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wcn2018
wcn2018
9/5/22 3:47 p.m.

Hello everyone. This is my first post and thread on GRM. I've lurked for a bit, but this will be the first time I've considered it worth posting here.

Today I bought an RX-7. A 1980 SA22C 5 speed; I wanted a sporty coupe and I like the way they look. To be honest I also want a unique car, and ever since I started considering the 1st gen RX-7s I got so excited about them just trying to spot one on the road. In 4 months I haven't spotted even one. So I just spent 8 hours and 500 miles in an early 2000s GM vehicle towing this thing back to Seattle from Eastern WA. I've never towed, I've never owned a RWD, or a carbureted car, and definitely not a rotary. Somehow nothing went seriously wrong. Not only that; now I have a cool car!

I paid $4000. How did I do? Well, my initial impression is that for every important aspect of this vehicle that is mechanically sound and confidence inspiring, there's a slightly less important aspect that isn't.

It starts every time, most of the time (very reliably if fully choked). The starter grinds sometimes. It has no real frame or wheelwell rust. There is a mandarin-sized rot hole near the hatch. The pop up lights work flawless. The door seals are dry rotted. All glass on the car is free of cracks and chips. The glass seems perpetually fogged. The odo reads a low 87000ish original miles. The fuel and temp gauges don't work. It is an absolute joy to drive. I don't think it's reliable enough to drive to work yet. The paint is original. The paint is a lost cause. Transmission seems very healthy. The shifter is sloppy bc the bushing is worn to "hotdog down a hallway" status. Most importantly, the power radio antenna extender works!

Frame is straight and without rot

Rot free frame

Water near the front seam of windshield even after parking, probably related to the windshield fogging. I hope it isn't the urethane.

Overall, this car is just barely a "survivor". I am the third owner. The first and longest was a lady who bought it new. She must have used it as a weekend car given the low miles before it got barn stored for a long period of time. The lack of serious body rust on the bottom and the utterly destroyed original seats corroborate this (interior has probably seen some rodents). The second owner happened upon it through his girlfriend's dad who buys and sells a lot of older cars. Him and his buddy kept it for a fun weekend car. They put in new "racing" seats that actually look decent and mounted them correctly by modifying the rails instead of just drilling holes thru the floorplan to rust into oblivion. Then some spend-happy fresh out of college Honda kid found the cheapest running 1st gen on facebook market and spent $250 on gas and trailer rentals getting it home. (That's me).

The previous owner and his friend seem like they could be GRM types. Very communicative and honest online and in person seemed knowledgeable about most everything on the car. Good dudes who needed a free spot and the cash to project a 240sx or older stang. So when they say it has good compression and they rebuilt the carb recently I think I have every reason to believe them. My only concern is that their motivations and even finances seem a bit too similar to mine: if they eventually gave up and sold this car to the next guy it could be an omen for my ownership of the vehicle. I really hope it isn't the case, mostly because of the condition of the rust. While the bottom rust is only surface; water is getting under the paint where the kicker panels make a lip with the frame rails and could develop into rot. The same could be said for the patches on the underside of the hood and on top of the sun roof. The rot hole near the hatch is currently all on the same face with a good amount of clean margins, but it could soon spread across body lines and make for a difficult repair. Cosmetically, the car is on the edge of what I would consider "E36 M3head with $200 and a free weekend could properly remedy most of this" territory. If things aren't stabilized here this overall nice example could rot away like so many others have. I really hope I can address most of it.

