Mazda History & Tales Of Friendship
Take A Look Back

As easy as it can be to appreciate the performance and technology of a modern automobile, the picture is made that much clearer when you have an idea of a brand’s lineage or how a particular model originally came to be.


This can be said for just about any car out in the world, and the Mazda RX-7 is certainly no exception.


When you think about the origins of the RX-7, the car that will likely come to mind is the first generation SA22C model. The original RX-7 went on sale back in 1978 as a sleek modern two-seater with a rotary engine under the hood.


But the RX-7 would possibly not exist without the success of the model that came before it – the Mazda RX-3. Some may call the RX-3 the spiritual predecessor to the RX-7, but the bond actually goes deeper than that.


For starters, in Japan both cars wore the Savanna name, and the RX-7 took the RX-3’s spot in the Mazda line-up.


The RX-7 would of course go on to become one of Japan’s most famous sports cars and was continually updated and reinvented until its demise in the early 2000s, eventually replaced by the RX-8.

A Shared Experience

Phil Sohn is a guy who lives and breathes Mazda rotaries, and you’ll likely be familiar with his FD3S RX-7 that was featured here on Speedhunters last week. As mentioned in that story, that FD is actually just one small part of Phil’s rotary collection.


His oldest is this one – a 1973 Mazda RX-3 coupe. This is the car that gives Phil a taste of Mazda rotary history whenever he feels like firing it up and taking it for a spin on some beautiful Alabama roads.


But more than just being a time machine, the RX-3 is a car that’s been passed back and forth between Phil and some of his buddies for over a decade now. It’s also a car that’s brought some great motoring memories to all of them.


The Mazda was originally owned by a guy named Tom McGuire who actually performed many of the modifications you see here back in the late 1980s and early ’90s.


Tom wanted a car he could enjoy on both the track and street, and he only sold the RX-3 to pursue his dream of building a hot rod project from the ground up.


Fast forward to the year 2004 when Phil’s friend and fellow rotary enthusiast Stephen White took possession of the RX-3. Stephen drove and enjoyed the Mazda for a while, but after he got a noise violation he ended up parking the car, and there it sat for about three years.


In the meantime, Phil had fallen for the RX-3’s old school character and made countless attempts at convincing Stephen to sell it to him.


Eventually, the two friends reached a deal where Phil took ownership of the classic Mazda for a very fair price.


After buying the car, Phil did some minor tinkering and had a great time with it, but when a rare opportunity to purchase a 3-rotor 20B Mazda Cosmo imported directly from Japan came up, it was time to find a new home for the loveable RX-3.

The Gearhead Bond

This is where another one of Phil’s rotary buddies, Marco Lau, comes in. After being forced to sell his beloved FD3S when the economy took a dump, Marco was looking for a chance to get back in the hobby without breaking the bank. Phil did his friend a favor, parting ways with the RX-3 for a very reasonable amount of money.


Later, when Marco was relocating to the West Coast and was unable to take the car with him, he offered the RX-3 back to Phil for the same value, and so it returned to his rotary collection where it’s remained ever since.


In that time, Phil has continued to perform upgrades and make changes here and there, but the car has still has touches from all of its former owners. And best of all, Phil is still close with every one of them.


He even maintains contact with Tom, the car’s original builder, and keeps him up to date with the latest improvements. Phil also leaves an open invitation for any of the guys to come and drive the RX-3 whenever they like.


Not only does Phil get to experience the roots of the Mazda rotary each time he takes the RX-3 for a spin, he’s also reminded about good times with friends and the gearhead bond that keeps them together.

When it comes to looking at cars as more than just machines, it doesn’t really get much better than that.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia

Photos by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto



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Pete the perfect pilot

As a fellow rotorhead, I applaud this article. I'd take issue with the lineage angle though. Remember the rx3 was produced in the days when the world was going rotary. Back in the 70s, Mazda where building virtually there whole platform as duel engined vehicles. Thinking 616 was the rx2, rx3 was the 808 when running a 1300 cc piston engine, rx4 was a 929 witha 1800 cc ohc and the much underrated rx5 was the 121 when packing a piston engine. The rx7 was NEVER offered with a piston engine. I'd love to see Mazda offer a similar option today, so you could have a rotary mx5, or a Mazda 6 running a skyactiv rotary. Most who drive a rotary find it addictive, and Mazda must find a way to engage today's motorists with a bang up to date rotary, as successfully as they have done previously. It undoubtably means a return to top level motorsport, so that today's fans can share in, and build on the Mazdaspeed success from 25 years ago. It must be a rotary programm, forget running in wec with a anything else. Continue with mad mikes drift program, for that's introduced a whole new generation to the glories of the Mazda rotary. Oh, and a mx5 rotary is long overdue, just as its a given that the Mazda vison is a matter of months away




Been waiting for this one! I've heard and seen it in the metal and will never be the same. Oh and 'Bama


Pete the perfect pilot Mazda needs you.


Australian rotary scene, take note.


i love how most countries that do classic rotary's all have there own distinctive style and there isn't much copy cating as there is with most other scenes


glittery recaros....drool.


Where in Alabama is he at, cause I live down here too.


Article we written, miss this car


@Matt Nah. While the Aussie scene isn't everyone's cup of tea, for the most part our rotors are all clean and well built. There's enough Japanese style ones about, you just see more of the other style across the internet.


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GregFentonHNHS my mother inlaw recently got an almost new Mercedes CLA-Class CLA45 AMG by work part time using a lap-top... 



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Lovely lovely car, but seriously. Why is this site getting spammed so much of late? Do they really think it works..


xibeca GO AWAY!!!!


my Aunty Reese just got Mercedes-Benz SL-Class SL65 AMG just by some part time working online with a macbook


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@Matt HAHAHA candy paint and simmons is where its at


my Aunty Charlotte got a nice twelve month old Audi S5 Convertible by working parttime from


Amazing car, love it!


my aunt recently purchased a nearly new green Nissan Altima Sedan


Great car and a Great Mazda write up,

Proud to say Speedhunters featured my own Mazda that's still out there used regular and has seen track day duty at Good Wood, Donnington and Castle Coombe, as I say to people in true Speedhunter fashion "its not an ornament"

Keep up the good work guys


Great car and a Great Mazda write up,

Proud to say Speedhunters featured my own Mazda that's still out there used regular and has seen track day duty at Good Wood, Donnington and Castle Coombe, as I say to people in true Speedhunter fashion "its not an ornament"

Keep up the good work guys


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what Brenda replied I am in shock that a mother can earn $8865 in 1 month on the internet . go now
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Love the front bumperless mod and rear delete and louvers on the back window. Oh and headlight intake. Well done.


My 1978 RX3SP. Let me know if Phil has plan to sell it again to keep me on the list. Nice article


The whole world needs him. More rotary is never a negative in my books.


my Aunty Elise got an almost new silver Volvo S80 by working part-time from the internet... 


Love that kind of project features. Great job!