The May 1978 issue of Road & Track pictured a cheap car from a Japanese company struggling to consolidate itself in the US Market in the late seventies. This company was a champion of the Wankel engine, but the fuel crisis and questions about whether the Wankel could ever be made fuel-efficient enough had hit their sales hard. So what did this company do?
It launched a sports car in a time when they were viewed as antisocial and frivolous. Worse, this sports car was powered by that self-same inefficient Wankel.
The company was Mazda. The car was the RX-7.
And the rest is road and racing car history. The RX-7 sold, and sold, and sold, and the naysayers and social engineers that whined about it were ignored in droves. See? Sometimes life IS both fair and good.
Interestingly, Mazda learned from the experience and, when sales of the RX-7 eventually weakened more than a decade later, in 1989 they repeated the cheap, fun car formula. What did they launch? A little something called the Miata… which is still on sale 31 years later.
And R&T, which sometimes missed on their cover cars, got this one exactly right. Kudos to the editorial team.
The rest of the magazine repeated what had been going on in other late 70s issues, so no need to go into that in any depth, but one cool thing that I’ve noticed in the past few issues is that the masthead is beginning to resemble the one I loved when I joined the party in 1989. Apart from Innes Ireland and Rob Walker, we’ve got Thos L. Bryant, Joe Rusz, John Lamm and Dennis Simanaitis, who wrote a long piece on automotive materials in this issue.
Starting to feel familiar, now. Starting to feel like home.
Gustavo Bondoni’s latest novel is a romp through the Russian wilderness, pursued by genetically modified dinosaurs and assorted other monsters. You can check it out here.