Wotary Wagons – 1974 Mazda RX-3 and RX-4

You have to admire a company that commits to a concept as seriously as Mazda did with the rotary engine in the early 1970s. And not only did they do that, but they came up with several attractive cars in which to house their engines – even the pickup is one of the better looking compact trucks of its time. What’s more is, instead of keeping the cool, weird stuff to themselves in Japan, they sent it to some lucky North Americans who were blissfully unaware of the upcoming oil crisis. The RX-3 was the most popular of Mazda’s rotary products, though you wouldn’t think it was, given the survival rate. Check out this 1974 Mazda RX-3 wagon for sale for $3000 in Olympia, WA.

1974 Mazda RX-3 Wagon 2 left front

The red paint is faded, which is actually lucky since it gives you an excuse to return to the original yellow, visible in the door jambs. This car has been upgraded from its original 12A powerplant, good for 130hp in world trim and probably less in the US, and now houses a carburetted 13b and 5-speed transmission. The donor car seems to have also given up its wheels to the wagon. While you’re changing paint colors, you might as well get rid of that nasty purple tint, too. Unfortunately, the front grill appears to be missing – could this lead to a bumper reduction and retrofit of an earlier grill?

1974 Mazda RX-3 Wagon 2 interior

Fortunately, the interior is in much better condition, and is in fact surprisingly good for a 41-year-old Japanese car. Front seats also seem to be from the RX-7, which is probably a nice improvement over the stock units. It’s nice to see the third pedal in the car, so you can take advantage of the full rotary power band. The yellow paint in the jambs is actually useful for showing how clean that part of the car is – hopefully that’s reflected in the rest of the body too. Oddly for a car with an engine swap, no pictures are provided. If you were hoping for something a little bigger and more utilitarian, but still rotary, check out this 1974 Mazda RX-4 wagon for sale for $4000 in San Gabriel, CA.

1974 Mazda RX-4 Wagon 1 left front

This car looks very complete and intact, surprising since most surviving rotary cars have been hacked up into hot-rod projects. Oddly enough, something about the line of the side windows recalls the contemporary Fiat 131 wagon. It’s said to be only missing one emblem, and to have factory air conditioning, but is not running and has an automatic transmission. That said, aside from cracking in the dash the interior looks excellent, and the dimples in the rear bumper seem to be the only significant damage.

1974 Mazda RX-4 Wagon 1 engine

Known as the Luce Rotary in Japan, this car was sold in the US with a 13b putting out 110hp and 117 lb.-ft., and in terms of performance it competed well, but fell down on fuel economy. The pitch for this car was as a personal luxury vehicle, something that’s hard to believe in a wagon with vinyl seats. That said, while this might not be a fast car, it or the RX-3 above both sound like they would be fun alternative to the more obvious Japanese choices. Which would you pick?

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2 Responses to “Wotary Wagons – 1974 Mazda RX-3 and RX-4”

  1. 1977chevytruck Says:

    I’d pick the RX-3, because it’s cheaper, a manual, with the likelihood of livelier performance.

    Plus yellow or red is still more visually interesting than white.

  2. Charlie Says:

    Who do I contact to buy the Rx3

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