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1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo - King Drifter

This underdog has what it takes.

Pat Lauder
Sep 14, 2012
Impp 1208 01 o+1988 mazda RX 7 turbo+origin silver carbon front lip splitter Photo 1/11   |   1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo - King Drifter

On a personal quest to hunt down Z06s, and their dangerously high speed exiting capabilities throughout a course, led this one-time NASA HPDE grip-driving/time-attack expert to the dark side of drifting. Lexis King’s setup compared to most the high-tech modifications performed on drift and grip cars today still focuses on simplicity. It’s common knowledge among many racers that people just start sprinting before they know how to walk. With the introduction of the peppier Chevrolet in 2001 that meant Lexis spent more time in their rearview mirrors. It was the little 13B that, well, couldn’t keep up.

There is not much charted territory when it comes to the FC3S RX-7 and keeping the tires sticky and getting the brake rotors hot. It is a lightweight chassis, a trait most Mazda sports cars maintain, with great weight distribution and advanced suspension. But behind all these great innovations in handling technology, the majority of tuners really focused on getting these cars sideways in a real controlled fashion. It’s a skill and style that is not often found here in the States, and it’s probably for good reason that Lexis wasn’t keen to that trend coming. Understanding the full operation of the steering, braking, and turning gives a clear example of how beneficial the experiences are to handling a car set up for drift action.

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It all started in 2002. Lexis’ car fell victim to the attack of displacement. LS6 power mongers dominated around the country, and in an attempt to keep pace on track, he used a bit too much throttle around the corner. Frightening the corner workers, he was black-flagged and warranted a ride-along with a NASA instructor to determine whether his hasty moves were being executed maturely. What seemed to have been an eye for talent, a drifter scout of sorts was sent out to sit shotgun. A quick conversation and new information led this now Pro-Am driver in a whole new direction for this car—literally.

Like the wildfire sensation that it had already become, drifting was coming for Lexis, whether he wanted it or not. In 2010, Falken Pro drifter Justin Pawlak opened Hot Line and that was a milestone for the car’s updates to become a really competitive car on circuit. It was about this time that Pawlak was piloting a 600-plus wheel-horsepower Mustang and allowed emphasis on Lexis’ build. Acting as one of his first customer’s cars, many parts found on Pawlak’s personal FC match that of Lexis’ “Blizzard White” vehicle. Willow Springs became his starting point for drift competition with a nearly identical setup as he ended his road racing days. He found himself combating the suspension’s obsession with keeping the car straight. Not only was it a physical battle, as his racing mentality beforehand was taking control. Focus Luke, I mean Lexis, you mustn’t succumb to the slide side. Wishful thinking, as 2011 rolled over, so did the level of tuning performed on the RX-7.

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Still learning what works and what does not, competition started off on a wrong foot. Bugs riddled the car’s ability to keep the power on, and a faulty coolant temp sensor created management issues with the Haltec E8 on track. Also, camber changes with rear toe links and further suspension tuning were necessary. The car’s engine was crammed full by the GT35R, which still exists today, but only with a whole new engine built by Pawlak. Lexis was power hungry to keep rank and stay reliable to meet the demanding consistency in competition dates. Many may be familiar with Pawlak’s green monster FC Formula D car, and unfortunately, so were thieves. During the filming of 200 M.P.H. Pawlak served as technical adviser and stunt coordinator. When asked to find stunt drivers for the film, Lexis was called on board to assist. In the making, the green FC was stolen, along with its truck and trailer. An unfortunate loss for one meant a whole new opportunity to compete for Lexis. The spare motor to Pawlak was now the pony behind Lexis’ car.

Formula D hardware now backed Lexis’ whip to new territory. With the addition of reliable and deliverable power, Lexis made podium at quick pace. Sonoma Drift Wednesdays at local track, Infineon Raceway, aided in consistency. The weekly event surrounded by hometown heat kept him on his toes and allowed a very impressive Pro-Am Eighth Place finish at the Willow Springs Top Drift in 2011. The car still needed a higher level of firepower with drift competition emerging not only on the West Coast, but nationwide as well. During the winter off-season a few more parts found themselves a home on the FC. A custom V-mount intercooler was fitted by Hot Line—many would say the final missing key of cooling a turbo rotary efficiently. The car—as most drifters will find—had to be repainted a reported seven times, and its current color is a Toyota Prius Pearlescent Blizzard White. More speed means more drag, and to address that are the dramatic APR dry carbon canards and beautiful silver carbon Origin splitter affixed to the AIT G4 widebody kit.

