"I got my first car when I was 16, which happened to be an RX-8 that I lightly modified," Clay Barnett began. "I got the RX-7 when I was 17. As you can probably imagine, I have always been a rotary fanboy." When most kids get their license, they might jump into a Civic or a 240. Not Clay. He's one step ahead of the curve, and now 22, is close to completing one of the sexiest RX-7s we've encountered in the last several years—and the project car he's dreamt about building since he was in the first grade.
"Like every kid does growing up, I idolized exotic cars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis," he continued. "As I grew older, I quickly realized those cars are way outside of something I could afford. I fell in love with the FD when I first discovered the four legendary JDM iconic cars of the '90s—the NSX, Skyline, Supra, and of course RX-7." Mazda's flagship sports car came into Clay's life after watching the original The Fast and the Furious film in which lead character Dominic Toretto drove a red RX-7 in the opening scenes. Since the FD was the most affordable from the four Japanese sports cars, he set his sights on buying the RX-7.
Good condition RX-7s can cost a pretty penny, many into the $20K range today, and so Clay was forced to settle on the RX-8 first, which isn't a bad problem to have if you ask us. The stint with Mazda's last rotary-powered car didn't last long as the high school student was involved in a T-bone accident. He bounced back undeterred and with enough insurance money to pick up the project car he'd dreamt about. Clay quickly found a '93 RX-7 that was ready for his laundry list of mods. And thankfully his first order of business wasn't throwing a nitrous kit under the passenger seat.
He did his homework and was inspired by Japan's Time Attack scene. A catalog of quality Japanese parts was ordered right off the bat, such as the A'PEXi exhaust and coilovers, HKS mid-pipe and blow-off valve, and Volk Racing TE37SL wheels. The 13B-REW received far more power thanks to a street port by Pettit Racing. Some of the rare pieces on Clay's car come from the exterior. "As for the Leg Sport side deflectors and the Ready Go Next front canards, there's only one other car in the U.S. that has the Leg Sport piece, and zero cars in the U.S. have the canards. My personal favorite is the fully authentic RE Amemiya AD9 carbon-fiber hood," he explained. We shouldn't forget all the complementing carbon he added, such as the duckbill spoiler, side steps, and rear diffuser.
Clay concluded, "Right now, I am at a crossroads due to budget, so I'm halfway between stanced and track, which in my opinion is part of what makes the car unique. But I am slowly saving the money I need to take my car to its final form." Final form meaning a V-mount intercooler setup, non-sequential turbo, and full wire tuck, plus he hints at one day owning a full RE Amemiya GT2 widebody. He still might just be a student and his dreams seem a little far-fetched to many of us, but as history shows, he's got an undying love for rotaries and the determination to fulfill his dreams. You can be sure to expect more to come from this youngblood and his ultimate RX-7.