Home » Four Camshafts, Or None At All: 2003 Infiniti G35 vs 1987 Mazda RX-7

Four Camshafts, Or None At All: 2003 Infiniti G35 vs 1987 Mazda RX-7

Sbsd 1 25 2024
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Good morning! We’ve been looking at cars with similar engine types this week, but not today. The engines in today’s cars could not be more different; in fact, about the only thing they have in common is that they both use gasoline as a fuel. Oh, and they’re both made in Japan, I suppose.

But first: Did you ever mis-read a word in a sentence, and it completely changes the meaning in a really funny way? I managed to do that to myself just now, reading yesterday’s headline. For some reason I read it as “One Gallon Of Disappointment Each,” instead of displacement. And, well, looking at those two cars, it kind of fits. The Mustang won, but I get the feeling that the Bonneville minus the rust would have mopped the floor with it.

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And no, I’m sorry; I was not aware of a TV show called The White Shadow. In my defense, I was five when it came out. If it didn’t have cool cars, or spaceships, or robots, or magic in it, I simply didn’t care. (Actually, that hasn’t changed much.) So yes, congratulations, you’ve discovered a pop culture blind spot of mine. But let me ask you this: how many of you remember Salvage 1? Yeah, see?

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I mentioned yesterday that I liked those old American overhead-valve engines because they’re simple. And compared to the four-cam, variable-valve-timing beast in one of today’s cars, that’s true. But the engine in the other one has, if I’m counting correctly, just three moving parts. Now that’s simple. Let’s check them out.

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2003 Infiniti G35 – $3,200

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.5 liter dual overhead cam V6, five-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Long Beach, CA

Odometer reading: 159,000 miles

Operational status: “Runs decent”

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Some cars end up with undeserved bad reputations. The combination of horsepower, rear-wheel-drive, and heavy depreciation makes for some good inexpensive fun, but as in so many pursuits, a few bad apples can spoil the whole bushel. Infiniti’s rear-wheel-drive G35 is such a car, unfortunately. It’s basically a Nissan 350Z in a fancy outfit, with the same 260 horsepower VQ35DE V6 engine, more than enough for some sideways shenanigans. Combine that with the classic luxury-car problem of values dropping like a stone, and quite a few G35s ended up in the hands of overzealous second and third owners who proceeded to behave badly in them.

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Which is too bad, because these are pretty nice cars. This one seems to have lost a chunk of its niceness to rough treatment, unfortunately; there is missing trim and torn upholstery inside, dings and scrapes outside, and a stupid aftermarket exhaust tip. Or at least I hope it’s just a tip, and not one of those awful aftermarket exhausts. Some engines sound great a little louder than stock; the VQ35DE is not one of them.

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On the plus side, it sounds like it’s mechanically sound. It has only 159,000 miles on the odometer, which is nothing for one of these engines. They do use some oil, and are prone to leaks, especially from the valve covers, but apart from that they last a long time. The rest of the car should be reliable too; even the modified and abused ones seem to just keep chugging along.

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Or, I suppose, you could just lean into the car’s bad reputation and have some antisocial fun with it. But please don’t.

1987 Mazda RX-7 GXL – $2,795

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.3 liter twin-rotor Wankel, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: York, PA

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Odometer reading: 203,000 miles

Operational status: Not running, no other information given

Mazda’s second-generation RX-7 came out when I was thirteen years old. I remember sneaking the Road & Track issue with its first road test into study hall and hiding it under a notebook, sneaking peeks when the teacher wasn’t looking. I remember sitting in one at the Chicago Auto Show that year, daydreaming about one day owning one. I knew all the specs by heart. I’ve said before that Japanese cars were not on my radar when I was young, but the second-gen Mazda RX-7 was the first one that broke through.

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The star of the show here, of course, is the “R” in RX-7: the two-rotor Wankel rotary engine that Mazda championed for so many years, and is now trying to bring back. It’s a simple concept, but it takes a mighty feat of engineering to make it work. Mazda worked at it for years, and produced over two million of them. They have their drawbacks – poor fuel economy and a ravenous appetite for oil among them – but they sound like nothing else, and the smoothness of them is downright eerie. I still haven’t owned an RX-7, but I’ve driven a couple, and it is something every enthusiast should experience.