The main rust concerns^

As far as my other plans for the car: I don't exactly know yet. There are things floating around in my head. Ideas somewhere between restoration and tuning. I want to track it and have fun, and bring to low-key shows for now. One thing I really truly want is to respray to that beautiful matcha tea green like this one in the Mazda museum:

Mazda calls it mach green metallic, code G4. What a good color. Some QOL stuff too; clean out the bay and modify the oil metering pump to sip 2 stroke oil out of a reservoir instead of injecting synthetic to be dirtily burned. The rotary forums are in disagreement on how badly injecting synthetic oil causes excessive carbon buildup, but I want to switch to 2 stroke oil regardless (honestly bc i think it's kind of funny to own a lawnmower of a car; carbureted, 2 stroke sipping, choke to start sports coupe!). I should replace the ignition cylinder with a pull string. Maybe a rats nest delete. If I come up with $1000 that doesn't get allocated to my CG6 Accord project a GSL-SE rear end would be dope for the LSD and better diff ratio. Finally, a decent port and a blow through turbocarb with hood scoop would go absolutely nuts. 

I think the first order of business is to redo the door seals and waterproof the big hole near the hatch so I can keep it outside. The rain in Seattle starts soon I have to share my garage with others. Maybe I should kill switch it too; this is Seattle; but maybe I'm also being paranoid.

On a side note; I berkeleying love this van. The 350 has a misfire on #6 and burns oil, Florida ownership destroyed the roof paint, the interior is thrashed, and the cargo doors leak. None of this matters because it moved me all the way from Atlanta up to Seattle, and it just towed for 500 miles without a hint of an issue. It has saved me thousands of dollars in furniture costs by allowing me to easily pick up used stuff off Facebook. It easily holds 10 of your friends to absolutely mog the cookout drive thru. It has been indispensable. Everyone should own a van, preferably one with a tow hitch.

I will update with progress regularly. Using this as a build diary or sorts. Don't expect much this month tho bc I'm flush out of cash after this one.

dannyp84
dannyp84 Reader
9/6/22 2:43 p.m.

You can just pour premix into the gas tank if you don't want to fuss with a separate oil reservoir. Mine does the starting grind thing too sometimes, I just turn the key off and try again and it goes away. Most of your pictures didn't work, but $4k for an SA these days is a pretty good price considering what really clean cars are worth. If you track the car, you might want to look into upgrading to the later FB hubs and wheel bearings, I'm told the SA stuff is undersized and wears out easily. GSL rear ends are also LSD and would retain your 4x110 bolt pattern, if you go GSL-SE you'll have to change your front hubs to match as they're 114.3. To my knowledge, you can't just get the diff assembly and bolt it in to your axle housing, as your SA has smaller axles than the later cars.

Do your best to address the rust before too long, and check under the trim panels for rust on the rear wheel wells, on mine I found the rust inside way before it showed outside the car. Enjoy the car! Though the steering design leaves some feel to be desired, 1st gen RX-7s are a lot of fun to drive and fairly simple to live with. Keep the oil clean, the intake air filtered, respect the redline and don't overheat it. If you live within those parameters, it'll treat you fairly well.

 

classicJackets (FS)
classicJackets (FS) SuperDork
9/6/22 3:29 p.m.

Might just be me, but I only have a few pictures showing up, on both my phone and computer. Sounds like it'll be a project, but hopefully a fun one!!

Powar
Powar UltraDork
9/6/22 3:40 p.m.
classicJackets (FS) said:

Might just be me, but I only have a few pictures showing up, on both my phone and computer. Sounds like it'll be a project, but hopefully a fun one!!

It isn't just you.

Man oh man. I'd love to have another first gen to park next to the FD. I'll definitely follow along with this one!

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
9/6/22 8:56 p.m.

Man thats a shame about the photos. Let me try again using the upload function instead of copy and pasting it in. Here is everything posted in the same order they should have been posted

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
9/6/22 9:13 p.m.

