1970-1978 Mazda RX-2 / Capella Rotary

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Production Period: 1970-1978

The first generation:'Kaze no Capella'

Mazda launched the first generation Capella, a sporty saloon, in May 1970. It was available in two configurations-a two-door coupe and four-door sedan. It also had two engine options-the newly developed 12A dualrotor rotary engine and a 1600 cc reciprocating engine. With the Capella, Mazda aimed to surpass the manufacturing capabilities of Volkswagen and, to do so, put together a project team of 300 personnel. The use of aerodynamic analysis gave the Capella jet fighter-like sporty and dynamic performance combined with a stylish and fantastic appearance.The design was truly inspired by jet fighters: its front grille had a sharp, horizontal hexagonal shape that resembled a jet air duct. The first generation Capella took the world by storm with its outstanding power and innovative design. It became affectionately known to its many fans as 'Kaze no Capella' (Capella, the wind). Mazda introduced a rotary engine version with an automatic transmission (RE Matic) in October 1971. The second generation Capella was launched in February 1974. Amid mounting environmental awareness, the second generation model came suitably equipped with Mazda's Anti Pollution engine.

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The popular Rx-2 first went on sale in Japan in mid-1970 in both two-door coupè and four-door sedan guises. Fitted with Mazda's all-new bigger displacement 12A twin-rotor engine that provided 88kW at 6500rpm, the RX-2s managed 190kph through their four-speed gearboxes, and even higher top speed in the five speed-equipped GSII models that went on sale in 1972. The Rx-2 was also avaliable in a special G model that featured the world's first ever rotary fitted with an automatic gearbox.


he RX-2 was Mazda's first true rotary passenger car. Released in Japan on the 13th of May 1970 as the R612, a designation combining the rotary 12A and the piston 1600. Two weeks later Mazda strangely changed its direction from the R100, 110S and the R130 theme to rename its rotary version the RX-2. The Capella name was taken from a star. This led to marketing slogans such as the "Star of the Highways". Capella is also the name of an African Antelope, which is represented in the badges.

Mazda Australia released the Series I RX-2 in October 1970. Model specs were the Deluxe (D) and Super Deluxe (SD) sedan plus the Super Deluxe Coupe. Prices were $2998 for SD sedan and $3298 for the SD coupe.

The RX-2 had its 'M' symbol surrounded by a rotor where the Capella had its 'M' symbol inside a circle. Due to larger porting and an extractor-type cast iron manifold, Aussie 12As made 130hp. Mixed with 950kg (SD coupe), the RX-2 was reasonably quick at 16.3 seconds for the quarter mile. Still with this sort of performance the RX-2 was far beyond the opposition in its class. In order to find a comparable game, the little car had to go hunting for bigger fish like the Holden GTR-XU1 Torana, Ford Capri V6 or the Valiant Pacer 245.

The RX-2 opened the American market to Mazda. On introduction it won several motoring awards including Motor Trends 'Import Car of the Year'. Initially, demand for the RX-2 exceeded supply, and some Mazda dealers were selling RX-2s well above sticker price. This was primarily caused by an inadequate dealer/distribution network. It wasn't until mid 1972 that Mazda organized an efficient dealer network.

From February 1972 the Series I became available with optional 3-speed auto transmission. The Jatco automatic slowed the RX-2 by only 1.2 seconds down the quarter mile. The auto option sold well. On its introduction the auto RX-2 cost only $3814; this was at the time, amazing value.

Mazda Australia introduced the Series II in late 1972, the Series II was instantly recognisable by its twin headlight front. Apart from the twin headlights the only other differences are to be found in the way the chassis number is stamped flush on the firewall for the Series I and raised for the Series II.

In late 1973, the Series III arrived on the Japanese market. There were big changes for the RX-2 this time. Firstly, under the bonnet was the newly developed single dizzy 12A. Really known as the 12B; however, due to the millions spent on marketing, the 12A name stayed. An added feature was the Rotary Engine Anti-Pollution System or REAPS. A five-speed manual gearbox became an option on RX-2s. The interior received considerable updating including an oversized RX-4 steering wheel. Suspension setting were altered and quite notably the taillights were changed to meet 1974 Japanese government regulations.

The Series III arrived in early 1974. Australian models found all the extra interior updates, including the 12A single dizzy plus its REAPS, wider 165SR13s and a 3.9:1 diff ratio, previously reserved for the auto. The rear end treatment followed the Japanese brake-indicator-brake-reverse taillight pattern. The major rework of the Series III packed an extra 75kg onto the curb weight. With 1025kg and still only 130 (official) hp, the RX-2 was slowed to 18.0 seconds down the quarter mile.

To keep customers happy, Mazda offered a 2-year/40,000km warranty on the rotary engine. Fortunately, the new 12B proved more reliable than the twin dizzy 12A. The price rose marginally to $3668 for the manual and $3958 for the auto. Mazda Australia's marketing people decided to drop the coupe from the line up. The reasoning was to give the RX-3 coupe the sporty two-door image and keep the RX-2 in the medium-sized family-car bracket.

Mid 1974 saw release of the Series IV in Japan. Externally, the Series IV carried an updated front end. A smooth pointed bonnet and RX-4 style grille with RX-3 type headlights and surrounds gave the engine better cooling and great looks for the RX-2 to finish out the decade. Australia received the Series IV RX-2 at the end of 1974. However, due to the slowed sales of the Series III (caused by delays in ordering of about 7-8 weeks, the OPEC oil crisis and the RX-3 and RX-4 to choose from) customers had to wait until mid 1975 before the first of the 19'74 models appeared in showrooms. By this time the RX-3 was almost gone, RX-4 sales had slowed significantly and the RX-5 was only a matter of months away. All up, Australian Mazda dealers sold around 300 Series IV sedans. They continued to take orders up until April '76.

On the racing front, the RX-2 did well but due to the RX-3, its racing glory didn't last. in July 1971 an RX-2 won its class finishing 3rd overall in the Fuji 1000, while it won its class at Bathurst in '71 and '73.

A genuine RX-2 can be identified by the chassis number. It starts with the prefix S122A whilst the Capella starts with SNA. There's the well known taillight differences for the series I and II, but the only way to tell the Series III and IV from the real thing is by the ROTARY ENGINE badge on the grille and the rear beaver panel.

All RX-2s will have different rear muffler exit points when compared to the Capella. RX-2s have a large 65 litre fuel tank, and the spare tyre is located inside the boot on the floor. The Capella has a smaller 50 litre tank so it's spare wheel is mounted under the boot. Because of room for the RX-2 muffler, it's exit point will be about 15cm toward the center. There will also be a very large cutout for the series III and IV models due to the REAPS rear muffler. The steering box on a series III and IV will be unique to all the Capella and the Series I and II. This is due to the REAPS thermal reactor requiring it to be modified and repositioned for better clearance.

Years Available: 1970 to 1976 Engine: 12A (1146cc) twin rotor (2 x 573cc) Carby Transmission: 4 Speed Manual and optional 3 Speed Auto (from Feb. 1972) Power (Approx.): 130hp (97kw) Torque (Approx.): 117 Lb/Ft (158Nm) Weight (Approx.): 950 kg (Coupe), 1025kg (Series 3 models) Chassis Prefix: S122A Specification: Deluxe Sedan and Super Deluxe Sedan and Coupe Original Cost (Approx.): $2998 AUD for Super Deluxe sedan and $3298 AUD for the Super Deluxe coupe, (Series 1 prices) and rising to $3668 AUD (Manual) and $3958 AUD (Auto) for the Series 3 in 1974

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