Nineteen seventy seven. That was the year Elvis died (or didn't). It was also the year Star Wars made its theatrical debut. People were drinking Tab cola, saying "dy-no-mite," and were into Three's Company and disco. More importantly however, 1977 was the year Elino Pavia's Mazda RX-3 rolled off the assembly line, although he couldn't have known it at the time. "I was only 4 years old back then," says Elino, "I was probably riding my tricycle." Fast forward 24 years to 2001, and you'll find Elino has moved well beyond tricycles and straight into the import scene. As for the RX-3, it's running far stronger than it ever did back in 1977 (sadly, the same can't be said for disco and Sha Na Na) and is enjoying a second lease on life as a balls-out dragster capable of running the quarter-mile in 10.48 seconds at 131 mph.
Elino picked up the rotary-driven RX-3 in '93 after deciding he wanted to differentiate himself from what he calls "Hondamania." The Mazda was a perfect choice. because, as Elino explains, "[It was] the only thing I could get a hold of at the time." Lucky for us he didn't happen to stumble across a Ford Festiva.
Despite his humble take on the subject, Elino definitely knew what he was getting into. After all, there are certain advantages to owning an RX-3: it's relatively cheap, rear-wheel drive, lightweight, and you can find a lot of used parts at junkyards. Which isn't to say outfitting a 24-year-old car for drag racing is any small task. Elino knew the stock powerplant wouldn't cut the mustard, so he swapped in a ported '93 Mazda 13B motor. He also balanced the rotors, shafts, and flywheel. As for the stock transmission, Elino dropped it like a bad habit, and replaced it with a fresher '93 Mazda transmission.
With its choice, Microtech MTX-8 fuel injection and RC Engineering modified stock Mazda fuel injectors, this RX-3 has Felix Wankel doing the Running Man in his grave. The Mazda engine provides big power with the help of a Turbonetics T04B turbocharger, Sheep Dog blow-off valve, and Spearco liquid-to-air intercooler and pipes. To get the most from all this muscle, there's an ATR turbo wastegate and manual boost controller. Under the hood, you'll also find an HPC'd external turbo housing and a coated custom stainless steel exhaust manifold.
To make the Mazda drag worthy, Elino has upgraded the rear end with a rock solid 9-inch Ford 31-spline axle and replaced the diff with a Strange aluminum spool. Inside, the Mazda interior is stripped to the bare essentials to save as much weight as possible.
There's a 10-point chrome-moly cage that helps strengthen the Mazda chassis, a Jaz aluminum drag seat, and an aluminum dash that Elino fabricated himself. All told, the buildup took six years-three years for the internals and three on restoration and bodywork. While the brute force of this Mazda's dyno'd 406 hp is impressive, it doesn't tell the whole story. You'll read about a ton of other cars in this magazine that can churn out just as much power, maybe even more, but they're all gonna lack what this RX-3 has in spades old school soul. This snub-nosed Mazda possesses a special quality that you just don't get from a manufactured body kit. However, "old school" implies more than just the obvious fact of the car's 1977 model year. It's like this when you're like Elino, you go beyond the purely superficial and don't bother with the trends. You understand that a trend never lasts and that there's always another one waiting to replace it. Instead, you go deeper, straight to the heart of the matter where it's more about substance and about being unique.
When you ask Elino how much his car is worth, he replies simply, "On an old school car, value almost doesn't exist because of the joy of building it." In other words, it's not about fashion, it's about the love the very thing that makes us care about the work we put into these cars in the first place. To borrow a phrase, it's dy-no-mite.