Rented a pressure washer yesterday and knocked some oil out of the garage floor as well as giving the whole fleet a spraydown. Gotta say this car looks much better wet:

I noticed during the wash tho that water goes in through the door and window seals. It makes sense; they're completely rotted. There is also some dirt inside the door panel? I was picking it out of the drain hole, but there wasn't any rust coming out with which is good. idk how that happened but I'll address it when the new seals go in. I think my first concern is to make this car winter worthy here (Seattle, which just means it's going to be wet and rainy and gray 24/7 for 4 months). This means new seals and addressing the worst of the rust. I'm gonna do a quick and dirty patch of the hatch rot hole today to stabilize it before i eventually put in a patch panel. Knock out the rot with wire wheel and spray some black rust converter on it. If the hole goes through, cover the hole with flex tape lol. I'm not too concerned about damaging this paint; the car will see a repaint if I have my way.

 

 

AMiataCalledSteve
AMiataCalledSteve Reader
9/6/22 9:36 p.m.

Great car! I went through a period of wanting one of these really badly. I ended up with a Maita, but maybe someday...

Also, that is a super sweet van. If you want ultimate practicality you get a truck, but if you want ultimate practicality and you have a functional social life you get a van :) Welcome to the forum!

Agent98
Agent98 Reader
9/6/22 9:50 p.m.

Great cars, handle better than a 240z with less rust. Clutch discs are a consumable since any smooth launch from a start requires lots more clutch slipping than a piston car. Murder loud without the factory cat ....great seats still wish I had my 1981....

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
9/7/22 5:07 a.m.

Quick n dirty hatch rust hole patch. while sanding the layers revealed this car has actually been resprayed before (unless I'm missing something about how these were originally painted). you can see clean metal, original gray primer, original black, yellowish 2nd primer, and second black in the photos below. Again this fix is temporary; it's covered in flex tape lol. Used rustoleum black autmototive rust converter, but i tried to make clean margins anyway.

Close up of the layers. I wonder what the respray was covering?

 

 

akylekoz
akylekoz UltraDork
9/7/22 8:03 a.m.

Watching.

I have owned both of those vehicles, and loved them both.  

Red 1985 GS with grey cloth.

Navy Blue 2001 GMC Savanna SLT, the SLT part was only available for a few years.  Do the spider swap to the injectors, you will thank me later.  It is a factory upgrade to move the injectors to where they belong and delete the poppet valves.  Mine used one quart of oil every 800 miles the whole time I owned it (ten years).  The miss is probably plug wires, or cap and rotor, mine had a whole lightning storm under the doghouse while running.  Sparks flying everywhere, somehow still running.

 

 

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
9/7/22 2:34 p.m.

In reply to akylekoz :

I had a period this summer where i was desperately trying to fix the van CEL so it could pass MO emissions for registration. Now its in WA, which doesnt have emissions. At that time the research also pointed to the updated EFI system and maybe dist cap/rotor as well. Its funny you mention the electrical stuff; sometimes when stationary the thing sounds like a tesla coil and the lights dim when it does. when moving it goes between 5 seconds of a horrible electrical spitting noise and 5 seconds off. probably got the same stuff going on.

79rex
79rex HalfDork
9/7/22 4:11 p.m.

Your about to find many weird things of owning a 79/80.  Including NLA brake parts.  swapping to 81+ is a good and bolt on place to look. 

WondrousBread
WondrousBread Reader
9/8/22 10:37 a.m.

You're about to have a lot of fun with that car.

 

My dad owned three of them. His '78 SA made it to 480,000 km and he sold it running perfectly fine (albeit with catastrophic rust). Then his two FBs made it to around 260,000km before compression started to suffer. It's unfortunate that parts are getting hard to find, but a lot of these items have been NLA for awhile now

 

I have an FC, although even those are getting tough to find parts for. I've been stockpiling rear calipers for that reason alone.

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
9/8/22 7:11 p.m.

Thanks for the comments everyone, especially considering the NLA brakes. The car brakes great for now but down the line i will be considering honda caliper adapters; parts commonality with the accord would be real neat.

