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 |   |  1988 Mazda RX-7 (FC3S) - Getting Lost in the Build
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1988 Mazda RX-7 (FC3S) - Getting Lost in the Build

A seven-year RX-7 project that ends in all the right places

Aaron Bonk
Dec 20, 2018
Photographer: Dax Rodriguez

They say you ought not get lost in the build, and for the most part, they're almost always right. Case in point: The Civic that's always on the hunt for more horsepower yet has never lit up a tire, the Evo that's changed turbos more often than oil yet remains on jack stands, and the 240 that's always awaiting some other bit of fabrication, and then, surely, it'll be done. Those who race, race, and those who don't almost always get lost in the build.

1988 mazda rx 7 BN sports type 2 front bumper Photo 2/24   |   1988 Mazda Rx 7 BN Sports Type 2 Front Bumper

Blake Olsen got lost in the midst of making the perfect second-generation RX-7, but his story ends differently. "Although it took seven years, I don't regret building it the way I did," Blake says, going on to recognize that every hour spent on the project is an hour taken away from the track. Blake had all that covered, though, and he had a backup drift car at his beck and call to minimize lost time at the track. But you're not here to read about the V8-swapped S13 that kept him busy while the FC was up in the air.

"The biggest challenge I face on all my builds," Blake says, "is being too picky with the details. I'll spend otherwise unnecessary time in places no one will ever see." But you see the eight-cylinder LS3 engine underneath the hood with its custom, equal-length and stepped headers, its dry-sump oiling system, and its forged internals with CNC-machined heads, an endeavor he left mostly in the hands of Valley Performance. "I didn't have a ton of firsthand experience with LS engines, but being affiliated with other [forms of] motorsports and my sponsors that could build me a reliable and powerful motor, it made sense to go this route." That and the fact that Blake, admittedly, just doesn't have enough experience with rotaries or turbochargers for them to be practical options.

1988 mazda rx 7 LS3 swap Photo 6/24   |   1988 Mazda Rx 7 LS3 Swap

Blake's inexperience goes beyond the RX-7. Not that you'd ever know it. "Prior to this car, I had virtually no experience with imports but welcomed the challenge." But don't mistake greenness with one class of cars for ineptitude. Aside from assembling that engine, Blake and his dad fabricated and assembled just about everything here, from its tube-chassis front end to its adjustable suspension bits to its oversized fenders. "I'm a sucker for quality, and I know that in comparison to a lot of the aftermarket [parts], I can build something better," he says "which, in the long run, is a good thing but does take a fair amount of time."

"I've always been infatuated with cars, from drawing cars and trucks to Legos to having hundreds of Hot Wheels," Blake says, reminding us that, although relatively new to import cars back in 2010 when the RX-7 project started, the Las Vegas-based performance-driving instructor isn't new to his appreciation for motorsports. "Prior to drifting, I raced other types of cars on asphalt, dirt oval, as well as the road course, and I built and maintained those cars."

1988 mazda rx 7 BN sports type 2 front bumper Photo 10/24   |   1988 Mazda Rx 7 BN Sports Type 2 Front Bumper

Blake also knows how to pick the right parts he couldn't possibly assemble on his own-like the G-Force dogbox transmission with its straight-cut gears that allow Blake to bang through gears faster than anything helical would ever allow. And the Haltech ECU that keeps everything underneath that V8's valve covers working in harmony. Not to mention the Wilwood six- and four-piston forged calipers that help bring it all to a stop.

"The plan was to build a competitive pro-am car, but ironically, the build took so long that I built another car while building this one," Blake says. It was all for the best, building two cars at once," he explains. "Having another car gave me tons of time to build [the RX-7] exactly how I want, and it's much more gnarly than I could have thought."

1988 mazda rx 7 MOMO seats Photo 14/24   |   1988 Mazda Rx 7 MOMO Seats

Blake and his dad probably could've finished the RX-7 a whole lot faster and avoided running the risk of getting lost in the build. But it wouldn't have turned out the same. "If I built this car more basic, I might have gotten to drive it more, but it wouldn't be what it is now," he says. "It would probably be just another 'sacrilegious V-8 RX-7,' as the purists put it."

1988 mazda rx 7 BN sports type 2 front bumper Photo 15/24   |   1988 Mazda Rx 7 BN Sports Type 2 Front Bumper
1988 mazda rx 7 LS3 engine Photo 19/24   |   1988 Mazda Rx 7 LS3 Engine
1988 mazda rx 7 baero diffuser Photo 20/24   |   1988 Mazda Rx 7 Baero Diffuser
1988 mazda rx 7 RacePak IQ3 dash logger Photo 24/24   |   1988 Mazda Rx 7 Racepak IQ3 Dash Logger
By Aaron Bonk
413 Articles
1988 Mazda RX-7 (FC3S) - Getting Lost in the Build
Tuning Menu
Owner: Blake Olsen
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Occupation: Driving coach
Instagram: @bae_olsen
Engine: Valley Performance-built LS3 engine transplant; custom CNC-ported cylinder heads; CP Carrillo connecting rods, 12.8:1 compression pistons; Eagle knife-edged stroker crankshaft; Holley High Rise intake manifold, custom REF equal-length stepped headers; NASCAR BoomTube side-exit exhaust; 5 Stage Stock Car Products dry-sump system with custom Canton oil pan; FSR radiator; Meziere electric water pump; Fuelab variable-speed fuel pump; 3-gallon dry-sump tank and 12-gallon fuel cell; Phenix Industries fittings and lines
Drivetrain: G-Force GSR four-speed dogbox transmission, chromoly Spool and stub axles; McLeod twin-disc Mag Force clutch; one-piece aluminum driveshaft; Pontiac GTO IRS differential; 300M axles with chromoly 930 CV joints; custom rear knuckles
Engine Management: Haltech 2500 Elite engine management; RacePak IQ3 dash logger
Footwork & Chassis: Stance XR2 custom-valved coilovers; Parts Shop Max Super Angle knuckles, tubular lower control arms; Speedway Engineering bladed front sway bar; Parts Shop Max spherical trailing arm pivots, rear subframe bushings, rear toe and camber links
Brakes: Wilwood Forged Superlite six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, aluminum hats and rotors, pedal assembly, brake bias adjuster; Speedway proportioning valve; ASD upright e-brake; custom hard lines throughout
Wheels & Tires: 17x10.5 -19 front, 18x11 -25 rear GMR DS-1 wheels; 255/35R17 front, 265/35R18 rear Achilles 123s tires
Exterior: B-LINE tube chassis; front and rear over-fenders; frameless hatch; BN Sports Type 2 front bumper and side skirts; Raysfactory rear wing with custom mounts and uprights; aluminum hood with NACA ducts; Baero aluminum diffuser
Interior: 10-point roll cage; MOMO Start seats, 330mm-deep suede wheel; Sweet MFG collapsible steering column and disconnect; Impact Racing HANS device harnesses; aluminum dash and switch panel; custom rear access panel; Longacre rearview mirror
Thanks: Dad and mom; Butch at Valley Performance; Dave at Stance; Raysfactory; Cheralyn at Achilles Tire; Steve at Phenix Industries; Rick at RTS; Pat and Brandon at Patrick's Signs; Dylan at Elevens Paint and Fiber; Ben, Seth, and Eric at EFI University; Phil at VR Wheels; Forrest at Get Nuts Labs; Dave Petrie at Spring Mountain Motorsports; and Dax Rodriguez

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