Rage Within The Machine:<br/> The Valtonen RX-7
The Time Machine

When I started to drive in the early ’90s the roads were populated by boxy, early-’80s onwards family saloons. Many of them had their design origins in the ’70s – wide expanses of glass still featured heavily as did skinny pillars, and at a guess I’d say that 15 per cent of the cars on the road actually dated back to that era or before. Then in 1991, the FD3S Mazda RX-7 arrived.

From its curves to its resolutely defiant rotary engine, it was like a futuristic spaceship. I can clearly remember seeing my first one on the cover of a magazine. But stood looking at the Valtonen Motorsport time attack FD just a few weeks ago, I felt like there had been an alien invasion and we were being attacked with something familiar, yet at the same time fierce. Like some sort of mutant that we think we recognise.

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Because this Mazda is so far removed from that iconic model I first saw. With a Nissan heart and full composite bodywork, it’s hard to know where I should start trying to communicate to you just how incredible it is. But that’s exactly what this is my friends. When Rod and I first saw the RX-7 at the Bilsport Performance & Custom Motor Show at Elmia we both fell silent for a minute or more. It’s what a great car should do – move you even when it’s standing still.

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I’d like to shake the hand of Yoichi Sato, the gentlemen who is credited with designing the FD RX-7’s original, swoopy curvaceous shape. It does feel a little like he put a previous generation FC RX-7 shell in the oven until it melted a bit, but then again I honestly think the shape is so much more than just a generational jump. It’s like the future arrived and was put straight in to production. That almost elliptical door opening could be a space capsule!

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As much as I can revel in the glory of the original model all day, that’s kind of immaterial here. Because what Christian Valtonen and his small team from Finland have achieved with their FD build is something on a completely different level to what Mazda unveiled nearly 25 years ago. Which makes me think – that’s a pretty crazy figure in its own right. Because this FD feels completely modern, but does that also mean it’s timeless?

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Either way, it always fascinates me as to how people decide on a project start point, so you might also be wondering what attracted Christian to the Mazda platform? Well funnily enough this time attack build started out in a very different discipline – it was originally built for drifting. Representing Falken in 2009 and then morphing in to a really good-looking gold coloured machine with some aero going on and the same wheels you see here. But when the change of discipline was decided on, things got very serious very fast.

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There’s not a great deal of the original FD left now, although the spirit of the car remains instantly recognisable.

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Christian tells me that in an ideal money-no-object world he would have started with something like a Porsche – something he considers to be a closer start point to the final destination of time attack dominance. In fact, he referenced that a couple of times during our conversations. I really think that yes – the result would have been amazing – but that would also be taking something away from this build, which would be a crime!

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With the one-piece front top end assembly lifted off you start to get an idea of the project’s scale – the only standard factory items forward of the bulkhead being the chassis legs. It’s not a full tube chassis, where the original monocoque would have been completely thrown away and clad like an RC car, but it’s certainly more than a roll cage.

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And that Nissan SR20? What about that then? Mazda fans might find it controversial, but given the level of originality we’re looking at here, I think even the most die hard rotor-heads could see past the label.

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This is the view most of the competitors in time attack competitions will see, and it’s probably the most un-FD3S-like view you can get of the Valtonen RX-7. So I find it apt as it says a lot about the personal input of this story, because the work that has gone in to this build required a small, but dedicated army.

Weaponised Technology
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It’s hard to know where to start with the story, because it’s only just beginning really. The RX-7 debuted at Elmia where we saw it and since then has only attended a handful of events, where it has utterly dominated the proceedings. That must be a good feeling for Christian, who is the main driving force behind the build.

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He’s taken on the lion’s share of the work, starting with the partially stripped and beaten-about ’95 shell. The main reason for working with the SR motor is because Christian had no experience with rotary engines, but the Mazda appealed to him because of the fluid design lines, small cabin and parts availability. He also notes that no matter how much he loves what the Nissan four-cylinder motor can do, it doesn’t beat the sound of a rotary. During the recent Gatebil Mantorp event where I shot these pictures, the team had to take the head off after experiencing compression issues. Disappointing, but nothing was going to stop them succeeding. Looking at the bay like this, it reminds me of actually how much room there is in an FD for other powerplants.

