Staff Projects: The Dream of Owning an RX-7
Here at Street63 we strive to bring you the very best cars Filipinos have built around the archipelago. That said, you’ll notice that we’ve featured everything else we can find around town except our very own cars. Like most of you who build cars as a passion project, we feel that our own cars are incomplete; Long-term projects that have yet to be finished. For us, it seems that our cars – while very much respectable in their own right – do not need any of the limelight.
Then again, while our cars are works in progress they lend themselves to a decent story considering their nature. Talking about their unique features and imperfections further adds to the story of the journey; It seems fitting then that we have a series of articles documenting the things that happen to our own cars. For our next staff project, let us share with you the oddest car in Street63’s lineup: My very own Mazda RX-7.
As most of you already know, the RX-7 FD is a pretty rare sight on Manila’s streets. While its timeless lines and svelte body shape are compelling arguments for owning one, its ‘temperamental’ Wankel Rotary engine has become a large red flag waving over its beautiful body. It has since only had a cult following here in Manila, with a very dedicated few keeping their rotaries running to this day. After more than a decade of dreaming of owning one of these, I can proudly say I am one of those very few that keep the rotary flame (pun intended) alive through my RX-7.
Around 15 years ago I was one of those kids that was introduced to Initial D through the arcades and the anime itself. You could say I owe the show a good part of my knowledge about racing technique, mechanical parts, and many technical specifications about cars today. It sparked my passion for cars, being able to see factual techniques and mechanics come into play as I watch every engaging race. And having seen all the pros and cons of all the cars in the show, there was one car that I personally felt was my weapon of choice.
Balanced, powerful, and wrapped in an edgeless coke-bottle body, the RX-7 FD would be etched in my mind for years to come. I’ve always thought about it to the point of digging up anything I could find about Mazda’s crowning sports car. I found out early on that the rotary engine can become unreliable, that people stay away from the RX-7 to spare themselves of any headaches of running the car. Countless years of studying anything about the car in the hopes of owning one someday would prove useful by the time I got my 1999 Series 8 FD3S back in 2015 because I had something that most people would lack when getting into a project like this: Information.
Truth be told, I would treat any other project car the way I treat my RX-7 today. I would understand all its quirks, what makes it tick, what its limits are, and how to behave behind the wheel to make sure it doesn’t break down on me. Any successful project car requires its owner to study and cope with all the car’s imperfections – the RX-7 just happens to be a bit more meticulous. All the necessary maintenance and its odd rituals (i.e. pre-mixing) are religiously performed, and so far the RX-7 FD rewards me with nothing but the perfect balance of handling and power I’ve yearned for so long.
Of course, this RX-7 didn’t get to its current state overnight. When I got the car a full list of to-do’s went on it and were checked one-by-one as the years went by. I got the car with a rather weathered body, chipping hotdog red paint and all. The interior came with a crummy Sparco bucket seat that kept dirtying the carpets. The engine, ecu, turbos, and everything needed to get the car running properly have been swapped out for quality pieces all throughout. Suspension bits were pretty much shot from almost 20 years of being on the car too.
To address the exterior, I wanted something that would look distinct enough to be different, but something that would pass as OEM all the same. Off the bat, I wanted the car to be painted in a shade of green as it is my favorite color. Thing is the FD never came in an OEM shade of green, meaning I had to look at other color palletes from other manufacturers to get the right shade. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation and the expert eye of Autokraf Motorworks, the RX-7 was resprayed in BMW Dark Metallic Green. A stock ’99 Kouki bumper also found its way onto the car to replace the skirty Vertex piece that came with it. I’ve also found a side skirt to fit onto the FD while on a trip to Japan, oddly enough it was listed as ‘maker unknown’ when I picked it up. Upon further research i’ve discovered that the skirt was from Odula, one of the smaller Japanese tuning shops that specialized in RX-7s. Carbon bits such as the Stage 21 Vacuum Resin CF hood and an Odula rear CF Wing insert eventually found their way onto the car for better aesthetics.
