When it comes to drifting, I’m an outsider. I watch it, but I’ve never slid a car. Truth be told, I don’t even have an operable rear-wheel drive vehicle. However, I’ve been around drifting long enough to have seen it evolve from tandems of tail-happy four cylinder cars, to trains of V8-powered monsters with front wheels that lock at near 90 degrees.
The cars found competing in the highest forms of this motorsport perform incredibly well, but they’ve become far removed from the machines that attracted many to drifting in the first place.
This is an old dilemma of course, and not one unique to drifting. To help reset the culture, events like Final Bout were born, which in turn spawned a number of similarly-themed events around the globe. These grassroots events welcome cars that share more in common with those seen in grainy Drift Tengoku VHS tapes than they do those from a high-definition Formula Drift live stream. As an enthusiast and author, these are the cars I connect with more.
Drifting to me boils down to cool cars doing cool things. And – chastise at me in the comments if you will – in my opinion, cool cars are low, stylish, and simple.
Thankfully, Richard Riberio, Naveed, and myself all seem to be on the same page. Hence this photo spread of Richard’s very cool and very low Mazda RX-7 Turbo II.
Richard’s love affair with cars started at a very young age, but we’re going to skip the years he spent following his dad around with a spanner and start at the period in his life when he owned another iconic Japanese icon – the Toyota AE86. Richard was well caught up in the land of now very expensive Corollas until a friend offered up a red pill in the shape of an FC3S RX-7.
“I fell in love,” says Richard, and before long both of his AE86s were sold. The FC he purchased was later joined by an FD3S RX-7 as well.
RX-7 owners, like AE86 owners, are special. Typically they own more than one example at any given time, and often they sell exclusively amongst each other. It’s like a secret society strengthened by an appreciation for pleasure and torture in equal parts. Just as Richard finished up his FD project, an opportunity arose to become the owner of a second FC.
The car was a factory turbocharged model, which unlike his naturally aspirated daily driver wasn’t running, and hadn’t seen an enthusiast’s wrench in a few years. It did however have “good bones”. Richard’s plans originally were to rip out said bones, and install them in his FC.
Plans to treat the car as a donor quickly changed when the previous owner turned out to be Bryon Stutts. Back in the glorious days of message boards, both Richard and Bryon were members of rx7club.com. Bryon went by the screen name drftwerks, and in the 56k warning-filled early 2000s, he was known for having one of the lowest FCs around. Unfortunately, Bryon’s life was cut tragically short when a drunk driver struck his car.
Upon learning the RX-7’s history, Richard amended his plans immediately; if the car was stripped of its parts and sent down the line, chances were slim it would ever hit the road again. Out of respect for its previous owner, this particular FC deserved much better.
BN Sports body kits have become a staple of the drift community, and the chunky BN design pairs extremely well with a hefty drop and a proper set of shoes. Richard, as you can tell, had plans for both on deck.
With the help of his ‘Run UP!’ teammates, a BN Sports Defend kit was fitted to the car.
Fitting the multi-piece kit properly requires cutting the rear fenders, and Richard’s friend Chad Soares provided the steady hands for this one way street job. The front blister fenders are a bolt-on affair, and together the car’s new roomier fenders allowed for gorgeous Panasport Racing G7-C5C2 wheels to be attached at all four corners.
G7 wheels are a favorite of mine, so you’ll hear absolutely no complaining from me about this wheel choice.
Suspension tuning comes care of Parts Shop Max components, including coilovers, lower control arms, camber arms and a rear bushing set.
In the cockpit, a Cusco/Safety 21 half cage has been installed, along with a pair of Bride Zeta II glitter-back seats. To the right of the G Corporation steering wheel is four Defi gauges, letting Richard knowing exactly how the street-ported 13BREW motor – lifted from an FD3S – is doing under the hood.
To bump up the power, Richard replaced the factory turbocharger with a BorgWarner S257 turbo mated to a Glease Manufacturing turbo manifold. A Haltech Elite 550 standalone ECU keeps the engine operating as it should, while a v-mount intercooler and radiator setup customised by Angel Motorsports keeps things nice and cool.
A custom exhaust slips past a KAAZ 2-way LSD before terminating at an A’PEXi N1 canister.
Custom LED tail lights add a unique touch to the rear end.
Looking at the Mazda, I wouldn’t fault you for thinking it lives a life of luxury. But, despite how well kept it looks in these photos, the car does get driven, sideways – regularly.
Almost immediately after pulling 12-hour days prepping and painting the FC, Richard was blasting into corners at Super D, Good Luck League and Final Bout. Usually alongside the same friends who helped him build the car.
Learning to drive the car hasn’t been uneventful for Richard. At Final Bout Stage West, a wheel drop bent a coilover and lower control arm along with one of those beautiful G7 lips. However, if nothing else the drift community is resilient, and the car was repaired and sent back out for more laps before errors could be dwelled on for too long.
At this point Richard is waiting for the next event to drive the car, while playing with the idea of adding some vinyl to its flanks. He’s started a mobile coffee business, Superwow Coffee, which operates out of a JDM kei van, so tying the two together just might be the best idea he’s had yet.
Photos by Naveed Yousufzai