An FD RX-7 That’s Easy To Live With

When I saw this RX-7 from afar for the first time, I knew it was something special.

Even so, I didn’t look closely enough to appreciate exactly what I was looking at the first go around. While the car is definitely in excellent shape, if you’re looking from farther away it seems as if it’s sporting relatively stock trim. Certainly lowered with aftermarket wheels, but so are many other Japanese cars from this time period. But then you get a bit closer and notice the details. The car slowly draws you in and the more you look, the more you realize the excellent execution of this build.

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Before we get any deeper into the car let’s address the elephant in the room, or rather, under the hood. I’m sure the V8 swap will disappoint some, but despite that substitution I really believe that this car would make the original manufacturer quite pleased. The first reason being that this thing is very well looked after: over the 23 years it’s been alive it’s clocked less than 26,000 miles.

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The second being that all the kinks and wrinkles associated with a swap like this have been ironed out. It’s a car that just works.

But even more importantly, in our current era of all manner of bolt-on aero bits and wide-body kits, this RX-7 is aesthetically true to its heritage. The original design is not compromised by the aftermarket but instead amplified by it. All the original lines of the car are elegantly intact with a number of somewhat subtle details.

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Out back, an RE Amemiya FRP diffuser helps to contribute a bit more aggression to the FD3S. The rear tails have been swapped out for modern LED units from Japan’s aftermarket along with an LED third brake light. An Odula spoiler blade sits on a rear wing assembly from a ’99 – far from the only part borrowed from its younger brother.

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Also taken from a 1999 model are the side skirts, front bumper and lip. Other OEM items and emblems have been collected and replaced as well. A custom-molded Feed hood is another gorgeous piece that’s been placed on the Mazda. And on the topic of exterior replacements, you have less noticeable items like aluminum door handles, Ganador Super Mirrors, and so on. Even the glass has been improved with a polycarbonate rear windscreen.

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Even with the extra weight up front from the 6.2-liter GM LS3 it’s still the perfect, nimble tool for the touge - exactly what it was designed to be. Power is sent into a TR6060 6-speed gearbox before being delivered to the wheels through a Ford 8.8-inch differential which is certainly good for all the power. A car that once housed the highly sought-after albeit often problematic engine dreamed up by Felix Wankel can now simply be driven endlessly from A to B. Dare I say, a reliable RX-7?

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That’s what makes this particular V8 swap one of the very best; most cars with eight cylinders really, really want you to know that they’re there. But this build finds a different, more classic balance. Nothing at all hints of the newfound power under the hood. It doesn’t scream at you for recognition or demand your attention. It sits there nicely, just waiting for its owner to take it for a stroll.

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Having some experience with a few relatively straightforward swaps myself, I know the amount of work it takes to do it correctly. And beyond the time, there is definitely a cost to tracking down every last adapter, nut, and bolt required to make things go smoothly. Seeing as how the owner, Eric, invested so much into getting the thing to run flawlessly, he seems to have found no point in stopping there.

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While the car is not as noticeable as some other FD3S builds we’ve seen, it’s one of those cars that would be a true joy to own. The interior has been completely reworked with Alcantara and carbon fiber lining almost every surface. Due to this, it’s a machine that is truly pleasant to be inside of and to enjoy. The dash, for example, is a one-off carbon fiber part with a perfect OEM fit. Coupled with an AiM race dash, you can readily monitor all the cars vitals.

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Another upgrade that I generally overlook, this Mazda has completely reworked and fully-integrated audio system hiding in the car. A Pioneer head unit and Hybrid Audio Mirus speakers front and rear are a massive improvement to the worn-out units that this car had been singing with since the ’90s. It’s a wonderful mix of heavily upgraded and subtly improved, while still retaining factory finish and details. Another perfect example are these floor mats which are now surrounded exotic materials.

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With Spirit-R carbon-Kevlar Recaros (with Alcantara top stitched seat covers) it’s also one of the most comfortable fixed-back cars I’ve sat in, and the Works Bell tilt hub makes it easy to hop in and out of. Other nice details include an OEM Honda push start, a titanium shift knob borrowed from an NSX, and a Mazdaspeed titanium parking brake lever. Moving on to even finer details, you find all sorts of items most owners don’t think to change out. A Honda S2000 antenna replaces the factory one that shipped with the car, just to name one such item.

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The door cards are also covered in Alcantara with more carbon fiber bits found there as well. Underneath, it’s all been properly sound-deadened — it feels, drives, and looks like a brand new car. But despite all the quality upgrades to the RX-7 it’s just not a flashy build. Instead of being built to impress others, it’s a car that’s nice to have.

