For those of us who have experience building a car, have you ever asked yourself what it is that drives you to do what you do? I mean, have you ever really sat back and thought about it? Is it the physical act of taking a car/mechanical object apart and putting it back together with new or better parts? Is it the time spent with existing friends and/or creating new ones as you peruse online forums and attend meets and shows with your project? Or is it simply the love and devotion you’ve developed over the years to a particular chassis or manufacturer that makes you want to own and drive that particular vehicle? The rhetorical questions can go on forever, but I’m sure you catch my drift here. Is it one of those or is it a combination of all of them? Well, for Carol Mak, it is all of that and then some. The very words that she used to describe what she does and why she does it damn near made me want to stand up and put my fist in the air.
If you think that last statement I made was a little dramatic, that’s fine, you’ll see. Passion can be defined in multiple ways, but a quick glance through the various Merriam-Webster online dictionary definitions of the word had me stuck on two specific ones listed: “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction”, and “a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.” Those two hit the nail on the head when it comes to Carol and her ’94 Mazda RX-7. This enthusiast oozes excitement and passion from every pore of her body, and it is contagious. As a freelance writer for various automotive publications as well as a hard-core car head, I’m pretty much always looking at, reading about, or working on something car-related. I talk to a ton of enthusiasts from all over the world on a daily basis and all of them love what they own and what they do. But every once in a while, you meet one who stands out above the rest—be it for the car that they’ve built or for the way they express what they do and why they do it.
“The concept of a rotary engine is pure genius with a side of crazy (few moving parts, no reciprocating pieces), and the RX-7 chassis being light and well balanced with some gorgeous factory lines is why I love it. The way the engine sings, and the way the exhaust chokes you, pollutes the air, and starves you for oxygen when you’re standing downwind made me throw all rational thought out the window and fall deeply in an obsession with the car,” she says. Are you feeling this owner’s enthusiasm yet? It wasn’t just concepts and ideas; a couple of specific builds influenced her directly. “The Revo-tune FD3S reinforced the love of the RX-7 for me,” she says. [Ed. note: If you are not familiar with that particular build, you need to look it up now. You will instantly understand why she is a fan.] But one vehicle, in particular, really did it for Carol. “The ’04 yellow JGTC RE Amemiya/Aspara Drink RX-7 is a sexy beast that inspired me, and should inspire everyone else to buy an RX-7, pretend to be a race car driver, and forget about pollution, sleep, hunger, and financial responsibility,” she says. I love it!
The concept of a rotary engine is pure genius with a side of crazy...
Carol’s mentality and focus have been a part of her way of thinking and doing things for many years, so it makes sense why and how she does what she does. “A big appetite for the pursuit of perfection in all things, compounded with a thirst to learn and figure out a car and make it better (what other way is there other than to get your hands dirty?) is what got me elbows-deep into this love affair,” she says. Carol’s love affair started with a much different chassis, though. Around 12 years ago she was driving around in a stock Honda Prelude. Next thing she knew, it had turned into a Jackson Racing supercharged, Mugen kit, award-winning, magazine-featured car. But that vehicle just didn’t do it for her, regardless of its accomplishments. “What I really should have done was start on an FD,” Carol says. “Mazda’s engineering philosophy, the RX-7’s racing heritage, and the uniqueness of the rotary engine really drove me to want to build an RX-7.” So she began the search for the chassis to begin the build with.
Carol had a plan from the very beginning of the build. “I bought a fixer-upper with the express intention that when each part had to go and be repaired (suspension, interior, electrical, engine, exterior, and drivetrain), I would upgrade it and create an opportunity to learn about the car and work on it myself,” she says. Well, it turned out the chassis she picked up would provide her with all of the opportunities her heart could desire. “Everything pretty much had to be changed out on the car,” Carol says. And the few parts of the car that haven’t been touched aren’t going to remain that way for very long. “If it’s still original right now there’s a plan for it to be changed out soon,” she says. Her hands-on perspective comes from the community she has grown to love. “RX-7 owners are a whole different breed than any other car enthusiasts I’ve met,” she says. “They’re much more diverse, it includes an expansive age group, and are a close-knit community of people who really encourage and support everyone to work on their cars themselves and learn, innovate, and create new things.”
As you can see from the pictures and list of modifications, Carol has great taste and spares no expense when it comes to her beloved FD. Parts like the Ohlins coilovers, ASM Recaro seats, AP Racing brakes, and the Atomic Rex billet steering rack set this car on another level. She is willing to go to great lengths to get what she wants for her vehicle, regardless of how difficult or inconvenient they may be. For example, Carol went on a 19-day trip to Japan and on just the third day of her trip she ended up finding what she calls a “helluva deal” on a Mazdaspeed twin-disc clutch. Regardless of how good of a deal it was she was across the globe with more than two weeks left in her trip, so she was going to have to pass on the deal . . . or not. Carol’s determination took over and she bought it anyway. “I was lugging it from Tokyo down to Kyoto and Osaka and back up to Tokyo in a tiny rollaway bag that got so beat up it subsequently arrived in LAX missing a leg, half torn, with a hobbling wheel,” she says.