One of my favorite pieces of the exterior however are these Car Shop Glow Version 4 tail lights. I’ve been lusting after these for quite some time, and I can proudly say this is the only RX-7 in the country sporting these tail lamps so far.
Rolling stock for the FD for a time were a rare set of Mazdaspeed MS-02s. In the interest of better tire sizing options however, Gram Lights 57CRs wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires made their way onto the hubs. Braking is taken care of by a Sakebomb Garage x Wilwood Track Day BBK up front matched with Hawk HP+ pads and slotted rotors at the rear. Behind the wheels and brakes, a set of Öhlins Road and Track DFVs, SuperPro Polyurethane Bushings, and Ikeya Formula Rear Toe Adjusters make sure the RX-7 turns and stops when I need it to.
Arguably most of the work that went into this car of course went into the engine bay. Built mainly for street and occasional circuit use, I’ve opted to go with a mild street port and Goopy 2mm Apex Seals for the innards of my pistonless lump. We’ve also strengthened the ‘block’ by adding five uprated tension bolts to hold the sandwiched motor together. Flanking the built motor is a Borgwarner S360 Single Turbo (1.0A/R) twin scroll mated to dual Tial 38mm wastegates on a custom manifold. A Walbro 485lph pump and a host of upgrades to the fueling system ensure that the thirsty rotary gets all the fuel it needs to stay running. This setup is all controlled by an Adaptronic standalone ECU that provides various failsafes in case of any anomalies. This tried and tested setup of reliable power comes from Lito Salva and the small group of other RX-7s under his care.
More recently, my RX-7 has been treated to a host of improvements on the cooling side of things. Profab Ph have taken their talents towards the intercooler and radiator and have made a complete custom V-Mount arrangement to ensure that all cooling cores get fresh air. Beyond the performance benefits from this setup, their meticulous consideration of the cooling layout gave the engine bay a much more presentable look. Unseen but very relevant are a pair of 12” Spal radiator fans with a custom shroud that makes sure air gets sucked towards the radiator.
The interior only recently got a decent refresh following years of putting up with misaligned panels. A Recaro Profi SPG driver’s seat keeps me in place at high G’s while the passenger will have to make do with an RX-8 passenger seat. Pertinent information on engine vitals are clearly displayed between a PLX Wideband Air/Fuel Ratio display, a Defi Advance CR Boost Gauge, and a Defi Advance ZD that displays Water temp, Oil temp, and Oil pressure. The battery’s been moved to the back of the passenger and sits inside a Summit Racing Battery Box. Aside from that, the crowning piece of the interior is perhaps the full left-hand drive conversion that came with the car. All the interior trim, door cards, dashboard, and even signal stalks are true left-hand drive pieces from a USDM RX-7.
More recently the car has been suffering from electrical issues involving current draw from the alternator. This is mainly thanks to the new SPAL fans i’ve installed, but I decided to beef up the electrical system to match the fans. A billet aluminum DC Power 180A Alternator is now perched on top of the motor as a fancy ornament of sorts for the engine bay.
With the current state of my RX-7, I can say that the bigger hurdles of the build are well behind us already. But while it is pretty much ‘complete’ in that sense, we all know that true project cars see no ending. And with that, I hope I can share with everyone the rest of my journey with Mazda’s iconic sports coupe as the years go by.