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It’s a very pleasant aesthetic and tactile experience; everything feels good to the touch, it’s not a burden to operate, the rumble of the V8 is nice on the ears at all RPMs. From behind the wheel, what is not to like? Meanwhile, that’s not to say it isn’t a head-turner from the exterior, especially when the large-displacement V8 roars to life through the Borla SS exhaust.

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To stop with all the extra power that the rear wheels put down, the suspension and brakes have also been entirely gone through. Öhlins DFV coilovers along with a Racing Beat front sway keep the car flat in the corners, while a Brembo big brake kit brings it all back to a stop. For a more mechanical experience the ABS has been deleted and the steering itself is also reworked, with Eric choosing a Chips Motorsport manual rack. The list goes on and on with 2-piece rear rotors, M2 rear trailing arms, and more. The end result is a car that really speaks to you in the corners.

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Finally, as you’ve likely noticed, there are the glorious Desmond RegaMaster Marquis Promadas. The simple 5-spoke wheels look so right on these older Japanese cars; especially in this particular color scheme. Although a larger diameter than I would expect on this otherwise externally reserved build, at 18 inches the fitment is superb while helping maintain a useable ride height. Wrapped in Nitto NT05s this car is begging for the back roads.

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The list of ways in which you can modify your car is essentially endless, but as far as overall philosophies go, this is one of the best ways you can do it. Looking at the build as a whole it really goes to show that when you buy real, quality parts it does make a difference. Everything is good to look at and everything works precisely as it should. It’s a V8 swap you can live with, one that you can count on. None of the swooping ‘90s styling is lost in the slightest. A timeless car, with a new heart, preserved through decades past and ready for the decades to come.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto
TYRphoto.com

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74 comments

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1

If your gonna go through the trouble to have an LS3 powered small sports car GET A CORVETTE DON'T RUIN A JAPANESE CLASSIC

2

Have you ever attempted to OWN and DRIVE a Rotary engine powered Mazda RX vehicle? The cars are amazing, unique and beautiful in so many ways. That Rotary Engine life starts to wear on you pretty quickly though. Pre-Mixing your gas, moving your car 10ft to mow the lawn takes 20mins with the warm-up needed before shutting it down, randomly occuring Rotor seizings for seemingly no reason at all which require 5-7 days of no use with ATF Fluid down the Spark Plug holes soaking the seals to break them free.

And OH MY GOD... the HEAT they generate.

I'm all for OEM JDM Car preservation, but if a Turbo Rotary RX owner engines being able to reliably drive his/her car with out having to constantly worry about Fuel/Oil mixture ratios, operating temperatures, and the HORRIBLE MPGs!!!

If it's within your means and you've decided that rotary life is a pain, swap out that Rotary... we understand and sympathize. Plus it gives the Rotary purists another 13B Swap pulled and available for purchase.

3

I agree. Also here in usa there are very few good tuners. I know this pain first hand as a bad rotary shop in texas ruined my motor with a bad apexi fc tune.
On the other hand I can't get enough of high reving rotary engine with a turbo. It's a hard decision... get v mount ic and radiator, new turbo, rebuild engine and new haltech or motec ecu and hope I don't blow up again, or drop in 500+ hp lsx motor to go racing with..... I just wonder how fd changes with big motor up front.

4
wildhamsterscelica

The words "small" and "Corvette" are not words that go together.

5

If you want to protect all the Japanese Classics, go buy them all. It isn't your car. If he wanted to buy it and lift it 7 inches, he has every right to do it.

Back to the car, awesome build. Very clean and classy. I would have done the same.

6

As a once diehard rotary enthusiast who has owned every generation RX7 and now owns an LS-swapped FD: don't listen to anyone who tells you what to do with your car - consider the facts and decide for yourself.

The LS is a fantastic powerplant that improves upon the rotary in almost every way. It's WAY more reliable (not debatable), makes more power, is more efficient, and weighs essentially the same (the 13B is largely made from iron). It's not as smooth, but that's about it.

I miss the rotary at times, but I DON'T miss worrying about my engine every single day. Mazda is no longer producing new parts for the 13B, which means engine replacements are becoming increasingly expensive. In the US, good rotary tuners are few and far between. It's an increasingly bleak-looking future for people who want to stick with the rotary... so what's more important? Preserving the heritage of a car, or driving it?

7

I can't take anyone seriously who says LSs weigh the same as a rotary. they just don't.

