First drives are important.
Whether it be the first drive prior to purchase, or the first drive after years atop jack stands, maiden voyages always have a profound impact on a project’s direction. What needs to change, what mustn’t be touched, and how far one’s wallet needs to open – the first drive ultimately dictates everything.
First drive stories vary greatly, but my personal favorites are the ones that start with a one-way plane ticket and a carry-on full of tools. The willingness to step on a ledge and hope for the best with no plan B is something I truly admire.
In 2013, Jared, a Boston native, booked a trip to Miami to buy an FD3S Mazda RX-7 that a friend had for sale. Despite having never seen the car in person, and only the owner’s word of its reliability, he decided to take the scenic route home.
The long way round included a trip to the Tail of the Dragon, and after winding the RX-7 down the famous American road, Jared was thoroughly pleased with his purchase.
The Mazda was everything he’d hoped it would be.No Pistons Club
Prior to the FD3S, Jared owned a heavily-modified 2005 Subaru Impreza STI. The car was a blast to drive, but it was also on the razor’s edge of what makes a dependable street car. A month before the RX-7 purchase the scale tipped toward unreliable as the Subaru motor gasped its last breath.
After the Subaru gave up the ghost, and was later parted out, Jared vowed to buy something reliable, yet fun. He also promised himself he wouldn’t modify the car to the same extent as the Subaru. In times of weakness, I’m positive we’ve all made similar self commitments.
Just wheels and a drop, I swear…
Rotary engines carry with them a bit of a red mark in the reliability column, so after learning of his Subaru’s fate I’d wrongly assumed this car would no longer have a couple of triangles spinning under hood. No offence to rotary owners, but these days when someone desires power and reliability in a rear-wheel drive platform, an LS seems like an almost mandatory choice.
When Jared committed to buying the RX-7 he did have some intent of dropping a V8 under the hood, but his desire for all-American power lessened as his drive home went on. The Pettit Racing-built, street-port 13B performed so well that he saw no reason to replace it.
Jared estimates that the engine’s currently making in the neighborhood of 280hp. That’s a fair bit less than his Subaru packed, but the Mazda is a fair bit more street capable. Its dependability hasn’t come at the sacrifice of fun, though. Pettit Racing ’99-spec turbos and Pineapple Racing lightweight pulleys give the car excellent throttle response, and a Stillway exhaust from Japan provides the cruising soundtrack.
Three to four times a year the RX-7 does 800 miles in a single weekend without so much as skipping a beat. A regular destination for Jared is PrimeNYC‘s 7’s Day celebration in New York City.
In fact, if you look back far enough you can find photos of his car in previous 7’s Day coverage on Speedhunters, brapping through the streets of The Big Apple.New York, New York
The people Jared has met in New York on his 7’s Day excursions have left as much of an impression on him as New York City itself has left on the car. NYC streets are notoriously unforgiving, and just days after installing his rare Zesty Racing front bumper, a sizeable dip sent cracks through the fiberglass.
‘I heart New York’ stickers were slapped in place after the accident in a quick fix effort to mask the damage. The stickers were not intended to remain on the car long-term, but years later here we are.
Jared does plan to fix the bumper and eventually remove the stickers, but he’s putting that off until he removes the wrap and picks a new permanent finish for the exterior. Yes, that’s vinyl, not paint, applied by Jared himself.
3M Cosmic Blue covers Feed wide front fenders and a carbon fiber hood up front. The rear sees a few exposed carbon additions, including Feed side steps, an RE Amemiya diffuser, and a Car Shop Glow rear spoiler.
The LED tail lights and third brake light are also from the Car Shop Glow catalog, as are the front marker lights, which have been installed along with Hot Water Labs headlights.
In Jared’s eyes, the RX-7 lines are timeless straight from the factory, so great care was taken to not overly disrupt these when selecting aftermarket body additions.
The chosen modifications combined with Mazda designer Matasaburo Maeda’s original forward-thinking design make the car popular among passers-by.
According to Jared, he can hardly drive the RX-7 without at least one person asking what kind of car it is, before staring back in disbelief when he replies ‘Mazda’.Handle Yourself
Suspension-wise, Jared wasn’t going to simply settle for shocks and springs. Coilovers alone wouldn’t cut it either; he wanted the car to sit right, but not handle like a bag of hammers. It also couldn’t sound like a squeaky hamster wheel over bumpy roads.
The revamp started with all the suspension arms being removed from the car. Uprated SuperPro bushes were then installed everywhere they could be, from the control arms to the steering rack. Mazdaspeed sway bars replace the original equipment items, and the final piece of the handling puzzle – Fortune Auto coilovers with Swift springs – were installed.
The coils have been adjusted to get rid of unsightly wheel gap, but are not so low as to hamper spirited driving.
Complementing the function-oriented suspension selection is an equally-suited wheel and tire package. The wider Feed fenders allow the car to run a square 18×10.5-inch Advan RS-DF wheel setup with 285/30R18 Bridgestone Potenza RE-71 rubber.
Behind the front wheels are Rotora 4-pot front calipers and 2-pot units in the rear, all grabbing on two-piece Rotora rotors.A Dash Of Colour
Much like the outside, the inside of the car retains plenty of the original Mazda charm – just enhanced. The most noticeable upgrade is the Recaro SP-JJ seats, which provide the interior with a welcome splash of color.
Other changes include a Nardi steering wheel affixed with a Works Bell quick release hub, Defi oil pressure and boost gauges in an A-pillar pod mount, and an FC Commander for the A’PEXi Power FC engine management system.
Jared admits he went above and beyond his promise to himself to not significantly modify the car, but given the ‘Wallet Laxative’ nickname for the RX-7, I don’t think that was ever a serious self promise.
As a mechanic of 20 years, maintenance has always been prioritized over modification, and as a result the car has never let Jared down. He’s not finished with it yet, though. He’ll rebuild the coilovers before they demand it, and then Jared’s going to chase some more power – this time via a naturally aspirated 3-rotor engine.
In a perfect world, an R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R will eventually find its way into the parking spot besides the RX-7 too, and if that happens we hope that Jared gets back in touch.
Considering how well he’s done with this Japanese legend, there’s no doubt he’d do a stellar job with another.
Photography by Keiron Berndt