A Simply Irresistible Mazda RX-7
Mazda Raceway

Lap after lap, I watched on as this FD3S RX-7 tore up Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It elegantly glided through the apexes and carved down the famous Corkscrew, taking bits of my heart with it as the power was reapplied. A distinct rumble on downshift and an absolute roar as the revs climbed; even from afar you could tell that it was a properly sorted machine.

After the long day at Laguna Seca I asked the owner, Drew, to pull his masterpiece aside for a closer look. The sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean right on the other side of the hills that surround the track, so we had to move quickly.

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The best thing about this RX-7 is something that many, if not most, of your average everyday track cars lack: the match of function and form in a balanced way. Nothing is overstated, and likewise, nothing is underdone. Out of the 100-plus cars at OnGrid’s track day, this would be the one I’d prefer to go home in over any other.

I sat down for a chat to get an idea of where Drew was coming from and why he made the decisions he did on this build.

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Always a die-hard car guy, Drew grew up with a love for JDM legends like the NSX, GT-R, and Supra. Also on his list of all-time favorites, and legendary in its own way, was Mazda’s RX-7. Making the transition from a K20 Integra Type R a few years back to what was then a very rough FD3S, Drew has completely transformed this car into exactly what he wanted.

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His Mazda is certainly a car that looks and feels right at home on the track, but it’s still a head-turner on the street and at shows as well. The attention to detail throughout is what incrementally contributes to the flawless aesthetics (paint me opinionated) and outstanding performance.

Inside and Out
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Externally, items like the ’99 UK-spec bumper lights and Shine Burnout front bumper, side skirts and rear diffuser make this one a standout. Minus the (very) large Voltex Type 7 rear wing, it’s a conservative setup that enhances all of those wonderful swooping ’90s body lines we’ve grown to love, without being distracting.

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As far as the interior goes, it’s the same story: very well-thought out and complete. This car doesn’t just appear to be an all-rounder either, it really is. Drew daily drove this thing for the better part of two years before settling for a dedicated daily driver.

As such, the build list is long and includes parts like Kevlar-shelled Bride Gias seats, a Works Bell quick-tilt hub, and a hefty subwoofer that’s nicely tucked away.’

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Of course, Drew’s plans never involved babying the car and the proper safety items have been added for peace of mind at the track. Also added was a Miracle cross-bar to stiffen up the chassis.

Like the aero setup, a legitimate brake, wheel, and tire setup is required to shave off the seconds at any road course. Drew hasn’t skimped in this department, opting for a square setup using 18×10-inch RAYS Volk Racing TE37RT wheels wrapped in sticky Toyo R1R rubber.

To stop the forward motion, the RX-7 now benefits from an AP Racing big brake kit with stainless steel brake lines all around.

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In order to achieve the proper stance and make this thing go fast and look good while it does, Drew selected Öhlins coilovers with spherical top hats which make use of a full urethane bushing kit.

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It’s fairly obvious that a tremendous amount of work has been completed here. You can’t always do it all yourself, and a build like this takes good friends; Drew was keen to point out those who have lent him a hand over the years.

Together, they’ve taken this car from a rough, old Mazda and turned it into a formidable track weapon. Not only that, all of the kinks have been ironed out to create a car that’s a viable and reliable daily driver.

There’s No Replacement…
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The most obvious kink being that pesky Wankel rotary powerplant — I’ve saved this for last in fear of you running to the comments to cry foul before taking in the build as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of those cantankerous engines, as is Drew, but this thing already came with a V8 swap when he found the car. It just needed a lot of love. Seriously, a lot.

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And that is exactly what Drew gave it. This has to be one of my all-time favorite V8 swaps; the factory Corvette color combo is true to the red accents around the car, and the engine bay is full of functional details that have been implemented in a way that just looks good.

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Whine all you want, but with the track abuse and all the miles Drew has stacked on daily driving the car, the LS1 swap just makes sense. And, as they say, there’s just no replacement for displacement.

Coupled with a beefy T56 transmission which the driver interacts with via an MGW shifter, the feel of this car behind the wheel is unreal. Running Spoolin Performance long-tube headers and a custom exhaust courtesy of Veloximo, the Chevy V8 has become one of Drew’s favorite aspects of the build.

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Unsurprisingly, his other favorite thing about the car is just getting in and driving it, be it to the grocery store with this wife, up winding mountain passes, or at the racetrack. Through and through, this is a complete and thorough build.