Words by Aurick Go
1999 Mazda RX-7 (FD3S)
Engine and Driveline
- 13B-REW (409whp, 330lb/ft tq) built by Lito Salva
- Goopy 2mm Apex Seals
- OEM Corner Seals and Side Seals
- Street Port
- Goopy Reinforced Tension Bolts
- Oil Pump Delete
- Adaptronic Standalone ECU tuned by Lito Salva and Speedworks Engineering
- Borgwarner S360 Single Turbo (60mm, 1.0A/R, Twin Scroll)
- Tial 38mm External Wastegates and custom screamer pipes (2x)
- Brodeth Motorsports custom exhaust manifold
- Brodeth Motorsports custom fuel rail
- Brodeth Motorsports Oil Catch Can
- Brodeth Motorsports custom downpipe
- Custom V-Mount Intercooler by Profab
- JC Racing 2-Row Aluminum Radiator with modified endtanks
- JC Racing 14-row Oil Cooler (2x)
- JC Racing Air Separator Tank
- JC Racing Stainless Steel braided oil lines and A/N Fittings
- Custom Intercooler
- Custom V-Mount Ducting
- Fabrix 4” Intake Cone
- Fujitsubo Legalis R Catback Exhaust
- Fuel Injector Clinic 1000cc Primary Injectors
- Fuel Injector Clinic 2150cc Secondary Injectors
- Walbro 485lph Fuel Pump
- Fuel Lab Fuel Pressure Regulator
- Fuel Lab Fuel Filter
- MAC Boost Control Solenoid
- DC Power 180A Alternator
- GReddy Air Pump Delete/Lightened Pulley Kit
- GReddy Intake Elbow
- GReddy Oil Filler Cap
- RE Amemiya Radiator Caps
- PTP Lava Wrap
- PTP Turbo Blanket
- Billion 71c Thermostat
- Mishimoto Silicone Radiator Hoses
- Sakebomb Garage Oil Filter Pedestal
- Sakebomb Garage Hi-Tension Plug Wires
- Sakebomb Garage Stainless Steel Clutch Line
- SPAL Dual 12” Slim Electric Fans with custom shroud
- HKS Twin Power Ignition Amplifier with plug and play harness
- Tial Q Blow Off Valve
- Custom Solid Engine Supports
- Spec Clutch Stage 3
- Tomei Technical Trax 2-Way LSD
- 4.7 Final Drive
Wheels, Brakes, and Suspension
- Sakebomb Garage Track Day Big Brake Kit (Front)
- Wilwood Superlite 4-pot Calipers
- Wilwood Floating Rotors 328mm x 32mm
- Hawk HP+ Brake Pads
- Sakebomb Garage Rear Slotted Rotors
- Sakebomb Garage Stainless Steel Braided Brake Lines
- Hawk HP+ Rear Brake Pads
- Gram Lights 57CR (18x8.5 +38 F, 18x9.5 +35 R)
- Michelin Pilot Sport 4 (235/40/18 F, 265/40/18 R)
- Öhlins Road & Track DFV Coilovers (11kg/mm front and rear)
- SuperPro bushings
- JC Racing Rear Trailing Arm
- Ikeya Formula Rear Toe adjusters
- Cusco Front Strut Tower Bar
- ‘99-Spec/Kouki Exterior
- Front bumper
- Wing Ends
- Stage 21 Vacuum Resin Carbon Hood
- BMW Deep Green Metallic paint by Autokraf Motorworks
- Spyder Clear Lens headlamp housings
- Redline Retrofit Stage 3 HID Projector kit
- Car Shop Glow LED Bumper Lights
- Car Shop Glow Version 4 LED Tail Lights
- Rotary13B1 Aluminum Door Handles
- Odula Side Skirt
- Odula CF ’99-Spec Wing Insert
- Mazda USA Full Left Hand drive conversion
- Defi-link Advance System Gauges
- Advance ZD (Water Temp, Oil Temp, Oil Pres)
- Advance CR Boost Gauge
- Drakes Column Pod
- Bubbletech LHD Map Lid
- PLX Wideband AFR Gauge
- RE Amemiya Shift Knob
- RE Amemiya Short Throw Kit
- Rear Battery Relocation kit
- Summit Racing Battery Box
- SF Sonic 2SMF Battery
- Recaro Profi SPG driver’s seat
- Recaro Railings
- Mazda RX-8 Passenger Seat
- Mazdaspeed Speedometer