Frisili Casasola, or Fris as some prefer to call him, is a man after our own hearts. Not just because he has impeccable taste in automobiles and loves time attack, but because he still owns and drives his "poor college kid project." Say what you will, but there's something to be said for a guy who refuses to let go of a chassis, even when the build seems complete and there is no other direction to be seen.
When Fris bought his car back in November 2003, it was little more than a tattered $500 bill posing as an '87 RX-7 Sport with a naturally aspirated 13B. But to a kid who grew up building and racing RC cars, owning your own full-sized version was like hitting the jackpot. So, with the car's unmuffled exhaust emitting an ear-shattering din, the elated Fris blasted home in his very own FC, not knowing this purchase would soon become far more than just a hobby.
Dumping every dime he could find into the car quickly became an obsession. Various components from junkyards and the RX-7 Club made their way on board, all in the hopes of aiding in the attainment of Turbo II status.
It was around this time that a few of Fris' closest friends began buying their own FC RX-7s, generating a tsunami of activity. By this point, the guys were primarily working on their cars at Fris' parents' house, eventually turning his $500 FC into a proper Turbo II. This success stirred up a fresh wave of creativity for all, and, before long, Fris and his friends were searching for a warehouse that could serve as both shop and vehicle storage.
With shop space aplenty and a stable teeming with cars, cruises quickly became the norm for the crew of friends. It was on one of these drives that enough people stopped to ask if the group would be willing to work on other projects, that the guys decided it might be time to open shop. Just like that, Lucky 7 Racing was born.
As the hobby quickly turned into a business, close friend and engine enthusiast David Segalla was brought on deck. It was 2006, and porting rotary engines was officially on the Lucky 7 Racing roster, providing ample room for David and Fris to work together on his RX-7. But then, in January 2007, David tragically passed away, leaving the guys with little more than memories and a sticker with their deceased friend's name on it.
As heart-wrenching as this may have been, Fris knew his friend would not have wanted Lucky 7 Racing to fold without him. So David's engine-building knowledge lived on, and Fris found a way to keep his legacy alive, via a rotary-driven daily reminder, accompanied by David's signature sticker, which remains affixed to the rear hatch of Fris' RX-7.
Depths of sentimentality run deep when you consider what this vehicle has seen, and that it too is a survivor. Not only was this Fris' first RX-7, but it's also the only remaining Lucky 7 Racing original. For one reason or another, all the friends who started the shop have relinquished their rides, save for Fris. Commonly referred to as "Lil Red," this rotary-powered rocket is something of a legend in the Mazda community, and its owner couldn't be more proud of its evolution.
Speaking of living legends, we should probably discuss how Jonathan "Jonny" Grunwald got involved in all of this, along with his significance in this RX-7's most recent rebuild. If the name sounds familiar, it's because you've perused our feature on Jonny's track-focused TCP Magic RX-7, his record-breaking Renesis turbo RX-8, his other SEMA MX-5 collaboration with Tommy Babiarz, or maybe his involvement with Team Magic/Mad Mike. As he's made his solo debut from Bulletproof Automotive operating as TCP Magic's North American partner, one thing many don't know is Lucky 7 Racing has been one of his domestic bases of operations for his ongoing personal projects. With more than seven years of experience handling extreme project cars, it only made sense that he was the one tapped to manage the revision of Fris' "Lil Red" RX-7, along with securing its spot at SEMA with partners Spec Clutch and Toyo Tires.
Tackling SEMA projects is a pleasure for guys like Jonny, a passion some say can only be rivaled by Sam Du's lust for prime rib. Au jus aside, when Fris called Jonny up minutes after news of an FC Pandem aero kit was leaked, Jonny calculated SEMA deadlines. Fris had been Jonny's engine builder for almost a decade but was now going to get a crash course on what goes into rebuilding a complete car for the largest automotive trade show on earth.
With an endgame in sight, Lucky 7 Racing tore ravenously into the RX-7. With the bare bones exposed, Duran Industries was brought in to design a titanium V-mount intercooler, radiator, and oil cooler setup. Base measurements obtained, both engine and interior were removed ahead of transit to DTM Autobody in El Monte, California, where the car received wider hips and sexier lips, as well as a Porsche GT3 "Guards Red" color change.
Since the widebody was so aggressive, girthy 18x10.5 Volk Racing TE37V wheels with exclusive negative offsets had to be sourced. These wheels, coupled with ARP extended studs and Toyo R888R rubber in a squared 295/30R18 configuration, made track grip and painless tire rotation specialties for Lucky 7's Mazda.
With the car back from paint, Battle Aero 3D scanned the front end in order to design a removable, chassis-mounted splitter system. Four days later, the finished product was on the car, accompanied by a gargantuan 1,880mm rear wing.
After tossing fresh Sparco seats, Takata harnesses, and an Autopower 'cage into the mix, it was on to bolting the RE Amemiya diffuser back in, along with the car's custom exhaust and various other undercarriage accoutrements. As with all SEMA builds, there was one last item to arrive right before the show started, which, in this case, was a Rotora Super Challenge big brake kit, complete with ventilated titanium pistons, anti knock-back springs, and two-piece floating rotors.
Rebuild complete, Jonny secured a top spot at SEMA, where it saw ample amounts of foot traffic and was extremely well received. The day after SEMA, the team drove straight to California Speedway for SevenStock, where it started its life as a purpose-built time-attack car.
Fris tells us he's already begun planning to retire his beloved RX-7 after this year's season, with a final outing at Super Lap Battle in November. He really wants his Lil Red rocket ship to go back to being a street-driven machine once more, the same car he enjoyed regularly 15 years ago. However, he remains torn. On one hand, it is almost too pretty to race, and thrashing a 30-plus-year-old chassis with a suspension layout that is equally archaic has its limitations. But it also kicks a lot of ass, so much so, that it would be a disservice to retire the damn thing. Whether Lil Red retires from track duty or continues to race, one thing will remain: this RX-7's undeniable appeal. Classically lined and pristinely modified, it's the epitome of FC chassis perfection, which is precisely what you get when you decide to make your own luck.