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Although it was almost entirely dark at this point, I found myself practically unable to stop snapping photos of the car perched up on the hillside overlooking Laguna Seca.

Already one of the best cars ever built, Drew has enhanced his FD3S in just about every way. The result is simply irresistible.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto
TYRphoto.com

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91 comments

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1

I like the black RX-7 with the RegaMasters that was featured a while back more

2

Why is that? They were built to two very different philosophies really...garage queen vs. track car.

3

Execution and quality, if you want to compare your recent LS FD features. I'm not huge on V8 swaps to be honest, but I am into the details. I actually hope you feature more of that red 4-rotor you took in November!

4

Yeah, that was a SEMA build so the execution, quality, and budget are going to be different. It was cool for sure but I'm not sure where it went after SEMA.

This is actually a car that was driven every single day to work, the grocery store, etc. Not to mention when I shot it, it had literally just driven off the track after a full day at Laguna Seca.

5

SMH... yet ANOTHER LS swapped FD. Inspire baby.

6

SMH... yet ANOTHER guy who can't handle reliable torque ;)

7

Haha yep, I knew it was coming. Called it out in the article...

And John, it wasn't a matter of clicks, but rather I'd prefer the readers to give it a chance than to write it off because it has a motor they've never experienced first-hand anyway. I think just as many people, if not more, enjoy a nice V8-swapped Mazda. They just don't come out and say it, whereas the rotary hotbois tend to be a lot more sensitive and outspoken.

8

Also, I'm hijacking your spelling of hotboi.

9

Trev: Yeah, you're in purist waters I suppose lol, gotta tread lightly. Like I said though, keep the content flowin. I ain't complainin'

10

I mean.... you had to save the detail til the very end for fear of losing clicks. You knew. I will say that I'm glad you didn't open with it and essentially tell us not to comment lol. Used to happen a lot here.

Car is sick, and a cool feature. Keep the rx content comin.

11

Smh...yiu knew this was coming tho. I mean well played with showing the choice of engine last, kid. I thought it was kinda fishy. Good work on the body and interior to the owner. Hard pass on choice of engine.

12

This one looks a little rough around the edges compared to some others, but interesting color combo. I like the Rigid Tunes, don't see too many of those.

13

Just some literal dirt and the odd ding though. If anything they're battle scars. The paint looks great with the bodywork imo.

14

Probably because we pulled it straight off the track after a full days worth of sessions. There are definitely cleaner examples, but few that are driven and enjoyed as much as this one is.

15

Noice, that LS looks like fire!

16

This has a really nice balanced feel to it. Totally built how I like to build cars.

17

Nice car but damn ... anything but an LS swap ... shit we even got an RX7 with a K20 swap down under. Whatever makes ya happy

18

I'm just wondering why everybody wants to screw around with an already nice car. I have an 88 Mazda RX7 black and black convertible I love it just the way it is awesome car clean and classic all the bells and whistles

19
Александр Трофименков

Don’t get why people always complain about ls engines, wankel is very cool, and it’s very nice to see them in unusual builds such as that e-type that was featured previously this year, but if you plan on spending more time driving your precious jdm legend than fixing it, is is the engine of choice. The reliability is massively improved, overheating stops being a problem, and balance is almost identical (and by that I mean that I’ve seen people improving their weight distribution by swapping an ls into their fd) the throttle response might go down a bit, but that is compensated by increased torque. I strongly believe that people who complain about v8 in rx7’s never actually owned a rotary car in their life and don’t know what a pain in the arse maintenance can be.

20

I can see both sides of the fence. Honestly, if the Wankel weren't such a unreliable bomb, I'd be more of a purist for the OE engine. However, after having an LS1 Corvette, the reliability especially with high horsepower is incomparable to a rotary. I'd take an LS all day over a wankel. There's just something appealing about being able to get in and drive the fuck out of your car any time you want without constant worries that is more fun than saying "I have a rotary." Besides that, torque is EVERYWHERE. The diehards against this are probably the same people that hate cellphones and prefer dial up internet connections.

