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1983 Rx-7 -- How does it drive?

 
I was having a discussion on the miata.net forums about this car.  The question came up:  "How does it drive?"  What follows is my answer.
 
 Well, when I first drove it as I mentioned, the tires were pretty lumpy -- honestly they felt more square than round. During the course of the test drive they smoothed out a little. It also felt a little low on power, but I couldn't tell if that was real or just my memory playing tricks on me.

Post purchase -- after over inflating the tires by a few psi (Star brand tires, clearly high-quality, definitely need some better sneakers), and driving a while, it mostly smoothed out, now there is more of a resonant hum at 50-55 than a real vibration.

As for the power perception, I was entirely correct. There was a linkage on the carb that had slipped loose, which I think was effecting the opening of the secondaries on the carb. Add a 1/2 a can of carb cleaner to clear out the varnish you could see covering the inside of the carb the power feels much closer to what I remember. As soon as I can manage it, it's getting a complete tune-up and a power foam treatment to degum the internals. The carb may end up getting a rebuild as well, since 28 years is a long time for any piece of precision equipment.

As for the experience, it's pretty much what you might expect from a 1st gen in excellent condition. I actually like to think that the driving experience of this car now, is very close to what it felt like when it was new.

The starting procedure, pump the gas twice, pull the choke knob, turn the key and it comes to life right away with a loud whir and little drama. Adjust the choke to around 2K rpm, let it warm for a minute and be off. Once warm, the idle drops to a dead steady 750 rpm and is dead smooth. When driving, it builds power nicely through the rev-band, really coming alive above 4K. Of course the coolest thing about the rotaries is the eerie smoothness with which they hit (and pass) redline (7K on this car). The redline thing is an interesting point. There is no rev-limiter and apparently the shift buzzer went missing from the cars sometime in '81-'82, so you really need to pay attention to what's going on when you get on it, lest you rev into oblivion. The sound of course is real music in this car and is what I would call quite mechanical -- like the whole car when moving and driving is alive with the whir and hum of well a well oiled machine.

The shifter has a pretty long throw but is very smooth and precise (it's easy to see the miata tranny as a natural evolution).

The ride is smooth and quiet on the hi-way (nicer than my miata, even when brand new). The side-view mirrors are almost comically small and close to you, making seeing anything out of them a bit of a chore. Also the passenger side rear view seems to be a magnifier, which scared the crap out of me the first time I really noticed (thats actually going to take a bit of getting used to).

The manual recirculating ball steering, is rather heavy at low speed and wanders a bit on the highway -- though when pushing through a corner, the feed back is excellent. When pushing through the twisties the car reminds you that it was designed in a different era. Where as a miata is intuitive, forgiving and will take anything you throw at it, this car is not. It's quite capable -- body roll and weight transfer are well controlled. You need to be very smooth and precise and the car will reward you. If you try to brute force it, it will be a disappointing drive, and will possibly bite back. Its almost like driving this car a collaboration between you and the machine, with some give and take, rather than the machine saying, "Okay, what do you want me to do." I suppose that means it has personality .

Overall, it's responsive and a real joy to drive. While not the quickest thing out there by today's standards, I like to remind myself that this car was actually decently quick in '79 when it was released.
 
(Read the entire original discussion at: http://forum.miata.net/vb/showthread.php?t=358302)