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For the team it meant a long night of hard work getting the coupe back together for the following day. I knew I had to get them to line up for the rear-mounted camera as they’re pretty shy, but I love the passion they all have for whatever role they play in the Mazda.

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Just like a professional race team with massive budgets and endless facilities, the crew would tear into the RX after every outing, ensuring everything was up to spec when it came back in. Which also gave me the chance to check out the home-brewed front suspension set up and Alcon brakes. Here you can also see where the Mazda shell stops and the custom fabrication begins.

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Custom fabrication that runs right the way through the racer. Sometimes when you take away fancy paint or finishes you can be disappointed by what’s left. We’ve all done it right – check a build out at a car show or in the pits and imagine it naked? Well here it’s a shame we can can’t see everything laid bare because the quality is gorgeous and envy-inducing. Welding and metal-bending skills aside, starting to form a new door from carbon makes me nervous.

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The realisation that there wasn’t going to be much Mazda left came pretty early on by the looks of it, and the more I see of what’s been put in its place, the more I realise what a great platform the FD is. Look at how far back the engine sits – its pulleys barely nosing past the centre line of the front wheels.

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At the rear there’s no heavy roll cage tubing extending beyond the top suspension pick up points, so all the weight is contained where you want it. The frame work extends rear of the turrets, but with that small cabin that Christian identified, you don’t need to go any further.

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However, there’s still a lot going on here with the rear-mounted cooling system sitting nice and low.

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Airflow, of course, plays a massive part of the build – specifically what it does, where it goes and how it can make or break that vitally important lap time.

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From front to back the whole body is made from carbon fibre, with numerous tried – and now being tested – aerodynamic modifications being built in. Mikko Tanskanen is the man responsible for this along with Christian, and all the panels have moulds that they can modify or create new panels from. Anyone fancy a full kit? I know I do…

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The profile is dominated by that huge adjustable rear wing, but you then notice how the arches have been cleanly radiused to hug the wheels. Even the roof scoop seems to flow effortlessly into the body rather than appearing like a bolt-on piece. I’m so glad that for now we get to see all that gorgeous carbon fibre too, the ADVAN wheels, simple graphics and inner metal all being finished in a similar gold shade.

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Circling the RX takes a long time as every step brings you to another beautiful detail. They’re the kind you can enjoy guilt-free too, because they serve an actual purpose. Everything here has a reason for being. It’s obviously been no simple build, but some of the details that have been incorporated have still managed to blow me away.

Total Control
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When you’re investing so much of everything you have in a build, there has to be a reward – a pay off if you like. It’s just good mental sense to make sure there is, or you’ll quickly go insane. So to see Christian enjoying the car on the circuit is very cool. The Mazda looks amazing sucking down to the track and the grip levels on slicks is incredible. I know, because I was a passenger for a few quick laps.

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I love the inside of race cars for their purity and purpose – everything is on show and it sucks you in. Except in this case it was very much ‘don’t touch this or push that!’

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Not that I’d actually know where to start though. This display/data logger is a work of art and it was only afterwards that I found out just how much it can do. All four individual tyre temperatures can be monitored from here, along with all the expected fluid temps and pressures. Rear wheel and GPS speed can also be displayed, plus a whole load of figures vital to understanding where thousandths of a second can be made up. Read the spec at the end to be blown away by just how capable this self-built system really is.

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I was only slightly disappointed to find the roof-mounted air intake was used to cool something other than me, as it was a very hot afternoon. Wrapped up in a borrowed race suit, boots and helmet, the potential of what was about to occur felt very raw. After four days of being smacked around the head by car culture and my body blown by anti-lag and a relentless shooting schedule, my mouth was dry. I quickly regretted not grabbing that bottle of water I’d promised myself before riding shotgun.

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Christian flicked switches and the SR sounded surprisingly mild given its state of tune, but sharp though. I never did get exact power figures, or overall vehicle weight for that matter, as that could give the game away to any potential competitors.

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After what felt like a long time, he selected first gear in the Tractive RD90 five-speed sequential gearbox and we left the pit lane with my brain racing way faster than we were.

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As many passenger rides or drives I’ve had in dedicated track-based machinery, it’s never enough to make it feel normal or any less special. They’re also far enough apart that the anticipation always gets to my nerves. After a warm up lap, Christian started to pile on the speed and this is where I started grinning like somebody was stood behind me pulling the skin tight across my cheeks.

