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Is the Mazda RX-7 Illegal in the U.S.?

While Mazda has historically been known for producing the MX-5 Miata for the past three decades, but they also produced one car that has stuck in the minds of car enthusiasts and gamers alike: the RX-7. During the time of its production here in the U.S., this sports coupe went through three different generations, the last of which is the most popular. And while the car may be long gone after it was discontinued, they still appear on the Japanese Domestic Market, but is it illegal to have one in the U.S?

The rotary king

The Mazda RX-7 has always been known for its timeless look, amazing handling prowess, and most of all, its rotary engine. It actually wasn’t the first platform to have a Wankel rotary under the hood, though. In fact the Cosmo Sport, which was launched a decade before the first-generation RX-7, claims that rite, but the RX-7 handily carried the torch for years after.

The first-generation RX-7, known at the FB, was produced from 1978 to 1985 and featured a long hood, curved glass, and a 1.1-liter rotary engine that sat behind the front axles, which coined the term “front mid-engined.” The engine only produced 100 horsepower, but its 2,500-pound curb weight, low drag coefficient, and 50/50 weight distribution made it more than fun to drive.

The second-generation RX-7, also known as the FC, was produced from 1989 to 1992 and built upon the success and the design of the first-generation. Mazda ramped up the aesthetics of the RX-7, both inside and out as the newer car provided a more robust look and a more robust engine. The rotary engine size was increased to 1.3-liters and now produced 185 horsepower thanks to an addition of a turbocharger, although non-turbo ones still existed. Mazda gave the car upgrades like a rear independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, but the car’s power-to-weight ratio was still on point.

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1990 Mazda RX-7 Convertible
1990 Mazda RX-7 Convertible | bringatrailer.com

The third generation

The third-generation RX-7 is what broke all the barriers down. Known as the FD, the third-gen RX-7 was produced from 1992 to 2002, however, it was only produced in the U.S. from 1993 to 1995. This powerhouse’s claim to fame was its sleek aesthetics coupled with a revised twin-turbo 1.3-liter rotary engine that put out 255 horsepower and was coupled with a slick-shifting five-speed manual transmission that sent power through the rear wheels. However, a four-speed automatic was available as well.

Is it illegal?

Since the FD was only brought to the U.S. for a short amount of time, the production numbers were low and, thanks to the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, the demand for this legendary was picked up in the early 2000s. However, since the third-generation RX-7 was produced in Japan until 2002, some right-hand-drive models can now be imported and driven legally in the U.S.

The only catch is that you would need to find one that is was produced in the model year 1995 or older. So technically, no, the Mazda RX-7 is not illegal in the U.S., unless you’re looking to import one of the last iterations of it. Then you’ll have to wait a while.

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1999 Mazda RX7
1999 Mazda RX7 | Mazda

Is it worth it to buy one?

The Mazda RX-7, especially the third-generation model, will be forever preserved in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts as being one of the greatest cars that the brand has ever produced. It’s definitely worth it to get one now, whether it be a U.S. model or a Japanese one, as this is one car that is considered a gem among the Japanese sports cars of the 90s. The late-model ones could command a high premium now, but a clean one is worth every penny.