- Post is under moderation17 YEARS TO LIFE
While Mike kept busy building a reputation as a rotang builder, his Series 1 RX-7 sat in the corner of the workshop, waiting patiently. No fewer than four engine swaps and 15 years’ worth of development later, it now lives life as a 20B-powered award-winner.
Good things take time, and, sometimes, you need to try four different engines in the hole before stumbling on a winning combination. Words: Jaden Martin. Photos: Adam Croy.
/ #1979 #Mazda-RX-7-Series-1 (Savanna) 296bhp / #Mazda-RX-7 / #Mazda / #Mazda-Savanna / #Mazda-Savanna-RX-7 / #Mazda-RX-7-S-1 / #Mazda-RX-7-SA22C / #Mazda-SA22C /
Time waits for no man, let alone his project car. A fickle concept, time — the lack thereof means cutting corners or simply never completing a build, and an abundance can lead to overexposure of a good thing. Everyone uses their time differently, and it takes true dedication to embark on a long-term project. Mike Fitzgerald’s own tango with time saw a project that was only ever meant to be a simple engine conversion rapidly turn into an award-winning street car in only 17 years.
A keen fan of all things rotary, Mike has spent a good chunk of his years crafting a reputation as a skilled Wankel builder beneath the dim glow of fluorescent light-fittings in a Tauranga industrial-zone factory and, in that time, has, unsurprisingly, owned nearly every variation within Mazda’s RX family tree. After a quick succession of RX-2s, RX-3s, and multiple generations of RX-7s, he longed for the sleek ’80s styling of a Series (S) 1 RX-7, which is not only a great platform for a quick streetlegal track car but also one that has a long racing pedigree.
On the hunt for a clean enough example that wouldn’t demand a Reserve Bank’s worth of dollars, he knew the trick is to avoid rust-plagued shells and find a hearty runner.
So, when it popped up cheap, Mike snapped up this example for a steal and quickly got to work recreating the vision in his head. It now sports all the right aero protrusions that you’d expect from a car of the era. Inspired heavily by the factory Group C machines of the past, he chose to use the iconic front bumper and rear spoiler, with a modern twist through custom fibreglass dual-headlight pods and an RX-7 S3 rear bumper.
This original incarnation saw the RX-7 driven around for two years with a simple lick of Supersonic Blue Pearl paint and 12A bridgeport under the bonnet, before, eventually, it was torn down with the grand intention to convert it to a 13B.
During the Group C days, this was a controversial upgrade for the originally 12A-powered chassis, but it has since become a common choice for power-seekers. Mike’s plan would go one better, adding a nasty little snail on the side. But alas, this grand plan didn’t eventuate — time ticked by, and Mike had to make sacrifices while busy building other engines and cars for customers.
The RX-7 went untouched for five years while he chipped away at other things. He accumulated parts and built all sorts of gnarly packages, none of which made its way into his own project, until the perfect naturally aspirated (NA) 13B engine with an IDA was built, ready to be dropped into the car. This was it, he thought, the car would finally be whole again. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. A customer strolled in and made an offer that couldn’t be refused — as the old saying goes, money talks.
It wasn’t all bad, though, as the urge in him to build the original turbo package was strong, and he promptly began prepping a JC 13B for a bit of snail-powered goodness. This one even made it into the engine bay before being ripped back out, rebuilt, and sold to yet another customer. However, perhaps that was never meant to be, as, after a bit of thought, planning, and a stroke of luck, Mike stumbled across his holy grail of engine options: a JC Cosmo 20B.
The import engine was snapped up in a heartbeat, as he’d always loved the sound they made and the idea of shoehorning a three-rotor into the RX-7’s small frame. The tango with time had paid off, and Mike decided that binning the twin-turbo set-up in favour of a raspy NA note was the best way to go: “The 20B makes so much power with a turbo [that] they almost become undriveable. I wanted a fast, reliable package that could be street driven with ease and [would be] a weapon on the track.” A wise choice indeed, as we enjoyed the sensual sounds we heard as the car arrived at the photo shoot.
The newly selected engine underwent a full freshen-up before it was slotted into its home inside the RX-7’s engine bay. The plates received a mild bridgeport to open up some flow for the street, and the worn old rotors were ditched in favour of new high compression S5 items with MFR rotor bearings and a freshly polished E-shaft. The conservatively built engine makes for a fast reliable street car that can and does get driven hard and is anything but a trailer queen, regularly making the trip from Tauranga to Manfeild and Hampton Downs — it also maintains summer driving duties when the weather plays ball.
In the suspension department, there’s a custom Bilsteinshock- and-King-spring combination. But, most important, when it comes to putting power to the ground, what would a rotary be without a set of classic Simmons wheels? Typical of the era’s show-car style, the Silver 17-inch FR17s are seven inches and 8.5 inches wide, shod in the ever-popular Potenza RE002s, while, lurking behind the classic five-spoke design, are 310mm rotors gripped by Wilwood Superlite four-pot calipers up front and S3 calipers down back.
The clean theme extends to the interior, which looks as if it’s rolled straight off the factory floor, thanks to an impressively tidy retrim. The original dash is devoid of any factory instrumentation and, instead, has been fitted with a Dash2 Pro electronic dash that displays all the car’s vitals via a Link G4+ Extreme. As for driver input, a Momo steering wheel, custom-fitted Tilton pedal box, and D1 Spec gear knob that leads down to the Mazda RX-7 S4 turbo five-speed all keep things in check.
The man behind MRT Racing, Mike has completed practically every component from the wiring to the fabrication and rebuilding of numerous parts. Of course, no good build would be without the help of a few mates, and he also credits the final product to taking his time — although it may be a lot longer than most are willing to spare — and changing his mind a lot to get the very best from each stage of the build. A statement we don’t doubt, as he claimed two awards at REunion for best engine conversion and best engine bay — this is a car very much worthy of such accolades.
The three-rotor 20B was only available in the 1990-’1995 Eunos Cosmo and was the world’s first volume-produced twin-turbo set-up, but Mike opted for running his NA to achieve the sensual sounds of rotary goodness.