The lack of a working temp gauge is already causing strife. Ive noticed smoke coming from the hood at traffic lights when the car is good and warm. now judging by the small oil puddles in the garage and the fact that the car still drives there is a bad gasket somewhere that allows oil to drip on the exhaust and smoke off. This caused me enough worry yesterday that i stranded myself at work for about an hour reading the temp sending unit with a multimeter. it gives 680 ohms dead cold, 68 ohms after a little rip around the block. this means the the sender has a meaningful resistance range. most reassuringly, i let the car idle for about 15 minutes and it held 81-79 ohms steady in that time; it doesnt run away hot while idling. judging by what ive seen off an e30 with a bad fan clutch if the cooling was truly bad it would run hot within like 2 minutes of idle.

I am confident enough in the cooling system on this car to drive it work, but i dont want to track this car until the temp gauge works (or i hack something up to read the resistance via multimeter in the cabin). i have also started premixing the gas bc the omp has enough gunk around it that im worried its the cause of the leak. its cheap apex seal insurance anyway. ill be chasing electrical gremlins for a bit it seems bc its a pressing matter and im out of money for parts at the moment (poking things with a circuit tester and crimping wires is basically free lol). 

in other news a full set of door and window weather seals is $350 at mazdatrix. Have you ever felt the rain?

79rex
79rex HalfDork
9/9/22 2:37 p.m.

In reply to wcn2018 :

you might not have dug into it yet, but the hub and brake rotor is one peice.  Theres a couple ways around this to switch to FC hubs which opens up possibilties. 

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
9/9/22 6:44 p.m.

Ive decided im only gonna park next to other mazdas at work.

Called insurance today and they wanted $107/mo to add to the plan. for a car im not ready to daily yet, thats insane. ive decided to enjoy the car for our last month or so of summer here, before she goes on stands for an over-winter restoration. Spring brings good things.

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
9/9/22 6:45 p.m.

In reply to 79rex :

haha the van is also this way. thats something ill be sure to address. 

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
9/30/22 3:39 p.m.

Well i finished a clutch and regular maintenance job on my daily so it should be good for the winter. garage has free space for the RX again.

It's been smoking like crazy on startup, but that only makes it look cooler at night. Living with this car has been interesting. It makes driving the winding backroads around here more fun than it should be. It has also died on the road three times now, tho its been a while since the last time, and all were relatively shortly after I stalled it on a giant hill in Queen Anne. ive started running 20w50 vr1 and it seems to love the stuff. The updated shortlist for this winter's mods is:

- big fat streetport (i want lumpy idle)

- exhaust to accompany that port

- bodywork to seal up the rust holes

- engine rebuild if im gonna have it ported might as well replace all the seals and gaskets

- clutch/trans fluid/inspection (whines pretty hard in first)

- meter OMP thru reservoir. very tired of the mess that premixing makes

- carb inspection, i think it runs rich.

- rats nest delete.

- engine bay shave/paint

Gonna hold off on posting for a bit until i have something more substantial done for this thing. Ive made a big fat spreadsheet and budget but work on the daily has kept me from getting started on it. As of now the only thing ive done is gotten the coolant gauge working again. 

ive also been distracted because after 6 months of looking, a 5th gen prelude finally showed up on a nearby picknpull lot. i now have a H22A4 top end to stuff into my accord. Vee tak bay beee.

throw it on the parts staaaack.

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
11/12/22 11:45 p.m.

I took the RX to the Evergreen AutoX event today. Boat loads of fun. Not fast. Didn't win in any way. Never done track driving before. Boat loads of fun :). I'm less than 0.1s faster than a stock CRV. I talked to the girl in that car, she had never done autox before either.

