be a bigger hit and would carry Mazda’s water until the gas crisis and reliability issues forced the company to replace the model with the piston-packing 626.

The ad for this 1973 RX-2 says the car has undergone an extensive restoration using original Mazda parts. The seller apparently bought three cars as part of this project and used various parts from those to create this one appreciably nice surviving edition.

No Frankenstein this, those results look pretty successful too. The car presents in a coat of solid white over a black vinyl interior, and everything, right down to the hard-to-source trim, looks intact and in fine shape. The seller says he has a lift in his shop (lucky duck) and claims that he will raise the car up if asked and give you a look at its underoos. We don’t need the effort to be made, though, as pics of the underside are included in the ad. Everything there looks refreshed and clean as a bean.

Power for this RX-2 comes from an Atkins Rotary-built S4 6-port B13 two-rotor Wankel. That’s fed by what the ad says is a “real Italian” Weber two-barrel downdraft carb with 51 mm chokes. That seems like a lot of carb for the little 1.3-litre, but then I guess the rev-happy engine does need to breathe.

Behind the rebuilt mill is a likewise refreshed five-speed stick, and between those sits an EXEDY performance clutch. The seller says the car “runs, drives, and stops just like you’d expect it to.” That being said, this is an OLD car and it will not drive the same fashion as a modern car. Once you get over that, you’ll be much happier with what it does provide.

Are there any downsides in this Mazda’s rebirth? Well, you could call foul on the choice of black paint on the bumper blades in place of the car’s original chrome, but that’s a minor detail and really up to personal taste.

Other than that, it’s hard to find fault with the work, the car or even the ad as the builder/seller seems extremely forthcoming in the description and willingness to give potential buyers an even more intimate look. It’s also noted that the car comes with a clean title and current registration.

That’s all well and good but what it really comes down to is the price, right? This seemingly well-restored Mazda asks a cool $US28 ($38),000 ($38,472), which, come on, let’s admit it, you could easily sink into doing your own restoration.

The issue for the seller though is all the competition at that price point. For that $US28 ($38),000 ($38,472) you could get any one of a slew of classic cars, or even a more modern rotary Mazda offering. This is more a passion project and you now need to weigh in on just how passionate you might feel about spending that $US28k on it.

What do you think, is this amazingly clean RX-2 worth that $US28 ($38),000 ($38,472) asking? Or, does that price have you thinking about passing on all that passion?