THE CAR AND ITS OWNER: 1982 Mazda RX-7 owned by Alan Gaites

WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING: When Japan introduced the sporty Nissan Z-cars to the U.S. in 1969, they were hailed as lighter, nimbler alternatives to American muscle machines.  But by the late a70s, they had become too large and luxurious for some, so enthusiasts turned to another Far East brand, the Mazda RX-7, for driving fun, reliability, light weight and a modest price.  The RX-7 also offered something unique: a tiny rotary engine generating 100 horsepower or more in various configurations.  The cars were so popular that Mazda sold nearly half a million globally from 1978 to 2002.  aIt was the most basic sports car of the a80s,a Gaites says, aand mine has performed well for over 32 years. It was never a flat-out speed demon, but that small twin-rotary engine and five-speed asticka (manual transmission) make it light and quick.a

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HOW LONG HEaS OWNED IT: He ordered it new in April 1982.  aMy midlife crisis is still with me into my retirement years now,a he says.  aMaybe my grandchildren will inherit it.a  

WHERE HE FOUND IT: He bought it from Wantagh Mazda. aMy sales receipt a yes, I still have it a shows $10,214,a he says.a 

CONDITION: aWhen the car was 17 years old,a Gaites says, aI was getting bored with the fire-engine-red color and the Keystone amaga wheels were looking old. But since it was great mechanically, I figured it was worth keeping.  I had it repainted in a deeper red metalflake and the rims were ground down and rechromed. I couldn't even replace the wheels because the four-bolt pattern had been abandoned for years.a TIPS FOR OWNERS
aI'd advise any classic car owner to make sure you drive and enjoy it,a he says.

VALUE: The book value is about $5,000,a says Gaites, abut to an original owner?  Well, you know. I can't tell you how many people have offered to buy it, but I think the note and phone number left under the wiper one night was my favorite: aCall me. I want this.aa


THE BOTTOM LINE: aEvery time I take it out,a he says, apeople flag me over or throw a athumbs-upa from their car. And strangely, it's mostly from younger guys, not the agray-hairsa like I would think. It's funny how I used to get many comments and compliments when it was new, and now that itas over 32 years old, I get more.a