A 1980s rally car that has never been raced or, indeed, rallied
The timewarp car is, for many, the holy grail of classic motoring – and yet at the same time presents one of the greatest dilemmas. The chance to drive a factory-fresh machine, decades after it was built, would be the ultimate thrill, yet at the same time would destroy what makes it so special.
Apply that to a little-known Group B car and the question takes on added significance. The Mazda RX-7 you see here is both a rare example of one of the lesser-known participants from this legendary period in rallying – and as close to a brand-new works Group B rally car as you’ll likely ever encounter. Individually these would be notable qualities. Combined they make this little rotary Mazda something very special indeed, its passionate owner saying, “It has spent all its life in the shadows, never having been used and it’s been like discovering a wonderful jewel.” It’s one that could be yours for a relatively modest sum.
A full history lesson can be found in its listing, but the short version is that Mazda’s entry to Group B was made considerably easier by the fact it had to build on;y 20 cars and not 200 (it benefited from ‘carry over’ homologation from previous regulations). Research suggests just seven were actually completed, of which this one – chassis number 019 – was built as a spare car but never actually run. The fact it turned up in plain white paint with the decals supplied in an envelope is one example of that originality. They have since been added, though handling brittle, 30-year-old vinyl was apparently a tense experience.
The Audis, Peugeots, Lancias et al have, of course, captured the imagination whenever Group B is discussed and are prized accordingly. The Belgian team behind the RX-7 was a minnow in comparison, instead relying on craftsmanship and very Mazda-like dedication to rotary power in the face of seemingly impossible odds. The car it built nonetheless speaks volumes for its expertise and looks the absolute business, the savage and ear-splitting crackle of its rotary as unique in rallying as it was to be later at Le Mans. “I love owning these things but I don’t really get the buzz from driving them because they’re just so extreme,” says the vendor. “I go out in them, but for me it’s about finding them and bringing back them to a high standard. Not that I needed to do much to this one!”
It’s true that the naturally-aspirated RX-7 couldn’t match the pace of the flame-spitting front-runners, but Mazda Rally Team Europe did score one credible podium – Ingvar Carlsson and Benny Melander taking third in the 1985 Acropolis Rally behind the winning Peugeot 205 T16 of Timo Salonen and Stig Blomqvist’s Audi. It was a difficult rally for a supposedly outgunned car and proof of the Mazda’s unexpected toughness.
And you can have one, freshly built, never rallied and for less than £200,000. Sure, it’s an amazing artefact from one of the most celebrated periods in motor sport – and possibly unique. In those terms it might just be priceless and worthy of preservation in its original condition. A delivery-mileage Group B car? It would be a stylish way to go historic rallying. What future should await? Someone faces a tough decision.