WHEELS: (F) 17x7-inch Simmons FR17, (R) 17x8.5-inch Simmons FR17
TYRES: (F) 215/40R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE002, (R) 245/40R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE002
POWER: 220kW at the rear wheels
ENGINE: #Mazda-Cosmo-JC-20B / #Mazda-Cosmo-JC / #Mazda-Cosmo / #Mazda-Cosmo-20B , 2000cc, three-rotor
BLOCK: Mild bridgeported JC plates, S5 rotors (9.7:1), MFR bearings, polished E-shaft, S6 exhaust sleeves, modified oiling system, Racing Beat adjustable regulator
INTAKE: #X-Air-Performance over-the-radiator (OTR) panel intake, four-inch alloy intake pipe, 20B throttle body, port-matched intake manifold
EXHAUST: Two-inch three-piece headers, long primaries into three-inch collector, V-band clamp three-inch pipe, urethane mounts, Adrenalin R chambered resonator and eight-inch three-pass stainless muffler
FUEL: Custom 60-litre alloy drop tank, 1.5-litre surge tank, three Russell highflow fuel filters, Mallory 110 lift pump, Proflow 500hp (373kW) electronic-fuel-injection (EFI) main pump, Teflon braided line, XRP and Speedflow fittings, fuel-pressure regulator, custom fuel rails, S5 turbo primary and 20B secondary fuel injectors
IGNITION: #NGK plugs, MSD HT leads, six #Bosch coils, three two-channel ignition modules
ECU: Link G4+ Extreme tuned by Dtech Motorsport
COOLING: Toyo Racing S5 alloy radiator, alloy overflow tank, S4 oil cooler, electric water pump, electric fan, 20B oil-metering pump
EXTRA: Stripped engine bay, strengthened steering box, custom diagonal engine mounts, baffled sump, side-mounted alternator, Nascar carbon breather tank, custom alloy radiator shroud, heat shields, washer tank
STRUTS: Bilstein shocks, King springs
BRAKES: Tilton pedal box, Tilton master cylinders, L300 reservoir; (F) Wilwood Superlite four-pot calipers, 310mm rotors, Wilwood Polymatrix street/ track pads; (R) Mazda RX-7 S3 calipers, standard rotors
EXTRA: Nolathane bushing kit
GEARBOX: Rebuilt Mazda RX-7 S4 turbo five-speed, shortened gear-shift remote, and short-shifter
CLUTCH: Xtreme Motorsport kit
FLYWHEEL: Xtreme chromoly 10-pound
DIFF: S3 RX-7 LSD (4.4:1)
OTHER: 64mm driveshaft, custom driveshaft Hoops
Often overlooked, the interior makes a point of appearing as if it were still in the dealer’s showroom, with reupholstered factory trim in black marine vinyl along with grey cloth inserts, a new rear carpet, and refurbished plastics The custom fibreglass dualheadlight pods put a modern twist on an old classic, replacing the pop-up option it originally came with.
DRIVER/OWNER: Mike Fitzgerald
OCCUPATION: Automotive engineer
BUILD TIME: 15 years
LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: 17 years
THANKS: Lance at RS Automotive; Grant at Penrose Motors; Dave, Mark, and Tony at Dtech Motorsport; Shane Hazelden Engineering; mates Josh Sargent, Andrew Daly, and Derek Jensen; Toby at GSS Performance; Noel at Nostalgia Motors; Reece at Regal Upholstery; Adrenalin R; Ronnie at RSL Automotive Performance; and Toby at BOP Polishers.
PAINT: Supersonic Blue Pearl
ENHANCEMENTS: RX-7 S3 rear bumper, Group C front and rear spoilers, alloy bash plates, custom fibreglass headlight pods, registration-light delete
STEERING WHEEL: Momo
INSTRUMENTATION: Dash2 Pro electronic dash,
ICE: Pioneer DEH-X head unit, Lanzar DC 64 pro-series front components, twin Pioneer 12-inch 800-watt-max subwoofers, Pioneer Class A amplifier
EXTRA: Reupholstered factory interior in black marine vinyl with grey cloth inserts, new rear carpet, refurbished plastic trims, modified steering-box mounts
POWER: 296bhp / 220kW at the rear wheelsStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationICON: MAZDA RX-7 ROTOR BLADE
Richard Meaden revisits the final incarnation of Mazda’s rotary-powered sports car. Powered by a twin-turbo #Wankel engine, the third-generation #Mazda RX-7 was one of the sharpest coupes of the ’90s. But nearly a quarter of a century later, does it still have that edge? TEXT by RICHARD MEADEN. PHOTOGRAPHY by DAVE SMITH.
I can still remember the last time I drove a third-generation, ‘FD’ RX-7. But that’s because it was also the first time. It was way back in #1993 , when the car was new and causing a stir in the UK. There was a real buzz about it, and I’m not just talking about its audible rev limiter. Even those who would not normally be drawn to Japanese performance cars found the fast and voluptuous rotary-powered Mazda very hard to ignore.
The same was true of Toyota’s bewinged A80 twin-turbo Toyota Supra and Nissan’s slightly more discreet, but no less appealing, 300ZX. That this was also the heyday for Honda’s NSX makes it clear how strong the Japanese brands were in the early to mid ’90s. Factor in BMW’s equally fresh E36 M3 and Porsche’s 968 and you’ll appreciate this was something of a golden era for fans of fast, front-engined and relatively affordable rear-drive coupes.
As you’d expect from Mazda, the RX-7 was the oddball of the bunch, courtesy of its twin-turbo 13B-REW Wankel engine. With twin rotor chambers (each displacing 654cc) and turbo equivalency applied, the RX-7 was deemed to have a 2.6-litre motor. The unit’s compact size and light weight made it easy to package behind the front axle line and low in the chassis for a 50:50 weight distribution and low centre of gravity.
The engine was unusual for its use of twin sequential turbos. Indeed, it was amongst the first of its kind. The concept was simple, the first turbo boosting from 2000rpm, with exhaust gases then fed directly from it into the second, identically sized, turbo to further reduce lag. It was an effective, if complex system that relied on precise electronic control of boost pressures to work seamlessly.
