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Shape Shifter

Wide body, wild paint, 20B three-rotor power and road race suspension make this 7 a 10

E.K. Cozzene
Aug 7, 2002

Straight or twisty; it's all about how you like your performance. Jeff Kiesel of San Diego would be a good person to ask about the most perplexing of crossroads--choosing between stoplight dragger or canyon carver. He knows the straight-line game, having owned an 11-second Integra and a 10-second Civic.

And as this impressive RX-7 attests, the apex is a familiar place as well. As part of TART (Triple A Race Team) Kiesel and his wicked three-rotor RX-7 spend plenty of time at play on the road race circuit and two or three days a week on the daily commute.

There are many points of interest on this high-revving Mazda, but the first thing to catch the eye is its silhouette. The car flexes an R-Magic body kit with a molded rear fender treatment from Pettit Racing, which made the RX-7 the perfect car for our "Body and Soul" issue. The installation and paint was executed by Backyard Creations of Temple City, Calif. This body configuration allows Kiesel to run mammoth wheels--17x10s in front and 17x12.5s out back. Talk about a contact patch the size of Texas. Kinesis K5 aluminum is joined by Kuhmo V700 Victoracer rubber (255/40R-17 front, 335/35R-17 rear) to maximize the Mazda's bite in the corners.

Body kits are cool, but a car can be an empty promise if there's little excitement under the hood. Kiesel kept his power promise by sending the car to Pettit Racing in Lake Park, Fla. for the ultimate Mazda rotary swap--the 20B three-rotor. Pettit constructed a 20B to its Banzai Edition 3 specs with a street-ported block, reinforced studs anddowel pins, 3mm high-performance Iannetti ceramic apex seals and ceramic treated turbos. The sequential turbo system was also configured for parallel operation so both Hitachis hit hard at the drop of the hammer.

Pettit's Cameron Worth says that by using a Link engine management system, the crew was able to hone the multitude of vacuum hoses down to just three, which simplifies installation, troubleshooting and maintenance. He was also quick to point out that the key piece in the engine installation process is Pettit's Banzai Subframe which enables the 20B to be directly bolted in place with no welding or cutting. Kiesel runs a Pettit 3-inch downpipe and an HKS exhaust system.

Getting the tri-rotor thrust to the pavement is handled by a Mazdaspeed LSD-equipped factory rear end with ACPT carbon-fiber driveshaft and a stock tranny fitted with an Advanced Clutch Technology Xtreme series clutch with an Xtreme pressure plate and organic street disc. The g-force load is controlled by the RX-7's tried-and-proven suspension. Kiesel has fortified the underpinnings with Koni shocks, Pettit sway bars and 2.25-inch race springs rated at 600 lbs in front and 400 lbs in the rear. Stopping power has been addressed with a Pettit brake upgrade front and rear.

To compete in Solo II Unlimited Street Class, a car must have the proper safety equipment. Kiesel enlisted Auto Sport Concepts (ASC) to construct a chrome-moly roll cage for the track that wasn't too invasive for street duty. Gabe Agana and Dana Czech of ASC fabricated a gem. In fact, at one point, the Mazda flexed some crazy cantilever rear shocks. The cage has been joined by the appropriate Auto Meter gauges, a Corbeau racing seat, Safe Craft fire extinguisher system, a Dave Turner quick-release steering wheel and the proper Simpson harnesses.

This RX-7 makes the most of the Mazda's racing legacy, taking a daily driven street 7 about as far down the track as you can go without trailering it to events. It's more than civil on the street, has an exotic three-rotor engine, fat fenders and all the little details that turn heads. Yes, indeed. This 7 is definitely a 10.

By E.K. Cozzene
15 Articles



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