The FD3S Mazda RX-7 better known as MADBUL gave our servers a bit of shake-up when we revealed its Gen 6 Rocket Bunny re-imagination at the end of last month. It’s not hard to understand why that happened either, because Speedhunters’ own Mad Mike Whiddett has a knack for building badass machines, and then rebuilding them all over again to an even wilder extent. When it comes to cars, seemingly everything he touches turns to awesome.
For that very reason, the moment I heard that Mike had got his hands on a Mazda MX-5, and that it would be joining his line-up of drift weaponry with a no-compromise pro-spec build, I got pretty excited. Despite its unconventionality, after our first look at RADBUL back in April, most of you guys appeared to be feeling the same way too – and for good reason.
Don’t let its 2014-spec smiling face fool you – RADBUL is well on its way to becoming one of the angriest drift cars on the face of the planet. An MX-5 base mixed up with seriously evil underpinnings – it’s a wonderful mash-up don’t you think?
Some of you might still be questioning the choice of platform, and if you’re one of those people I think it might pay to reserve judgement until the wraps come off at the end of the build. Why? Because for Mike, half the challenge here is taking something not normally associate with huge power and drifting, and turning that thinking on its head. As a great driver’s car, the NC is a good place to start too.
The other thing about the NC chassis is its suitability-by-design for the rotary repower Mike’s had in mind right from the outset. That’s three rotors and one big ass turbo in case you missed the original memo.
What may not be so suitable for the end task – at least on paper – is the Mazda’s 90.7-inch (2,303mm) long wheelbase. Because generally speaking, the greater the distance between a rear-wheel drive car’s front and rear wheel lines, the easier it is to hold a drift. Compared to every other popular drift platform out there the MX-5 is very short, but having piloted MADBUL for many years now, Mike’s used to snappy handling at sketchy speeds. In fact, he prefers it. If there’s anyone that can tame a longitudinally-challenged chassis stuffed with four figure horsepower output, I think he’s the man.
It’s time we pick up where we left off with the build though, and that was just prior to the stripped body shell being sent away for acid dipping. The last few shots show you what it looked like when it returned to the Townsend Brotherz Racing workshop in its raw steel state.
There was a two-fold reason to have the MX-5 dipped – firstly to the remove the multiple layers of factory red paint, and secondly to get rid of the factory sealant between the layers of steel panels that form the body. The latter would give Kaz at TBR a clear run at seam welding every overlap – outside, inside and underneath the car. Above you can see the markings he made for where each weld will be applied in one of the rear wheel wells.
If you think that sounds like a big job you’d be right. According to Kaz he spent around 20 solid welding hours on this aspect of the build alone.
As you can see, the results are pretty nice though. Given the stresses a drift car chassis is put through, the extra rigidity that comes from seam welding is well worth the effort. On a project of this nature and extent, it’s non-negotiable.
Wherever you look over the MX-5’s chassis, Kaz has left his calling cards. I’d count them all up, but that would be a task in itself – so let’s just say there are a lot. The pretty rainbow colour effect is a result of using a high-chromium TIG rod, similar to those used for chromoly welding.
And on that note, don’t the custom ‘MM’ embroidered Takata Race LE seats look the business too. All three of Mike’s drift cars are running these – with matching Takata Race 6 harnesses, of course. While we’re talking about the inside of the car, let’s take a look a the rollcage next…Caged Beast
With the chassis in its bare state, the other big job on the agenda for Kaz was the rollcage. The cages fitted in Mike’s RX-7 and RX-8 are somewhat basic in their respective designs, but in building this car to Formula Drift’s current specification, something a little more significant was called for. The fact that Mike will be drifting the MX-5 without a hardtop only amplified the need for some serious roll over and impact protection too.
Constructing an extensive rollcage in a small cabin space would normally be a nightmare for the engineer tasked with the job, so having no roof to confine the space has certainly made it a little easier for Kaz in that respect.
But that’s where it stops, because bending, cutting and scalloping steel tubes to build a decent cage – let alone TIG-welding it all together – takes time and a whole lot of patience.
What the Mazda has ended up with is pretty cool though. Safety was the number once concern here of course, followed by rigidity, but because of the open cockpit aspect the rollcage had to look good as well. As you can see here the raked-back main hoop sets the tone for the rest of the cage’s aggressive design.
There’s still more bars to add at this point, but you should get the overall idea of where its headed. Under the bubble wrap is a custom PWR Performance aluminium radiator, which, yes, is being fitted in the rear of the car – the boot/trunk area to be exact. Given the size of the MX-5, there’s not a lot of room to work with, so some careful planning has gone into ensuring that everything can fit without interference, all the while taking into account weight placement and in this particular case – incoming and outgoing air flow. I’ll get more into that in the next update though…
NASCAR-style door intrusion bars aren’t commonly seen in pro-spec drift cars in this part of the world, but they’re a sensible investment given the door-to-door nature of the sport and the speeds involved at pro level. The bars extend right the way out to the outer skin of the doors – Seibon carbon fibre components no less – for maximum clearance.
While the majority of the chassis prep work is now complete, Kaz has turned his attention to dummy-fitting all the ancillary parts and fabricating custom mounting points and brackets where required – which is pretty much everywhere. Ultimately the whole car will be built up, and then completely stripped down again so that all of the steel can be sealed, primed and painted ahead of final reassembly.
With a lot of the time consuming stuff out of the way, and the vast majority of parts now arrived from around the world, good progress is being made on a daily basis. In fact, you can count on me being back with another update from the TBR Metal House Compound in just a few weeks time.
On top of the next round of modifications, Mike’s also got a pretty big announcement that is going to take RADBUL from certifiable crazy to off-the-chart insane. Turbocharging is a given, but does anyone want to hazard a guess what the new plans might entail?
In other cool news, thanks to Red Bull, from here on out till the MX-5’s completion, our build stories aren’t only going to be limited to stills. So make sure you check out the clip above for the first video instalment of The Making of RADBUL.