In the list of most popular sports cars, the RX7 would be Mazda's likely candidate. This sports car was rolled out in 1978 and had lived through 2002. The original RX7 is perhaps best remembered for its pop-up headlamps. This 2-door coupe came equipped with a front mid-engine. It was also offered with optional occasional rear seats. The famous Mazda sports car made it to Car and Driver's Ten Best list several times. More than 800,000 RX7s were produced during the stint of the Mazda coupe.
1978: First generation RX7
Series 1 of the RX7 was produced from 1978 to 1980. It was introduced in Japan in 1978 as a replacement to the Savanna RX-3. The edge of the RX7 over other vehicles came from its smaller size and lighter weight, as well as its rotary engine that was placed behind the front axle. This engine placement allowed for a more balance front to rear weight distribution and low center of gravity.
Series 2 was launched in 1981 and lasted through 1983. They came with integrated plastic-covered bumpers, wrap-around tail lights, wide back rubber body side moldings, and upgraded engine control components. Series 3 then came along, characterized with a lower front fascia. RX7 models in North America got a different instrument cluster. The handling and acceleration of the earlier RX7s were rated highly. Various options and models came out in different countries. For instance, in North America, the first-generation RX7 was designed with fuel-injected 13B.
Savanna RX7 Turbo also came out. However, this didn't last very long as the next generation RX7 soon rolled out.
1986: Second generation RX7
Series 4 of the RX7 came around by 1986. It came equipped with a naturally aspirated, fuel-injected 13B-VDEI that could generate up to 146 hp. Turbo II, an optional turbocharged model, was also released in America from 1987 to 1988. The optional model could produce up to 182 hp. For Series 5 in 1989, the RX7 had a more updated style and improved engine management system. It was designed with lighter-weight rotors and a higher compression ratio. It was also equipped with a more powerful engine. The second-generation RX7 was restyled to match the looks of the Porsche 944 or 924 to capture the American market. Enhancements were done not only on the exterior but also on the chassis and other components.
In 1988, Mazda also released a convertible version of the RX7 and a 10th Anniversary limited edition, while in 1989, a face-lifted FC RX7 came out.
1991: Third generation RX7
This RX7 received numerous recognitions, including the Import of the Year award by Motor Trend and Car and Driver's Ten Best list for 1993 through 1995. In 2007, Road & Track also cited it as among the most exhilarating sports cars. Production of the RX7 lasted through 2002.