For all the love that we give our cars, it’s often not reciprocated.
For all those perfect evening drives, with the windows down and the hum of an internal combustion engine in the air, there are other moments lying on cold floors trying to persuade a nut loose or a part free. The moments after a perfect and trouble-free track day, with the smell of hot rubber and brakes, are balanced with inexplicable breakdowns on the side of the road.
Cars are awesome, infuriating, brilliant and enraging. They can be your best friend and worst enemy at the same time. They are often the ultimate personification of a love/hate relationship. But, of course, we will always endure.
Philip ‘Flip’ Morrissey of Flipsideauto is no stranger to these pages. Not just because we featured his RX-8 at the tail end of 2015 (incidentally, we’ve only featured one other RX-8 since), or because of his help with not just Project GTI and other Irish feature cars, but as one of the main organisers of the Juicebox BBQ.
You might remember that feature, and how being at a crossroads Philip wasn’t sure what path to take next. Although, I guess you probably now know which route he has taken…
It took until late 2017 for the RX-8 to make way for the next project, an FC3S RX-7.
The car arrived as a non-runner, having lived a fairly tough life which may have involved pieces of timber to push the front arches out. I suppose the polite way of saying this is that it was a car full of shortcuts. While there was little drama in putting the bodywork right, including tubbing the front arches, the rest of the car took considerably longer.
Diagnosing and identifying issues, seeking out replacement parts, fitting and modifying other bits all took time. And that work could only happen during Philip’s downtime, usually after a long week of working on other people’s cars.
Add to this that rotary knowledge in Ireland is thin on the ground, and that finding someone with both experience and genuine knowledge isn’t straightforward. This is mostly down to the fact that there aren’t many Mazda RXs on the roads here. In fact, I can go months without seeing (or hearing) one, and the last FD that crossed my path – the first in years – sounded distinctly not rotary powered.
I can’t even begin to go into the countless little petty things that prevented this from being finished significantly earlier. It sometimes felt like a car that never wanted to run again after already giving all it could give. A less tolerant person would have either given up, or swapped in something that would have seen it running sooner. But when Philip tells me that the thought never crossed his mind, I believe him.
That was then, but this is now.
With significant lockdown procedures in place in Ireland to limit the spread of COVID-19, the entire automotive industry and many others shut down overnight in late March. Not to play down the circumstances, but if there was ever an opportunity for Philip to focus all of his attention into the FC, this was it.
Of course, it still took a little longer than expected, but when our country started to open up again, it was one running FC RX-7 richer. In fact, by the time I was allowed to resume shooting, Philip had only put up a grand total of 7km on the rebuilt engine, 993km shy of his engine builder’s recommended run-in period.
While there wouldn’t be burnouts or skids to celebrate, to see the car drive out of the workshop and down the street into the photo location was a sight to to behold.
You might recognise the location as the same place where the BBQ is held, which seemed more than fitting for the occasion.
The end result is a car which perfectly represents Philip and his obsession for Japanese cars of this era. This isn’t a car built for anyone else but himself. It’s an important distinction to make, as no doubt you might think that you would have done X,Y or Z differently, and you’re free to do so on your own FC build.
But this one is his.
It’s useful to know a car’s intended use when putting together a feature. Philip’s Mazda is not a show car, although it will almost certainly make appearances at some, but rather it should be viewed similarly to the HCR32 we featured recently. It’s a car that has been built to be used.
In fact, Philip has been insistent for quite some time that I had to shoot it before it saw any serious action, so we would always have a record of how it looked when it rolled outside for the first time.
“I just wanted it to look like something you would see on Yahoo! Auctions,” he told me. It’s not a car that abides by any current car culture trends, but is very much a snapshot of an era that resonates strongly with people. It’s that late ’90s/early ’00s Japanese street car style.
The exterior then is the best place to start. Primarily, it’s a mix of D-Max and BN Sports, the former providing the front and rear fenders, along with the roof spoiler, and the latter being responsible for the front and rear bumpers, and the side skirts. The mirrors are RE Amemiya items.
The non-vented NA silver bonnet, which hides a rainbow of colour under a dull sky, was a personal touch. It’s a knowing nod to the Japanese attitude of doing something because you think it looks good, rather than worrying what others might say.
The Garage BB rear wing is far from subtle, but looks exactly right. The hatch wiper has been deleted in order to keep the rear of the car clean.
Something which caught my attention was the clarity of a pair of brand new Raybrig headlamps. It’s something you’ll soon learn about Philip and this FC, but he spent so much time obsessing over and chasing down the exact parts he wanted for this car. He even acquired the bulbs – Super J-Beam 5000Ks – on a trip to Japan not so long ago. Details, details, details.
SSR Koenigs are Philip’s wheel of choice, measuring 18×9.5-inch -3 at the front, and 18×11-inch -22 at the rear. An amusing aside is that he spent some time looking for the correct centre caps, only to find out that his friend Reuben was in possession of a set from an old R32 he once owned. The tyres are 225/40R18 Dunlop Direzza ZIIs and 265/35R18 Nankangs, front and rear respectively.
The front brakes have been upgraded to Lancer Evolution VIII specification Brembos, with a Project Mu colour theme. It’s permissible, as the discs and pads are Project Mu, along with the same brand’s D1 pads featuring on the rear.
With regards to suspension, the FC sits on BC Racing BR series coilovers with 12kg front springs and 10kg rear. There’s also custom ball joints, custom tie-rod ends, URAS Steering Up spacers, custom shortened steering knuckles, and Prothane front control arm bushings.
