More Story

One time on the old TeamFC3S mailing list, there was a thread where people were telling the stories of how they came to catch the rotary bug. I submitted my own story, I'll present it here unedited just as I posted it on September 27, 2000.

My first actual experience with a rotary powered vehical was only 2 months ago when I got my RX-7. But my facination goes way back.

I guess it was year after I graduated from high school. I was hanging out at the local pet shop talking about cars. The owner of the shop was talking about rotary vs. reciprocating engines. He was using the imperical method of questioning those present. He asked things like, what do the tires on your car do?..rotate. What do the axels do? Rotate. What does the drive shaft do? Rotate? So why would you want your power plant to be using reciprocating motion? What is the point of having serveral chunks of steel accelorating in one direction, only to stop, turn around, and go back in the oppisite, just to stop again?

Well that set off the spark in my head. I found myself talking to my dad, who had always worked on cars as I grew up, and had plenty of stories to tell about driving. I asked him, "why aren't all cars rotary powered?" Told me of the reliability problems with their engines, but also told me about Mazda spanking all cars in their class the first few years they raced rotaries, until the officials deceided that they had too much of an advantage and put restrictions on them to the point where they were less than equal to the cars they were racing against.

I was having that conversation with my dad the night before he took me to the airport, I was moving to Florida to go to school. While living in Fort Lauderdale I started dating a girl that had this beat up looking hatch back. It was a faded charcoal/purple color. Horrid. The thing bearly idled, but the few times we rode on the highway, it really scooted.

Keep in mind I knew of the rotary engine, but not what cars Mazda had used it in. So I dropped out of the art school in Florida and moved back to Maryland, where I started attending a community college just so my huge student loans I got after only 6 months wouldn't come do so soon. At the community college I studied Computer Science and Math. In my Calculus, one of the chapters had a picture of a first generation RX-7 sitting on a salt flat. In that chapter we learned to calculate the area between two curves. One problem in the chapter had us compute the volume of the combustion chamber of the RX-7.

I think it was that point where I deceided I wanted an RX-7. The car looked nice in the picture, but more importantly the engine was so unique, so techy, there was no way I couldn't love it, you had to use Calculus to figure out the displacement, that was so cool.

I looked around on the Internet, and found tons of great sites, run by people who seemed to be huge fans of the car. I also discoved that there were 3 different body styles over the years. I liked the first gen. from my math book, and the thrid gens. were freaking sweet, but there was no way I'd want one of those second gens. they were just too boxy looking. So I started looking at prices, I discovered that I wasn't going to be able to afford an RX-7 with my current job. So I just kept doing the school thing, until I graduted and got a better job.

I didn't have too much money, but I figured I get a loan to buy a car if I found one. Not too much later a 1990 showed up on a local car lot. I went to look at it, but the owner of the lot just asked how I was going to pay for it. I said I'll try to finance it. He told me to go to a bank and find the money and once I "had my ducks in a row", I could come back a talk about the car.

I said screw him and started saving up my money. Once I had enough money saved up to buy just about any stock RX-7 I could find on Autotrader up to a 1993 model, maybe a rough 1994, I started looking around. Mostly I read FAQs on the Internet about what to look for when buying a RX-7. I also read about common problems, and how to fix them. So searching Autotrader, I found a couple of cars not too far away, but reading the descriptions there was something I didn't like. And the convertibles kept catching my eye.

There was one convertible on Ohio that really sounded good. I called the guy up. The first thing he tried to do was warn me about rotary cars, saying that they are different than most engines. I tell him I know all about them. Anyway, I agree to meet him halfway in Pittsburg, PA. I ride up with my mom just encase I do want to buy the car. I drive the car around Pittsburg for about 45 minutes. Stopping here and there for me to look at things on my checklist. I figured my checklist of items would have scared the guy, but he stood behind the car as being in very good shape. For the most part I agreed with him.

I worked out a deal with him, and drove home with the car. So far I have been very happy with the car. It does have its little problems, but it is very drivable and for the price I probally couldn't have done much better, and I'm sure I could have done much worse. Plus if the car didn't have problems, what would I work on?

I called up my ex-girlfriend from Florida the other day and asked what type of car she had. If you hadn't figured it out, it was an RX-7, and 1990. She had gotten rid of it in the mean time, after the transmission went out. If I had known what she had, I might not have left her. :P

1991 Convertible

Sometimes I look back on things I've written and smile, this is not one of those things. Had I written this type of thing today, it would be slightly different. I still love my RX-7 and rotary engines, but I've learned much. My check list wasn't very complete, as I would find out with only a couple months of that writing. Another thing I forgot to mention, is I did like the look of the later, Series 5, second generation RX-7s, especially the convertibles. But hey I was young(er), going over any of my older RX-7 related posts I can see how much I've changed and learned in just 2 years.

I mentioned a checklist of things I wanted to make sure I went over before I bought the car. I built that mostly looking around at various RX-7 sites, keeping track of common problems. In making the list, I also found a lot of interesting sites made by real fans of the rotary platform. Some people had done some amazing work to their RX-7s. Since I was interested in 3rd gens. at first, I had come across Pettit Racing. A lot of 3rd gens. for sale had various modifications made by them. But the thing that blew me away was their Banzai Edition. In searching for more information about the 20B engine that they used I found George Samuels' RXX-7. That site would be in the back of my mind and be a big influence in my decision to put the 20B in my convertible.

So, why wouldn't I just buy George's car? (It is for sale.) I jokingly told George that is was because it is white, when he offered it to me. But there is more to it than that. While his car is highly inspirational, and I would love to own it, it just isn't the car I would build. When one gets into a project this large and this expensive, there are 100s of different choices to be made. George made his and I'm going to make mine. While we'll both have 20B powered convertibles, the outcome of each project will have produced different cars. For everything involved in this conversion, I'm going to want a car that is uniquely me. I wouldn't get that from a car that was already finished. But I say when my car is done, George and I are going to have to get together. He only lives a few hours from me. The chance to have two 20B 'verts running together is something that can't be passed up.

Last modified on Thursday, 19-Dec-2002 21:34:01 EST.