After decades of reading every issue of Fast Fours and Rotaries magazine, I finally saved enough to buy my teenage poster car. Most of my friends had the Lamborghini Countach LP5000 or the Ferrari Testarossa poster. I, on the other hand, had a lineup of Mazda R100s, RX2s, 3s and 4s.
After searching for years I found a close to factory original RX3 sedan. So what’s it like achieving your teenage dream? To quote Oscar Wilde: “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
Don’t get the impression I don’t love it, but it can be difficult to live with. It’s noisy, smelly, and unreliable and drinks oil and petrol like we were running out of the stuff.
It can be so tiresome on long trips or in heavy traffic that you get home and park it, cover it up and don’t want to look at it for a few weeks. Technology-wise, a single-speaker AM radio stuck on Easy Listening 2CH replaces AppleCarPlay. And there's a venetian blind serving as Climate Control.
There is no ABS, ESP, EBD or anything else you care to mention. In fact no power assistance on steering, the clutch is heavy and grabby and the brakes vague. When pushed enthusiastically though a corner, the 155mm wide tyres easily lose traction so it’s no wonder most old Mazda rotaries run 20x9-inch Simmons alloys these days.
Driving the RX3 is an acquired art and the whole driving experience takes patience, experience and skill. Acceleration from the Bridgeport rotary engine is impressive for its age, but your Telsa makes it to 100km/h at least 12 seconds quicker and without your white knuckles gripping for dear life on the thin, vibrating steering wheel. Every bump and undulation in the road, each engine vibration is felt in the cabin, or through the steering wheel.
And the extraordinary sound of a Bridgeport rotary engine climbing through its rev range is an enjoyable and addictive experience, which can be enjoyed by both driver and everyone else in the surrounding suburbs.
But, in a world rapidly heading towards autonomous driving electric vehicles, it’s nice to drive a car that reminds us of simpler times, when driving enjoyment meant more than range and when the car’s sound and feel was more important than how efficiently your phone connects to the multimedia display.
Driving the RX3 takes me back to a time when there was a visceral connection between man and machine, and (sometimes) between the car and road, when vehicles had sounds, vibrations and smells and noise; where personal driver inputs of effort, skill and concentration are rewarded with an enthusiastic, enjoyable and memorable driving experience.