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Heroes of Hiroshima: Driving five of the best historic Mazdas

This 1973 example is a gloriously named Super Deluxe, which means the heavily vinyl-trimmed interior is decked out in 1970s must-have upgrades including a clock and heated rear window. You sit higher than in the Cosmo, while the steering wheel rim is plastic wood-effect rather than the real thing. There’s a comprehensive array of dials and, crucial for a rotary, a rev counter.

A pump of the throttle, turn the key and – wowzers! – what a noise. An aftermarket exhaust means the rotary idles even more loudly than the Cosmo, with blips of the throttle eliciting hilarious rasps and crackles.

It’s not the only modification, because this car’s standard 10A engine has been replaced by the larger 1146cc 12A found in later models, while the factory-spec carb has been ditched in favour of a larger item complete with intake trumpets.

With around 110bhp and just 884kg to haul around, the little Mazda goes hard. The engine pulls with real vigour and there’s no tingly harshness, even all the way to 7000rpm. Lift off quickly and you’re occasionally treated to a flame-spitting crack from that over-sized tailpipe. Allowing you to make full use of the performance is a five-speed manual gearbox that has a delightfully quick and clean action.

Unlike the Cosmo, the chassis isn’t quite as up to the challenge. The steering is heavier and more vague, the skinny, high-profile tyres quickly squirm into squealy understeer and the RX-3’s leaf-sprung live rear axle hops and bounces over bumps. Yet it’s safe and secure enough, plus on the bits between the corners you can get back to enjoying that howling, rev-hungry rotary engine all over again.

Mazda RX-7 Mk1

You’ll do a bit of a double-take when you climb behind the wheel of this 1984 RX-7 and spot the numbers on the odometer. Currently there are just over 300 miles logged, which essentially makes this a new car.

It was discovered in a barn by Mazda UK in 2017 and is arguably the best-preserved example of the machine that signalled Mazda’s seriousness about taking on the European sports car elite.

The RX-7 was launched in 1978 with Porsche’s 924 firmly in its sights – a fact highlighted by its similarly wedgy profile and glass hatchback. It’s also the car that is perhaps most synonymous with the rotary engine, particularly to UK buyers. Once again it was the venerable 1.1-litre 12A motor that appeared under the bonnet, delivering 105bhp in early cars and 115bhp in this Series 3. Eventually the RX-7 would be treated to the larger 1.3-litre 13B that would then be carried over to the second- and third-generation machines in twin-turbocharged guises.

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