Clearly, what we have here is a very special enthusiast whose passion for the automotive culture and lifestyle emanates from her very being. “I love cars that speak to the driver (the old school, raw, mechanical feel that really translates the road to the driver) and my approach to modifying the car was to make it speak all those things louder and bring me closer to the road.” They say that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. Well, if that is the case, then Carol has never worked on her car. Ever. And she never will.
Behind the Build
Rock climbing, ice climbing, canyoneering, caving, snowboarding, traveling, and eating. She also picked up running last year.
Six years and going
“Mazda’s engineering philosophy, the RX-7’s racing heritage, and the uniqueness of the rotary engine.”
1994 Mazda RX-7
Engine 13B; Noltec motor mounts; HKS RS intake, 75mm Swaintech coated downpipe, Twin Power ignition; OE throttle body with RC Engineering enlarged butterflies; OE ceramic chromed intake manifold; Greddy polished aluminum turbo elbow, intercooler piping, pulley kit, oil filter, magnetic drain plug; Banzai block-off plates; NRS 2mm two-piece ceramic seals; Mazmart upgraded water pump; Denso Supra TT fuel pump; 550cc primary injectors, 1,300cc secondary injectors; Fujita Engineering titanium 80mm exhaust; Garfinkle oil pan; Sakebomb Garage twin black Setrab oil coolers with Mocal 180-degree oil thermostat; Fluidyne radiator; Samco radiator hoses; Mazda FC low-temp thermostat; NGK spark plug wires, No. 9 plugs; Odyssey PC680 battery; REVO Tune battery quick disconnect
Drivetrain Carbonetic 1.5 way LSD; Mazdaspeed twin cerametallic discs; 4.44 Final Drive; GReddy extra capacity heat finned aluminum differential cover; RE Amemiya short shifter; delrin bushing differential mount; Moonface gold drain bolt; Redline synthetic oil
Suspension Ohlins PCV coilovers; Fujita Engineering front sway bar, rear sway bar; Mazdatrix adjustable Heim joint front endlinks; ImprovedRacing adjustable Heim joint rear endlinks; Jun A-arm brace sandblasted and clearcoated with new OE ball joints; Super Now steering tie rods, aluminum machined front sway bar bracket; Pettit Racing toelink adjustable heim joint; Raceshop four-point rollbar with optional diagonal bar; Atomic Rex manual billet aluminum CNC machined steering rack and pinion with 2.4 turn-to-turn ratio; Nagisa Auto front fender braces; Makers Racing transmission brace; Banzai differential brace; combination of delrin bushings and new OE Mazda pillow balls and ball joints
Wheels/Tires Rays Volk Racing CE28 (18x9.5 +22mm front; 18x10.5 +18mm rear); Nitto NT05 tires (245/40-18 front; 275/35-18 rear); Project Kics R40 Neo Chrono lug nuts
Brakes AP Racing CP5200 front calipers with stainless piston upgrades; Racingbrake OE rear big brake kit; Hawk HP+ front and rear brake pads; Mazda 929 master cylinder; Goodrich stainless front brake lines; Agency Power stainless rear lines; Super ATE blue fluid; N-Tech front brake backing plates with 3-inch high-temp brake hose vented to two custom fiberglass front bumper ducts, two-piece slotted rotors; Ti-Speed titanium front and rear brake shims
Exterior Shine Auto Project FEED II R front bumper, fenders, carbon hood, carbon side skirts with Glasurit clearcoat, RE Amemiya carbon rear diffuser with center channel with Glasurit clearcoat, three-piece carbon front under-panel/diffuser; cut and fiberglass extended rear fenders to mate to FEED over-fenders; Fujita Engineering Afflux GTIIR rear spoiler, halogen foglights; R-Magic HID headlights; Mazda 99 tails; FEED x Ganador motorized side mirrors; PPG Nissan Interlagos Fire paint; new windshield, cowl, and wipers
Interior Recaro TSG ASM Edition seats with side bolster covers, seat rails; Personal 350mm Grinta steering wheel; Works Bell Rapfix short boss with adapter; OE Mazda RX-8 shift knob; Redline Goods center tunnel, shift boot, e-brake boot; molded cabin carpet
Electronics A’pexi Power FC with Commander, AVC-R electronic boost controller; Defi D-gauge boost and water temp gauges
Gratitude “Ken at ShineAutoProject; Makito at Seven Apple Works for the magic he does with bodywork; RHDJapan for the massive import assistance on rare parts; Dan at SakeBomb Garage for the innovative products and great customer support; Eugene at SP Engineering for the odds and ends fab work and for shooting the breeze; Rich and Ihor at IRPerformance for the tech support; KAAZ USA for the differential work; and Tom, without you I would never have gotten to meet Fujita-san himself, found RE Amemiya HQ, and scored a great deal on a used Mazdaspeed twin-disc clutch during my Japan visit; RX-7 Club; Rotary Car Club; Team Boneout. But, most of all, my fiancé, Paul—much thanks for all that you’ve put up with me for the car. You’ve spent many hours hovering over the engine bay with me, sitting in the trunk trying to finagle the rollbar in place and lending me your brawn while I played ‘brains’ in the garage for hours on end. There’s very nearly as much blood, sweat, and tears in this car from you as there is from me.”