Mazda RX-3
The Mazda RX-3 is an automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 sold in the 1970s. It was intended to be smaller and sportier than its brother, the RX-2/Capella Rotary
Mazda RX-2
The Mazda RX-2 was a midsize car introduced in 1970 and sold through 1978. It used a rotary engine and shared a chassis with the piston-engined Mazda Capella/616/618....

. In 1972 all rotary engines had their die-cast rotor housing coated with a new process: The new Transplant Coating Process (TCP) featured sprayed-on steel which is then coated with chrome, giving greatly increased engine life. It was available from September, 1971 through 1978 in Super deluxe coupé, Deluxe sedan, and station wagon forms. The deluxe coupe was heavier (884 kg vs 864 kg) and carried an optional body stripe, clock, rear defogger and the centre console/high armrest and collapsible steering column. All Series 1 RX-3s came with the 982 cc (2x491 cc) 10A. It was based on the compact Mazda Grand Familia
Mazda Grand Familia
The Mazda Grand Familia, as it was known in the domestic Japanese market, was sold as the Mazda 808 in some export markets such as New Zealand and Australia and Asia Pacific markets and Mazda 818 in many others...

(808/818/Mizer in export markets) and was sold in Japan as the Mazda Savanna
Mazda Savanna
Mazda used the Savanna name on a number of rotary-powered sports cars in the Japan market.-1971:...

. Sold from 1972 through 1978 in the United States, the RX-3 was extremely successful.

It originally used a 10A rotary
Wankel engine
The Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine using an eccentric rotary design to convert pressure into a rotating motion instead of using reciprocating pistons. Its four-stroke cycle takes place in a space between the inside of an oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing and a rotor that...

 engine like the Mazda R100
Mazda R100
The Mazda R100 was the export name for the Mazda Familia Rotary Coupe, an automobile produced by Mazda in Japan from 1968 to 1973. It used the chassis from the Familia and the rotary 0820 engine similar to the one used in the Cosmo Sport Series II. It was a 2 door 2+2 coupé and was produced from...

, but American cars shared the larger 12A engine from the RX-2. Performance-wise the 10A RX-3 wasn't able to match the RX-2 with 12A. With a power-to-weight ratio
Power-to-weight ratio
Power-to-weight ratio is a calculation commonly applied to engines and mobile power sources to enable the comparison of one unit or design to another. Power-to-weight ratio is a measurement of actual performance of any engine or power sources...

 of 10.9 kg per kW compared to the RX-2's 9.9 kg per kW, the RX-3 was slower. Aussie motoring journalists did well to push 17.6 second quarters at 76 mi/h out of the lighter sedan (16.3 for the RX-2). Performance-wise the 12A RX-3 wasn't able to match the RX-2 with 12A either, despite its lighter weight. See 1973 for details.
  • Front Track: 1295 mm (51 in)
  • Rear Track: 1295 mm (51 in)

The Aero Design DG-1
Aero Design DG-1
-References:* Taylor, J. H. Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. Studio Editions: London. p. 27* * Aero Trader, October 2005* Air Progress, June 1975* Sport Aviation, March 1976* Sport Aviation, February 2002, p.44-49...

 racing aircraft used two RX-3 engines, each driving a propeller - one at the front, the other at the rear of the aircraft.


The Savanna/RX-3 was the next Mazda racing entry, following up the success of the Cosmo
Mazda Cosmo
There have been four generations of Mazda automobiles which went by the name of Cosmo, although they are not all particularly related. All were Grand tourers, with the first proving a successful launch for the Mazda Wankel engine and acting as a "halo" vehicle for the new Mazda brand...

 and Familia Rotary
Mazda R100
The Mazda R100 was the export name for the Mazda Familia Rotary Coupe, an automobile produced by Mazda in Japan from 1968 to 1973. It used the chassis from the Familia and the rotary 0820 engine similar to the one used in the Cosmo Sport Series II. It was a 2 door 2+2 coupé and was produced from...

. The Savanna debuted with a win at the September, 1971 "Fuji 500" race.