In Japan it was tuned to deliver 255bhp, but in Europe it developed a slightly softer 237bhp at 6500rpm, with 218lb ft of torque at 5000rpm. That still put it on a par with the four-cylinder 968, but some way short of the more potent six-cylinder M3, Supra and 300ZX. Nevertheless, the 1284kg RX-7 remained an appealing and rapid machine, capable of hitting 60mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds and touching 156mph flat-out. That was quick in the early ’90s, kids.
Just 210 of these curvy coupes were officially imported to the UK, and this is one of them. Of course, many more subsequently arrived from Japan in the late-’90s, courtesy of the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) import scheme, but the FD RX-7 remains a rare sight on our roads, especially in unmolested condition. The Fast and Furious movie franchise has plenty to answer for.
Like all cars of this era, the RX-7 seems so small and compact. It might be small, but its curves (evolved from a concept penned by Mazda’s US design studio) ensure it has plenty of presence. It’s funny, though, how your mind plays tricks; cars that you thought looked low and wide and had big wheels don’t actually look that spectacular these days. No wonder, when a quick glance at the pretty five-spoke rims shows they’re only 16 inches in diameter and wrapped in 225/50 rubber. No matter, for the innate rightness of the shape and the courage of the design mean the FD’s looks remain surprisingly avant-garde.
There wasn’t really anything like it before, and there hasn’t been anything quite like it since. The smoked, one-piece, full-width tail light still makes a dramatic statement, while the pop-up headlights are proper ’90s nostalgia. They were actually a necessity due to the low-line nature of the RX-7’s nose.
The door handle is positioned unusually high, up above the waistline and nestled against the B-pillar. You open the door expecting the glass to be frameless, but instead you find a heavy black surround framing the side-glass lenses like a pair of thick-rimmed spectacles. The interior mirrors the exterior with its organic curves, but advances in materials mean the RX-7’s black-plastic cockpit has dated badly. It doesn’t feel that great quality-wise, but it’s a comfortable place to be thanks to squidgy seats that yield nicely, allowing you to sink into them for support.
You don’t sit as low as you might expect, and the steering wheel is quite big in diameter with proud stitching that also features on the handbrake and gearknob. Equipment levels are pretty basic by today’s standards – leather upholstery, a pair of plastic luggage bins instead of rear seats, air conditioning, electric windows, powered mirrors and a stereo are all there is to shout about. The instruments are simple but really quite handsome, with a bold typeface, a speedo that reads to 180mph and a tacho that reads round to 9000rpm, even though the red line itself starts at an altogether more modest 7000rpm. Gauges for oil pressure, oil temperature and fuel level sit to the left of the tacho to complete a proudly analogue binnacle.
The view though the windscreen is dominated by curves, the rising line of each extremity swooping up towards you while each door mirror captures a reflection of the long arc of the door tops that flow into the rear wheelarches. Everywhere you look, sections of the RX-7’s fulsome shape swell into view to remind you you’re driving something special.
The engine starts with a characteristic chunter before settling into a rapid idle, rotary tips whizzing round at a busy and rorty 2500rpm for a minute or two before the revs eventually settle down. The clutch is modestly weighty; the throttle has a nice measured resistance. The stubby gearlever hints at a snappy, short-throw gearshift that’s clean and accurate, but the first few miles reveal the five-speed transmission is blessed with a good rather than brilliant shift.
The steering weight is more substantial than I was expecting, and that’s a welcome surprise, for it confirms the sense that the RX-7 is a communicative car with well-matched control efforts and carefully measured responses. The cast-aluminium pedals look attractive, feel good under your feet and are widely spaced across the footwell. The relationship between brake and throttle was clearly signed off by someone who enjoyed heel-and-toe work, and the exhaust is soon popping and crackling nicely with each easily blipped downshift.
Of course, the 13B motor was what made the RX-7 unique amongst its contemporary rivals, and it’s what continues to add curiosity value today. The engineering differences between rotary and conventional internal combustion engines might be large, but the tangible differences from behind the wheel are surprisingly subtle. Yes, of course that has something to do with the motor not being in a screaming state of tune, unlike in the legendary Mazda race cars, but it also shows that while rotary engines are still seen as eccentric, they are impressively straightforward in the way they go about their business.
This car has an aftermarket exhaust, which is a bit more vocal than an OE system, but strip away the snorty soundtrack and you find an engine blessed with refinement and good manners. Rise through the revs and it has a finely serrated smoothness that confounds your senses and encourages you to work it hard. It’s a genuinely enjoyable engine; torquey with little lag, it delivers a solid shove from 3000rpm through to 6000rpm.
Beyond that it runs out of puff a bit, yet still pulls meaningfully to the red line – signalled by the infamous buzzer as a reminder to take another gear. If you’re remotely intrigued by a car’s oily bits, the RX-7’s motor is special. It doesn’t dominate the whole character of the car, but it asserts itself nicely and sets the tone for a driving experience that’s outside the norm but delivers the goods.
This particular car has clearly lived a life, one in which it has covered more than 90,000 miles. That said, while the dampers and bushes aren’t in their first flushes of youth, and despite the front axle running on a different brand of tyre to the rear, it still manages to feel tidy. It rides with pliancy, masking minor surface imperfections and absorbing potholes without too much fuss, though there are a few creaks from the interior plastics! More impressive is the way the innate balance of this front-mid-engined, rear-drive chassis shines through, and how you rapidly build a clear picture of the sharpness and agility for which the third-gen RX-7 was rightly praised when new.
Funnily enough, of the memories I have of my first drive in an FD RX-7 back in 1993, the most lasting impression is of a car that demanded respect – something the 22-year-old me had just enough of to keep the Mazda out of the weeds. One moment in particular sticks in my mind. The road was damp and chased across hilly terrain. Travelling at enthusiastic but not silly speed, the RX-7 squeezed into a gently curving compression. As the suspension got towards the bottom of its travel, the vertical and lateral loads pushed the tail out of line with little warning. It was one of those moments caught by luck and youthful, sparky synapses rather than sage car control, not least because these were the days when I was testing my own limits as much as those of the car. It certainly taught me a lesson.
