This would be the third visit I've paid to Taisuke Kawato, and what astounds me about his shop, TCP Magic, is that it's a one-man garage. Every aspect of his cars, he puts his all into them and rarely farms out the work. He keeps cranking RX-7s out of his shop, like this 2001 Mazda RX-7 time attack build, that kindle the imagination of all who lay eyes on his creations. 12 years (2002 in Japan, 1995 in the USA) after production of the FD RX-7 ceased and three years after the final Eight rolled off the factory floor, Kawato continues to subtly remind Mazda just how cool the rotary engine was.
While many stateside Formula Drift teams have all but abandoned various engines for the easy power of an LS swap, Taisuke-san continues to push the RE envelope by being one of the few garages in Japan to have built a four rotor, Mad-Mike Whiddet's Jap-bull, which made a showing at Fuji Speedway's FD Japan this year. The international roster of drivers in December will have to contend with a twin-turbo version in the works for the next event at Okayama.
Engine wise, though not as crazy of a build, this Black 2 RE pictured here is definitely characteristic of a meticulous Kawato build. It isn't a drift machine, nor is it one of the many N1 cars of TCP Magic's storied past, but yet this is a fresh build to showcase Kawato's other passion: clicking off fast lap times. To that end, he employed professional driver Masaki Kitajou. Known for his affinity for the Seven, Kitajou can be trusted to know not just the quirks of the chassis at speed, but where the FD3S shines on each track. Plans are now in the works to attack Tsukuba and also World Time Attack in the winter.
We met up with Kawato at Nanko Island in Osaka Harbor. He was in the process of loading it onto a shipping container bound for the Bangkok Auto Salon, hence the shipping vessels in the background. I had just spent the weekend filming his D1 3-Rotor and driver Fujinaka Manabu. Photographer Chris Jue joined our posse last night. But enough about all these cool cats and on to the car...
This Seven is built for grip—and while most people will ogle at the 600hp powerplant first, it's important to focus on what keeps it planted to the ground. Like at many tuning garages in Japan, Kawato works closely with suspension manufacturers to produce his own branded, TCP Magic spherical suspension arms, coilovers, pillow ball mounts, and for drift vehicles a steering knuckle. While the springs that wrap around coilovers say Swift, the guts of these are specific to Kawato's ideals about stiffness, response, rebound, fluids, valving, and not to mention aesthetics... they definitely look trick.
The shell has gotten the usual TCP Magic treatment of skewering it up on a chassis rotisserie and being stitch-welded. And before you fan boys call up your local body shop and ask how much for this new catchphrase you just learned, "stitch weld," carefully consider the amount of man-hours such an endeavor requires. One method requires that you acid dip the entire chassis to expose the bare metal so it can be welded. The other method requires Kawato to painstakingly die-grinder the paint off each metal seam, and then weld. And if this is the first time you've heard the phrase, it's when the body is built in sections of sheetmetal, where race teams will "stitch weld" to get a more rigid chassis.
Typical Japanese tuning shops will go for a bolt-in rollcage, and in some of Kawato's more budget-restrained builds, I've seen it done. However, on this build, he took the high road and bent his own D.O.M. tubing to produce a 12-point. He also fully gusseted the 'cage on the A- and B-pillars, thus adding even more chassis rigidity.
While we're on the topic of the body...while it doesn't add chassis rigidity, Magic extensively used carbon to lighten the vehicle—a definite plus in nimbleness when going through the tight corners of Tsukuba. The lack of weight on that back straight, though, will be a problem, where 200kph (124mph) is typical. That is also where aero again comes to the rescue. Carbon is used to make Magic's own brand of G-Face dive planes, wings and diffusers to enhance downforce.
Finally, we'll talk about the drivetrain and engine. Forward propulsion starts when the throttle is pressed, and the massive GReddy T88-34D turbo sucks air through a HKS Super Mega Flow air filter. 21.3 pounds of compressed air is then sent through Magic's massive aluminum V-mounted intercooler and associated piping to be chilled. An enlarged throttle body controls the amount of air the 13B ingests. Also reworked by Magic is the intake manifold and ports (Bridge Port) leading to each apex rotor, maximizing the volumetric efficiency. There, air meets 1,000cc injectors, then goes on to mingle with some NGK race plugs.
600 ponies and 434 lb-ft are shot through the eccentric shaft (no, it's not called a crankshaft), where it then encounters an Exedy carbon triple clutch, a part that's so uncivil it's only found on dedicated race cars. An HKS sequential six-speed ensures that time shifting is kept minimal. An ATS diff evenly splits torque amongst the rear 10.5-inch-wide Gram Lights with A050 Advan tires.
All this power would be pointless if at the end of a high-speed section you couldn't stop to make that G-Force-infused turn. While the Takata-laced Recaro seats keep Kitajou's ass in place, the SEI four-pots create the need for the above-mentioned strapping hardware.
The list is huge, both what's been done to this car and what TCP Magic accomplishes in a short amount of time. How Kawato manages to do it with the constraints of running a business, being a father, having a beautiful wife, world travel and living life in general... let's just say I look up to the guy. Be inspired, by both the car and the person. We wish Kawato the best in his efforts in time attack.
2001 Mazda RX-7
Owner Taisuke Kawato
Hometown Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan
Occupation Owner TCP Magic, Indie extraordinaire
Power 600hp; 434 lb-ft of torque
Engine 13B-RE; Trust T88-34D turbo and blow-off valve; Bridge port; TCP Magic Intercooler piping, intercooler, throttle body, intake manifold, downpipe, turbo manifold and exhaust; Sard fuel regulator and 1000cc injectors; NGK race plugs and wires; Turbosmart wastegate; HKS Super Mega Flow air filter
Drivetrain HKS sequential six-speed transmission; Exedy triple clutch; ATS differential
Engine Management HKS F Con V Pro and boost controller
Footwork & Chassis TCP Magic proprietary coilovers, control arms, upper mounts, trailing arms, camber plates; stitch welded chassis
Brakes SEI four-pot big brake kit
Wheels & Tires 18x10.5" RAYS Gram Light wheels; 295/30 R18 front, 295/35 R18 rear Yokohama Advan A050 tires
Exterior G-Face carbon-fiber fenders, side skirts, diffusers, dive planes, hood, wing, trunk lid, door panel, underbelly tray, Lexan windows
Interior Recaro seats; Takata harnesses; fully gusseted 12-point rollcage, MOMO steering wheel