The interior has been considered as well as the exterior, although I’ll refrain from sharing all of the detail photos here, so to prevent mobile users from getting a repetitive strain injury. The highlights are a Naniwaya SP-GT racing seat mounted on a Bride low-rail and fitted with Willans 4-point harnesses. The wheel is a Nardi Classic, and there’s a Juicebox custom titanium shift knob mated to an RE Amemiya short shifter. The upright hydraulic handbrake uses a Wilwood master cylinder. Then there’s a plethora of custom switches and gauges, along with a Kenwood DPX-9000 head unit driving Gathers door and dash speakers.
The rear of the car is fully stripped, and only features a Cusco strut brace, the back legs for the Cusco 7-point cage, and a custom battery box behind the passenger seat.
I had teased Philip that I was going to tell everyone it had an SR swap, and then refuse to post any engine bay shots out of pretend disgust, but I think he’s been through enough with this already.
Yes, it’s 13B with a ‘T’. It’s a half-bridgeported engine, rebuilt by Shadow Rotary with a Garrett T04E turbocharger and a full custom-valved exhaust. Fuelling sees the use of 550cc leading injectors with 1,680cc trailing injectors. Why not go full bridgeport? Well, a half-port is much easier to live with, while still giving that distinctive rotary idle and sound. Anyone I’ve ever spoken to with a full bridgeport in a street car has regretted it, so there was some sound logic to that decision.
The really impressive part is how Philip’s managed to make that gold foil seamlessly go around corners. Those who know, will know.
With the motor being very new, you’ll have to wait for another time to hear it making proper noises. I’ll never complain about listening to one of these idle anyway.
Transmission wise, there’s an OS Giken R2CD twin-plate clutch and KAAZ LSD. Custom solid gearbox mounts, plus Parts Shop Max solid diff riser bushings and diff forward bushing mounts also feature.
I could sit here all day and pore over every nut and bolt, but instead, I’ll leave the heavy lifting to the spec list and gallery chapter below. Honestly, I don’t think I could ever do justice to the literal blood, sweat and tears that went into this car, or any other that fought their owner all the way to the very end. Even as comprehensive as this feature is, it’s only a drop in the ocean when compared to the amount of time involved in getting it to this stage.
Instead, I’m happy to sit back and appreciate it. It’s the very least a car like this deserves.
Philip Morrissey’s Mazda RX-7 FC3S
Mazda 13B-T half bridgeport from Shadow Rotary, Shadow rotary engine blanking plates (oil metering pump, idle air control etc), Garrett T04E turbo, titanium turbo jacket, braided turbo oil lines, HKS actuator, HKS Super Power Flow air filter, custom down-pipe, custom full stainless exhaust system, 550cc leading injectors, 1,680cc trailing injectors, FD3S air temp sensor, A’PEXi 3-bar map sensor, A’PEXi Power FC (AP Engineering), FEED oil cap, RE Amemiya oil filter, JPerformance aluminium radiator, GReddy radiator cap, custom aluminium overflow tank, custom cooling panel, Trust front-mount intercooler, custom intercooler pipes, JPerformance oil cooler, braided oil cooler lines, Mitsubishi Evo IV cooler for power steering, J-Spec fuel pressure regulator, braided fuel lines, GReddy oil sump plug, Sard R2D2 blow off valve, aluminium oil catch can, NGK spark plugs and leads, 16-inch electric fan, Sun Automobile earthing kit, Walbro 255lph fuel pump, custom tucked engine loom, custom solid engine mounts, custom wheel well tubs
FC3S 5-speed manual gearbox, OS Giken R2CD twin-plate clutch, custom solid gearbox mounts, KAAZ LSD, Parts Shop Max solid diff riser bushings, Parts Shop Max solid diff forward bushing mount
BC Racing BR series coilovers, BC Racing springs (front 12kg, rear 10kg), Cusco front strut brace, Cusco rear strut brace, Prothane front control arm bushings, Parts Shop Max toe steering eliminator bushings set, Parts Shop Max subframe camber arm, custom bottom ball joints, custom tie-rod ends, URAS Steering Up spacers, custom shortened steering knuckles, Mitsubishi Evo VIII Brembo front brake calipers, Project Mu Mitsubishi Evo VIII front brake discs, Project Mu front brake pads, Project Mu D1 spec rear brake pads, Cusco brake cylinder stopper
SSR Koenig 18×9.5-inch -3 with 225/40R18 Dunlop Direzza ZII (front), 18×11-inch -22 with Nankang (rear)
FC3S non-vented NA bonnet, D-Max front fenders, D-Max rear fenders, D-Max roof spoiler, BN Sports front bumper, BN Sports rear bumper, BN Sports side skirts, RE Amemiya side mirrors, Garage BB rear wing, rear wiper delete, Raybrig headlamps, Super J-beam 5000K bulbs, Sparco bonnet pins
Naniwaya SP-GT racing seat, Willans 4-point harness, Bride low rail, Nardi Classic steering wheel, Juicebox custom titanium shift knob, hydraulic hand brake (Wilwood cylinder), RE Amemiya short shifter, A’PEXi Power FC commander, A’PEXi exhaust control valve, fuel pump switch, electric fan switch, GReddy Profec 2, HKS turbo timer, Omori volt gauge, Omori water temp gauge, Tomei boost gauge, Kenwood DPX-9000 headunit, Gathers door & dash speakers, Broadway rear-view mirror, PRO4M aluminium battery box, Sun Auto Hot Inazma voltage stabiliser, Cusco 7-point roll cage, Razo pedals, chequered floor mats