My driving skills – and judgement – have come a long way in the last 20 years, but I still can’t help but feel a little wary of this old Mazda for the first few miles. The nicely weighted steering is complemented by a calm rate of response that’s typical for fast cars of this era (just under three turns lock to lock) and which makes it easy to confidently place the RX-7 in corners with intuitive precision. You need only encourage it into long curves with a small squeeze of steering input, then relax the lock as the corner opens out. It finds a very satisfying and easily sustained flow.
The balance is beautifully neutral, with just enough bite from the front tyres to generate decent grip and response but not enough to induce oversteer. Likewise, the rear end has strong traction – not a surprise given the rear tyres aren’t exactly over-burdened with torque. In short, the perfect weight distribution and sweet ratio of grunt to grip ensures a harmony that lets the chassis work unhindered by dynamic imbalance. That it’s not fighting with an engine that’s too potent underlines the fact that sometimes less really is more.
Carry meaningful speed into a second- or third-gear corner, chase the throttle from apex to exit, and you feel the car and its Torsen limited-slip diff load up nicely, sitting down on the outside rear as the loads increase and those sequential turbos start to blow. It’s at this point I feel something of the RX-7 I recall, for when pushed hard it rapidly makes the transition from just on the limit to some way over it. It’s fun and harmless enough in the dry, but I can clearly see how I nearly came unstuck all those years ago.
The brakes are up to the job of fast road driving, with progressive response, but they don’t have the capabilities of those on today’s high-performance cars, so you have to be a little sympathetic. You’d toast them on track, but then cars of this age weren’t developed with as much in reserve as today’s performance models.
It’s been great to be reacquainted with the FD RX-7. Two decades of rampant engineering progress and sky-rocketing performance mean Mazda’s flagship sports car is no longer the force it was back in 1993, but it remains a thoroughly charming, fascinating, intriguing and usefully rapid car. It does things differently – as you’d hope – but it does them well. Well enough to remain the high point for Mazda’s rotary efforts. Here’s hoping last year’s glorious RX-Vision concept makes the leap to production and rekindles some of this RX-7’s abundant magic.
TECHNICAL DATA #Mazda-RX-7-FD (UK spec) / #Mazda-RX-7 / #Mazda /
Engine Twin-chamber rotary, 1308cc, twin-turbo
Power 237bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque 218lb ft @ 5000rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Front suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes Ventilated discs, 294mm front and rear, ABS
Wheels 8 x 16in front and rear
Tyres 255/50 R16 front and rear
0-60mph 5.4sec (claimed)
Top speed 156mph (claimed)
Value now £7000+
On sale (in UK) 1992-1995 (£33,999)
‘THE ENGINE HAS A FINELY SERRATED SMOOTHNESS THAT CONFOUNDS YOUR SENSES AND ENCOURAGES YOU TO WORK IT HARD’
Above: interior shows its 23 years, but the pedals were laid out by someone who knew what they were talking about. Left: pop-up headlights were required to meet regulations due to the RX-7’s low nose.
‘EVERY WHERE YOU LOOK , THE RX-7’S FUL SOME CURVE S REMIND YOU YOU’RE DRIVING SOMETHING SPECIAL’Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationIMMACULATE CONCEPTION RADICAL RX-7 IS A BORN SHOW-STOPPER
AUDI DO THAT? Drenched in Audi white, this RE Amemiya-kitted RX-7 is the king of the show scene.
With an immaculate street ported single-turbo motor and gleaming in Audi ibis white paint, Adam Robinson’s show-winning RX-7 has completed a mind melting transformation into one of the finest on the planet. Words: Daniel Bevis. Pics: Olliee Wildsmith.
‘Street’s closed, pizza boy!’ The association between hot Japanese motors and transporting cheesy Italian flatbreads from point A to point B is well-established in movie lore; that iconic – if fleeting – moment in The Fast and the Furious made audiences across the globe think ‘Yeah, actually I could go for a little pepperoni with my Wankel’. And of course the Toyota pizza delivery truck in Toy Story became a sort of mini Pixar meme, popping up in the background in Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, Cars and Monsters Inc.
Inevitable, then, that when Adam Robinson – the owner of this rather fancy FD RX-7 – got a pizza delivery gig at the age of eighteen, he’d be flinging the boxes from his rotary-powered coupé. ‘It wasn’t my daily driver at the time,’ he concedes, ‘I also had a Peugeot 206. But hey, when that was broken…’
As with so many petrolhead tales, this one begins with a long-standing childhood yearning and the acquisition of a cheap hatchback at seventeen. The inevitable Peugeot ended up adorned with alloys, bodykit, custom interior and boot build, and this all acted as a fine foundation for Adam to learn the craft before diving headlong into the fragrant waters of Japanese car ownership. Which, frankly, is where he’d really wanted to be all along. The RX-7 began as a sideline project, the 206 remaining for daily-driver duty, but that ultimately stepped aside for an MX-5. So Adam was double-Mazda-ing, the roadster receiving Rota rims and a respray in Audi Ibis White…and it was this state of affairs that sparked off an idea for the RX-7 at the back of his mozzarella-addled mind.
Of course, life marches relentlessly on, and Adam decided to try his hand at a SEAT Léon Cupra – y’know, just for variety – which again received the full works, before making way earlier this year for, of all things, an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. But the faithful FD pizza runner was always biding its time in the background like some kind of triangle-powered ninja, just waiting for its moment to shine.
‘They make a cracking pair, the RX-7 and the Aston’ he grins. But despite the trappings of material success, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. When the time came to make a proper job of his rotary Mazda, Adam was determined to do the thing properly from top to bottom.
‘I’ve always had a soft spot for them, it’s a truly iconic Japanese car,’ he continues. ‘And I don’t think the lines and the styling have aged at all. Combine that with insane tuning potential, and the noise and performance of the 13B, and you’ve got the base for a pretty serious project car.’
He’s not wrong. But even with the impetuousness of youth, the 18-year-old Adam, back in 2010, wasn’t going to rush into anything. Along with his father, they searched far and wide for the ideal FD… ‘We were very cautious, having heard the usual rotary horror stories,’ he recalls. ‘We viewed several cars that weren't up to standard, then put a deposit on another, but during the test drive it didn't feel quite right – so the search continued. We finally found this one on Pistonheads, and travelled down to London for it from Yorkshire!’