On my 8th lap (of 12), it stalled coming off the line. Then it stalled again, like it wasn't making enough power to pick the car up how i normally do. it limped around the outside of the track back to pit, and clearly something was up. I was dreading seals, but the car made enough compression to start every time it stalled and it wasn't spitting blue smoke back at pit. One of the old heads I met today poked at the distributor and noted it seemed fried (I had never opened it before), and advised I stop making runs for the day. Anyway I left the track and made it exactly 1/4 mile before i determined there was no way i was taking this thing on the highway. On inspection, two or three of the emissions vac lines were suspect (one entirely broken), and more importantly, no fuel was spraying for the rear primary barrel. When throttling by hand, it was clear the front rotor was basically dragging the rear one along. I was 30 minutes from home by highway, and it had gotten dark at this point, and it was time to diagnose an infamously complex carburetor.

I fixed it by hitting it with a screwdriver.

Isn't she so nice? And reliable to boot!

So the floats stick on this thing. Good to know! Oh and I'm not throwing shade at the guys who poked at my distributor; that thing definitely needs replaced soon as well.

Plans have changed about 5 or 6 times in the past month. I've already changed the weather seals (the weather in Seattle necessitated that), and replaced the door panels with a plywood jigsaw polyurethane job. But now that the carb needs a rebuild, i think it's also time for the rats nest to go, which means the Chinese header that i ordered last month is going on along with a whole new exhaust. Emissions bye bye!

As far as building for the track, i have acquired a quickjack, and my garage is finally in decent shape for working on this vehicle. By how poorly this thing stays to the ground, these "Caldera Confidence" tires are being replaced at the first opportunity. I also have a thing for poly bushings for some reason, and energy sells a $250 full set for every bushing on this car. It needs shocks/coilovers (perhaps TT3?), but i don't know a budget option for that yet. One of the rear links is kinda bent, it's $135 new and that pisses me off so I'm waiting to find one second hand.

If anyone has suggestions or a rear lower link, I'm happy to take them.

Oh and the car is now running redline gear fluids and castrol GTX 20-50. These are great fluids, car ran like a top today until the carb did a carb.

the door cards

78CobraII
78CobraII New Reader
11/13/22 12:29 a.m.

The door cards look great!

Get the carb and distributor fixed first. It will make it more reliable and give a better baseline for mods. If you don't,  you'll always wonder if the poor performance is the engine or the performance part you just added.

 

The green color would be great, especially with the plaid seats!

fidelity101
fidelity101 UberDork
11/14/22 10:35 a.m.

the wood door cards is a brilliant idea! classy

sevenracer
sevenracer HalfDork
11/14/22 5:23 p.m.

Great to see another early Rx7 still kicking.

I'm not sure how much you're trying to balance handling vs streetability, but I am running 4 tokico blues (maybe no longer available?) and a set of racing beat lowering springs. I wouldn't say the ride is punishing, but it definitely doesn't soak up the bumps and is "jiggly" at lower speeds.

A quick and not too expensive handling improvement would be to upgrade to a racing beat front sway bar or similar. If you do that, you may also want to try removing the rear sway bar altogether - should help reduce wheelspin out of corners.

 

79rex
79rex HalfDork
11/15/22 12:09 p.m.

Just a heads up.  79/80 have slightly different strut tubes.  like 20mm taller?  and use a different top hat for the front (NLA).  81-83 will take new struts/top hats, and are small bearing spindles.  84/85 are slightly better and have a bigger spindle.  Or If you want to get away from this all together.  S13 front suspension is similar but better in everyway.  And isnt far off from a bolt on affair.   

gearheadE30
gearheadE30 Dork
11/15/22 12:52 p.m.

Just wanted to say, I love those wheels.

wcn2018
wcn2018 New Reader
11/16/22 8:19 p.m.

thanks for the comments all; i wouldnt mind stiff handling on the road. i have a different daily. this is a pleasure and track driver.

the issue with the s13 swap, as much as it would make things easier, is that i would lose the OE wheels. 4x110 is just so uncommon. I think the current wheels are maybe the best i can get for this car; i dont want to compromise my ability to use them and also be out another grand or so finding less attractive replacements.

I can CAD pretty well, send cut send exists, and soon ill have a welder. might have to get creative here.

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