Such a matter of conjecture, building a car the "right" way can be. Based on past experiences, influences and opinions, each of us harbors a different vision of how any perfect car should be built. One man's flawlessly replicated JDM Civic Type R is a hardcore performance nut's played-out, fanboy rice rocket. And someone else's high-dollar, track-prepped EVO could be regarded among street car purists as downright ugly or impractical. But every once in a while, there comes a car modified so purposefully and thoroughly, with just the right amount of attention paid to every last detail, in ways that enhance the performance of the car's every attribute to just the right degree, that enthusiasts of all styles will agree that it was simply built "right". Bruce Kress's '93 FD3S RX-7 isn't one of those cars.
"I'm actually not sure what I like more," laughs Bruce, "when people give me a thumbs up, going down the highway, or when they flip me off." Having built a turbocharged '99 Civic Si as his first car, and later (after the Civic was stolen on his first day of college), a similarly boosted AP1 S2000 that made the pages of Honda Tuning back in May of '07, he's well versed with the right ways to build a car. And he purposely built this one in spite of them. "The more I watched people get bummed out trying to build the perfect car and hate on anyone who was doing it differently," he recalls, "the more I wanted to build something completely opposite of what those assholes were doing."
As he tells us, Bruce's goal in building the car was to do it "Osaka style"--to, as he puts it, take a perfectly good track or luxury car . . . and ruin it. Think flared, Bosozoku-inspired family sedans-turned touge machines, dekotora, or bagged luxury rides on ridiculously off-set deep-dish wheels, and you've got the right idea. And to make sure his message would really be felt by all the right people, he started with one of the most highly regarded performance platforms of the scene. "Ruin a Civic or Integra and no one really cares," he laughs, "but ruin one of the best Japanese sports cars ever made, and people really get pissed!"
Before he could turn his rolling middle-finger dream-car into reality, Bruce had to find one first. For that, he went to Chuck Wang, owner of NorCal's Rotary Extreme, and made him a deal on a forgotten-about FD Chuck had once taken in as a personal project car. It was red with a tan interior, and in rough shape--every body panel was dented, and in place of the factory front bumper was a crudely prepped, Invader-style fascia. Under the hood was a different story. The car's 13B-REW powerplant had been rebuilt, given a custom street port, and its infamous "rat's nest" of vacuum lines had been replaced with silicone enhancements. The driveline had also been strengthened with an Exedy Cerametallic clutch and lightened flywheel. "What sealed the deal for me was that it started right up and ran strong," recalls Bruce--not a common condition in which to find a 16 year-old, twin-turbo, rotary-powered supercar with a reputation for overheating and a history of "spirited driving".
Styling was Bruce's first priority, and he knew how he wanted it to go down before he got started. He shared his vision with the online community, and found inspiration in their opinions. "Nearly everyone hated on me for what I wanted to do with the car," he explains, "That made me want to do it even more." Among the open-minded minority, Bruce found Ronald of El Monte, CA's Aero Duo: importer, fabricator, and specialist of all things rare and JDM. He's the one to thank for the FEED front bumper, RE Amemiya fender mirrors and taillight cover, JDM hood and side markers, and GP Sports mid wing that, when combined with JP side skirts and rear bumper accents, give Bruce's FD the aggressive, over-the-top, yet not cheesed-out look he was after. After adding the bits, the online community was screaming "rice!" at Bruce, but he couldn't hear them--he was off at the paint shop, picking up Blackberry Pearl paint for an '09 Honda Fit . . . to cover his FD with. "That pissed them off even more," Bruce tells, "I loved it."
As Autokonexion's Mike Burless and friend shaved the FD's rear indicator light, radio antenna, rear wiper, and water nozzle in preparation for metallic purple hues, Bruce replaced the tired tan interior that nearly all '93 cars came with, with a black one also sourced from Aero Duo. He also added a pair of Bride Zeta II seats he picked up from former 2NR feature car owner J.P. Cao ("A Welcomed Challenge"; Jan '08), a Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel that an ex-girlfriend bought him (after they broke up . . . what a pimp), Defi gauges to monitor basic engine vitals, and some Pioneer ICE. And the obtrusive pink shift knob, and ugly, fur-laden stereo enclosure in the trunk? "People on the forums were calling the car `gay'," Bruce says, "so I gayed it up even more. F-- those guys."
