Mazda RX-2

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Mazda RX-2
The front and rear of a Mazda RX-2
Body style(s)2-door coupé
4-door sedan
LayoutFR layout
Wheelbase2464 mm (97.s in)
Length4140 mm (163 in)
Width1575 mm (62.2 in)
Curb weight1050 kg (2315 lb)
RelatedMazda Capella/616/618
ManualsService Manual

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.

The RX-2 was really an option package for the Capella, albeit one that included a powerful rotary engine. In fact, early RX-2s were simply badged "Capella" with a small "RE" or rotor shape in the grille. The RX-2 was intended as a rotary-powered family car, while the Mazda RX-3 would be the sporty coupé.


JDM Capella Rotary Coupé

The first RX-2 (known as the Series I and II) were introduced in 1970 and replaced in 1974. They shared chassis of the Mazda Capella and used a 12A Wankel engine. They were a tremendous success due to their comparatively high power and performance. In 1970, output was 130 hp (97 kW) and 115 ft·lbf (156 Nm).


The 1974 RX-2 got the 12a engine, although it was not publicized in some markets.


Last production year of RX-2 at the South African Mazda-factory, where it was only produced with the 12A engine.

RX-2 (USA)

The RX-2 was one of the first Mazda vehicles offered for sale in the United States, lasting from 1971 through 1974. It appeared just after the Familia-based Mazda R100, and distribution of both cars was initially limited to the West Coast.

American emissions modifications reduced the 12A engine's output to 120 hp (89 kW), slowing the car's acceleration to 60 mph (97 km/h) from 10 to 11.3 sec. Nevertheless, Road & Track magazine reviewed the car favorably, calling the engine "impressive" and "plenty torquey" and comparing it to a smooth straight-6. The car's suspension and brakes also pleased the reviewers, but they were less enthusiastic about the "notchy" 4-speed manual transmission. All in all, the contemporary reviewers considered the RX-2, priced around US$3,000, "a steal".

Early RX-2s had trouble with failure of the oil seals, causing excessive oil consumption and heavier exhaust. Another failure mode involved overheating of the O-ring side seals between sections of the side housing which introduced coolant into the combustion chamber, reducing available power and making the engine hard to start, and ultimately rendering the vehicle inoperable.[1] At first, Mazda fixed the engines under warranty, replacing the overheated seals with new ones of the same design. Later, they offered a better, redesigned set of seals but at a cost to the consumer of US$1,000 per engine.[2] This caused many Mazda RX-2 owners to abandon rather than repair their cars, accounting for the extreme rarity of these exotic, sporty sedans.

Racing success

The RX-2 was the first Wankel-powered car to be widely raced - the original Cosmo competed in just a single race. Car and Driver magazine and Racing Beat built an RX-2 race car in 1973 for the IMSA sedan series. With radically-enlarged ports (they were so large that a "bridge" of steel was required to keep the corner seals in place), the RX-2 produced 198 hp (148 kW) in racing trim.

The RX-2 took the pole in its first race, at Pocono, but did not finish the race due to a broken differential. Lime Rock was its third race, and the RX-2 claimed both the pole and the win. Another win came at Road Atlanta, even with a 300 lb (136 kg) lead weight handicap. The engine modifications were outlawed for 1974, but the RX-2 kept winning. Car and Driver lost interest in the car, but others continued to race it, and other RX-2 and RX-3 racers soon appeared.

The RX-2 rotary engine (Wankel) suffered from rotor tip wear that the company was unable to correct until late 1974. RX-2s that experienced this rotor tip wear would have reduced power, thus impacting the driving experience.


  1. Hege, John B. (2002). The Wankel Rotary Engine: A History pp. 123-124. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786411775
  2. Notification of terms of warranty from Mazda Motor Corporation to RX-2 owners, August 1978.
  • Yamaguchi, Jack K. (1985). The New Mazda RX-7 and Mazda Rotary Engine Sports Cars. St. Martin's Press, New York. ISBN 0-312-69456-3. 
  • Jan P. Norbye (1973). "Watch out for Mazda!". Automobile Quarterly XI.1: 50–61. 
  • Patrick Bedard (June 1993). "Wankel Winning, Wankel Whining". Car and Driver 38.12: 105.