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I bought this car in November of 1999. I was actually looking for a decent 84-89 Nissan 300ZX. Looking at several 300ZX's had been a hard thing to do, as around here most of those cars had succumbed to the ravages of rust. Indeed, I only found one that was not fit for the scrap yard, and the owner wanted $12,000 for it. Certainly more then I wanted to spend on a car at this point in my life. I was looking through auto trader one day and noticed a small ad at the bottom of the page: "1986 Mazda RX-7, $3999, brand new engine, drives A-1". Not one of the most convincing adds in the world I'd say, but enough for me. A few days later I headed to the dealership for a quick (and I mean quick, as I was at work and needed to get lunch) look. Note that I have since discovered that the engine is original.
Looking first for underside rust, I was actually pretty surprised when I didn't find any serious problems. The rear passenger wheel well had some rust on the edges, but other then that and a horrible paint job, the car was in good shape. I came back a few days later with my dad (the intimidation factor of adults on car salesmen is very useful), got another look at the car, started the engine and made an appointment for a test drive on Saturday.
Saturday rolled around and I arrived at the dealership and took the car. First it was a little cruising to get the engine warmed up, then some serious tire burning fun as there was no salesmen with me (note to car dealers: do not give the keys to a sports car to a 19 year old. Always come along on the test drive). Brought the car around to the mechanic for a quick look and then back to my house. After listening to my mother who once again tried to convince me not to buy it, I brought it back to the dealership and wrote them a cheque. The rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not quite. Of course, being who I am, I could not just let this car sit around. What had to go was that god-awful factory stereo, and I really did need an interior trunk release. The stereo was replaced with a Pyramid unit, as were the speakers. The trunk release was taken care of by swapping one in from an RX-7 so equipped. After that, an MP3 player was installed to supply the tunes, power windows were fitted, a new exhaust system, daytime running lights, cruise control and a few other miscellaneous modifications were performed. Details are below.
The exterior of the car was another matter. The previous owner had obviously had the car repainted at one of those "$199" places, and it showed. Present in the paint were drips and sags, with several spots of clear coat peeling. Plus there was some rust to be repaired. In the spring of 2000, I started prepping the car for paint. Little to know that such a project would carry me to November of that same year. I had the body shop repair some rust, but all the other work was left to me (with the exception of the primer). The car was then sprayed with metallic crimson, a deep red that you can literally look inches into. The result is the car you see above.
In December of 2001, the longest and most ambitious project was begun: turbocharging. The normal way to turbocharge the naturally aspirated RX-7 is to swap in the drivetrain from the turbo model. It is nearly a perfect bolt in, and can be done in a weekend if all the parts are on hand. However, this is not the path I chose. Not only was it too normal and easy but I simply could not get all the parts together, and had no desire to take the entire drivetrain out of my car. Nor did I really have the space to do so. So the decision was made to turbocharge the existing non-turbo high compression engine. The project, that most said "couldn't be done", took 6 months and was completed On June 16th, 2002 when I started the car on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Since then, the car has seen 10 pounds of boost on a nearly daily basis. More information on this conversion can be found in The (Almost) Complete Guide To Turbocharging The Naturally Asiprated Second Generation RX-7). Essentially this conversion involved using selected TII parts to turbocharge the 6 port block without a full TII swap. It consisted of a stock S4 TII turbo and manifold on a 2.5" spacer to allow it to clear the NA lower intake. The NA ECU was retained and four TII 550CC injectors and an S-AFC was used to supplement fuel requirements. A TII intercooler was mounted up front. The turbo was connected to the rest of the exhaust system using a short downpipe adapter.
While I was very happy with the original NA turbo setup it was soon clear that the turbcharged NA had a lot more to give in terms of power. I parked the car for the winter in December of 2002 with the intention of rebuilding and porting the engine, upgrading the turbo and converting to a full standalone EFI system. As often happens with projects, one thing led to another and the project took on a life of it's own. After nearly 5 years as a project the car is now back on the road in it's current configuration. The engine is still the original 6 port block but it has now been rebuilt and ported. It was given a basic street port and bridgeports were added to the aux ports. Internally the engine was built with Atkins 2MM apex seals, three window stationary bearings, deep groove rotor bearings, shimmed oil pressure regulator and the eccentric oil jet mod. Induction is via a shaved (all emissions removed) NA lower intake with a custom upper intake. Fuel demands are met with 720CC primary injectors and 1600CC secondary injectors fed by an Aeromotive 11106 fuel pump. A Microtech LT8s controls the EFI system. The turbo is a Garrett GT4088R with a 1.06 hotside on a custom long runner manifold. A decent sized front mounted intercooler keeps the intake charge cool while a 3.75" downpipe carries the exhaust gasses into a 3" midpipe with resonator which flows into a dual 2.5" catback.
A detailed journal and plenty of pictures covering this project can be found at Project Tina.
Needless to say, the car is a beast. Even at low boost it breaks traction in the first three gears and is a real challenge to launch at any RPM without wild tire spin. The last time I dyno'ed the car it made 387 RWHP and 297 FT-LBs of torque at 13 PSI.
A complete list of modifications can be found on the Modifications page.
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