Photo Processing Ryan Lugo
You can be the greatest, you can be the best, you can be the King Kong bangin' on your chest. In the JDM world, these keywords defiant of a massive ape banging its chest represent the rotary tuning giant RE-Amemiya. The entire rotary and RX-7 industry roots stem from this pioneer, which started in '74. The founder, Isami Amemiya, has expanded its motorsports scope to such sanctions as D1 Grand Prix and Super GT. But like the most of us, RE started in the streets and grassroots racing. Back in '80s, when public "racing" activities were rampant in Japan, Amemiya-san could be found piloting variously tuned SA22 RX-7s, whether on the dragstrip, top speed trials, or even cross-country cannonball runs.
Fast-forward and the brand Amemiya-san created more than 40 years ago is regarded as the Holy Grail for hard-core Mazda fans. Sean Shokuoh of Northern California is one enthusiast who has kept his eye on RE-Amemiya since he knew how a rotary worked. Sean has devoted much of his life to Mazdas and racing. He also owns a company called JDM Palace, which imports all the Japanese goodies you can think of such as Junction Produce, Aimgain, and more. He built a '96 Mazda Miata that was published in Super Street four years ago; however, the two-seat roadster was more of a sunny day cruiser and show car than a car he could whip around the track. It was time for Sean to bring out the big guns...
We discovered this RE-Amemiya-built FD3S, which made its debut at Wekfest San Jose last year—Sean's ace in the hole. Many speculated that the vehicle was built by conventional means in which an aero kit was shipped over from Japan, then painted and installed in California. The rumors of the engine being built by some stateside rotary shop were also going around. Boy, they couldn't be more wrong... The truth is, this vehicle was manufactured by RE-Amemiya in Chiba, Japan—even the VIN plate reads "RE." It was then raced for several years on some of Japan's most prestigious racetracks before it was retired and put up for sale. Sean was able to find a way to purchase the car from its previous owner, load it on a container, and ship it stateside to make it his new personal weekend toy.
With a turnkey race car that was designed to take on plenty of abuse, Sean was having the time of his life driving a piece of JDM supercar history. That is, until his fourth race when the rotary went kaboom. The sensible solution? One would think to take the car to the nearest Mazda specialist and rebuild it. For Sean, he placed an order to RE-Amemiya for a full bridge-ported Wankel. It was only a matter of months until the new 13B arrived and Sean was back on track putting his RE-Amemiya RX-7 around Northern California's local road courses.
If you are a pure rotary head, or even a JDM purist, this machine will give you goose bumps. It must be seen in person! When we interviewed Sean, it actually felt good not to hear the ol' excuse, "Oh, I love RX-7s, but I hate how fragile the 13B is, so I swapped it for a 2J/LS." If you're a real race junkie, you know power is not everything. It's more about how the powerplant can efficiently relate to the rest of the chassis. Many RX-7 owners in the U.S. have a power-hungry mentality, which clashes with what RE-Amemiya and several other JDM tuners have believed in for years—responsiveness and balance are key. Sean's RX-7 doesn't have plans to set the next time attack record or even be driven on the street, but it's a machine designed to handle Fuji Speedway and Tskuba Circuit with its balance of power, weight, and control. And perhaps the best part about it for us is that you can save yourself a trip to Japan to witness an actual RE-Amemiya-built FD3S scream down a track. Just listen for him in our own backyards of California.
Memoirs of a Miata
Sean might possibly be one of the most hard-core JDM Mazda guys we know—just take a look at his '96 Miata we featured in the September '12 issue. Zeal coilovers, Endless brakes, BBS wheels, a very rare Pit Crew Racing front end, plus much more. It's quite possibly one of the sickest JDM-themed Miata builds we've seen stateside!