Is it possible to be desensitised to engine conversions? I mean, effects theory is one of those ideas chucked around in communications and media studies and prompts many a heated debate. But have I simply seen enough conversions to be left numb?
Amongst the pulses, braps, whizzes and rifle-cracks of New Zealand’s Rotary REunion event, the occurrence of a pair (or more) of spinning triangles in a foreign engine bay wasn’t exactly rare. Owing to their compact nature and high power potential, Mazda rotaries have seemingly been put to work in almost any chassis you can name.
While there were the usual rotor-toting Mazda 323s, Mitsubishi Lancer EXs and even a Mercedes-Benz or two, nothing caught my attention quite like this mental little 1962 Ford Anglia, owned by father and son duo Murray and Jeremy Rowland.
Near on a decade older than anything else present in pit lane, the Anglia immediately piqued my interest; I had to find out what made this somewhat unconventional rotary swap tick.
With the lion’s share of the build undertaken by Kiwi rotary specialist Dynopower, the Anglia represents the culmination of an eight-year on and off build time for the Rowlands. But why an Anglia in the first place? Like so many performance car enthusiasts who’ve transgressed their boy racer stage, Murray had one as a teenager, albeit not quite this wild. Although not attached at this point, the Anglia now wears the licence plates ‘ANGRYR,’ alluding to just how wild the experience is.
The vintage Ford’s body has been given a second lease of life with the intent to be a road legal, track focused build. The agenda called for a couple of giggles when stamping the right foot to the floorboards, and the key ingredient is undoubtedly the FD3S Mazda RX7-sourced 13B turbo crammed into the small engine bay.
The 13B remains internally factory and unopened, but it makes use of a single twin-scroll BorgWarner S200SX turbo for some extra output. It’s not the behemoth-spec huffer we’re used to seeing bolted to rotaries, but remember the Anglia has a dry weight in standard form of just 737kg (1624lb), so absolute peak power wasn’t the goal here.
The result is a punchy 310hp at the treads, which I have on good authority propels the 55-year-old shopping trolley along the tarmac in a manner described as “exciting.” There’s other superlatives that could possibly explain the sensation more accurately, but Murray reckons the combination gives a pretty manageable power delivery all the same.
The Anglia sits on a fairly basic suspension arrangement. XYZ custom front coilover struts keep the front Toyo semi-slicks firmly on the deck, while flipped leaves with a revised rate are controlled by GAZ adjustable damper shocks out the back. There’s also a shortened Toyota Hilux LSD diff that’s been upgraded to disc brakes using Nissan Pulsar components.
Inside, the Anglia is more race than road car. A 4-point half-cage conducts double duties as both a safety item and a chassis rigidity aid, while Kiwi-produced Racetech low-back seats keep a period aesthetic. One of the coolest features is the Dakota Digital instruments that are snugly nestled into the OEM speedo aperture.
Originally intended for a ’53 Ford pickup, the cluster has been seamlessly integrated here, offering a fuss-free means of keeping an eye on the 13B’s vitals. Hiding on a custom center console is the Link G4+ RX engine management system, with the tune again courtesy of Dynopower.
While Murray and Jeremy’s aim was to drive the wheels off the Anglia over the Rotary REunion weekend – participating in the drags, the circuit and the cruise laps – a relatively minor mechanical cut short the Ford’s maiden voyage. The usually dependable Hilux-based diff sheared an axle early on day one, meaning that 300-odd horsepower never got further than the drive shaft. Not swayed, Murray’s already planning the next outing, and this time the car’s going to be on full slicks to make use of the snappy handling and power delivery that only a featherweight like the Anglia can deliver.
As for effects theory, the debate’s still open, but as long unique engine-swapped creations keep on popping up at local events, you can be assured we’ll keep hunting them out.