500hp @20psiMemo to the guy who opts for the sportbike instead of the sports car: We don't blame you. And to the guy who'd rather crank over all 1000 or so cubic centimeters of his Kawasaki Ninja or Honda CBR than several more liters of six-cylinder, twin-turbocharged automobile power: We understand. And to the guy who deals with near-death experiences caused by stupid people in SUVs the size of Sherman tanks; with rain clouds that appear out of nowhere on an otherwise sunny day; and with home-mortgage-like insurance premiums-all for the unmatched power-to-weight-ratio thrills that are unrivaled by anything other than a bike: We get it.
Few devices on four wheels, no matter how costly or well-modified, can match the adrenaline-induced acceleration and cornering prowess offered by $10K's worth of the right bike. And few cars have the ability to make an inexperienced noob scream "oh shit" like the average sportbike can. If you've ever ridden any type of sportbike worth anything, you'd know this. Robert Mealey does.
Mealey doesn't just like bikes-they're a part of his life. Really. Motorcycle and auto dealerships run in the Mealey family. He sells Hondas, Kawasakis, Yamahas and Suzukis to his fellow Floridians and, we're sure, to the occasional aforementioned noob. Despite all this, Mealey's passions are also directed toward an R1 Mazda RX-7, one that comes about as close to the feel of a sportbike on four wheels as you'll ever get. He describes his initial experience with an RX-7 as that of driving "an overpowered go-cart with doors." Close enough.
The same year Mazda decided to kill the RX-7, Mealey took the opportunity to testdrive a used '94 model for the weekend. He fell in love with the car, but, like many would-be RX-7 owners, shied away from buying it because of the less conventional, somewhat intimidating rotary engine. Face it. If you've ever contemplated buying any RX-7, you know the same thing's crossed your mind. Rotaries aren't exactly the most common platforms, and expensive fires are not uncommon on early FD models. So it goes without saying that RX-7's paired with brave souls seem to be the norm. But Mealey's not a wuss. Even though he passed on the FD and bought a Corvette. He knew he messed up. The Corvette sucked, and visions of little Wankels soon clouded his brain once again. OK, it wasn't exactly soon. It took Mealey 11 years or so to once again consider entering rotary-dom, but that's beside the point. It started with the purchase of Mazda's newly released RX-8, which Mealey realized would never really be as quick as he'd like, and commenced with the purchase of a friend's late-model RX-7, an R1 to be specific.
Now would be a good time to mention just why the '93-'95 RX-7 is so badass. For one, it's really a no-compromise sports car with one of the most sophisticated sequential turbocharger systems ever made-even today. The system is comprised of two small Hitachi turbos, one for near-instant low-rpm torque, and the other for high-rpm full-throttle good times. Those in the third generation RX-7 market didn't care if the coin tray was conveniently located, or if the glovebox's cubic-inch count was sufficient relative to God knows what. No, the FD appealed mainly to those looking for a no-holds-barred, well-balanced race car they could drive on the street-legally. The twin-rotor, 13B is good for an impressive 255 hp, not exactly jaw-dropping horsepower figures but enough to warrant more than a few major automotive magazines to acclaim the RX-7 as superior to cars like Dodge's newly introduced Viper. Accolades like these are not hard to come by when you've got a 50/50 weight distribution; a front/mid-ship, RWD engine configuration; and a low center of gravity-all accompanied by a relatively favorable power-to-weight ratio.
But back to Mealey, who, just over a decade after his first RX-7 testdrive, now owned his dream car-an FD of his own. No matter that it was rotting away under a tree. With not so good paint. And dry-rotted tires. And a clunky, rough running, unreliable engine. So maybe it wasn't Mealey's dream RX-7, but it was his. And he knew what he wanted to do to make it right. He also had the $70K it took to make it happen.
Take $70K worth of Mazda parts, a so-so RX-7 and add a dummy into the equation and you end up with a car that will likely never be finished. Luckily, Mealey is not a dummy. He recognized the importance of setting a finish date early on for the car, just a few months down the road at an upcoming Hot Import Nights event. Under the auspices of his friend and employee, Luis Sutton, the body was overhauled and painted in time. Pettit Racing, Key Mazda, A-Spec Tuning, Ultimate Audio and Intense Motorsports divvied up the seventy grand amongst themselves in exchange for important things Mealey and Sutton needed for the RX-7, like a turbocharger, a widebody kit and some wheels.
