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.
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.
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."
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."
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."