The cars battled with Nissan's Skyline on the Japanese Grand Prix
Japanese Grand Prix
The is a race in the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Traditionally one of the last, if not the last race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix has been the venue for many title-deciding races, with 13 World Champions being crowned over the 27 World Championship Japanese...

 in 1972, winning the touring car category there and preventing the GT-R from winning 50 consecutive races. The cars continued to be competitive, claiming over 100 victories in 1976, and continue in club racing today.

In Australia the RX-3 proved very successful both on and off the race track. One of many RX-3s racing in the 1975 Bathurst 1000 caused more than a worried look after placing fifth outright and 1st in its class for the second consecutive year after its initial class win in 1974. The RX-3 dominated the class C in 1975 holding 4 of the top 5 positions.
In the USA the RX3 had much success in SCCA and IMSA competition. Many RX3s are still competing and one in particular is the SCCA Super Production car driven by Irish driver John Cummins.


The 1972 RX-3 was powered by the 10A in Japan, Australia, and Europe, while other markets got the larger 12A from the RX-2. The 1972 RX-3 was the first rotary-powered station wagon.

10A Engine output was 105 hp (78 kW) and 100 ft·lbf (135 Nm). 0-60 mph (0–97 km/h) time was 10.8 seconds, and the car ran a 17.6 second quarter-mile (400 m)(16.3 for the RX-2).


In late 1973, Mazda released the Series 2 in Japan. Externally the entire front end sheet metal was revamped and a different set of taillights with twin brake lights were included (commonly known as Savanna tail lights in Australia). The Series 2 RX-3 hit Australia in March of '74 powered by the 12A single distributor (12B). Earlier 12A engines featured dual distributors. The starter motor was also relocated in the later engines from the top of the engine to the left hand rear side. Other internal 12A changes included moving from dual row side seals to single row and significant changes to apex seal design. The Series 2 was slower than the 10A series 1 down the quarter mile even with the 1,146 cc 12A's greater capacity and 15 percent more power. The Rotary Engine Anti Pollution System (REAPS) hurt torque. As a result, the Series 2 was slow off the mark but had a better top speed. The loss of torque plus a 44-kilo weight increase slowed the series 2 to a 17.8 second quarter mile. Additional exterior colors for the Series 2 like Bottle Green and Alexandria gold added appeal. Interior changes were minor and included a change from the km/h/mph speedometer to a 200 km/h speedometer (180 km/h for the 808), an exhaust overhead light, a 50 amp/our ammeter gauge (up from 30ah) plus design changes to the trims and seat belts. Notably the radio antenna was enhanced by a twin post (rather than single) design. The '74 model kept the three spoke plastic wood grain steering wheel; the '75 received a fake leather wheel with slots cut into its three spokes.

12A Engine output was 130 hp (97 kW) and 115 ft·lbf (156 Nm). 0-60 mph (0–97 km/h) time was 10.8 seconds, and the car ran a 17.8 second quarter-mile (400 m).


The Savanna was updated in June 1973 for 1974. Mazda put the new 12A "AP" single-distributor engine in the RX-3. The body was also updated. It was refreshed again in 1975 with a "REAPS-5" engine.


In 1976 the Series 3 RX-3 was released in America and Japan but not Australia or New Zealand. There weren't as many changes this time around, but the few made were significant. The nose cone wore a new lower spoiler-type lip, the gimmick rotor badges were replaced with a simple Mazda badge on the grille. The RX-3 was finally dropped in 1978 to make room for the new Mazda RX-7
Mazda RX-7
Series 1 is commonly referred to as the "SA22C" from the first alphanumerics of the vehicle identification number. This series of RX-7 had exposed steel bumpers and a high-mounted indentation-located license plate, called by Werner Buhrer of Road & Track magazine a "Baroque depression."In 1980...

Of all the pre-RX-7 rotary vehicles Mazda built (930,000 in total), the RX-3 was by far the most popular. Of all the RX-3's built, the coupe exceeded 50 percent of total sale - all facts which influenced the design profile of the RX-7.
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