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Ok, the first owner's review!! hahaha... I will discuss both rotary and piston powered FDs...
Engine: 13B-REW (Twin Turbo 1.3l 2 rotors)
Doors/Seats: 2 door, 2 seater
Base, Touring, PEP (94/95), and R1(93)/R2(94-95)
Current Price Range: $11k - $16k usually, some will go for $18k+
The rotary engine is the biggest thing about this car (as with the rest of the RX series from mazda). It can be a money pit and never treat you right, or it can be a durable little beast. I have daily driven several rotaries and drove the hell out of them. On the mountain and in traffic. The key is to take the time to learn and understand that rotaries require a little more attention than most cars. Keep up on reg maintenance and DO NOT LET THEM OVERHEAT!!! And if you get into modifications, tune... tune... tune.... Mazda knows the rotaries and tunes them from the factory to be pretty close to optimal for their setups. So when you start changing exhausts, increasing boost, etc, you need to swap the ECU and get something you can tune.
They do have more cargo space than a Miata and tons of aftermarket support. And plenty of info on www.RX7Club.com and www.RotaryCarClub.com.
They are great handling cars naturally and with a refreshed suspension, they are quite enjoyable in the mountains. Weight balance is 50/50.
I would say the biggest things to consider when it comes to buying an FD these days is deciding if you want a sunroof or not. With all the after market support and age of the cars, most the other differences in the trim packages can be changed over and/or replaced easily. The R1/R2 came with dual coolers from the factory but you can buy drop in upgraded kits now. Their suspension was also stiffer than the others, but again, 20+ yrs later, stock stuff will be old and coil overs typically are about $1500 with ride height control, various spring rates, and various degrees of dampening adjusting (my Stance coilover have 16 dampening settings)
The rotary isn't known for their fuel efficiency, expect less than 20mpg if you enjoy the throttle pedal. They can get up to 27mpg on the highway, but that requires proper tunings. But I guess is best bet is just over 20mpg highway with a decent tune.
Also, engine life expectancy typically now is from 60k - 120k mi. Biggest factors in that are porting, power levels, quality of rebuild (since most have had at least 1 by now!!!), tune, and maintenance. When you are looking to buy any rotary, inquire about the history of the engine. Ask about rebuild and who did it...
As mentioned, heating is a killer of the rotary. I overheated one of mine once, it killed a compression seal and lead me to a rebuild. And rebuilds, best case if you take it to someone start at $1600 and go up from there. Having to replace hardware in the engine gets expensive quick. (used rotors are rarely less than $150 last time I looked... housings and plates are the same story) But there are plenty of folks that part out cars and engines but still recommend going through a reputable rebuilder for parts.
Other things to be aware of, like most modified cars, aftermarket exhausts aren't always the quietest in the world and people will complain about the smoke and smells coming from the rotary when they follow behind you on a drive. The interiors were made from cheap plastics and with their age, they are prone to breaking tabs if you aren't careful handling them. But again, their are pretty reputable folks who part out cars so you can find replacement bits, just might take some time...
now... to comment on the "dark side" rx7... Piston swaps... people have put a few different engines into the cars... Chevy LT-1 (like me!), LSx, 2jz, 350z engine, honda engine and i've seen a 4g63 powered FD before.
I can only comment on the LT-1 swap I have and a little info about the LSx swaps I know from when I was doing research on the swaps years ago.
A few companies make swap kits to ease the struggles but the swaps still end up costing a pretty penny. As for the effect it has on the car, some argue that the LSx swap will weight less over a stock FD and I know my iron block has added some weight. I still need to weigh mine to see how the car is now. As for handling, initially I didn't noticed much of a difference between the two engines (rotary vs v8) other than power band and torque. But the past few times of driving, I've noticed understeer in my car and when I get back to a non-staggered tire setup, I will hopefully better identify how much the v8 is contributing. Other contributing factors I am wondering about is how the engine mounts in the engine bay with my kit, it uses the factory locations to bolt to the frame rails, but the engine itself is mounted closer to the steering rack compared to the rotary being mounted its engine cradle near the firewall. (but that is a discussion for another thread)
My LT-1 does not effect the steering geometry of the car, where as the LSx swaps typically do because of their taller engines, lowering the steering rack and requiring bump steer correctors. And the only modifications I have done to otherwise "off the shelf parts" are: widened the whole for my clutch master cylinder to run a larger bore master and drilled a few holes under my carpet to mount the transmission brace that came with my swap kit. There are a few kits that use existing mounting points for transmission braces. I also modified the lower outlet on my aftermarket radiator to give a better angle to route my coolant hose back up to my water pump. I did do some trimming on an accessory bracket to clean up the look and have a shorter belts.
The swap isn't difficult and mine was done in the driveway with no fabrication on my behave. Doing the swap also can increase price of the car. I believe that most cleanly swapped, well running cars typically start around $15k, but I haven't looked lately so I might be wrong on that info.