Shed of the Week: Mazda RX-8

Sometimes we fret about tempting Sheds being snapped up by buyers before they hit our virtual news stand. By "we" we mean Shed, because it means that he then has to find a last-minute replacement and start his scribbling all over again.

With a Mazda RX-8 there's never quite the same degree of worry even though you're getting an easy £5-£6K's worth of performance, handling and character for (in this case) just £1,295.

Why? For a clue, please spend five minutes or so watching this clip from the brilliant 1960 Terry-Thomas movie School For Scoundrels. This is the bit where Dunstan and Dudley, proprietors of the Dorchester-based Winsome Welshmen used car garage, 'do a number' on Ian Carmichael, the naïve young hero looking for his first affordable motor.

The Shed he ends up buying (and regretting) for a whopping 695 guineas is the gurgling, belching and generally hideous Swiftmobile.

The Mazda RX-8 is the 21st century equivalent of the Swiftmobile. Not because it gurgles and belches. Quite the opposite. It's because if you don't know what you're getting into, you could easily lose your entire grubstake within a day of purchase. Even for the most shameless modern-day motor trade equivalent of the eel-like Dunstan, it would take real moxie for a garage to put an RX-8 out on the sales floor and not expect a comeback. Not with its reputation. The Mazda's, that is.

We'll talk about that in a minute, but let's look at the good RX-8 stuff first. There can surely be no criticism of the rotary engine concept. After all, who wouldn't like to bin loads of heavy, madly-reciprocating pistons and con-rods in favour of a single triangular rotor spinning smoothly on a shaft at seemingly limitless revs, producing silly amounts of power for the displacement (230hp or so from a nominal 1.3 litres), while also delivering the bonus feature of a cod-jangling exhaust note?

Given Mazda's 55-year (and counting) perseverance with rotary-motory, they clearly think the idea has legs. Unfortunately, RX-8 drivers have all too often been reminded of their own legs during their ownership experience, as many will have been called into action on more occasions than might be thought seemly for any modern motor car, let alone a Japanese one.

Hot staring trouble is something Shed is very well accustomed to, as he receives more than his fair share of dirty looks from Mrs Shed. It doesn't bother him unduly. Hot starting trouble is another matter though, especially on RX-8s.

If your RX-8 is afflicted with this pestilence, it will most likely start perfectly when the engine is cold and continue to run perfectly until you choose to turn it off. Obviously, that's normal: we all want our cars to stop when we turn them off. But we also like a warm engine to start when we turn it back on again. This is where the RX-8 loses some of its basic allure.

Sometimes, a sickly RX-8 will still fire up if it has a good battery and a good starter, but if worn rotor tips are its underlying problem, even a starter from a Saturn 5 rocket booster (if there is such a thing) won't cajole it into action.

There are a few rotary specialists around who operate outside the occasionally less than useful Mazda dealership network, so the expertise is out there. Fixes aren't cheap, but if you value the RX-8's driving pleasure at £5K-£6K, then you may well consider a couple of grand to be a reasonable investment.

The last time Shed wrote about an RX-8, he pondered on the wisdom and/or legality of getting around the hot start thing simply by leaving the engine switched on all the time until you're finished with it for the day. Is that practical? Well, it might be if only we didn't have to stop inconveniently for shopping, petrol, or visits to Monkey World.

Going to the zoo generally takes a fair while, even if it's a rubbish zoo with not much more than the odd crispy armadillo to stare glumly (or, indeed, hotly) at. By the time you tear yourself away and get back to your 21mpg-averaging Mazda, its tank will almost certainly be dry.

Leaving the engine on while refilling that tank is an interesting one. We've always been told never to do that, but then we've also been told never to use our mobiles on the forecourt and, according to Esso at least, it's now OK to flash your mob at the pump.

Leaving any car running while you're browsing the baked goods aisle at Aldi is probably not the best idea in today's dog-eat-dog world. Even with the Mazda's doors locked, there's always the sneaking fear of it disappearing. Then again, you might be quite pleased to be relieved of it if it does have all those starting problems. Let the new owner see what it's like.