It was certainly worth the trip; having had just one UK owner since it was imported in 2003 – a Top Gear cameraman, no less – it was near stock, aside from a set of Tein coilovers (which are still going strong on the car) and an aesthetic upgrade to ’99-spec. In its former life in Japan it had been sprayed dark blue, but its original red was still in evidence under the bonnet and, apart from a minor fluid leak, all was looking pretty rosy.
‘It was never the intention to modify it to this high a level or turn it into a show-winner,’ Adam ponders, thoughtfully scratching his chin as he considers just how he’s arrived at this point. ‘It was exceptionally tidy when we bought it, and it remained unchanged for around a year, before a slight drifting incident occurred due to me being a bit heavy-footed in the wet! The car span, damaging the front bumper, headlight, front wing, bonnet and rear quarter – this actually happened on my dad's birthday when he was on holiday on a cruise… I couldn't bring myself to tell him, so I got my brother to do it when he returned!’
But once the paternal rage had subsided a little, he and Adam started discussing various alternatives. You see, as the Chinese will gladly tell you, their symbol for ‘crisis’ consists of the two separate symbols for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’.
Bad things often lead directly to good. This crumpled Mazda cloud was wearing a bold silver lining, as it gave the guys an excuse to really start developing the project. Adam was adamant that the thing needed to be wider, and a chat with Leon Chan at EP Racing cemented in his mind the conviction that an RE Amemiya widebody kit was the only way to go. So the RX-7 was duly shipped off to Elite Bodyworx in Hull, along with a vast bundle of bits, for the transformation to commence.
‘The colour choice was a hard decision,’ Adam recalls. ‘With the full bodykit fitted, it was obvious a change was the best way to go, and various people told me to go crazy – lime green, orange, purple, pink…but I wanted to keep it classy at the same time, so a fresh and bright Audi Ibis White was chosen.’ Echoes of that previous Mazda project here, of course! ‘And there was also my love of carbon-fibre always at the back of my mind – I think the two work really well together here. Indeed, later on down the line various carbonfibre bits were added, including an Ings Z-Power rear wing, RE Amemiya rear light cover, FEED skirts and canards, roof spoiler, door handles, the list goes on and on!’
With the broad-hipped body perfected and crisply gleaming, it was glaringly obvious that some more aggressive wheels would be required. ‘I’ve always loved Rotas, and the Grid Drifts were one of my favourites, so this was an easy choice,’ Adam enthuses. ‘I spoke to Ben at Rare Rims, who massively helped me with the correct sizes and offsets I'd require, and they'd just released the new Hyper Black at the time which matched perfectly with the white/carbon look I was going for.’ Nice when things start to come together, isn’t it? The cosmos was clearly smiling on this unique and fastidiously tailored project.
With the car sitting on the comfortable side of badass, Adam found himself using it more and more, the combination of sweet FD chassis and howling rotary proving irresistible. Somewhat inevitably, however, the increased usage began to take its toll on the rotor tips, with the engine ultimately losing compression and crying ‘enough’. Which was great news, obviously, as it meant that Adam could go to town on that, too!
‘I knew what had to be done,’ he impishly grins. ‘The car was trailered across to #WGT-Auto-Developments in Middlewich, where the engine was removed and the bay fully stripped. The engine would be stripped down too and rebuilt with large street ports and various other modifications while the car went in to have the bay smoothed and sprayed in Candy Turquoise, to stand out against the polished parts to be added. WGT eliminated anything unnecessary from the bay, along with fitting a V-mount radiator and intercooler for a more efficient setup. At this point, it was also clear that to achieve the power we sought, it made sense to ditch the twin-turbo set up and go for a single-turbo conversion in the form of a TO4S. The car was transformed, and I have to say a huge thanks to WGT who carried out all the work, and to Pip who built and mapped the engine for a safe but usable fast-road setup.’
It’s becoming obvious here that, not only is Adam a man who knows what he wants, but he’s also dogged in his pursuit of perfecting every infinitesimal detail. Just take a look at the interior. Having procured a bundle of cool parts from another RX-7 belonging to Steve, the owner of EDGE Automotive (the Recaro Pole Position seats, Nardi steering wheel, and custom handbrake and gearknob), Adam’s mind was buzzing away with the possibilities offered by the fact that their turquoise hue rather neatly matched his new engine bay. While he was in the process of chewing over the options with Steve, some lowlife scrote broke into the RX-7, trashing the interior with emulsion paint and a dry powder fire extinguisher – seriously, what goes through some people’s heads? Jealousy is a powerful demon. But this was just another positive step from Adam’s sunny-side-up perspective, as it gave him the chance for a full interior revamp.
‘Everything was removed,’ he says, ‘and I mean everything – the full interior of the car was stripped. Steve at EDGE spent an exceptionally long time with me discussing various options, styles, materials and colours, and I was massively guided by his experience in this area. And boy, was he right! We went for a black Alcantara retrim throughout, with turquoise stitching and blue leather stripe, giving that supercar feel without being too in-your-face.’ The quality of the workmanship really has to be seen to be believed, from the arrow-straight embroidery to the embossed Kanji characters on the dashboard, it’s like no FD you’ve ever seen.
Naturally, the fact that Adam’s fastidiously built the car up as a flawless show-winner (and that he also has an Aston Martin to play with) doesn’t stop him from wringing the single-turbo 13B-REW’s neck at any given opportunity. ‘I do take it to a lot of shows, but it’s primarily used as a fast-road car and I’ll never shy away from using it as Mazda intended,’ he assures us.
