The Mazda RX-2 was the first truly accessible mainstream rotary-powered car. The Mazda Cosmo Sport and Luce R130 were too rare and expensive and the R100 too small, but the Capella (which eventually became the 626), was the perfect mid-size car to showcase Hiroshima’s jewel of an engine. As such, RX-2s, especially in stock or close-to-stock condition, have become sought-after classics. Nowhere is this more true than in Australia.
Many Americans consider the RX-7 one of the premier Japanese sports cars, but our fondness for Mazda’s rotary engine doesn’t hold a candle to Australia’s. Aussies have been in love with rotaries for much longer, and bought pre-RX-7 models in much greater quantities than we did in the States. The latest video in Australian classic car insurance company Shannons’ excellent series of collectible car videos shows why.
The NSU Ro80 was the first rotary car to be imported to Australia, but in truth NSU had not really perfected the pistonless technology to where it was viable for mass production. Plagued with mechanical issues, the Ro80 not only doomed NSU’s sales, but gave the idea of a rotary engine a black eye.
Then Mazda entered the scene in 1969 with the R100 and immediately went racing. It was followed in 1971 by the RX-2 and, combined with a new coil spring rear suspension and true mid-size dimensions, became a sales hit. It was helped in no small fashion by a historic showing at the Bathurst 500, Australia’s most famous race. The RX-2 promptly took pole position and proceeded to win its class. Shannons host Mark Oastler explains, “That first Bathurst win really boosted the rotary engine’s showroom appeal in Australia because it showed the car was not only fast, but also reliable.”
There’s plenty of more Australian RX-2 racing history in the video that’s well worth watching, as well as a profile of an owner with a beautifully mint RX-2 sedan in Melbourne. As are all the Shannons videos, it’s well worth a viewing.
I had an orange RX-2 as my first car in high school (in California). Loved everything about it but the gas mileage. What a fun little car. Kicking myself for selling it, but hey, you can’t predict the future, right?
This is literally every muscle car owner story but swap out RX-2 for Camaro or Mustang.
I love that it happened with Nostalgics as well.
Another car that’s effectively completely absent in the UK. There are a few RX-3s kicking around, but those are hugely expensive. I think the FB RX-7 was the first rotary we got in any appreciable number. I do find these earlier boxy rotary cars very cool though,
They’re almost extinct in the US too.
Happy to see some love for the Rx2! The RX3 has the largest fanbase and an enviable racing history but I always thought the Rx2 had the best styling and better driving dynamics; very grown up. The Car and Driver racer was a real buffalo on the race track and spanked everyone so much that the rules had to be changed to tame the beast. Every car and non car magazine of the time heaped glowing praise on this model not merely for the engine itself but as a complete well engineered package.
Its my understanding that the coupe was only offered in Australia for the first year making it quite rare. In the U.S., it was a 50/50 mix between coupe and sedan.
to my understanding rx-3 had better handling and lighter weight… the rx2 could not win the skyline, but as soon the rx3 hit the track it took the 50th. win in a row from nissan.