Think Mazda rotary-powered vehicles, and the FD3S RX-7 will likely spring to mind for most. For good reason too; the twin-turbo 13B-powered sports car delivered a driving experience like no other, and they don’t look half bad either. But for some Mazda fans, you just can’t beat the original models.
Arthur Joubert Jnr., the owner of this manic RX-2 coupe from South Africa definitely agrees.
Arthur Jnr.’s father, Arthur Joubert Snr., is a legend in South Africa’s rotary scene. The owner of AJ Racing Rotaries has, for a long while, built some of the most powerful, fastest and just plain wild rotary-powered cars in the land. Case in point, the 6-rotor BMW M6 above, which surely rates as one of the craziest rotary conversions ever, anywhere.
As a side note, the M6 disappeared after the original owner sadly passed away, but I’ve tracked it down so we’ll definitely have a feature on this build some time in the future.
As for the focus of this story, Arthur Snr.’s late best friend Morne owned the Mazda RX-2 coupe back in the day. At that time, the car was yellow and sitting on a set of era-cool 17-inch TSW Hockenheim R wheels. It was also very well known on the streets of Gauteng…
The Mazda was eventually sold and repainted black, becoming the ‘Speed & Sound’ RX-2, but in time was parked up on axle stands and left for dead. Arthur Snr. knew where the car was, and Arthur Jnr. as a school-aged kid remembers his dad telling him they would one day buy the car and fix it up as a tribute to Morne. After years of trying to convince the RX-2’s then owner to sell it, the day ultimately came when the Jouberts could bring it home.
At this point it was a purely sentimental purchase for Arthur Snr. He didn’t actually know how much work there was to get the RX-2 up and running, but that didn’t really matter. It was going to happen one way or another.
Working on the Mazda weekday nights and weekends, Arthur Snr. began slowly restoring the car with a drag racing focus. The RX-2’s rear end was a mess, so early on a call was made to cut it out and rebuild it, this time with mini-tubs able to accomodate bigger tyres. At this stage a full roll cage was also added.
Next, he dummy-fitted an engine and cut metal where required. Then, the car was sent off for paint, this time in a Mazda white.
From the point Arthur Snr. started on the build to the point its first phase was complete took around five years in total, but looking at the RX-2 now, all the blood, sweat and tears were worth it.
The Mazda’s exterior was kept simple, although recently Arthur Jnr. decided to do a bare metal/rust patina look on the hood for a little contrast. It actually makes sense too, as the flames and heat that exit from the exhaust pipe sprouting from the hood were making a mess of things when it was white.
The Mazda sits on 15-inch Weld drag wheels at all four corners, with skinny radial tyres used up front and Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks in a 26×10.5 fitment out back.Rotary Power
Under the hood is where most of Arthur Snr. and Arthur Jnr.’s hours have gone into the build, and also where the most money has been spent. As the rebuild budget wasn’t unlimited, the pair used as many parts – both new and secondhand – as they could find around the workshop to keep costs low.
The engine itself, a 13B unit from a Cosmo, has been completely rebuilt by Arthur Snr. to AJ Racing ‘Stage 3′ bridgeport specification. That means a dowelled and studded block for extra strength, AJ Racing race-spec eccentric shaft and Rotary Aviation Super Seals apex seals among other upgraded components.
It’s hard to miss the turbocharger, such is the physical size of the 75mm Precision Turbo unit. The rest of the turbo setup consists of an AJ Racing exhaust manifold, Turbosmart Pro-Gate 50mm wastegate, blow-off valve and eBoost2 electronic controller, and a Mr. Turbo charge cooler.
The intake, fuelling and ignition side of things features a modified Cosmo manifold and throttle body, four Siemens Deka 2,200cc injectors supplied by a custom fuel cooler, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator and Pro Series fuel pump, and four MSD Blaster coils.
Tuned through a Microtech LT-10S engine management system and running on a strict ethanol diet, the 13B produces a solid 594kW (797hp) and 600Nm of torque at 1.8bar (26psi) of boost pressure.
It’s a lot of power and torque, so ensuring it gets to the rear wheels as efficiently and reliably as possible – all the way up to the engine’s 9,200rpm redline – is a Toyota R154 gearbox, twin-plate OS Giken clutch and custom prop-shaft running into an M75 diff with custom axles.
A few different suspensions setups were tested in the car, but a custom 5-link setup out back with Strange coilovers was eventually settled on.
Inside, it’s all business. Save for the dash and doors cards, the original interior has been replaced with the aforementioned roll cage, a single Formula Design seat with Sabelt harness, and a number of gauges, switches and electronic modules. Behind the seat is the ice tank for charge cooler.
After the car’s initial rebuild, Arthur Snr. took it out for a shakedown run at Midvaal Raceway, where straight off the trailer it ran 10.8-seconds at 212km/h (132mph). Upgrades were then made, but before the Mazda returned to the quarter mile, it officially changed hands – Arthur Snr. suggesting Arthur Jnr. swap him his street-going RX-8 for the RX-2. Obviously, Arthur Jnr. didn’t need to think twice about that deal.
It took around another year for the car to be finely tuned, and went it hit the strip again, Arthur Jnr. recorded a 10.5-second ET. The next event he went 10.1-seconds at 228km/h (142mph), and on the third time out he cracked the single digits with a 9.9-second at 222km/h (138mph) pass. Arthur Snr. knows there’s plenty more in it too.
Arthur Jnr. says it’s hard to pick just a single favourite aspect of the angry little Mazda, because he loves everything about it. A big part of that of course is the nostalgia, as he grew up around these cars. If Arthur Jnr. really had to choose though, it is of course driving the car.
For this father and son pair, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as taking a vintage rotary-powered Mazda and driving the wheels off it.