‘The car really does tell a story, from what it was like six-years ago to what it’s become, and it never fails to make me smile – the screamer pipe sounds insane on full throttle! I’ve got plans for 500bhp+ in the near future, but for now I’m just enjoying it.’ We imagine that’s probably something of an understatement. Here’s a guy who’s loving life, realising his dreams, taking care of business. And hey, if he needs to deliver a pizza, he can do it pretty damn quickly.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS #Mazda-RX-7 / #Mazda / #13B-REW / #Mazda-13B-REW / #Wankel
ENGINE 13B-REW 1308cc twin-rotor Wankel , large street port by WGT Auto Developments, #Garrett-TO4S single turbo conversion, mapped by Pip at WGT to 1.0 bar boost, #GReddy Long Runner manifold, wastegate and screamer pipe, WGT V-mount intercooler and aluminium radiator, uprated fuel system – bigger injectors, fuel pressure regulator, uprated pump, DM Motorsport anodised blue pulley set and red pulley bolts, #DM-Motorsport anodised blue turbo trumpet, DM Motorsport anodised blue reservoir caps, Samco blue silicone hoses, HKS blow off valve, WGT air separation tank, polished upper intake manifold, alternator, filler neck and throttle body, polished GReddy intake elbow, polished covers, air-con deleted, battery relocated, Candy Turquoise smoothed engine bay, under-bonnet and servo
TRANSMISSION 5-speed manual
SUSPENSION Tein Pro-Street fully adjustable coilovers, Powerflex anti-roll bar polybushes
BRAKES EBC drilled discs and Red Stuff pads, colour-coded white calipers, braided lines
WHEELS 10x18in Rota Grid Drift wheels in Hyper Black with 235/40/18 Federal RS-R (front) and 255/35/18 Toyo R1-R (rear), 326 Power anodised blue extended spike nuts, Rota spoke sticker and Kanji characters on inner rim inside rear wheels in custom glitter turquoise
EXTERIOR Audi Ibis White, RE Amemiya GT widearch kit, Pro-Street rear diffuser, carbon-fibre front and side canards, vented bonnet and carbon-fibre rear light cover, INGS Z-Power carbon-fibre rear spoiler, carbon-fibre Shine Auto Project upper spoiler, FEED side skirts and door handles, rear canards, petrol cap, wing mirror caps, rear bumper LED lights and bonnet aerocatches, CarShopGlow LED front bumper lights, sleepy-eye headlight kit, anodised blue canard and rear quarter bolts, matte black front tow hook
INTERIOR Recaro Pole Position seats re-trimmed in black Alcantara with turquoise stitching, turquoise leather stripe and embroided Recaro and EDGE Automotive logo, retrimmed black Alcantara door cards, dash, speedo dome, parcel shelf (with custom inserts), rear seats, floor mats, centre console, glovebox and dash panels, all with turquoise stitching and leather stripe where appropriate, Nardi GT steering wheel retrimmed in turquoise leather, snap-off boss, Audi S1 gearknob retrimmed in turquoise leather along with gear gaiter and handbrake, gloss black custom air vent gauge pod with Defi Advance boost and RPM gauges, gloss black wraparound dash plastics, A’PEXi Hand Commander mount trimmed in black Alcantara, aluminium windscreen air vent powdercoated matt black, carbon-fibre sills
THANKS ‘The Team at Elite Bodyworx in Hull – they’ve done a fantastic job fitting the wide arch bodykit and respraying. Buzz from Elite has assisted me through five years of building this car, fitting various parts and carrying out the majority of the work on the exterior. Steve at EDGE Automotive. WGT Auto Developments. Vinyl Scene – Steve works wonders with vinyl and graphics, he's exceptionally friendly and ensures every little detail is covered. EP Racing for supplying the bodykit and various other parts along the way! Rare Rims. FDUK RX-7 Club and Forum – help from these guys has been most welcome! Adam Blackshaw – for all my shiny polished engine bits. And finally, my dad, for many long nights in the garage and putting up with me with any silly ideas, and for all the help I’ve needed along the way!’
‘I’LL NEVER SHY AWAY FROM USING IT AS MAZDA INTENDED’
/ #WGT-Auto developments have been operating since 1981, offering a full range of automotive services but focusing on the RX-7 in particular – founders pip and David are both trained #Mazda technicians. ‘pip and the guys at WGT fully stripped my bay down to a bare shell and arranged for it to be painted in candy turquoise, while they street-ported and rebuilt my 13b,’ says Adam. ‘They then supplied and fitted the to4s single turbo, and mapped the car so that it’s now boasting a nice 450bhp for a fast-road setup.’
LIVING ON THE EDGE
Edge automotive are an award-winning custom interiors outfit based in rugby, and they’re the guys who helped knock the insides of this FD up a notch. ‘Steve at edge really worked his magic with this interior,’ says Adam. ‘He spent a great deal of time with me discussing various different options and ideas to really give the RX that supercar feel inside. The quality is outstanding, and his work is to a superior standard. I'd definitely recommend his services!’
‘AN RE AMEMIYA KIT WAS THE ONLY WAY TO GO’
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There must be something in the water Down Under judging by this amazing turbo rotary-swapped E30. A lifetime of E30 obsession has led Ehsan Hazrati to build many insane projects. His latest project is stuffed with enough triangles to make Pythagoras weep, yet you’d never guess it from the outside. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Andrew Parliaros.
Now everybody from the 313, put your motherflippin’ hands up and follow me.” So spat Eminem in 8 Mile (kinda), allowing the previously unremarkable three-digit number a little screen time. Until this point, 313 had merely been a truncatable prime, Donald Duck’s registration number or, of course, the year in which Rome’s Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was completed. But now, rather splendidly, we have a new function for the number 313. Even more aggressive than a riled-up Eminem, ladies and gentlemen, we present the E30 #BMW 313i.
I know, it doesn’t sound exciting when you put it like that, does it? But all is not as it seems here. True, the E30 harks back to an era when the boot badges did mostly relate to what was under the bonnet (a 318i was a 1.8, a 325i was a 2.5… you get the idea), so are we looking at an obscure variant with a 1.3-litre engine? And why would anyone want that?
Stick with the story, for your perceptions are about to be blown away in the most spectacular way possible. But first, let’s meet the man behind it. “My parents tell me that at the age of five I was drawing the round headlights and kidney grilles of the E30 BMW without really even knowing what it was,” says Ehsan Hazrati, the Sydneysider behind the steering wheel. “As I got older and got my licence, I had E30 after E30. I did all the modifications myself, from servicing to tuning, overhauling to suspension, bushings, sound systems etc. I did extensive research into E30 DTM race car suspension, brakes, and making them handle around corners at high speeds. I spent a lot of hours calculating and testing power-to-weight combinations, high RPM engines, and turbocharging power graph outputs. And a lot of trial-and-error!”
