In 1979, I brought a copy of Road & Track into a Mazda dealer and asked if they were expecting any of the new RX-7s; up until that point, I had only seen the car in magazines. I left that day with a contract to buy one of the first 13 that shipped to Minneapolis (at MSRP – no dealer markup!). I was told I could choose between silver or red, either with air conditioning or a sunroof, but not both.
I took delivery of a Sunbeam Silver ’79, and it was the greatest day of my life to that point.
I met a girl in the spring of 1980, and picked her up for our first date. She looked at the car and said, “Wow. I’ve never seen an RX-7 before,” This was at a time when people at gas pumps were asking me if it was a Ferrari. I was in love for the second time in six months.
Jody and I drove the wheels off that car and camped out every summer weekend spent skydiving with the mates of our youth. Two seats and a hatchback were all we needed. Later, as a birthday present, she bought me flying lessons.
Eventually, the Minnesota winters took their toll, and the car rusted out from under me. I had to let that Mazda go, but I kept the girl.
Four children and 39 years later, we’re still together, and that flying lesson led to a career as a 737 a captain for American Airlines. Two seaters gave way to minivans, but I never stopped daydreaming about my first love with 4 wheels, and last fall, lightning struck again.
I always noticed when a first-generation RX-7 hit the market, but nothing came close to my ’79 until I saw a pristine example on the internet. Jody immediately got on board and egged me on as we bid for and won the car. The only difference between my first and second RX-7 is the fan switch for the a/c and 40 years.
The old photo (top of story) was taken at Brainerd International Raceway at the Pepsi Challenge in 1980. We camped at Turn 5 and cheered Paul Newman as he raced a Datsun for Bob Sharp. This was the only time I ever wished a Datsun driver well. The 280Z was my nemesis, and I never missed a chance to show off the RX-7’s 7000 rpm redline.
The other two are of Jody and I on the day the car arrived fromPhoenix, where it was lovingly cared for by a new friend, the seller and RX-7 guru Tim Eull.
I have a Triumph TR6 that I drive about 10k miles a year in the Wisconsin summertime, but the RX-7 will only be driven on special occasions, such as the anniversary of that first date.
— John Wittnebel, Beloit WS
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