Fanaticism is a dangerous thing. A quick search on YouTube will result in more than a few videos depicting ludicrous moments of sports fanaticism, where British soccer hooligans clash over whose team has the nicer-looking scarf. But in the world of cars, being fanatical about a certain brand or model is often worn as a badge of honor, where an encyclopedic knowledge of the vehicle in question acts as a sort of filter that separates the casual enthusiast from the true fanatic.
Phil Sohn falls squarely in the fanatic camp, in his case that of the rotary-loving variety. For Phil, his deep love of the rotary all started in 1992 when he first saw an FD RX-7 in a magazine. Then he saw one on the road and as Phil puts it, "I thought, Wow, I've got to have that car someday." So off he went to college in Atlanta to acquire the necessary earning potential to make his rotary dreams a reality, but not even Phil (or his amazingly understanding wife) could have imagined just how far his rotary obsession would take him.
"After graduating from college, I got my first job and started fixing up my Celica. But then I got into an accident and brought the car to a local body shop where the owner's son happened to have an FD. It was lightly tuned and after going for a ride in it I thought it was the fastest car in the world."
That's what finally pushed Phil over the edge, acquiring his first FD in 1999, which he still owns today and is currently building as a full-on show car. Since that time Phil has owned seven FDs, including the Montego Blue beast you see here. He's also owned a FC convertible; a mint-condition FB; a RX-2 that he fully restored and sold to buy a '73 RX-3 he's planning to swap a 20B into soon; an '04 RX-8 daily driver; and the super-rare '91 Eunos Cosmo featured alongside the FD.
The Cosmo is the newest addition to Phil's ever-changing rotary-powered Mazda collection, having acquired it in April. "I organize an event called the Deals Gap Rotary Rally and a guy was planning to bring this Cosmo to the event. I asked if he'd be willing to sell it and he said everything is for sale. After about a month of negotiation, a price was worked out and the Cosmo was mine."
According to Phil, this generation of Cosmo was a must-have for him because it was a first for Mazda in many respects. It's still to this day the most expensive Mazda ever built, it was the first Mazda to feature the 20B triple rotor engine, was the first car to feature sequential turbos and was the first car to feature an electronically controlled HVAC system. But as Phil quickly found out, since only 8,875 of these were ever built, finding replacement parts wasn't easy. He did, however, manage to track down a few choice goodies through his friend Paul Thomas at Mazmart. He also found a used set of TEIN coilovers in Canada, with TEIN USA helping him source a few missing parts.
But where Phil's rotary knowledge really comes out is when you start to talk to him about building the Montego Blue FD and the challenge of finding a good engine builder. "The Montego Blue was my fourth FD. I bought it because it had been very well cared for, was local and the price was right. I wasn't a big fan of the color initially, but it's grown on me. This was just supposed to be a weekend car while I built my Black FD, but somehow this one has turned into a bit of a show/track car, too."
Having traveled from coast to coast attending rotary meets, Phil's met just about every rotary expert in the industry but actually found an amazing engine builder in his own backyard. "Parts-trader.com, a big rotary source back then, was local to me in Birmingham, Alabama. I met the owner and he's the one who introduced me to my engine builder, Luis Canzales. I was very impressed that Luis built his own lapping machine and lapping table even though he has no formal education with this stuff. His rotary knowledge is amazing; he's able to mix and match rotary parts from all generations of the engine."
With a Luis-built and ported 13B-REW under the hood, Phil was now able to complete the build of his Montego Blue beauty. "It had a tan interior, but I switched it to black and bought and installed a set of JDM rear seats [in Japan the FD came as a 2+2 for insurance purposes]. I also replaced all the glass from a spare FD that had a better tint job. Pretty much every part of the car has been changed out. All suspension arms have been dropped and cleaned, bushings replaced, turbos changed and parts polished. Then in May  I bought the FEED bodykit, because my sponsor Exedy wanted to show the car but wanted to update its look from the '99-spec body I had on it."