8

A fully dressed LS7 (including all harnesses, intake manifold, pumps, ancillaries, and accessories) weighs about 420 pounds including fluids, if I'm not wrong. An LS3 crate engine, the most common swap motor, weighs close to 450. The new LT1 engine is 465 pounds fully dressed, and makes almost exactly one horsepower per pound of engine weight stock The 13B Renesis naturally aspirated weighs 250 lbs (per Wikipedia) with no fluids and all "attachments" (don't even know what that means) except the airbox. With twin turbos and all the associated piping, intercooling, and so on, I'd imagine the stock 13B-REW that came in the FD3S would get pretty close to 400 pounds, if not more. So yes, LS engines DO weigh the same as rotaries - when you're comparing fighting weight to power output.

9

a fully dressed renesis is 250ibs, but you think a dressed REW with TT is 400 pounds. twin turbos don't weigh that much haha. Even if it did weigh 400ib, that is still 20 to 50ib lighter and distributed better in the car. A single turbo converted FD will be far lighter than a similarly dressed like for like LS swapped FD

10

Tbh, depends on the car...

11

I like the LED tail lights it gives the car a modern feel.

12

"Timeless" at the end of the article was exactly the right word. With details like those lights, it'll hold up to the future even that little bit better. This car was so beautifully done.

13

corner balanced <3

14

Swapped out the wankel after just 26k??

15

Also I wouldn't say it's been "well looked after", considering the amount of parts that have been changed, we're in "Trigger's Broom" territory here.

16

You could say I was being precautionary

17

I really hope that low mile 13b went to someone who uses it.

18

I traded the short block for the Ohlins, Lol.

19

This build is 90% goals. Only issue is the power plant! Would have loved to see a water injected single turbo 13b, but I understand the LS decision (though i still dont agree with it).

20

Can't fault this. I really admire they've retained its streetability with a well maintained and refined interior. I think often a lot more effort and thought can go into building a car like this, compared to other street cars that have stripped interiors and so on. Also the LS looks as though it sits quite far back in the engine bay. The front of the engine looks about in line with the strut towers. If these cars ever reach classic value in 20 years time, at least an engine can be unbolted and replaced with standard. That doesn't ruin the integrity of the car like wide body flares which seem to be on most builds now.

21

As an FD owner I see this as a ruined car. As a car enthusiast I can appreciate it...

22

The car is very well done, and while I cant say that I like swapping a rotary out I do understand his decision. Would have preferred to see a JDM swap like an RB26 or a 2JZ though, But other than that it is a beautiful car that was very tastefully modified.

23

Huge wheels with 3mm spring travel, and a rollcage. Easy to live with, indeed.

24

While I'll still be wondering why people bother swapping LS engines into RX7s when the C4 and C5 Corvettes exist (and 3-rotor and 4-rotor builds come close to a six-pot and eight-pot respectively and maintain that 'rotary' feel), I'd say this build does it somewhat more tastefully. Like the LS felt...at home.

25
Rich E Wavy Kariuki

Super clean! My kind of build

26

This is just perfect.

27

Stripping a 26k mile fd of its 13b to build a sick AF hard Parker is just plain sad. Beautiful build though.

28

So, as others have mentioned here, replacement and repair parts are becoming more expensive and more rare. For those who really are in love with the rotary setup, where are they expected to get these parts from? The reality is that this chassis lasts longer than that motor, so eventually we will inevitably have far more FDs than 13Bs.

This low-miles 13B would have been an absolute gift to someone who appreciated it, and (I'm sure) really needed it.

29

Same here. I wouldn't mind the V8 swap if it wasn't a clean low mile FD. If you're gonna mod the car anyway, why not get one that needs attention? There was another car featured here last year, where somebody searched far and wide for a mint E30 M3 only to tear it up, put in a cage, and swap the engine.

30

Best rim choice for an FD in my opinion, I wish I found a nice size of Regamasters before I bought my Rota Slipstreams for it, excellent build mate! coming from someone who doesn't like Ls Rx7s.

31

It's truly a gem, a masterpiece.

32

I've always been of two minds when it comes to engine swaps. First there are the swaps just for attention where all the focus is on the swap and the rest of the car is ignored. To me, those are mostly disappointing as they ignore the total package of the car. The 2nd is swaps that elevate a car, and to me that's what this car is. Everything on this car looks properly finished from the swap, to the exterior and interior.

I also don't get all the hate for swaps as hot rodders have been doing it for decades and even now nobody would bat an eye at a old 32 Ford with a Chevy small block or Pontiac V8 like my Dads.