The season starter of Top Drift called for rainstorms and had a lot of drivers nervous of the conditions. To top that off, Lexis had some starting upsets that may have knocked down the confidence required for the stiff competition. Hot Line and SR Motorcars’ crew spent two solid days preparing the car’s new changes. HKS wastegate issues kept the car on the dyno until 4 a.m. the morning of the race. While finally sorted out and on the road, fate didn’t stop on the dyno. No naps and trailer tire flats were throwing a serious wrench in the plans. Being that the car is still registered and insured as a street car, a viable option would have been driving it to the track, but the boys didn’t give up that easily. Fortunately, they arrived on track with practice conditions dry as could be. Getting a feel for the newly changed setup gave Lexis the edge he needed to hang in there as his Group A qualifying runs were doused with water from the sky. His performance made for an 18th Place finish out of 52 participants, and he now had wet drift experience. By the time you read this, I assume Lexis will have finished much stronger at Horse Thief Mile, Top Drift’s second race. He has a newly acquired sense of confidence, skill sets, and companies to back. Hot Line and Fatlace are on board for what is gearing up to be a hot season of drivers and mobiles.

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More quickly every day, the 13B and SR20s are being ditched in favor of the more smoke show-capable Corvette and Camaro LS1 powerplant. Lexis, staying true to Japanese drift form, has no intention of leaving behind the great motor Mazda made 20-something years ago, so forget those funny looks you may have given the centrifugal-based power maker and remember Lexis is keeping hot on the competition’s tail.

Behind the Build

Lexis King

Impp 1208 07 o+1988 mazda RX 7 turbo+b magic rear over fenders Photo 8/11   |   1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo - King Drifter


Richmond, CA

SNSF Freight Conductor

Build time.
Ten years total with two years to drift spec


Mountain bike riding and playing Gran Turismo 5

“I was motivated to build this car simply because I wanted a unique vehicle to stay to true to authentic Japanese form.”

1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo

365 whp at 7,200 rpm, 288 lb-ft of torque at 2,700 rpm (est.)

Impp 1208 02 o+1988 mazda RX 7 turbo+custom v mount intercooler Photo 9/11   |   1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo - King Drifter

Engine Street ported 13BT street; Garrett GT3582R; HKS cast-iron T4 manifold, wastegate, EVC boost controller; Tial blow-off valve; Atkins rotary dual belt alternator pulley; Mazdatrix competition engine mounts; Walbro 285-lph pump; Sard FPR 69011; RC Engineering 750cc primary and 1,600cc secondary fuel injectors; Racing Beat downpipe; custom piping with HKS Hiper muffler; NGK plug; ACDelco Suburban-spec wires (seriously) LS1 coil packs; Exide classic battery; custom V-mount intercooler; Koyo radiator; Flex-a-lite dual fans, dual oil coolers; Haltech E8 tuned by Justin Wu

Drivetrain Mazdatrix transmission mount; Exedy Hyper single clutch and flywheel; stock T2 differential (shimmed)

Suspension JIC FLT-A2 with TAR internals, front upper camber plates; Battle Version toe control arms; alignment done by Justin Pawlak

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Wheels/Tires 5Zigen ZR+520 in Hyper Black 17x9 +37 (front), 18x9.5 +37 (rear); Falken Azenis RT615K 235/40-17 and Falken FK452 255/40-18, Muteki SR35 Neo Chrome lug nuts; for Race Enkei RPF1 17x9 (front), 18x10 (rear) with 25mm spacers (front and rear)

Brakes Stock brakes with Hawk HP+/Blues; Goodridge SS lines

Exterior AIT G4 body kit; Origin silver carbon front lip splitter; APR dry carbon canards for Evo VIII; Shine Auto Re-A rear diffuser; Foresight spoiler; D Max +20mm wide fenders; Carbon FX GT300 hood, headlight covers, and CF roof insert; B Magic +30mm rear over-fenders; LED modified stock headlights with Xentec 30K green HID

Interior Hot Line Custom rollcage built to Formula Drift spec; Sparco Evo II driver and passenger seats with Sparco rails; G-Force harnesses; NRG steering wheel and quick release; MOMO hub, shift knob, and pedals

Impp 1208 10 o+1988 mazda RX 7 turbo+b magic rear over fender Photo 11/11   |   1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo - King Drifter

I.C.E. Kenwood deck; Alpine Type E front speakers; Polk rear speakers; JL 8WS subwoofer and G-Series amplifier

Gratitude “I would like to thank my friends and family for dealing with me in these long schemes and builds; my wife for never nagging me that I am in a shop for 12-plus hours getting the car situated; I’d like to thank Justin Pawlak for caring for my car as if it was his own, making sure the goals we both set were achieved; also, Sandra Pawlak for not yelling at Justin too much when we were busy working on the car still at 4 a.m; lastly, all my friends who never told me to swap my motor, but instead encouraged me to keep pushing.”


Carson, CA 90746
AIT Racing
City of Industry, CA 91748
Justin Pawlak Hot Line Performance
By Pat Lauder
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