Weekly Motor Fix: Mazda RX-3 coupe

5 May, 2015

Are Japanese cars from the early ’70s destined to become the next big thing when it comes to classic car collectability?

A few years ago the down-under classic-car market went crazy for Ford Falcon GT-HOs. Prices skyrocketed from a few hundred thousand to around a million dollars in just a few crazy months, as cash-rich baby boomers climbed into the market with a view to realizing the automotive dreams of their youth.

Are we now seeing a similar trend with Japanese cars of the early ’70s?

A few months ago (New Zealand Classic Car Issue No. 290) Greg Price put together a feature on his son’s all-original 1974 Mazda 808 coupe and, in passing, Greg also made mention of the 808’s rotary-powered cousin, the RX-3.

Once upon a time these rather stylish Japanese coupes could be picked up for tuppence-ha’penny — quite simply, with petrol prices going stratospheric, nobody wanted a gas-guzzling rotor-motor.

However, as the years passed, younger enthusiasts picked up on these cars and began tuning and customizing them — we’d arrived at the dawn of the Japanese-import performance-car boom, and Mazda’s RX-series cars were at the head of the line-up.

More recently, monitoring the older car market both here and in Australia, it seems that ’70s Japanese cars are experiencing something of a renaissance, and prices for original, unmolested cars are on the move upwards.

With that in mind, we recently spotted this beautifully restored 1973 RX-3 coupe in Hamilton, and, unlike many of the rotor-motor rebuilds we’ve seen or heard about over the last decade, this example has been restored back to original condition. So, no bridge-porting, no outrageous bodykit, no ‘harlequin’ metallic paint, no drainpipe-sized exhaust pipe, no massive alloy wheels, and absolutely no Day-Glo vinyl interior. In fact, this example has been meticulously restored to original condition and is owned by an enthusiast with a real passion for these cars. Indeed, the RX-3 is still fitted with its original 10A twin-distributor rotary engine rather than having been swapped out for a later 12A or 13B unit.

A numbers-matching car, painted in its original Flare Yellow colour, this is probably the most original and complete Mazda RX-3 coupe in New Zealand.

The present owner of this RX-3 is also keeping a keen eye on the market for these cars and tells us that prices are going crazy at the moment with original, early-Mazda rotary-powered cars really starting to take off. He’s seen a few RX-3s for sale in Australia for $55,000 plus, while another has been listed for as much as $88,000. More amazingly, the cars appear to be genuinely selling for those prices! He also told us of an unrestored RX-3 coupe that was recently purchased by Mazda Australia from a local online auction site for $42,500 — this car being destined for a complete restoration and eventual inclusion in the company’s local car collection.

What do you think? Are all-original Japanese cars from the ’70s worthy of all this collectors’ car interest? We think they are — and we’re planning to feature this RX-3 coupe in a future edition of the magazine.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.

Super Leicht Gullwing

It’s fair to say that nothing much in the classic Mercedes world gets past Mercedes-Benz Club stalwart Garry Boyce so it wasn’t surprising to learn that around 15 years ago he had sniffed out an extremely rare 300SL lightweight Gullwing as well as a 1958 300SL Roadster hiding away in the Waikato. The cars were not for sale but Garry eventually managed to persuade the owner to allow him and his restoration team to take a look at the Roadster. They discovered a very distressed but largely unmolested car. The car was so original that the body had never been off the chassis, meaning most of the parts and fittings were still present and correct, as they had been fitted by the factory.