33

I read an article a while back about the import tuning scene and the flack it gets. A line from it really stuck with me: "This is a hot rod. Nothing's changed, you just got left behind."

34

nice build, interior has some really nicely chosen parts too.
not so sure about that carbon on the arm rest part of the door and the door sills.

35

if this car is from rowland heights area, then i have definitely been it for a ride. i had a single turbo FD at the time, which was in a constant state of disrepair. but i ran into some fella who had a black FD with the sacrilege ls swap and he urged me to go for a ride.

terrifyingly instantaneous torque.

not going to lie, i was quite envious of his setup. hella growl from the engine insinuating the low end power it was capable of. probably far better gas mileage as well.

honestly, i could care less what others think of swaps n what not, but i realized i could never do the LS swap myself because i'd miss the rotary note.

you know something special is about to go down as the car whines and turns ove, 'bra-brah-brahh-brahh-' and you get that BRAAAAAAAP confirmation that your car is quite alive.

something almost nobody tells you about the rotary is that the note made by the engine is uniquely progressive and linear as you climb the tach. within a few intimate months with an rx7, i could tell exactly how fast i was spinning by the distinct note and made it easy to achieve clutchless shifts into certain gears.

my hands always smelled of marvel mystery oil and there were constant pools of oil and puffs of smoke but i was definitely smitten with the 13b. i think RX7 owners get pretty triggered about swaps like this because it's almost sociopathic to remove the soul element that most people get hooked by after driving one. silly imo, reflecting on what a masochist i was with my buzzing engine. but i def wouldn't want it any other way

36

No, not from Rowland Heights.

37
MPistol HVBullets

Regmaster's - DROOL

38

NICE, though trying too hard with the manual rack and ABS delete for a street car.

39

Wonderful photos and beautiful car. Everything was executed perfectly (besides the V8)! Hope to see more of your content on here.

40

I love this car. You can tell the build was really done with care. As many people said i wouldn't do the LS swap because i am rototarded but it was done well and besides its not like you cant ever revert back to a different power plant. This car is definitely fd dream goals though. Stockish looking with the right styling touches. My hats off to the owner of this car, well done sir

41
Øyvind Strømme

Disgusting

42

A truly boner inspiring build. Perfect in all ways. This build gets a solid 10/10.

-Alex

43

I am the owner of this car, full details of the car has been catalouged here: grandmighty.com

44

Your car is so perfect. Wish I could have a rhd rx7 fd, 13b or not. But here in switzerland there is only lhd rx7 with trashed engines or rx8. Got myself a blown engine rx8 and replaced it with a street ported renesis. But it lacks so much torque...

45

Oh no! ... Swap a V8 in a RX7, imo, is the same as swaping a D16Z in a Hemi Cuda.

46

I think it's funny how many people are trashing the LS swap (which is almost inevitable these days) and happen to be the same people over looking is the 8.8 swap. These cars were know for more than just a 1.3 Wankel. THey were known for their nimbleness around corners. Not to have some 70's straight axle cast in Iron from Detroit.

But, I can understand why, as it still does set the tone of reliability. I mean, who wants to wait a couple of days for a CV shaft or a frozen caliper, etc for the original rear end when you can walk into any automotive related building and literally rebuild the whole Ford rear end with parts straight off of the shelf? The car screams RELIABLE in a vey stylish matter, something like the rear end swap, that gets over looked. As reliability and Joy are the main pieces to the puzzle called enjoyment.

Love the swap, love the car, the tails, the body lines, the Regamasters (especially the Regamasters) and most importantly, that the owner enjoys it.

47

That's a good point you make with the 8.8" rear end, however this is not a solid axle swap. The 2003-04 Cobras came with IRS, but Ford dropped if after so many owners were swapping back to a straight axle.

This RX7 makes use of a combination of Ford and Cobra parts to make this swap work and maintain the independent suspension setup in the rear. Otherwise, not so nimble anymore, haha.

48

Ahhh I forgot about the "Terminator" mustangs. That's what I get for quickly skimming while at work haha I've even had couple of friends with them, but like you say, they quickly swapped in the 8.8" Solid Axle rear end.

With that being said, I would certainly never turn away a car of this level. A lot of care and pride has been put into it just judging by the pieces used and the effort given. And now realising the rear is the Cobra IRS, I'm sure is just as much fun if not more than compared to the factory drivetrain

49

I can promise you it is; it's very well balanced.

51

Perfect candidate for a 20b or 26b swap!

52
Brennan McKissick

This is probably my favorite FD RX7 I've ever seen. This is a perfect blend of choice parts that don't make it look off the wall. What a balanced car in every aspect. 10/10 would own.