An RX-7 of the proportions Mealey imagined needed big horsepower: 500 hp at 20 psi to be exact. When it comes to balls out horsepower like this, Mazda's sequential turbo setup is really no longer an option. An A-Spec Tuning 500R turbo kit was installed instead, which features a T4-based turbo; a handcrafted, stainless steel exhaust manifold; and a Tial wastegate. A-Spec's 500R turbo is really pretty extraordinary. The T4-based turbocharger delivers GT35R response, but with a much more efficient top end. It spools just as fast and is capable of well over 500 hp, like you'd expect of the larger GT40R. Want numbers? How about a flow rating of 75 lb/min with a pressure ratio of 2.75? What wasn't provided by A-Spec was from GReddy. This included a front-mount intercooler and blow-off valve. Pettit Racing ported the FD's 13B, fitted the Wankel with new housings and rotors, and also supplied Mealey with a customized fuel system, cold air intake and lightened flywheel. The usual suspects followed, including an upgraded clutch from ACT, a titanium exhaust from GReddy, a Power FC engine management from A'PEXi, and an intercooler fogger from Nitrous Express.
$70K worth of FD RX-7 stuff is overwhelming to read about, let alone to buy, install and tune. Mealey had his work cut out for him. The FD's suspension and braking systems, body, interior, and entertainment system all receive attention equal to that given under the hood. A'PEXi N1 dampers, as well as bars and bushings from Pettit, GReddy and Cusco, make the already nimble RX-7 handle even better; the several hundred horsepower is brought to a near grinding halt with wheel-sized rotors and four-pot calipers from Brembo. The first thing you'll notice about this RX-7 is the BRS Autodesign widebody kit-right before your eye is caught by the mess of carbon-fiber panels from Pettit Racing, RE Amemiya and Seibon. Inside is a cockpit full of Auto Meter gauges, a GReddy Type-S boost controller, and a PLX Devices wideband air/fuel meter. These, too, are hard to miss. But the best view of all is likely that from being planted firmly in the Bride Vios III driver seat. It'd be even better if you had Mealey's keys in your hand.
Mealey's RX-7 is not a sportbike. However, it's about the quickest, most agile piece of machinery with a roof and four corners this side of a sportbike that you'll ever get. With cars like these, maybe we don't understand the guy who opts for the sportbike after all.
Specs: 1993 MAZDA RX-7
500hp @ 20psi
Pettit Racing race-ported 13B
Pettit Racing 850-cc/min primary and 1600-cc/min secondary injectors, rail and lines
Pettit Racing fuel pressure regulator
Pettit Racing Nippondenso hi-flow fuel pump
Pettit Racing custom cold-air intake
Pettit Racing cool power thermalmanagement system
Pettit Racing mid-pipe resonator
Pettit Racing polished aluminum AST
Pettit Racing and Unorthodox pullies
A-Spec Tuning 500R single turbo kit
GReddy 3-row FMIC
GReddy blow-off valve
GReddy titanium exhaust
GReddy aluminum oil catch tank
A'PEXi Power FC
Nitrous Express intercooler fogger
Magnecor 10mm ignition wires
Rebuilt and upgraded transmission
Pettit Racing lightweight flywheel
Pettit Racing TKT race axles
Pettit Racing super short shifter
Goodridge braided clutch lines
A'PEXi N1 dampers ExV
Pettit Racing TKT track pro race launch kit
Pettit Racing front anti-roll bar
Pettit Racing adjustable tie rod ends
Cusco carbon-fiber rear strut tower braceGReddy polished front strut tower brace
Paint and bodywork by Luis Sutton of Champions
BRS Autodesign widebody kit
Seibon carbon-fiber hood
RE Amemiya carbon-fiber rear GT wing
EVOR HID sleek headlight kit
Pettit Racing carbon-fiber door handle covers
RM Dymont Mazda red paint
HN Body clear coat paint
Bride Vios III seats with Low Max mounts
Momo Millennium sport steering wheel
Sparco Globe-R shift knob
Sparco luxor shifter boot
Carbon-fiber door sill covers
Auto Meter oil pressure, water temperature, air/fuel gauges
PLX Devices M-300 wideband air/fuel meter
GReddy Profec Type-S boost controller
FC-Datalogit PC interface for Power FC
Brembo gran turismo 13.1-inch front brakes with 4-pot calipers
Brembo slotted and drilled rear rotors
Goodridge braided brake lines
JLine custom fit 10RL2 wheels (18x11.5 rear, 18x10 front)
Nitto NT-01 tires