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You won’t be going far in this one, unfortunately – it doesn’t run. It’s for sale from what looks like a tow yard, and I imagine they know nothing about its history. It has a salvage title for an unknown reason, and I don’t know how big a deal that is in Pennsylvania. (It’s a non-issue here in Oregon, as long as your insurance agent is cool with it.)

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This is the GXL model, with all sorts of power stuff inside, a sunroof, and those great directional alloy wheels. This car has been sitting for a long time, it looks like – everything is sun-bleached and faded. You can see the color it used to be in the door sills and under the hood. The interior is intact, but fried. And someone has cut holes for 6×9 speakers in the lids of the storage bins in the back. Show of hands: Who else has cut questionable holes for speakers in cars in the past?

Okay, so these aren’t a direct comparison. One runs and the other doesn’t, they’re almost two decades apart, and they’re very different categories of car. But they’re what caught my eye today, so here we are. So what will it be – a fancy V6 Infiniti from the wrong side of the tracks, or a classic Mazda rotary that needs everything?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Regan Walker
Regan Walker
1 month ago

I had a 1987 RX-7 in the 90’s when I was in my early 20s. Fun car when it cranked the 1st time…this fuel injected version suffered from an issue where the fuel pump would keep pumping gas into the apex chambers and it would wash the oil out…that film of oil was needed for compression when cranking the motor. A kind mechanic showed me a work around to pump some oil back into the apex chambers and it saved me many times. Loved that car though and it stylistically it looked a lot like the Porsche 944.

All that being said….that more motor is done at 203k…those apex seals are just plain worn out. Rebuilding wouldn’t be too bad if you had history and could confirm the motor hadn’t overheated and warped the rotors. Knowing it needs a new motor and a lot in the way of cosmetics this is a tough sale at this price. Nissan might be the better buy.

Spectre6000
Spectre6000
1 month ago

Hmm… Crappy V6 on a mediocre chassis weighed down with “luxury” baggage, or divine rotary in a proper sportscar chassis with passive rear steering, much added lightness AND popup headlights??? Wow… Tough choice! To make it close, the Nissan needs 16 years of advancement/newness AND the RX-7 has to be a non-runner… Mazda FTW all day long!

Last edited 1 month ago by Spectre6000
Toddyus
Toddyus
1 month ago

Some engines sound great a little louder than stock; the VQ35DE is not one of them.”

I beg to differ. I had a 350z back in the day and with high-flow cats and a Stillen true dual exhaust, it sounded pretty damn good. That is a specific combination, though, and I remember going through what seemed like hundreds of YouTube videos for the right sound before buying that exhaust.

TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
1 month ago

My broken 2002 Infiniti Q45, out in the yard, (204K) is in far better shape than both of these and I’m sending that to the wrecking yard (one of these days). I sure do miss using that car though. It was like driving a La-Z-Boy strapped to a rocket with gatling gun headlights. Hard pass on both of these but at least the Nissan runs.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

I’m gonna go with the one that doesn’t raise the hackles of every drug sniffing K9 within a ten mile radius…

I’ll take the Mazda.

I think?

Last edited 1 month ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Stephen Walter Gossin
Stephen Walter Gossin
1 month ago

In my defense, I was five when it came out. If it didn’t have cool cars, or spaceships, or robots, or magic in it, I simply didn’t care. (Actually, that hasn’t changed much.)”

Such a great line. Don’t ever change, my friend!

Greensoul
Greensoul
1 month ago

Double pass. Both have been ridden hard and put up wet way, way, too many times. I’m guessing the Mazda consumes more oil than gasoline at this point with that mileage.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
1 month ago

Like Pitbulls, the G35 gets a bad rep because they became popular with jackasses. It’s a perfectly fine car, but often seem to be driven by idiot lowlifes. As fascinated as I am by the example of automotive history represented by the RX-7, I have to go with the running Infiniti over the immobile RX-7.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago

Voted RX-7. Never worked on one before, and this one might be too far gone. If so, part it out.

Myk El
Myk El
1 month ago

I’m taking the James Gang (the rock band, not the outlaws) choice. Walk away.

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