21

i have a 13bt rx7 and i dont see the maintenance pain anywhere :D

22

To be LS swapped, or not to be LS swapped, that's the question !
:D

23

Would love some info on the AP Racing brake kit. I guess they are the CP5200 calipers. I got those years ago for my FD but never managed to find the caliper brackets to go with them. Also would love info on the discs and where to get them

24

It is a front brake kit put together by Sake Bomb Garage. They have a kit available on their site.

25

All I know is it's an AP Racing BBK with "SakeBombGarage upgraded larger rear rotor and caliper bracket." I'll poke Drew and see if he can share some more info.

26

They are a kit put together by SakeBomb garage. http://www.sakebombgarage.com/FD3S-brake-system/

27

About ls swaps, while most people dont like them for what ever reason i think that most people should at least take the time to realize that there are many reasons for doing them. In this case Trevor clearly states that the owner purchased this car pre-swapped, Its an even more expensive proposition to swap it back to a rotary at this point. Its almost as if people believe that these builds dont happen on a budget, Id like to meet some of you who seem to have unlimited budgets and what you guys have built. Anyone who has built a car knows that it isnt just order all the parts and install them adding custom touches along the way, but alot of saving and choosing between different options that are affordable at the time, always doing a cost benefit analysis. Then you have the fact that this is a track car and cost /hour is a serious thing to think about when you spend a reasonable amount of time at the track, you need to take into consideration fuel costs, tire costs, repair costs, etc. The point is that each and every car must be evaluated separately and hating on a car because it has a v8 swap (even though this one looks tidy and well executed) shows who actually builds cars to be used and who doesn't.

personally, i like this one, its clean, subtle, a bit understated but full of little details that show the owners touch. It also shows that he actually uses the car and i bet that its high up there on the smile/mile scale. Keep it up Drew, enjoy your ride!

28

Really nice build, and I love the red accents. To be honest I'm fine with the Ls swap because it just make's sense. It's wide body kits I'm starting to get tired of.

29
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

An FD RX-7 built for track work without widebody! Now that's refreshing!

30

Lame ass V8 car. Why even post this trash when there are so many actual rx7 builds to showcase

31

The butthurt is strong in this one LOL!

32

Where were ya when we posted a "real RX7" a few stories back?!

33

I've found the guy who hasn't driven an LS-swapped car.

34

Seeing this just makes me want an RX7 more, but nice examples are WAY out of my price range, and not so nice examples are still out of my price range because owners 'know what they have', maybe one day...

Looking at the engine bay has me thinking about my own personal car and things I hadn't even considered to heat wrap have now come onto my radar. I added a better power steering fluid cooler and thought that would be sufficient, perhaps maybe not. I should maybe do some further investigation for my engine bay to keep heat away from critical pieces.

Thank you Trevor for another great article.

35

Anytime ;)

Yeah, I've been toying with the idea of one as well but not something I can reasonably afford right now.

36

Lap time?

37

Sorry I didn't get a chance to borrow my friends Aim Solo lap timer and didn't have time to hardwire my personal lap timer in.

38

No worries. I'm sure its quick was just curious.

39

Was it in jest to suggest that racing buckets, a helmet, and a fire extinguisher are to suffice and pass for safety equipment for track use? You don't shave seconds in a car that has no rollover protection, proper fire systems, battery cutout, and proper harnesses. Maybe for some fast paced guided track tours but to suggest this is a complete track/road build overlooks some key missing components.

40

Yeah, I feel you on that but this was mostly a street build and only more recently has been re-purposed as a track car. All that's actually required to get your car on track is a proper helmet anyway and he's not racing, just going fast on a private circuit.

Also, anyone who isn't shooting to shave a second or two off their lap just isn't living :)

41

For a car that also serves its purpose as a street car, they do cover the basics.

There's a whole other discussion about putting full cages in street cars to be had (I know you only mentioned roll-over BTW)

42

The FD3 must be Japan's finest hour when it comes to body style. It's only improving with age. No complaints about the LS either, especially considering that he 1) bought it that way and 2) it allows him to drive / enjoy it more often.

43

Only one question, are there any original fd's left in the states?

44

I have a 94 r2 fd that is pretty much original with basic mods. Only problem is motor is dead. Maybe someday I will rebuild it. Leaning more toward selling it as it is though. But selling it would be hard as I've owned it since 2002 with 50k miles on it. Sad to see it sitting in garage all the time though.

45
Dykon Jasper Pacis

I have one two coming from Japan in the first week of January hit me up I'm selling one ;)

46

I couldn't agree more with Paddy's second point: you do get to drive them longer.

I LS swapped my FC 6 years ago (pic attached) and couldn't be happier. I enjoyed the rotary(built many of them) but I'm telling you the LS improves upon an already outstanding chassis.

So many people on here who are quick to judge a V8 swapped RX7 most likely have never driven one that is put together WELL. The euphoric state of driving you get when you have a nimble chassis with tons of torque available out of a reliable powerplant is undescribable and addictive!

I have not had one mechanical issue with my LS1 since I installed it in 2011...and I beat the sh*t out of it every time I drive it.

Anyway, great FD and happy to see another hot rodder actually enjoying their car.

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47

I wish this was the featured car. I love the FC body style. To me this is the perfect looking car with the best engine!

48

"reliable powerplant etc " indescribable or like a corvette?

love the ms01's, wheels that pay direct homage to the 787b. too bad for that filthy rotary POS, i bet that someone could actually have some fun in that car if only it had an ls1

49

It fits so nice :)

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50

Nice one! You aren't in Northern California are you? ;)

51

Nope, up north near Canadian border.

52
Randomguyontheinternet

That is a gorgeous car! Love the color scheme!

53

Thank you!

54

Shame that it came with a V8 when he bought it. Without it, he could have made a brutal JDM machine.

LS have no place in these cars. There are ways to make your car fast without destroying and insulting every bit of heritage behind it.

55

A "brutal" jdm machine with slower lap times and guaranteed less time on the track. Turbo 13rew or bt's don't fare to well with multiple laps at WOT. Face it, the LS prevails over the wankel. I bet you wouldn't have as big of a problem if it was a RB swap instead. ;)

56

People will always complain about heritage of cars that they dont drive themselves. If you care so much about the heritage of these vehicles, start up your own preservation society and buy up as many as you can because there will always be hot-rodders who will cut up any car to make it their own.

I do have a question, while there are ways of making your car fast with out an LS swap, do you honestly believe there are ways to do it that are as reliable and cost effective as a LS swap?

There is a reason that LS engines have been put into everything, because they are cost effective and reliable. Its not like you can vouch for everyones budget and its rather pretentious to tell someone not to buy a car if they aren't going to stay true to the "heritage" of the car even though you already know he bought the car with the v8 in it. some people care more about the smiles per mile than your opinion on heritage after all if everyone had the same viewpoint as you we would never be blessed with any hotrods or custom cars at all.

57

Too bad about the LS swap and kind of janky to not say it upfront because, you know, it actually is an insult to the car.

58

Did the car email or text you telling you how insulted it feels? Just curious how you know the car's feelings about the matter. Thanks.

59

Your userid shows an obvious bias. Actually I was more referring to the click bait aspect of the articles structure in not revealing it was a swap until later just to hold eyeballs longer on the page. I'm sure I have the email from the car somewhere ... I'll let you know I find it.

60

Oh look at you, judging someone's bias by a single online username. How adorable! Well, I've had cars with a few different engine types. I've had a Toyota four cylinder, 2JZGTE, Lexus 2.5 V6, Corvette LS1, DOHC Coyote, Acura 3.5L and my current 6.1 Hemi (which has nothing to do with the LS swap of this thread). So yeah I guess I do have a bias... towards multiple engines. LOL wow.

61

Own a turbo charged rotary long enough and you will feel insulted.

62

Haha nothing more insulting than feeling your seals slowly stealing all your power until the thing doesn't run....

63

maybe yime i swapped out the ej in my gc8 for an ls

64

Comment deleted

65

Terrible analogy. If you're going to equate an engine swap to a human, it wouldn't be like a sex change. It would like removing an organ that has cancer for a replacement. It's been documented time and time again how the rotary is not reliable and WILL fail. Especially with mods. So removing that weak link for an engine that will give you better performance and vastly improved reliability is not at all... like AT ALL like comparing a tranny to a single gendered person. Just wow, you're reaching.

66

So all the engineering that went into the aerodynamics, suspension geometry, chassis development and weight reduction are moot with the swap?

Geez, I wish I would have known that before I swapped mine.

67

Here a little curve ball...ford cayote swap...ford did own shares of mazda back in the day...

68

cool car good to see something like this being beat on but all i wanna know is how the hell did he or she or whom ever get the gold dei heat wrap to laydown so smoothly goodness !

69

A LOT of patience and prep. Def took me awhile to do.

70

I remember shooting this car at Shukai 17. So clean, looks great in person.

71

I really like the color and headlights

72

Surprised to see a fat sub in there considering this looks like a pretty serious street racer.

73

It was my daily for awhile so I just wanted all the comforts and luxuries of a normal car I'd drive everyday.

74

I'm about to paint my rally ready '57 MGA and I love the paint color combo! What is the "paint color" used? No it doesn't have an LS swap... just a high compression rebuild with Weber carbs...

75

Don't change! Truly streetable track builds are a rarity these days!

76

Beautiful FD man. What have you done to the LS1?

77

But since you stated you got a dedicated DD, are you gonna strip it out and make it a hardcore racer, or are you keeping the comforts and doing something like a weekend fun haver?

78

Lovely looking example, great colour combo and tastefully done.

I love the RX7, I miss mine tbh and I can understand why people will be unhappy with the LS swap as the wankel motor is part of what makes it in the first place. The fact that it had it in when he bought it though makes it a moot point for me, as an everyday drive and then track toy, the LS motor makes sense.

79

Triggered.

80

Love how some say it’s not cool to bash LS swaps in rx7s then talk badly about rotaries and vice versa; but I bet neither has owned a rx7 anyway

81

Ok I'm going to let out this rant cause I see the debate all the time. I respect the LS and the builds utilizing them for there means, but I don't particularly care for them. I know I'm going to get flamed about driveability and torque and all that and I understand that. The case of the matter is thought people are pretty much building a Non-GM Corvette. They are essentially the same came with different sheet metal wrapped over it, and it goes for a lot of cars S13s,S14s,FCs,FDs,Supras,any BMW 3 or 5 series hell even domestics mustang with LS swaps classic non GM cars with LS swaps. It is easier to assume a fast car is going to have a LS in it makes it boring. You see a track car or drift car that is fast I automatically assume it is a LS cause most of the time it is. People aren't bored of LS's people are tired of seeing it all the time and the idea that if you don't put an LS in your RWD you built it wrong. Like I said I understand the benefits of it, but it has turned into people building 95 percent the same car and painting it a different color and different rims. End rant flame away

82

Yeah totally not a showcar, that "gold" tape on the PS reservoir and MAF housing are entirely functional.
And it's not news that Trevor has a bias against rotaries with 0 experience. Fact of the matter is many people daily rotaries and somehow they all make it back home day after day!!! Really weird!

83

LS swap is an American thing right? They're apparently quite readily available over there and in abundance, so I imagine that helps a lot. But that's unlike for anywhere else?

I don't really see or hear about any outside of the US unless I think a dedicated track car or two.

I'm from AUS, but I'm pretty sure NZ and JPN are the same. Not many LS swaps. A lot of dedicated rotary fans though, as frustrating as it may or may not be.

84

A lot of American car modifiers don't really have the passion. They want to take the easy way out and that's all an LS swap is.
They then try to justify it by using the words "torque", "reliability", "fuel economy", when any turbo rotary owner knows they can have the first two. Fuel economy is a different story lol
And this is coming from someone who CURRENTLY owns an LS powered vehicle AND a rotary vehicle.

85

"They then try to justify it by using the words "torque", "reliability", "fuel economy", when any turbo rotary owner knows they can have the first two."

This is an example of cognitive dissonance.

86

I say that as to why it may not be so welcomed with open arms as much as you think, for the above reason. No where else really accustomed to it.

87

the funny things when i read this article. I thought it was a rotary engine and then............. HOLYSHIT! It's a V8 Engine hahahaha

88

great car

89

I love how everyone knocks someone else's car. Oh I would do this this and this and it would be better then what you've done.
I personally love my rotary engine fd3s. Most failures are caused by lack of care and tuning shops that try to tune an aftermarket ecu like they would for a piston engine. Finding a good rotary tuner in the U.S. isn't all that easy either since its such a specialized engine. Plus knowing whom to trust with said engine tuning. I've had good and bad experiences with local rotary tuners in my area.
I like what he's done with HIS car and it's nice to see rx7 still on the road.

90

Try a rotary before you swap a V8!

91

It's a (V8) trap!

92

Hmmm, although it's 'sacrilege', I really wanna hear this thing with a nice big ol' lumpy cam...
What a clean build

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