Mazda RX-3 restomod makes Leno scream, us cheer

The Mazda RX-3 Savanna was the rotary-engined version of the Mazda 808 Grand Familia. Sold in the US from 1971 to 1978, the little Japanese fastback earned a reputation as an excellent racecar, winning events all over the world. A racing connection is how a fantastic 1973 restomod example owned by Savant Young made its way to Jay Leno’s Garage. Young said that when he was a boy his uncle used to street race an RX-3, and Young liked how the RX-3 sounded and the fact that a tiny import could go up against and beat big V8s of the time.

Leno admitted that he has no connection to the RX-3, saying it’s not the kind of car he typically likes. But he liked Young’s custom update so much that when he saw the coupe sitting outside the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, he waited for the owner to show up.

Young’s changes over the 15 years he’s owned the car include dropping in the rotary engine and running gear from the second-generation Mazda RX-7, bridge-ported and methane injected. At 15 pounds of boost he says it’s putting out about 400 horsepower. The rear end comes from a Toyota Helix half-ton pickup, to help put all that power down in a car that weighs maybe 2,100 pounds. The color is taken from the Lamborghini palette. Disc brakes all around, 14-inchers up front, control the velocity.

Nothing controls the gas mileage, said to be “maybe 12 mpg.” And nothing could stop Leno from whooping it up during the driver. Check out the fun in the video above.

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