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Delivery day: Taking the Mazda RX-7 to England

What started out as a brilliant plan was maybe not enough. Car is fine, though!

In fact, the car is better than ever and completed the 1,200 kilometer trip just perfectly. But first let’s recap:

Back in May, ViaRETRO’s International Editor Anders and I purchased a 1983 Mazda RX-7 Elford Turbo together: I found it in Sweden and drove it back home to Denmark – the full story can be found in the article My First Wankel: Mazda RX-7 Elford Turbo. So obviously the car ran, but on the last and luckily very short leg from the Danish ferry port to my home, a brake caliper was binding. I parked it up and gave the car a polish: I liked the Elford Turbo in its very Eighties all-white as much as I had hoped, in fact. Anders hadn’t seen the RX-7 in the flesh, and we needed a plan for when and how we were going to hand over the car during the summer. Our Elford RX-7 is of course originally a British car, so it only seemed right to repatriate it. It took a while before we found a suitable date, but when we finally did, as an added bonus it also allowing us to visit the truly great Festival of the Unexceptional.

I had hoped that the four new Dunlop Sport Classic’s and an oil change would suffice before departure.

My polish hadn’t fixed the brakes, though – and as the upcoming trip to England would include a much longer drive via the ferryport in Haag in The Netherlands, clearly this would need to be looked at. Suddenly (of course it is always sudden…) I ran out of time and unceremoniously I handed the Mazda over to my mechanic so he could could have a look. It turned out, merely looking at it sadly wasn’t enough and in fact he ended up having all four calipers rebuilt. As well as the master cylinder. And oh, the clutch was replaced as well. OK, I had not quite planned for that much – not on top of the lovely new Dunlop Sport-tyres which we had fitted to the Elford’s original white alloys.

But no: Before we set off for the Ferry, much more work was done. Please note our perfectly timed arrival as the last vehicle.

I didn’t feel we had a choice though: For the delivery process, the Elford Turbo would need to drive in the region of 1,200 kilometer or more, and it would be quite pleasant if we could actually trust both the brakes and the clutch. Well, more than pleasant, actually. Oh, and the engine also had a flat spot at low revs, so clearly needed a tuneup. This was done as well together with fresh oil and filter which happily resulted in it running better than ever.

As usual, I had a very brief moment of clarity where I doubted the soundness of the project – such as when I picked up the freshly serviced Elford Turbo on the actual morning of our departure. Not the day before as planned – but the same day where we were supposed to drive onto a ferry two countries away no later than 21:30. Well, I thought – it’s a Japanese classic, so what could possibly go wrong?

A pleasant surprise was the fuel consumption: Not much worse than my Alpine A310, in fact.

Nothing, of course. And indeed this turned out to be the shortest possible description of our trip. A bit more elaboration: The RX-7 simply got on with munching up the miles in an utterly unfazed manner which no one could rightfully expect of a 34 year old sports car after a longer period of being stood still. Except a Japanese one of course.

Probably the most surprising element of the motorway stint was the petrol consumed – and yes, it surprised positively: I’d heard terrible things regarding the Wankels appetite for petrol, but even cruising at 120 km/h the car returned around 10 kilometers per liter. And it was comfortable too.

On a personal level, it was a moment of extraordinary symbolism meeting up with Anders’ red BMW 2002: It was that exact car which started me off swingin’ with cars almost ten years ago.

Once again, it was a solo trip to the Netherlands, as was the first stretch in England: The ferry arrived in Harwich on the Friday morning from which we took in both Cambridge and Bedford on our own. We found reasonably interesting roads as well and they got even better as we approached Stowe House for the Festival on Saturday. Needless to say, we hugely enjoyed the Festival which ViaRETRO has covered in separate articles.

The real clou was when we met Anders, our International Editor in England, and on the remaining part of the journey he guided us along truly amazing routes and roads. The best of these were in the National Park of the Peak District. I knew this area only by name, but on the way back to Anders’ home town we drove one route through the district and on a subsequent joint test drive of the Mazda another route. The Peak District is about half the size of Funen, the second largest Danish island – but as far as I can judge contains considerably more miles of fantastic driving roads – it’s certainly not the last time we drive there – of that I’m sure. And I am equally sure that was exactly the point Anders was trying to make.

