"Is there such a thing as not modifying a vehicle?" That rhetorical question from Jonathan Whiting of Fayetteville, NC, conveys his perspective as an automotive enthusiast in a simple, concise fashion. There is just no other option than to build a car, and when Jonathan proceeded with this build he decided to mix worlds to create his idea of the perfect street car.
The purpose of the build was simple: "To own something unique that is fast, loud, and fun." To achieve that goal, Jonathan chose the beloved FD RX-7 as the chassis to build upon. As one of the most timeless chassis ever made, the FD RX-7 is often discussed on forums and in person about how much people love the car and plan to build one. Still, you don't see too many of them actually doing it. Jonathan made his mind up and set out to find a clean chassis. Eventually, with a little luck and patience, he found a car with only 32K miles on it. It had been sitting in front of a shop for years, just waiting for someone to pick it up. It didn't matter that the shop just so happened to be in another state and over 350 miles away, Jonathan grabbed three friends (and a Dachshund) and they all hopped in a pickup and made the road trip together.
Now, I know that some—if not most—of you who have a special place in your heart for the beloved FD RX-7 are purists. In addition to being purists, you are also rotary heads (and let me not forget Mazda heads, in general), so I know that some of you are shaking your head in disagreement and maybe even disgust at the powerplant that moves this FD around. But hey, it is what it is and these combos are far from rare these days. GM LS swaps are slowly but surely becoming more and more popular among the import tuning community. The swap can be found in more than a few chassis, ranging from FD RX-7s to 240SXs, so, love it or hate it you might as well take the time to at least know what it is about the motor that makes it so appealing. The LS2 was the base engine for the Chevy Corvette, starting in 2005, as well as the Pontiac GTO. The eight-cylinder LS yields just about 6.0 liters, has just about an 11:1 compression ratio, and produces around 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Given the engine's compact size relative to its displacement and power output, the engine has become a popular choice for swaps in everything from hot rods to light aircraft. Additionally, these motors are everywhere and easy to find, and the aftermarket support is near endless. So, is it really all that surprising that it found its way into the older RX-7, and its trouble-plagued rotary?
Jonathan opted for a T56 transmission to pair up to the LS2 motor. For those of you unaware, this transmission was quite impressive, especially given when it was first introduced to the market. The T56 trans is a six-speed manual that was originally designed and built by BorgWarner for the Dodge Viper back in 1992. Companies, ranging from GM, Dodge, and Ford, have utilized it over the years in cars like Pontiac GTOs, Mustang Cobras, and even Aston Martin DB7s and the V12 Vanquish—impressive, right? How about this fun fact: The entire case, including the bellhousing is made entirely of aluminum. Additionally, it uses a hydraulic clutch and features internal stops, which make stop bolts typically needed on shifter mechanisms unnecessary. Its various versions came from the factory able to handle anywhere from mid 300 lb-ft of torque all the way to mid 500 lb-ft. Finally, Jonathan decided on the Hurst Billet shifter assembly to make gear changes when he decides what power to drop and when to drop it. Specifically designed for the T56 transmission, it offers a high pivot ratio mechanism that reduces shifter throw. The point is, if you haven't figured it out yet, the parts selection in this build makes it an absolute blast to drive.
"I really just wanted something powerful that handled well and was easy on the eyes," Jonathan says. Producing 448 whp and 403 lb-ft of torque, this street cruiser has all the power it needs. Tein Monoflex coilovers combined with Racing Beat antisway bars take care of the handling. North Shore Blue Pearl paint slathered on top of the Vertex aero-adorned chassis, sitting on bronze Work Meister S1R wheels, makes the vehicle easy on the eyes. Well, Jonathan, you've clearly gotten what you wanted, so what's next? "I've been tossing around the idea of putting on ITBs or a turbo," he says. Whatever direction Jonathan chooses to go, we'll be waiting.
Behind The Build
U.S. Army Infantryman
2 1/2 years
Cars and motorcycles
"I really just wanted something powerful that handled well and was easy on the eyes."
1993 Mazda RX-7 (FD3S)
Output: 448 whp / 403 lb-ft of torque
Engine '06 Chevy LS2; COMP Cams custom grind camshafts, valvesprings, retainers; HMS urethane mounts; custom intake with K&N filter; Stainless Works 17?8- to 3-inch headers; Vibrant Performance catalytic converter and custom exhaust system; Mishimoto radiator and hoses; Flex-a-lite radiator fans; Walbro 255-lph fuel pump; Aeromotive A1000 FPR; GM Camaro oil pan; K&N oil filter; AMSOIL motor oil; Dextron coolant with water wetter; NGK spark plugs; MSD spark plug wires; Optima RedTop battery; minor wire tuck
Drivetrain T56 GTO transmission; HMS mounts; The Driveshaft Shop steel driveshaft; Hurst shifter
Suspension TEIN Monoflex coilovers (14K front, 12K rear), rear strut bar; Racing Beat front and rear sway bars
Wheels/Tires Work Meister S1R matte bronze with polished bronze lips (front 19x9.5 +0 offset, rear 19x10.5 +0 offset), RS-R lug nuts; Falken FK452 225/35-19 front and 255/35-19 rear
Brakes Hawk front and rear brake pads; StopTech drilled and slotted front/rear rotors and front/rear brake lines; Motul RBF600 brake fluid
Exterior North Shore Blue Pearl paint; Vertex front bumper with canards, modified side skirts, rear bumper; Shine Auto fenders, rear spoiler; Seibon hood; RE Amemiya fender mirrors, carbon-fiber-look door handle trim; Hot Water Labs headlights and HID kit; Mazda '99 taillights
Interior Bride Gias front seats; custom seat rails and brackets; Vertex 10th Anniversary steering wheel; NRG steering hub, quick release; Hurst shift knob; Autopower rollbar; custom-paneled trunk by Master Audio Creations
Electronics Defi Racer temperature and oil pressure gauges; Pioneer 4300 DVD head unit, component speakers; Kicker L7 subwoofer, 300.2 amplifier; HP Tuners program flash
Gratitude "JK Motorsports, thank you Jon and Joe for all of the lift time and motivation; my family and friends who dealt with my 'hangriness' during the build; Jimmy, April, Jaime, Robbie, Ashley, and Madi; Team Emotion and all the boys for the trash talk."