In '95, the only thing better than Mazda's sequentially turbocharged, third-generation RX-7 was a sequentially turbocharged, third-generation RX-7 that'd undergone the RE Amemiya treatment. And in '95, you didn't have to be a rotary fan to know who RE Amemiya was. Boy racers with their Civics tried emulating them, middle-agers with their Camaros lost to them, and you, well, you still think about them more than two decades later.
So does Phil Barone, but that's mostly because he's got an RE Amemiya-outfitted FD of his own parked inside his garage. The middle-ager with the Camaro had no idea what made RX-7s that wore the RE Amemiya badge so special and became even more confused when he saw one like Barone's with its Porsche-converted front end—a transformation that divides RX-7 lovers, offends Euro snobs, and confuses just about everybody else.
Limit Barone's FD to its German-inspired headlights and Japanese fascia, though, and you'll do yourself a disservice. This FD defines thoroughness, and it shows in the 13B-REW that's been overhauled by Pennsylvania's KDR Performance and fitted with a single Borg Warner S366 turbo that eliminates the complexities of Mazda's two-tiered layout of boost and allows for a whole lot more power. Here, Barone's addressed every corner of the FD, from the one-off air shocks developed by Broadway Static Suspension to the 10.5-inch Advans out back that fill the RE Amemiya fenders with precision.
Builds this polished don't get done by the inexperienced, and when Barone goes on to tell you that this is his fifth RX-7, how exactly this one came together so seemingly easily starts making sense. Since '92, when the second-generation model was introduced for the '93 model year, Barone says, he'd wanted an RX-7. The only things standing in his way were his age—he was only 13—and his finances—he didn't have any. A job at his parents' grocery store and seven years later meant that a low-mileage '94 was his. "It was the perfect FD," he says, one that introduced him to the world of pressurized rotaries, getting exposed at local car shows and, ultimately, getting sold off. "I was offered the right amount and sold it," he says. "But I couldn't live without driving a rotary.
Barone rinsed and repeated that same storyline with another '94, this one with a single turbo conversion and a body kit and, like the last one, regretted the sale before he'd made it to the bank. "After that one," he says, "I said 'no more,'" going on to tell about the '93 he'd pick up next. Here, Barone told himself the same sort of lies that you do, like how he planned on actually keeping this one, going so far as to say how it'd remain stock. An opportunity for him to nab Veilside's ultra-rare Fortune body kit meant the second half of his promise was already broken and was the start of Barone's most intense FD buildup yet. "I had to have it," the self-appointed "JDM junky" says about the aero. "I like rare parts and this was rare."
It won't be breaking news for you to hear that this FD, too, was sold off, leading to Barone's fourth rotary. "The sound, the performance, and the looks had me thinking I needed another one," he says. Only this time the sound was different. "I thought about getting a Supra, but the prices were crazy," he says. So he did the next most logical thing and swapped Toyota's 2JZ-GTE into another FD. His rationale? "What's better than two JDM cars in one?" he says.
Up on the auction block, again, was another Barone special, followed by another RX-7 for himself—this one a '93—only, so far, it appears to be his last. "I missed the rotary engine and its sound," he says—again—which led to the fifth and final build that, according to Barone, is full of more rare parts than anything he'd put together thus far. "I wanted to outdo myself for hopefully the last time," he says. Again. "I went on to the Yahoo! Japan auctions but couldn't find anything rare enough." That is, until he came across the RE Amemiya Porsche-meets-Mazda front-end that costs more than the car it's meant to bolt onto. Combine that with the rest of the aero that Barone handpicked and had modified to fit along with the reinforced 13B mill and what you end up with is an FD that, in all likelihood, won't be sold off anytime soon.
The six months Barone waited for the Japanese-made body pieces gave him the time he needed to execute just about everything else. "I went from the interior to the exterior and, finally, the motor was built," he says about the order of operations that culminated into the whole thing being sprayed Lamborghini Aventador orange. "Red? Nah. White? Nah. Yellow? Nah," he says about what was going through his head before seeing that Lambo in person, at which time he realized that orange was his color.
You think the RX-7's temperamental nature and bad rap are why Barone's cycled through so many of them, but you're wrong. He'd experienced the infamous vacuum line failures with his first RX-7, yet went on to buy four more. He knows just how expensive and sought after much of its aftermarket wares are yet keeps on searching for them. "Believe me, along the way, not everything went perfectly," he says. "We had fitment issues and tuning issues, but when you have dedicated people working on the car, it gets done."
Speaking of done, that's one thing Barone isn't. Instead of offing the FD, plans for swapping out its boosted 13B for Mazda's bruiser of a four-rotor, naturally aspirated 26B are already cooking. Combine that with the face of a Porsche and the color of an Aventador, and that guy in the Camaro is liable to lose it.