53

Such a beautiful car. Well executed build and choice of parts to create a masterpiece. Thank you for gracing our lives with this car.

54
Novac Darius-Fabian

LS RX-7 ? Skip.

55

I own the car now, and I have news for you all, who claims about purity, and originality.. This is how an Rx-7 should off been build from day 1., everything about this car is perfect and I wouldn't change anything about it. if you never drove an LS powered FD, please skip your comments.

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56

One of the most beautiful car designs ever. Great lines, timeless. It's too bad they couldn't keep the rotary engine. I mean, I understand why, it's just too bad.

57

Has all the curves and the right curves

58

If you don't like the engine in the car just buy another car, easy, i can only imagine the horror in the US when somebody swaps out a yank engine for a jap engine. But then i guess American muscle doesn't corner so this is why people do the LS swap, still isn't right tho imo

59

Another RX-7 fucked into being a Corvette.

60

Amazing build. I own an RX8 '04 and I understand why purists don't like it, the rotary has a very special "soul" and if you own one is very easy to fall in with it. But, after having to rebuild my engine, I would consider swapping very seriously.

61

Excelente auto

62
no rotor no motor

If you don't like rotary engine stay away from them keep your v8s .Nothing wrong with reliability of rotor if you have half a brain .
rx7 is rotary ,anything else is a sellout

63

I am rotary fan too, You know why? It's because all this problems it generates, these warm ups etc. This is that rotary "magic"- cons and pros. For me this engine should never went into mainstream and daily driving because its STUPID- Mazda did a stupid thing and thats why we falling in love with it.

I've found a sentence back in the days (translated):
"what a beautiful automotive nonsense"

best rotary explanation ever.

64

True words man, best explanation ever. But i understand every person who want the car, theRx7 FD and not only a rotary in a beautiful car. I know, the car is just because of the rotary like it is, but the engine is still just a part of the whole car

65

Everyone who doesn't know stuff is here saying something.

66

I love my FD and I would still swap a LS if I had the chance. Most likely go with JZ. When the rotary quits of course. Had a chance to witness this creation and it definitely motivated me to wrench mine more.

67

Are people that useless these days that they can't manage to keep a rotary reliable? When these cars were new they were bought and used as daily drivers.

68

My understanding is that the rotary ran fine and found a good home in a car that needed it — I'm sorry if that's worse for you to cope with, though.

69

First of all i need to say: it is your car. If others don't like it, don't give a s***! You must like it.
I am really into that tuning thing, but i am not like (sadly much others) one of them which thinks there are any "unwriten rules", like not swapping an Rotary or not building a Subaru powered Mitsubishi (for example, etc.).

As long the build is clean, you get my full respect. Even if it would be a Cummins swap or so. My dream FD would also have an 2jz or maybe even a highly modified sr20 or so. Because the Rotary is not good for daily use. Even a 5 l v8 engine has better miles per galon and the engine isn't really reliable, in case of heating problems etc.. But the FD is still THE most beautiful car ever, and probably the most timeless one too.

I really don't get those people who thinking that the Rotary is a "must have" in a Rx7. Just because these Engines are something special. And these arguments, like "the perfect balance gets lost" etc. But a v8 in a S14 is ok, yeah man, i totally get it.....

I really like original, but tuned cars, but in case of some cars there is a point, where it doesn't make sence. In case of the Rx7 it is the high costs and problems coming with the daily use.

But at the end it is still YOUR car. And this FD is probably the most beautiful ever. If it was mine i would not use as much carbon at the interior, keep the original taillights and painting it white or a dark blue...


... But again....

It is your car :)

And it's a very beautiful one.

70

And just that you guys know: i would not put a v8 inside a Rx7, but i would build a 2jz powered Foxbody mustang, or a k20 powered VW Golf or such things and doesn't even think about the hate i would get. Just because it would be mine ;)

71

oh man

72

I've owned and built many Mazda's (rotaries) and it saddens me to hear people complain of unreliability. If you build a motor right, it will outlive you.

And while I'm not one for LS swapping the world, to each their own. I think this is FAR better than people who go and ruin rear fenders with excessive, or badly rolled guards.

73

It's a beautifully built machine, but for my personal tastes... I wouldn't have gone with an LS3 swap.
Maybe a 1JZ or SR20... or perhaps something from BMW.

74

Well done you dumb ameritard, you ruined yet another RX-7 and you barely even drive that piece of shit.
Ban ameritards from buying good cars since they clearly can't handle it.

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