I have a confession to make. I have done the cardinal sin and started a relationship with someone who looks exactly like one of my ex’s. Hell, I am even trying to make her exactly like my ex but better. I feel like I learned a lot during my painful and costly previous relationship and that I can do it right this time. I can avoid all of the trial and error with the growing pains of a new relationship. Bypass the dead-end decisions made and make a beeline to what was so great about the last one. Since this is Right Foot Down, of course I am speaking about a car. Not just any car mind you but my first true love. A third generation Mazda RX-7.
The start of the downward spiral
I bought my first one back in 2003 in the form of a stock 1995 Montego Blue Touring Edition. Having been involved with tuning cars for years at that point, this was my chance to graduate to one of the apex predators. This was my chance to try out one of these mythical beasts. I was young, dumb, and had no idea what I should be looking at when it came to a rotary powered car. The prevailing thought was to buy a stock one and get to know it from there. A local shop had even performed a PPI to ensure the car was up to snuff. Little did I know that this shop probably knew as much about rotaries as I did. I’m sure you can guess where this is going.
My introduction to the world of rotaries began with a beautiful car that was hard to start at times, liked to puff smoke every now and again, and made me wonder whether Mazda decided to add a naturally aspirated variant of the car for 1995. Thus, began my descent into the hell of chasing down vacuum leaks (biggest troll a car manufacturer ever did on poor owners), replacing worn out hoses, and numerous other things.
“If you don’t want your kid to get addicted to drugs, get them addicted to cars first. They won’t have enough money left over.”
Finally, I admitted defeat. I needed professional help. Of the mechanical sort (my family thought other professional help was more appropriate). I took my car into a rotary specialist and had them evaluate it. The compression numbers were a hair above acceptable but a failure was only a matter of time. It was best to start from a clean slate. The best course of action was to give the car a remanufactured engine, upgraded twin turbos from BNR, and all of the supporting mods to go with.
Still haven’t found what I’m searching for
Two months later, the shop had buttoned up the car and it was ready to go. I would finally get to experience the car that so many had raved about. The only problem was that I had to baby the car through its break in period for all of the brand-new equipment that had just been installed. It’s like buying a top of the line 4K UHD television but only being able to watch grainy family reunion videos from the 80s. After miles of limping the car around, I called for an appointment at Peter Farrell Supercars to get it tuned.
The results were, well, uninspiring.
The problem wasn’t with the car, it was with my expectations. Being that I was still a kid in many ways and had been drawn in by the feature cars of the major tuner magazines without any idea of the work and money that went into those builds. I was expecting a monster but that is not what I was driving.
Its good to be single
As I am a moron, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. After driving my professionally assembled, well running car around for a couple months, I needed more power! Now, my ability to wrench on a car at this point was probably on par with the family dog so I did what any good car nerd could do and started searching the forums. My answer seemed to be that I would have to take the leap and do a single turbo conversion. After some searching around, I found someone locally who was selling a barely used turbo kit and another person crazy enough to not only buy my old setup but actually let me use their garage to do the swap out.
Fast forward a couple months and I have managed to finish the swap and get the car running without the involvement of the fire department. It felt like exactly what I wanted. The car gave you a nice kick in the butt when the turbo spooled up. It had just enough crazy to it that you felt you had something special on your hands.
Like apple pie
The funny thing is that, as we grow older, our tastes change with the number of candles on our birthday cake. After a while, you realize that you want something different. What you have right now isn’t bad, it’s just not exactly what you want anymore. As time passed I became less interested in the thrill of just mashing the pedal. I yearned to develop the skills involved with motorsports. The more I talked with those involved, the more I realized that a build was less about the numbers on a spreadsheet and more about tailoring the car to maximize your abilities. I came to a realization. The car I had no longer fit with what I was trying to do.
About this time, a trend had started to gain traction in the world of RX-7s. While it had been around for a couple years, it was just starting to get the attention of the media. If you are one of the indoctrinated rotary faithful, you might have just felt a chill go down your spine. I am, of course, talking about the soulless LSX swap.
Having been a fan of cars for longer than I had owned the RX-7, I evaluated the idea on its own merits. I would be taking out a high revving yet peaky motor and putting in a v8 that has a ton of low end and a very linear power curve. I might be losing the top end but I was making up for it with the space under the curve. The final nail for me was when I was speaking about it to someone I respect very much and spouted off an old adage to me: “Horsepower sells cars, torque wins races.”
So began yet another long and drawn out build period for the car. What I ended up with was something that was exactly what I wanted in a car. We can debate for ages about the soul of an RX car but this one was mine and it was perfect. Unfortunately, as time moved on I needed to make choices to better myself and improve my career choices. I ended up selling the car to move into NYC and begin another chapter in my life. The years have passed since then and I have regained the itch for another performance car. With that, I am going to level another slap to the face of the rotary world. Its time to embark on the build of another LSX RX-7.