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Along with a cup of tea on a cold winter’s morning and the smell of fresh cut grass, mechanical grip is one of the best things in the world. In fact, it’s probably better than those two put together, and you should know I really like tea. That sensation when you’d normally think you should be braking, but instead you’re still accelerating and when a corner arrives your brain says, this can’t be right – we’re going too fast.

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But of course, you’re not. The 270 and 300 width slicks reach out to my internal organs and hold them as we go round at what feels like an incomprehensible speed. After a couple of corners the same thing always happens in these situations, I expel a small burp as the gas in my stomach is compressed and pressured up by my body stiffening and being pulled with dramatic changes in direction.

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Instantly I become aware that the track is littered with debris from the weekend’s destructive proceedings. Thousands of litres of fuel have been used here, tyres shredded and automotive carnage of the highest order enjoyed. But it leaves me thinking that there is so much more to come. Christian agrees with me afterwards saying that he looks forwards to a proper chance to compete.

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Which they will be doing this weekend this story goes live. So if you’re reading it fresh, then you never know – records might be dropping in Sweden right now. But the team’s aspirations go a lot further than Scandinavia though. In fact, they’ve started a campaign to get the Mazda down to Australia for this year’s World Time Attack Challenge. You can sponsor the mission and have your name or logo on the project, just head to the website for more info on how to get involved.

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So this is very much just an instalment rather than the full story, because with each and every event the development continues. New aero plans, engine tuning and other changes will no doubt be made as Valtonen Motorsport spread their sights across race tracks near and far. If you want to get a taste of what it feels like in there, check out their YouTube channel.

Just like the FD3S appeared revolutionary to me all those years ago when I first saw it, this RX-7 did the same. I am so glad that given some time with it I was only impressed more and more by each and every facet of this build. It was an incredible time.

Bryn Musselwhite
Instagram: speedhunters_Bryn

Cutting Room Floor
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Piece of shit!


"most die hard rotor-heads could see past the labe"
Ahhh no we wont!!


ovais909  At least it's not an LS.


'piece of shit?' seriously? have you heard of cars built for gatebil?
most of the cars there have engines that aren't from the same family.
this fd is a track built car with a known powerplant that can take
punishment. tell me if you have heard of rotaries that have made 500+ hp
with out blowing an apex seal a few times or been rebuilt post
detonated after running hard. what do you drive and how is your car better please put me out of my misery.


That engine really is disappointing. I've seen this car around the internet so many times, and never would I have thought it had a sr20 in it. nice build though :(


Thank you for taking the time to read and digest the article and understanding exactly why the builder and owner did what he did... You did do that, right?


You will always get buffons commenting on the articles, who have no clue about cars. The amount of hours which must have gone into this build is amazing, would love to get a ride in her.


Speedhunters_Bryn This is a sick looking FD. Some people will never understand all the hard work that's gone into a build. Hope to see more beautiful stuff like this from you guys. Great job on this one!




It's like Batman has walked into Lucius' secret HQ and said "I'm thinking of competing in time-attack, do you have anything I could use?"
  Lucius- "Well I do have something I've been working on." - pulls the cover off the 'D'
  Batman- "Okay that works for me!"


ovais909 The cost of getting parts sent over from Australia and NZ to build a strong reliable rotary engine would have been ridiculously expensive.  They get a massive 'pass' from me.


FunctionFirst same shit different smell!


Lincoln Cant afford? dont buy!! simple.

If you get an Rx7 just for the looks, then you sir are a superficial douchebag


d_rav You must be shitting me right I bet you drive your moms camry 
FYI kid no engine takes better punishment than a rotary its purely a race engine, its at home on track!
its the constant stop and go, bad maintenance that destroys it and owners who swap other engine in rotary powered cars are the type of car enthusiast who dont even bother changing the oil themselves
Stock apex seal can take around 450 hp easily ,atleast they are cheaper to replace, and anything more than that ofcourse its gonna blow, after market apex seal last much longer.....

Thats like making 500+ on Stock Sr20 which cant even handle 350 hp stock and what do you have to do to get 500+ on SR oh I know you need to get new injectors, cam, forged rod, forged piston, new mainfold, bearings full bottom end rebuild etc atleast 10k+
but on roatary to achive 500+ only you need is good injector, turbo, intercooler and a after market apex seals and thats 500hp easily

Clearly you dont know shit
I know because I own an RX8.