This, it’s pretty safe to say, is a man obsessed. After a long line of retro 3 Series, he finds himself today with three E30s making a nuisance of themselves on his driveway: a 900hp drag car that’s currently under construction; the family daily-driver four-door 316i that just happens to be running a 450hp Corvette LS1 V8; and the cheeky red number that’s splashed across these pages. This, for us, is the pick of the bunch – hence why it’s here – because, well, it’s just insane; not just the quality of finish and attention to detail but the fact that it’s running a Mazda rotary engine.
Aha. That cacophonous clanging is the sound of the penny dropping throughout the Drive-My readership. The 313i badge refers to the 13B rotary engine’s swept volume of 1308cc. Although, being a Wankel unit, you can’t really equate its displacement to that of a piston engine, its twin-654cc chambers aren’t even on nodding terms with a crank and- piston arrangement. But whichever way you cut it, this is a feisty manoeuvre. Ehsan’s opted for the 13B-REW variant, as found in twin-turbo form in the third generation RX-7, and it’s a bit of a cult icon.
It’s a bold play, but Ehsan has form with this sort of caper. His first three E30s may have enjoyed tweaked BMW four- and sixpots, but the fourth ended up with a 13B from a Mazda Cosmo, and it seems that this wacky experiment really flicked his switch, and he stuck with the formula. That part-built drag car we mentioned? That’s rocking rotors too. This fella just really digs triangles.
“From as long ago as I can remember, all I ever wanted was an old-school BMW,” he assures us. “I live by ‘classic not plastic’ and ‘built not bought’. The BMWs of this era represented great European design and true workmanship, and the last perfect lightweight rear-wheel drive chassis compared to the competitors – the KE Corolla, Mercedes 230E, Mazda RX-7 and so on – from that time.” You’ll note that he’s slipped a Mazda reference in there, though. Clearly a fusion was always on the cards – a greatest hits of the period, if you like. Well, it’s all subjective isn’t it?
“Yeah, I’ve always had a passion for E30s as well as for the lightweight, high-RPM feel of a turbo rotary engine,” Ehsan admits. “I had a picture in my head of what I wanted it to look and feel like; people from the E30 scene tend either to have a really clean slow-and-standard car or a roughened-up fast one. I wanted to build an all-rounder – a show-stopper that drops jaws but that could also be used as a street-legal weapon. Something I can take to the drag strip, run consistent ten-second passes on street tyres, then drive home and the next day go on an E30 club cruise to the beach, have it on display at a car show, and win trophies. This build was my total package.”
Blimey. Talk about your stereotypical Aussie confidence! There’s not a single element of that paragraph that isn’t writing a massive cheque, but thankfully Ehsan’s the sort of dude with the skills to cash it. And so it began. A project base was sourced from a guy who’d had the car slumbering in the shadows of his garage for around six years – all immaculate and original, and you’ll no doubt be impressed to learn that it’s still wearing its original factory Brilliantrot paint. The seller refused to let the car go before Ehsan promised to give the car a new lease of life, a good home and, most of all, not to crash it – after all, he’d owned it from new. Imagine what he must be thinking when he sees this feature! Good vibes, we hope.
Ehsan took it home, and immediately installed it in his garage for another dusty year-long slumber. You don’t want to rush these things, do you? Although he wasn’t dragging his heels by any means – our effervescent protagonist had been to see his friendly local engine builder.
“I did everything else on this car myself, but it was George and Rocky at PAC Performance Racing who built and ported the engine, and dyno tuned the car,” Ehsan explains. The motor is bridge-ported, and porting rotaries is something of a black art: a great way to get more power out of them is to effectively smash some holes into the intake side, although the more extreme the ports are, the more lairy and tricky the motor becomes.
Bridge-porting basically involves opening out the standard ports, then adding an additional eyebrow port above – it all gets a bit techy, but the short version is you get an amusing lumpy idle, oodles more power, and a hell of a lot of noise. Which is all good fun. “At the time of getting the engine built I was looking for around 400hp,” says Ehsan.
“It currently makes around 550rwhp at 7000rpm on 22psi, which is approximately 620hp at the engine… in a car weighing only 992kg! It’s safe-tuned at 22psi, although the engine is built for 35psi+, so there’s plenty more to come.”
The results really do speak for themselves, too. “It performed far better than expected,” Ehsan grins. “But the power band was so high, I went through axles like underwear. Obviously the factory axle broke but then it ate through a brand-new OEM 325i setup, Z3 M Coupé items, hybrid E30/E28 M5 units… then, after the Garrett GTX4088R turbo upgrade, it even chewed through custom 108mm 500hp Porsche billet axles!” The build is undoubtedly a bit of a monster, echoing those early years of trial-and-error to get it all running right, but you can see from the muscular spec box that Ehsan’s really pulled it all together neatly. And, of course, as the man himself was eager to tell us, this E30 is as much about show as go…
A very important marker for this build was to make it something of a sleeper – not totally stealthy but certainly not showing its hand too early. That mint-condition, 25-yearold paint certainly helps here, and Ehsan has had all manner of chuckles taking on Skyline GT-Rs and a kaleidoscope of Porsches who never saw it coming and didn’t see where it went. “There’s no modern paint colours here, no fibreglass body kits, no big wings screwed to the boot,” he says, with no small amount of satisfaction. “I kept it all factory – the only thing I added was a new OEM iS front apron lip, and M-Tech 1 boot spoiler. All genuine add-ons from the ’80s era!”
The wheels are an interesting choice too and no doubt gave some of you wheel nuts pause for though. They’re actually the third set of rims that the car’s enjoyed since completion; it started off on satin black Watanabes before moving onto BBS LMs with polished lips, but I think we can all agree that the 16” mesh wheels give it an appropriately period look that’s in keeping with that quasi-sleeper vibe.
