For an automotive enthusiast, the journey with your project car can be similar to having a relationship with another person; it is very easy to forget how you became a part of that relationship or why you are a part of it at all. Many people have experienced the pleasure of enjoying cars, not just utilizing them, some even on a very casual level—perhaps you pick up an automotive-related magazine once in a while or wash your car despite it being completely filthy. Over the years any sort of excitement you once felt about cars fades into the background of your life as other aspects take priority. Others experience what could most accurately be described as an obsession with anything car-related. From childhood they find themselves immersed in anything automotive, drooling over cars they someday hope to own.
For the sake of relevance, let’s focus on the second category of enthusiasts; I would imagine it best describes the majority of our readers. In the future, the same passion you had for your first car stays with you, effectively fueling your desire to grow as a mechanic, a driver, and an owner—an owner of one car, then another, and yet another. Before you know it you own a successful shop and are a worldwide competitor in time-attack racing. What do you do when you begin to feel a little jaded or just need a sense of clarity? You go back to your roots. You build a car for no reason other than to enjoy the car, no agenda, no pressure—just you and the car.
When most people hear the name Pan Speed they instantly visualize a familiar yellow blur flying around the Tsukuba Circuit. But the car you see on these pages today is not that blur; instead, it’s a much milder example also owned by the same company. Like many other well-established Japanese tuning shops, Pan Speed specializes in a particular engine and chassis. If it isn’t blatantly obvious, their specialty is front engine, rear-wheel-drive, rotary Mazdas. The small, family owned company in Saitama has built up quite a name for themselves, having one of the fastest time-attack cars in the world as well as being one of the most respected tuners on the island. Despite their accomplishments, they have not forgotten about the average consumer, people like you and I who have the daily joy—and horror—of driving the same car on our commute that we take to the track. Which brings us to this ’96 Mazda RX-7, a change of pace from the usual yellow car that we have grown accustomed to.
You go back to your roots. You build a car for no reason other than to enjoy the car, no agenda, no pressure—just you and the car.
This particular FD was built using parts that are readily available for purchase from their workshop or online. Starting with the aero, the front bumper has been replaced with Pan Speed’s in-house GT 2010 front bumper. The aero package continues with their GT 2010 side steps, GT 2007 front wide fenders, vertical fin, and rear over-fenders. A GT 2010 carbon bonnet sheds weight and allows hot air to escape the engine bay, while Pan Speed canards and a rear double wing converts airflow into grip. The suspension has been augmented only by the addition of Pan Speed’s SPL coilovers, which are re-valved Ohlins dampers (to the individual customer’s specs) and paired with Swift springs. PFC race pads and Pan Speed stainless steel braided brake lines extract the full potential from the already impressive braking system that comes equipped from the factory. Volk Racing CE28s complement the car aesthetically while reducing unsprung weight, and allow the use of 255/40 Dunlop Direzza Sports Z-1 Star Spec tires, providing the car with a much larger and stickier contact patch.
The engine in this car is unique for such an established tuning shop in the sense that it is incredibly simple, Pan Speed built this car to show what could be accomplished with the stock engine using just bolt-ons. The turbos have been upgraded to GSG’s Type S bolt-on turbo kit, along with basic supporting modifications. An HKS EVC 5 controls the boost levels, in this case keeping it at a steady 14.2 psi, and an F-con V Pro controls, well, everything else. A Blitz intercooler and its associated piping cool the pressurized air and direct it to the throttle body. Fuel is pumped out of the tank by a Nismo fuel pump (meant for the R34 GT-R), and passes through a Sard fuel pressure regulator and is finally released by 850cc injectors. Rotary engines are notorious for running very hot, so Pan Speed utilized their own three-row radiator to keep temps in check. The drivetrain has been strengthened to handle the added power with the addition of an OS Giken twin-plate clutch and lightweight flywheel. An OS Giken Superlock LSD helps transmit equal amounts of torque to the rear wheels under load. This formula is good for 372 reliable horsepower at 7,120 rpm and 40.2 kg of torque at 6,850 rpm.
Pan Speed does not use this car for any sort of competition, although it’s usually seen at track days and rotary meetings driving around the track along with their dedicated race cars at a slightly less hasty pace. The car is also registered for the street, sporting both license plates, which is no surprise considering the kind of machinery that can be seen on any of Japan’s roadways on any given day of the year. I would imagine that every employee at Pan Speed has sat in the Recaro bucket and gripped the Momo steering wheel installed in this car more times than they can recall, not for any kind of testing but for a reason far more universal—after all, every shop has a parts-getter car. Some shop employees just enjoy their trip to the store a bit more than others when the need arises for a few bolts or some cutting oil for the drill press. I would bet that driving this car brings a smile to every person fortunate enough to experience such a simple, unadulterated form of machinery. On a totally unrelated note, I really need to figure out exactly where one can send in their résumé to become the janitor over at a particular shop in Saitama.
I would bet that driving this car brings a smile to every person fortunate enough to experience such a simple, unadulterated form of machinery.
Behind the Build
Okuyama Hasuda-shi Saitama-ken, Japan
RE (Rotary Engine) specialist
Achieving higher performance with as few mods as possible
1996 Mazda RX-7
Engine Mazda 13B-REW; GSG Type S original bolt-on turbo; Pan Speed three-row radiator; Blitz three-row intercooler and piping; HKS EVC 5 boost controller, F-con V Pro; HPI oil cooler; NGK spark plugs; Mazda 850cc injectors; Nismo fuel pump (R34 GT-R); Sard fuel pressure regulator; Do Engineering exhaust; Wako’s oil and fluids; Odyssey battery
Suspension Ohlins-based Pan Speed SPL coilovers; Swift springs 16 kg/mm (front) 18 kg/mm (rear)
Wheels/Tires Rays Volk CE28 17x9.5 +40 (front) +22 (rear); 255/40/17 Dunlop Direzza Sports Z-1 Star Spec
Brakes Performance Friction race pads; Pan Speed stainless steel braided brake lines
Exterior Pan Speed front bumper, GT2007 front wide fender, GT2007 vertical fin, GT2007 rear over fender, GT2010 front bumper spoiler, GT2010 side step, GT2010 bonnet (carbon type), one-off canards, rear double wing, mirror delete plate
Interior Recaro SPG race bucket seat; Sabelt harness; Momo Tuner steering wheel