"One man's trash is another man's treasure." It's true. There are things in life that you will toss away that someone else will see value in—significant value. With cars, it couldn't be more apparent. The whole trade, barter, and selling of parts 'n' cars is driven by personal value. Is it worth giving up something rare to acquire something possibly less rare, but something you want more? Value isn't always measured in dollar bills, especially when it comes to this hobby of ours. Money can buy just about anything but sentimental value—that's the real game changer and what means the most to us.
Take a look at this '93 Mazda RX-7. It's beautiful, right? If we were to tell you at one point that this FD3S was a shell left for dead, would you believe us? Well, it's true. There was a point in this vehicle's journey where it was a stripped-down piece of metal left in the back of a tuning shop and there were no plans to ever complete it. But today, it lives a glorious life because Matt Harrell saw it as his own personal treasure. After he acquired it, he dumped so much money into it that he claims to have just lost count somewhere after $45K worth of parts and labor. In his eyes, it's priceless; however, let's take a step back to the beginning when Harrell first laid eyes on his now 2JZ-powered FD.
"I originally built this 2JZ-GTE engine with the idea that it was going to go into my '95 Nissan 240SX. Once I finished putting it together, I just couldn't justify dropping the 2JZ into my S14. There was so much work into the motor that I felt the need to put it into something nicer." Harrell explains. "I have always been a fan of putting different engines into different vehicles but a part of me actually wanted to find a MKIV (JZA80) Supra. I like to think outside of the box but it almost seemed fitting that it would go back into a Supra. The problem was I just simply couldn't find one. They were all so expensive."
Without a home for his built Toyota heart, Matt began looking at other alternatives. Finding a Supra at the right price was almost impossible, so he turned to his buddy Dan Kang at ZEN Motorsports for some advice.
"I told Dan I had this engine that I built with nothing to put it in and he mentioned that he knew of an RX-7 shell that may have been available," Matt continued. "This custom widebody FD RX-7 had been sitting in the back of a body shop for five years. It was an extensive project that had been left there neglected over time. Come to find out that I actually knew who the owner was. It took about a month of haggling but I eventually convinced him to let me take it off his hands."
Now this sounded like a good deal, but Matt assured us the car was in complete disarray. It was a bare shell that was not only missing an engine, but basically everything else as well. He soon discovered just how expensive, and hard to get, replacement parts were for an RX-7, but he was left undeterred in his plight. Harrell had a vision of exactly how he wanted his car to look and the finished product becoming the face of his own shop was all the incentive he needed to see it through. Countless hours went into fabrication and assembly. Anything that closely resembled what most would call a "budget" was non-existent, but neither was any sign of regret. When it came to time and money, to Matt and his friends who helped, it was all well spent.
Under the layer of Mercedes silver paint was an authentic C-West aero kit that had been carefully molded onto the body. The smooth body lines with the kit grafted in helped to flow with the widened body panels. Stuffed underneath the enlarged wheel arches were staggered 18" forged HRE 545 wheels—a line that's been discontinued by HRE. Wrapped around the 12.5" wide rears were a pair of stout 345-series BFGoodrich drag radials. The exterior came together so well that Matt himself was a little surprised. As he recalls, "I was amazed at how pretty the car was. I almost didn't want to race it. One of my goals was to build it to compete at half-mile top speed events, and that is exactly what I did! Every time I take the car out now, people ask me about it. It's a real attention-grabber!"
The Mazda had come full circle. Originally left for dead by its owner, it now lived a new life as a savage of a race car with the looks to match—and it all started with heart of a Supra. This motor that Harrell had built and deemed too potent for his own S14 was indeed no joke. The 2JZ engine block was fortified with CP pistons and Manley connecting rods, while the valvetrain was fully upgraded using Brian Crower components. The factory twin turbochargers were removed—now in its place is a single, larger, Comp Turbo CT6X unit mounted to a custom manifold. Dual Bosch 044 fuel pumps deliver plenty of race gas to an engine that produces well over 800 hp. Assisting in delivering all that power to the beefy drag radials is a six-speed manual transmission from a Nissan 370Z that's been retrofitted to the 2J. A Ford 8.8" rear end and custom aluminum driveshaft ensure that the power actually makes it there. 684 lb-ft of torque would likely nuke any type of OEM Mazda drivetrain, so Harrell knew he needed to bring reinforcements.
We asked him what exactly was needed to create a project of this caliber and he reminded us that it is no easy, or affordable, task: "Do your research. Make sure you're ready for such a build both mentally as well as financially. Basically, everything on this car had to be custom-made and I would say that 90 percent of it was done in-house, which helped to cut the costs down, but I was still over budget. And one more thing: If you're married, be prepared to kiss your spouse's ass for the next three years! It's all totally worth it, though. I swear!"