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.
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?
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
Or, I suppose, you could just lean into the car’s bad reputation and have some antisocial fun with it. But please don’t.
Engine/drivetrain: 1.3 liter twin-rotor Wankel, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: York, PA
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.
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.
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.)
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?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)