Using his special access privileges, Shed has been able to discover that the MOT on this one runs until September '18, that the car did just under 6,000 miles between its October 2016 MOT and its September 2017 one, and that there were no advisories on the most recent test. The oil leak noted as an advisory on the 2016 test wasn't mentioned in 2017. Sometimes RX-8 oil leaks can be traced back to an oil cooler hose; other times it can be a worn seal at the front of the engine, or at the rear around the gearbox. Shed seems to remember that replacing the front one is an engine-out operation.

Anyway, the oil leak been rectified on this car, so no bother there. You'll still be pouring oil in at a fair old rate of knots, even without an oil leak, as these engines are major-league guzzlers. They demand the good stuff too, none of your Costco gloop or you might run into carbon build-up problems on top of the other issues you might experience like coil pack failure or rusty arches.

As with any Shed, buying an RX-8 is a gamble. The good thing about RX-8s is that the sums of money now being talked about for spangly-looking specimens like this one are low enough for it not to be a disaster if it all goes Pete Tong. Plus you can always bung an LS1 V8 into it. They fit.

Or you might be lucky with the engine supplied by the manufacturer to this one. There are many delighted RX-8 owners out there who have had success with the uprated starter and reflash fix and who have had no hot starting issues whatsoever. Maybe this is one of those cars. It's doubtful somehow, given the dreaded phrase PX TO CLEAR in the ad and no mention of dealer warranties.

But you might be lucky. You might, this very weekend, be revelling in the comfort, LSD-boosted balance, syrupy-steering, 6.4-sec-to-60mph, gearbox-snicking zinginess of an RX-8, and all for less than the price of a diesel Focus. And that includes Mirrors External.

Here's the ad.

Grey, PX TO CLEAR WITH MOT TILL SEP 2018 !, Upgrades - Metallic Paint, Next MOT due 27/09/2018, Service history, Good bodywork, Black interior - Good Condition, Tyre condition Good, Standard Features - Limited Slip Differential, Cruise Control, Tyre Repair Kit, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Programme, Traction Control System, Seat - ISOFIX Anchorage Point (Two Seats - Rear), Central Door Locking, Seat Height Adjustment, Anti-Lock Brakes, Deadlocks, Alloy Wheels (18in), Head Restraints, Alarm, Air Bag Side, Climate Control, Mirrors External, In Car Entertainment (Radio/CD Autochanger), Air Bag Passenger, Power-Assisted Steering, Electric Windows (Front), Body Coloured Bumpers, Air Bag Driver, Speakers, Front Fog Lights, Upholstery Cloth, Immobiliser, Adjustable Steering Column/Wheel. 4 seats, WWW.ASMPERFORMANCE.CO.UK SPECIALISTS IN PERFORMANCE AND PRESTIGE CARS!, £1,295 p/x welcome



P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (170) Join the discussion on the forum

  • LankyLegoHead 05 Jan 2018

    Yeah I've been to this dealers once, wouldnt touch anything they were selling personally...

  • Tin Hat 05 Jan 2018

    LankyLegoHead said:
    Yeah I've been to this dealers once, wouldnt touch anything they were selling personally...
    With this comment added to the mix, I think that buying this example would not be a good start to the New Year.......

  • Rawwr 05 Jan 2018

    I came so close to getting an RX8 in 2016 but the horror stories were enough to put me off, which is a shame really as I like the idea of one. Instead, I bought a Mondeo ST220, which should've been a far more realistic proposition but turned out to be a total bumhound.

  • delta0 05 Jan 2018

    I’ve had a later R3 RX8 for nearly 2 years now and absolutely love it.

  • Neith 05 Jan 2018

    Provided it has a healthy compression test these can be great fun. The oil usage is massively overtalked honestly; yes they use more than a typical piston engine but nothing ridiculous. The petrol usage however is biblical...

    Make sure it's got the updated starter motor and get a compression test done. Owned mine for just less than a year and have had zero issues- the way these things handle is amazing so I'd encourage anyone to test drive one.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment