Another Tokyo Auto Salon and yet another year that Mazda leaves its diehard enthusiasts in suspense. Will the rotary engine make a return? Will the RX-7 ever have a spiritual successor?
There is much speculation surrounding all of this, but no actual facts or confirmation of anything from the Hiroshima-based manufacturer. While legendary tuners like RE Amemiya have wondered what the future holds for this unique engine configuration, uncertainty certainly hasn’t hindered creativity.
Just like every year, Amemiya-san’s display at Japan’s biggest tuning show had plenty of wild creations for show-goers to see, proving that despite his age the master hasn’t lost his touch shaping one-off creations with his hands.
And while RE Amemiya is very much known for its countless aero conversions for all generations of RX-7s, their emphasis is always on power, creating truly well-rounded cars. And at the end of the day that’s exactly what we want to see more of, not aesthetic exercises built to impress at a show and then forgotten about.
The centerpiece of their 2019 TAS display was once called the Furin Kazan. I shot this rotary-converted Westfield back in 2010, and nine years later here it is again, albeit refreshed with a slightly modified body and green & silver coloring.
This update has seen the 250hp naturally aspirated 13B replaced with a 13B turbo engine that’s good for 50 more horsepower and an exciting torque curve that would totally transform how it drives. You can see the tight way in which the intake manifold, the piping, and the top-mounted intercooler have been arranged in order to fit within the confines of the chassis.
Aside from the raked windscreen and the inclusion of a pair of roll-hoops, the car hasn’t changed much. Although the shading on the top of the wheel covers makes them look like they flare and taper out, they actually don’t.
The dash has gained more gauges and an LCD navigation screen, hinting towards it actually being driven on the street by its owner.
Then there was this white-blue pearl FD3S RX-7 sporting RE Amemiya’s love-it-or-hate-it AD Facer 9 front bumper. From some angles it does look like it’s pulling a bit of a fish face, or looking overly surprised at something, but I put it more down to the paint color than anything else. I’ve shot cars with this front before and they never gave me that impression.
At the rear, the FD runs the widened over-fender kit as used on RE Amemiya’s recent D1 cars, and the usual carbon fiber aerodynamic additions to contrast against the rest of the body.
As I was walking around the car I noticed that every carbon fiber part has been sprayed with a blue flake-enhanced clear coat.
On a recent visit to RE Amemiya’s Tokyo shop where most of their race cars are built, we saw this very car being test fitted with an engine. At the time it was nothing more than a stripped-out shell on axle stands; it’s always remarkable to see how much these shops are able to do in the rush for TAS every year.
The choice of engine is best described as minimalistic but with a decidedly special character. It’s beautiful to see how simple a Wankel engine is without the mess of ancillaries that forced induction introduces. This naturally aspirated three-rotor 20B is good for 300hp and a soundtrack that truly excites the senses.
There’s a hell of a lot of blue in the cabin; pretty much every piece of plastic interior trim has been dyed and mated to gold carbon fiber details. Coloring aside, I did dig the digital dash.
Both this car and the red one we’ll look at shortly have been fitted with an all-new vented and widened fender design that can be mated to RE Amemiya and other brand kits to create your own bespoke look. It’s a two-piece design with a lower carbon fiber vented section.
You can see how much wider it is than stock where it meets the door.
Then we have a special customer build which everyone was drooling over, myself included.
Here we have the same fender treatment, but with a different front bumper and carbon fiber canards.
I’ve always been a massive fan of Enkei NT03s, they’re one of those timeless designs that has been around way more than 20 years now, seen here in the contemporary NT03RR form.
If it wasn’t for Ken-san, Amemiya’s son, I’d never have fully understood just what a special build this car really is. Dig deeper and you’ll find a lightweight dry-carbon (pre-preg) rear hatch.
Forget your crazy colors, this is how you execute a beautiful interior, upholstering every single surface in Alcantara to give an instant upmarket feel to the 30-year-old cabin.
There’s more dry-carbon up front with the double skinned vented hood.
And how about the important bits and pieces? Well, this is one engine bay that doesn’t let you down – there’s 500hp on tap thanks to a side-ported 13B and a Garrett T04Z turbine feeding its compressed charge into a v-mounted intercooler.
People were loving it.
If I had to pick one final detail I liked it would have to be the cut-out rear bumper, an easy and efficient way to decrease drag. That was before they added the massive wing, though. Ah well, these cars are as much about performance as they are about design.
Which brings us back to the very conundrum I opened this post on – the future of the rotary and the RX-7. I’m sure if making a modern-day Wankel adhere to stringent emission standards was easy, Mazda would have already done it. We can only hope and pray that they’ll find a way, mating it to a hybrid system or coming up with some other solution. The RX-7 is one model Mazda should not let fade away.
Until then, Amemiya-san and all the other rotor-heads around the world can continue to entertain us with their builds.
Dino Dalle Carbonare