It is not the last time we drive in the Peak District, I am sure.

And so back to the Mazda, the reason for being here at all: Well, the RX-7 has been on my dream list since my teenage years, and fortunately, I’m still excited about its concept. It’s a little more practical than the Alpine, and in this Elford Turbo edition it’s actually almost as fast – and significantly cheaper. Nevertheless, the Japanese feels like a more solid car, and some things even work better – the gear shift is top-notch, for example. And the engine? Well, it’s a Wankel and in many ways just outside of category: Supersmooth and totally its own identity. Adding a turbo does nothing to detract from this, and the sound is still lovely. It should not really be necessary to mention, but of course the Wankel is supremely smooth compared to the PRV V6 in the Alpine. Well, compared to anything reciprocating, in fact.

Following another classic ensures your view.

However, when coming straight from an A310, the steering feel and feedback in the Mazda is definitely disappointing, and unbelievably the Japanese is also less comfortable when judged as a pure grand touring car. Now who would have anticipated that?

Having said that, I truly enjoyed those 1,200 km in it – of course I did. The RX-7 was a dream car for me and as I said – it turned out I enjoyed is just as much as I’d hoped for. In fact, I’m not really sure I’m done with the model at all: It was solely the Danish import tax laws which destroyed the party for me. It turned out it would cost around 5,000 Euro to have it imported and registered here. The cost of registering it in England is much, much lower, so this was part of the plan right from the word Go. And I should therefore ensure that I had done all of my driving in the RX-7 before handing it over to Anders.

The problem is that I am not sure I have, and clearly 1,500 kilometers in total is very little for dream car ownership.

That magical moment where I handed over the keys to Anders: Using the original Japanese Rosewood stick that holds up the hatch when the gas dampers can’t.

On the other hand, I’m also excited about what’s happening now: After his first test of the RX-7 in the Peak District, Anders mentioned that he might just keep it and drive it himself? Well, I also considered that by myself. Most importantly I take this as a very sure sign that he also likes the RX-7 Elford Turbo. I couldn’t help but mention to him that it in fact looked great parked in front his house, and not least that it also varied sufficiently from his BMW 2002 to justify owning both.

I do think he liked the RX-7 as well.

Meanwhile, I had something else to think about as well: Regarding our return trip to Denmark, we had to consider whether we would buy another classic and drive home – and I had in fact arranged a viewing of a good candidate. But while on the ferry heading towards England, the seller contacted me with the sad news that it was now sold.

After consulting several of my cleverer friends, I came to the conclusion that a car holiday does not necessarily require you to buy a car. Considering the time and research needed to find my single candidate, I passed on the idea. With only a few remaining hours, even I – normally, ever the optimist – figured the risk was too big. So we flew. Which was obviously a terrible experience compared to driving over there in a 34 year old sports car.

During the endless waiting in the airport, I was consumed with one thought only: Next time, I must find a good RX-7 in Denmark and already on a Danish registration.

 

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5 Responses

  1. Dave Leadbetter
    The in-car action shot shows you driving through Castleton, away from a village called Hope. Is that a subliminal comment on the Danish import tax regulations? Very subversive.

    :)

    Reply
  2. Anders Bilidt
    Yup Claus, I most certainly like our Elford Turbo! So eighties, so Nippon and so cool… :-)
    The RX-7 is currently getting its first British MOT in some twenty years. Soon enough it’ll be back on a British registration. Let’s see where it all goes from there…
    Reply
  3. Claus Ebberfeld
    , you’’re the only one who got it! And we worked SOO hard on the setup of that shot. Maybe it was too subtle?

    I am relieved and looking forward to hear more, . On these pages…

    Reply
  4. Leo Jensen
    Swedish registration ? Is that still valid, or did you use temporary registration for the transport ?
    Reply

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