Speedhunters_Bryn No i didnt please explain!


ovais909 Speedhunters_Bryn Bryn, can you ban people?


ovais909 d_rav thats all nice and partly true (rotarys work best when pushed hard, Lemons racers know that), but Wankel stuff is hard to get by here in Europe. Nissan piston stuff isn't.


ovais909 d_rav so you've built a car for a track? have your own team? have the rx8 your
mom gave you featured on a website somewhere? i am admiring someone
else's work and nothing more. you still didn't answer my question, do
you know nothing of gatebil builds in general? when its not easy to
source an engine, what can you do? source a good engine and swap. i
clearly didn't build the car and i am not going to argue over its specs.
you have balls calling someone pride and work a piece of shit and i bet
this piece of shit can run your stock rx8 off the road. btw what was it
about his car you didn't like? i own an acura tl. i do enjoy driving my moms lexus es hybrid. i think its related to the camry.


ovais909 Don't worry, there are more people swapping rotaries into cars than out of them. You're still winning the imaginary war inside your head.


That display is mind insane.. Also I'm curious as to why they're not using a dry sumo setup.


ovais909 btw i've prepared some gatebil inspired link's you are going to love. 2jz powered r34 complete with volvo dash

2jz powered m5 
its pretty much whats wrong with the world. i hope you understand



These are carefully engineered machines with a purpose far greater than appeasing fanboys.


James1010 I am actually glad in the end only a few original fd3s will remain and it will make price go and only true rotary enthusiasts will end up buying them and take care of them the the originals will always be around and have a class of their own but these molested one they'll be forgotten in a year two lol and will end up in the trash yard waiting to be recycled


d_rav Yeah so just because I dont have a racing car I cant have an opinion? I cant judge shitty cars?
ofcourse it can, My rx8 is not a race car.


Acc Freedom of speech ;-)


far out


ovais909 Lincoln LOL, jump to conclusions much. I live in OZ and can build a very healthy 13b block for about $5000 including machining. (that includes a base motor to start with).  However Valtonen is based in Finland, said that they don't know much about rotarys and would therefore have to have one built and sent to them.  BIG difference.
There is no reason they couldn't fit a 13B or 20B to their car even though it has an SR20 in it now.  My turn to jump to conclusions-you know sweet FA about cars or rotarys.


ovais909 Acc How does that  song go..."freedoms just another word for having less than a clue!"


I dont know I dont listen to shitty music sorry ;-p


Lincoln ovais909 So your telling me a guy who went has far as to go and install a full carbon fiber shell cant go one step further and actually install an engine its meant for? hmmmmm




Lets get this to Aus guys!!!


Love the rear brake lights/strips.


It's surprising how the E30 was being sold at the same time as the FD. You wouldn't really think so.
Goes to show just how far cars came in the decade of the 80s


ovais909 It's okay if you don't like it. But perhaps try to keep more of an open mind in future! Not everyone likes the same stuff. We get that. But just because this particular car doesn't mean anything to you, doesn't mean it isn't actually something special. Try to remember that :)


Here's to hoping they make it out to WTAC. I think they'll have to toss the slicks aside and run the control Yokohama, so the suspension will need to be adapted for that, and unless they hire a driver I think they'd end up in Pro-Am. Would absolutely love to see it happen though - can't be cheap to ship a car from the top of the world to the bottom.


aussieANON Very good point, and I wouldn't even consider the E30 to be a particularly old fashioned car.


roryfjohnston The simple things! :)


kbender The best bit is every time you turn the ignition on it displays a different image of the car... With a lady handily photoshopped in! I wasn't allowed to show that ;)


@Kurt Suong Thanls Kurt, unfortunately some people will never be able to see past their own area of interests, thankfully along with people like yourself, we can :)


ssonosk I would hate to know what lengths you must go to for happiness!


kbender well said!


Incredible. The extent this build has gone and how much has been invested in this project must be crazy.
To all the haters out there. The guy did choose the RX-7 chassis after all props to him to making it this far. Best of luck with future adventures!


The bodywork and craftsmanship here are amazing. I think it's on level with many race car body work.