Bruce's last exterior mod--and ironically, the one he'd begun planning before the car was even purchased--its wheels, was now his last aesthetic hurdle to conquer. He spent months researching wheel sizes and offsets, tire aspect ratios and sidewall characteristics, fender flaring options and massaging techniques, before settling on the combination now rolling hard under the FD: Weds Cerberus 2 wheels, sized at 19x10 up front with 215/35 Hankook V4ES tires, and a ridiculous 19x12 with 275/30 Falken FK452s in the rear. As for offsets and fender modification--don't bother asking. "It took me months to figure out," he laughs, "I'm not telling anyone how I did it." What we can tell you is that keeping such a tight fitment in pristine shape during daily driving is another chore in itself--in Bruce's case, one handled by re-valved Kei Office coilovers with 14kg springs up front, and steel beam-rivaling 18kg curlies in the rear. "It's a little stiffer on the road than most lowered cars," laughs Bruce, "but not too bad. It only catches air over the big bumps."
"What about the engine," you ask? For Bruce, it wasn't much of a concern. The FD3S RX-7's sequential-turbo 13B-REW is potent on its own, especially for the daily-driven/weekend drifting action Bruce was planning for it. Its stock turbos were retained, but given matching HKS Super Mega Flow intakes, the car's OE side-mount intercooler was ditched in favor of a GReddy front-mount replacement with piping, and a Type-R blow-off valve. An HKS downpipe, custom test-pipe, and Boso-inspired exhaust widen toward the rear of the car, providing an unobstructed outlet from the turbos that gives the RX-7 an excessive roar and appearance even the cops seem to respect. "As loud as this thing is," Bruce explains, "I've never been given a modified exhaust ticket." A Fluidyne radiator and 32-row engine oil cooler from Baker Precision replace under-achieving OE cooling equipment, and the car's stock engine management system was replaced with an A'PEXi Power FC stand-alone unit, and actually de-tuned by Yoshiya of Garage RX in Huntington Beach, CA. "The car was boosting around 15 psi," Bruce explains, "but when Yoshi tuned it to make exactly 300 whp at only 10 psi as a low boost setting, I decided to call it quits. It's fast enough, easy on the engine, and the idea of the purists getting pissed that I dialed back power makes me laugh."
When questioned of his future plans, Bruce tells that he's going to continue enjoying the FD, now that modifications are done. "I didn't build this car to compete with anyone," he says, "I built it to make me smile, and to make others smile who understand that." He plans to continue driving it regularly, sliding it around at amateur track day events or through the canyons on the weekends, not concerning himself with the wear and tear it will inevitably incur. "When the engine pops, I might swap in a 20B," he says, "Or maybe I'll just sell it and ruin an NSX!"
Behind The Build
Being one of “those guys”
“Look out . . . ‘those guys’ are here.”
1993 Mazda RX-7
Output 300 whp @ 8,100
Engine 13B-REW; Rotary Extreme Stage 2 street port; GReddy Type-R blow-off valve, front-mount intercooler and piping, pulleys; HKS Super Mega Flow intakes (x2), downpipe; custom mid-pipe, exhaust; Fluidyne radiator; Spac radiator cap; Juran water temperature sensor holder; R Magic oil cap; AST delete; Odyssey dry cell battery, relocated to trunk; Setrabb 32-row engine oil cooler; A’PEXi Power FC, commander; Sun Auto Hyper Voltage System; ’60s ambulance siren horn conversion
Drivetrain Exedy Stage 2 Cerametallic clutch; lightened flywheel; OEM Torsen LSD
Suspension Kei Office coilovers; Swift springs (14kg/mm front, 18kg/mm rear rates); Super Pro bushings
Wheels/Tires Weds Cerberus 2 wheels (19x10 front, 19x12 rear); Hankook V4ES tires, 215/35-19 (front); Falken FK452 tires, 275/30-19 (rear)
Exterior Feed front bumper; JP side skirts, rear bumper; JDM FD3S hood, side markers, LED running lights; RE Amemiya fender mirrors, taillight cover; GP Sports mid wing; shaved rear indicator light, radio antenna, rear wiper, water nozzles; custom fender modification; ’09 Honda Fit Blackberry Pearl paint; Xenon-Vision 5,000K HID conversion; IPF puddle lights
Interior OEM black interior conversion; Bride Zeta 2 seats, modified seat rails; Nardi 330mm Deep Corn steering wheel; Works Bell short hub, quick release; Defi Link, BF gauges: boost, water temp., oil temp., oil pressure, EGT; A’PEXi Power FC Commander; Gotham Racing PFC commander holder; the largest, pinkest shift knob ever; Behrman LCD cabin lights, license plate light; Broadway mirror; custom floor mats, switch panel
Electronics Pioneer AVH-P6600DVD head unit, Premier 10-inch shallow subs (X2), Premier two-channel 1,200-watt amp, three-way door speakers; Bose factory optional rear sub; custom pink fur enclosures