Phil's attention to detail doesn't stop there, though. There are dual oil coolers from an R1, an extremely rare glass moonroof from a '94-95 model, RZ brakes and Spirit R seats which took him more than a year to find. According to Phil, "That's the fun part about being an enthusiast-looking for the rare parts and being willing to search for them patiently. The Deals Gap rally and attending lots of meets has helped a lot, too, since I've developed real relationships within the rotary community and have found some great parts by meeting with people in person, rather than doing everything online which is so impersonal."
In fact, Phil became so unhappy with the overly commercial and impersonal feel on some of the rotary forums that he started his own, www.rotarycarclub.com, where smaller vendors and specialty shops that make unique one-off parts for the rotary can advertise for free and where rotary enthusiasts can interact in a friendlier and more mature environment.
"Within the rotary community, I've had a lot of great mentors, starting in Cincinnati and then later in Birmingham, where I learned to tune using a PowerFC from Steven White, a local guy who was huge in the rotary tuning scene and was the first person to break 400 whp with a twin-turbo setup. Everyone in this community is willing to help you out and that's the same approach I take." Clearly the words of a man with an unsurpassed passion for rotary-powered machines and just the kind of fanatic this industry needs more of.
Ported 13B-REW, BNR Stage 3 twin turbos, polished Efini Y-pipe, polished upper intake manifold, polished throttle body, polished GReddy elbows, GReddy stock mount intercooler w/custom duct and intercooler piping kit; Blitz BOV, HKS twin-power ignition amp, Racing Beat ignition wires, FEED oil and rad caps; R1 dual oil coolers, Unorthodox pulleys, custom carbon-fiber cooling plate, Garfinkle Motorworks Engine torque brace, Mazdaspeed radiator
Exedy Hyper Single clutch kit, transmission brace, Dragon's diff brace
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
Gunmetal 17x9.5 Gram Light 57C, TIRES Bridgestone RE01, RZ brake calipers (f/r), custom Garfinkle Motorwork cross-drilled RZ rotors, braided SS brake lines
H&R lowering springs, Koni Yellow shocks, Racing Beat sway bars, sway bar brace and sway bar bushings; FEED front strut tower brace, Rotary Extreme rear tower brace, trailing arms and toe links; Delrin suspension bushings
Converted Black interior, moonroof interior cover, JDM rear seats, R1 rear speaker pods, Tripoint center speaker pods, GReddy 52mm black face gauges, Spirit R carbon-Kelvar Recaro seats, Nardi shift knob, LED interior lights, Nardi steering wheel w/ custom Protege cruise control, RE-Amemiya steering column pod w/ 52mm Prosport boost gauge, custom Mazdaspeed-style carbon-fiber interior trim, JVC 7" AV system, PowerFC commander and holder, White NR cluster gauge kit
340 whp at 14 psi
Type 2R front bumper , carbon-fiber canards, carbon-fiber side skirts, wide front fenders and front tow hook; Scoot carbon-fiber hood (painted), RE-Amemiya rear diffuser, hood dampers, R-magic oil cooler ducts, '99-spec rear spoiler, AutoEXE carbon-fiber rear spoiler deck, custom taillights, glass moonroof, HID headlights, LED signal lights, Spirit R fender badges, Efini front badge
Custom powdercoated (black) upper intake manifold, throttle body, and IC piping by Kevin Landers from Rotary Resurrection; custom stainless steel 3" full exhaust w/ dual dolphin tail by Walker Morgan from Morgan Performance Fabrication; K&N air filter
TEIN coilovers, Cusco "wood grain" front strut tower bar
Momo steering wheel
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
Forgeline ZX3 3-piece rims w/ titanium hardware, 18x8" (f) and 18x9" (r) Toyo T1R tires
Phil's other FD
This is Phil's first FD that he has owned and kept around for many years. It's currently in the building stages. Just check out that motor!