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Interesting Finds: 1973 Mazda RX-2

Stunning 20+ year build in a vivid Lexus color


We have recently spotlighted a few of the many noteworthy vehicles from this year’s Future Collector Car Show (FCCS) which was held on the polo field at WestWorld during the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dennis Ray of Peoria, Arizona, brought out his vivid yellow 1973 Mazda RX-2.

Above is a video containing a Q&A with Dennis and some glamour shots of his ride.

RX-2 Model History

In order to introduce the RX-2, we have to first look overseas where the compact Mazda Capella first made its debut in 1970. It was engineered to compete in a competitive segment with other Japanese cars like the Toyota Corona, the Nissan Bluebird, and eventually the Honda Accord which arrived in 1976. An optional Mazda Wankel rotary engine was offered on what became known as the Capella Rotary in Japan. Its rear-wheel drive platform lent itself to enthusiast-oriented aspirations. Stateside, that vehicle was marketed as the RX-2, and the first generation lived on through about 1977.

Dennis’ Mazda

It takes only a brief look to see that Dennis Ray’s RX-2 is a vastly different machine today than it was when it rolled off the assembly line in Hiroshima over 50 years ago. First and foremost, the yellow color itself has unique significance: It was a special-order color called “Flare Yellow” from Lexus which debuted in 2018 on the LC500 exotic luxury coupe. The RX-2’s body was stripped to bare metal in preparation.

The car itself had started out as a very rough project when Dennis acquired it. In fact, it was only a rolling shell – no keys, no engine, no hood, and no title came with it at the time. For about the first 15 years of ownership, Dennis spent his time putting a plan together and acquiring the needed parts. And then over the span of a few additional years, the car came together according to that vision.

Photo by Tyson Hugie

The rotary engine and five-speed transmission were transplanted from a pickup truck and overhauled by Mazdatrix in Signal Hill, California. The intake and Holley carburetor were sourced from Racing Beat, and additional upgrades included an aluminum radiator, electronic ignition, custom engine and transmission mounts, and much more. The battery was relocated to the trunk, and the chassis received a Ground Control adjustable suspension with Koni shocks front and rear. A set of Rota wheels provided the crowning touch for both stance and curb appeal.

Well-Earned Recognition

Accompanying Dennis’ RX-2 on the show field was a scrapbook full of photos and documentation from his two-decade-long build. Everyone (including the judges!) took note of the in-depth nature of the process. Among Dennis’ prior awards on display were Best Old School Rotary from the Japanese Classic Car Show in 2022, Best Restored from the 2023 Future Collector Car Show, and Best Import from the 2023 Concours in the Hills. He is going to need an entire curio cabinet for all his hardware!

Congratulations, Dennis on all of the above. We are glad you came out to the show, and we look forward to seeing where you and the RX-7 go from here.

Tyson Hugie
Tyson Hugie
Tyson Hugie is a Phoenix-based automotive enthusiast who has been writing for The Journal since 2016. His favorite automotive niche is 1980s and 1990s Japanese cars, and he is a self-diagnosed “Acura addict” since he owns a collection of Honda and Acura cars from that era. Tyson can usually be found on weekends tinkering on restoration projects, attending car shows, or enjoying the open road. He publishes videos each week to his YouTube channel and is also a contributing author to Arizona Driver Magazine,, NSX Driver Magazine, and other automotive publications. His pride and joy is a 1994 Acura Legend LS coupe with nearly 600,000 miles on the odometer, but he loves anything on four wheels and would someday like to own a 1950 Buick Special like his late grandfather’s.



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