There's rage inside and out of the machine!!


nwbdwb Haha, you know it! Anger is a gift :)


@zz I completely agree, what they've achieved is stunning.


Jaemcius That's the spirit ;)


FunctionFirst No, not cheap at all and to then be in a comfortable position to compete when you get there is something else. Crew, facilities, time for testing, it all adds up very quickly. It would be great to see it mix it up though!


kbender And I think a dry sump set up may come in time, it's more a question of economics at the moment as when you look at it, virtually everything that can be has been built by the team.


@Lou Great word!


RussClarke I consider myself to be very honoured to have had a ride.


ovais909 I'd love to but it would take about the same amount of time for you to read the article.


Every time I see an RX7 saddled with a superior motor it makes me smile, goodbye time bomb, hello reliability and awesomeness!


Awsome I can't wait for a follow up story when they've broken some lap time records;)


Maybe a pikes peak record if they ever end up stateside:)


Valtonen Motorsport is known for quality work. Made theie name in mid 90's with hugely powerful turbo's at those days..

Nicholas J OGara

This is why I come to Speedhunters. :)


Coryislost *facepalm*


Speedhunters_Bryn aussieANON You really notice the difference in tech between FD and E30 though. Most E30s were single cam n/a pistons engines, and then you've got this (comparatively) wizard tier spinning triangles twin sequential turbo thing.
Pretty crazy


I hope they change the engine to something that more easy to maintain/repair in their country (idk... bmw, volvo, v8?) because reliability is a winning factor on TA. But damn this is an awesome car, amemiya-san & mad mike might got a boner seeing the pictures


@Hemuli Yup, they know a thing or ten about turbos.


hawi51 A Volvo engine in there would be amazing!


You should also look up other great time attack cars from Finland, like Antti Oksa and his spaceframe Audi S2 that on its first outing this year destroyed Alastaro circuit track record.


I get the impression these guys took some inspiration from the Zonda R. 
Stunning all round either way.

turbo BEAMS ae86

like many others wish it has rotary still..Great work tho


my emotions are so confused looking at this. I personally like keeping a cars appearance as close to stock, with little detail to not be completely stock, and still get that nostalgic feeling. (mainly because when i was 7-8 i was always drooling about owning an rx-7 or ae86) nontheless, an amazing car and build.


This is one of my favorite builds to ever grace the pages of Speedhunters. To build something of this caliber as a privateer is staggering. 
Bryn, I think you've listed the wheels incorrectly. In the pictures, they're Enkeis up front and OZ's at the rear.


one hell of a race car. The spec list on the SR is very impressive, I would love to see this car go. Great build very high caliber


Amazing build. Hope they can get the car down here for WTAC. They generally run on Hoosier '2 liners' or slicks. Hope they can make it work with 295 R specs. Be great to get another Swedish car down here too. The Burström Porsche 944 turbo which recently broke the lap record at Mantorp Park and beat the Valtonen RX7 on that day. The VRX7 has since dropped under that time but was on super wide, soft slicks. Be great to get both cars down here!!


Amazing, how does this mad machine compare to the revolution rx7? In terms of times.


izzy_ortiz It doesn't. One is in Japan and at WTAC in Sydney, Australia. The other is in Sweden and trying to make it to WTAC this year. If it gets here then you can compare times. To be fair, the Revo RX7 has had a lot more practice at our track down here even if the V RX7 makes it. Maybe if he gets a Pro driver to pilot it though....  ;-)


The Valtonen Motorsport mazda is though in Finland. It competes though also in a Sweden Time Attack series this year so maybe therefore the confuse. It for sure would be the best for Time Attack scene overall to gather the best in WTAC. I sure hope there is will in this world to help the small team out with financing the trip. It doesn't mather to me if it runs in Pro Am with builder and owner in it.


@HaterswillHate Ah yes, true, the Valtonen car is Finnish. I hope it gets down here too. 
I think it might find driving on the R spec tyres a bit restricting to what it's used to but the rules are the rules. Also the car is virtually a tube frame car vs much more conventional cars (except for the Pro Class cars like Nemo, Tilton, Scorch and the Hammerhead car) so it wouldn't be fair to run it in Pro-Am.




Just for moment I thought the air box was lined with herringbone tweed.