This keenness for stealth carries over to the interior, too. “One of my rules is that there should be no extra gauges on top of the dash,” Ehsan asserts. “That would give the game away immediately. I replaced the trip computer with an eBoost2 gauge, and also utilised the E30 Alpina air vent digital dash idea, with an analogue boost gauge.” Stealth, as ever, is the watchword.
This is, by all measures, a phenomenal build – without a hint of hyperbole, one of the finest E30s to grace these pages in some time. And with that colossally powerful engine and pristine period exterior, what do you reckon is Ehsan’s favourite element of the project?
“Oh, it has to be my rear diff brace,” he grins. “I designed and patented it myself on a CAD programme, checking the stress tolerance points for maximum strength and so on, and it truly is a work of art. People at car shows see that and know this car means serious business; it’s not just a pretty show pony. That brace is what’s needed to consistently put six hundred horses to the ground on both street and track.” It’s impressive, but unsurprising, that his top pick would be a thing of pure function.
Ehsan’s proud to describe how the initial build of the whole car took just three months, but it was then a further 18 months of tweaking suspension heights, spring rates, diff ratios, tyre diameters, ET formula calculations, and axle and tailshaft options before it was all truly fit to get that phenomenal power down.
“What it is, basically, is a brand-new race engine in a retro shell,” he says, in a charming display of matter-of-factness. “People’s reactions at shows have been amazing – the looks on their faces when they found out what’s in there, and that it’s all street-legal. And next year – that’s when I’m going to be chasing to beat my personal best drag time. It ran a 10.86 at 120mph on the old turbo with 385rwhp on 225/50 street tyres. With the new GTX4088R and 550rwhp on 225/40 semislicks, I reckon it could run a 9.9.”
All very ambitious but you get the feeling that he’s got all of this precisely calculated. There’s no margin for error here, and that’s what the number 313 should henceforth represent. Forthrightness. Function.
Desirability. A new number-of-the-beast for the 21st century. And when you see those digits on the tail end of a shiny red E30, you’d better not dismiss it as a lesserengined also-ran – there’s hidden mischief here, and its furious anger makes Eminem look like a primary school teacher. Everybody from the 313, put your rotorflippin’ shafts up…
“I wanted to build an all-rounder – a show-stopper that drops jaws but that could also be used as a street-legal weapon”
Bridge-ported 13B rotary sports a massive #Garrett-GTX4088R turbo and makes 550rwhp.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-313i-E30 / #BMW-313i-Rotary-E30 / #BMW-313i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW /
ENGINE #13B-REW 2x654cc #Mazda-RX-7 / Mazda rotary, bridge-ported to PAC Racing specs, race doweled and balanced rotors, #PAC-Racing unbreakable apex/corner seals, #Power-Ported intake and ports, custom PAC Racing 13B turbo exhaust manifold, #Garrett GTX4088R turbo, Turbosmart 50mm ProGate wastegate, #Turbosmart 34mm dual port blow-off valve, #Turbosmart fuel pressure regulator, 3.5” dump pipe with full 3” exhaust and Rotaflow silencers, #Haltech PS2000 ECU and Haltech boost controller solenoid, custom fabricated engine mounts, custom dual-core PWR intercooler, PWR oil cooler, #PWR dual-core radiator, custom alloy radiator shroud and high #CFM-Engineering output 16” Spal fan, dual #Bosch-044 fuel pump, three litre surge tank and #Walbro primer pump, quad #Haltech LS1 ignition coils. 620hp at flywheel (542rwhp) at 22psi safe tune; engine built for 35psi+.
TRANSMISSION R154 Supra Turbo five-speed gearbox with aftermarket strengthened billet gearset and synchros, custom gearbox mounts, custom PAC billet bellhousing adapter, PAC RBR550 heavy-duty clutch and pressure plate, billet lightened flywheel, billet short-shifter with E30 DTM white Delrin nylon gear knob, custom Mark Williams 3” wall chromoly tailshaft with 1350-series Strange uni-joints.
CHASSIS 9x16” #BBS mesh wheels with 215/45 (front) and 255/45 (rear) #Kumho Ecsta tyres, custom 1000hp halfshaft axles with 120mm chromoly treated CVs and bearing cages, reinforced rear #BMW subframe and trailing arms, custom fabricated rear diff brace mount, E28 M5 diff with #Alpina finned diff cover, cryogenically strengthened and shot-peened crown and pinon, #OS-Giken Superlock shimmed 28-plate tightened LSD centre (85% lock), #AKG solid 75D subframe, trailing arms, control arm and diff mount bushing kit, Ireland Engineering heavy duty front and rear racing anti-roll bar kit with adjustable rose-joint links, custom 315mm front and rear brake kit with ADR/CAMS approved braided line throughout, OEM E32 740i brake master cylinder, modified #Z3M power steering rack with 2.7 lock-to-lock, solid billet alloy steering shaft coupler, 5/8” Mark Williams drag racing rear wheel studs, custom #Bilstein front coilovers and solid camber plates, heavy-duty rear Beehive King Springs, welded AKG anticamber squatting plates in rear trailing arms, Sparco 1.5” front and rear strut braces, Ultra Racing four-point lower crossmember reinforcement bar.
EXTERIOR 1990 325i two-door shell, original 25-year-old Brilliantrot paint, 318is lip spoiler, M Tech 1 boot spoiler, rolled and flared arches.
INTERIOR #MOMO Prototipo 350mm Retrotech steering wheel, E30 M3 black leather seats, #Sparco PRO2000 fixed driver’s seat, #Sparco fixed race seat rails, Sparco six-point 3” harness, #Autometer #Ultra-Light gauges, Turbosmart eBoost2 with 3x boost pre-set stages (street, track, drag racing), E46 M3 pedals, all sound/cavity deadening and heat shield removed, drilled-out circular holes behind doorcards, parcel tray, behind back seat and sunroof for weight reduction – total car weight 992kg.
THANKS George and Rocky at #PAC-Performance-Racing , Leon Sokalski at Performance Metalcraft, Mark Callinan at British European Motor Works, and my family and girlfriend for picking me up when I broke the CV axles on the street.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.