The process of building a car can be a long, painstaking journey-an experience like no other, footnoted over time with trial and error, success and failure-and there are always things to learn along the way. Take a look at any well-built project car and you can't help but wonder how it came to be. Once upon a time, every car was fresh off the showroom floor and 100 percent stock. Many of these cars live out their days in that same state, some get abused or wrecked, and only a lucky few are destined for greatness in the hands of the right people. One glance at Pat Dulcey's '89 RX-7 will leave you wanting to know more; this car has a long history behind it littered with blown motors, rebuilds and changes of heart. Nothing happens overnight, and everything is a learning process.
"I picked up the RX-7 when I was 17 years old-it's my first car," Pat says. At such a young age (and not knowing a whole lot about cars yet) he didn't really know what he was getting into at the time, but the bug soon caught up to Pat and he began modifying. First on his list were the basics: intake, exhaust, some suspension mods and a paint job. These upgrades suited Pat's needs for a little while (after all, he was still a youngster and very green in the car-tuning realm). One thing led to another, and eventually Pat stumbled across something that made him scratch his head and wonder what else was possible with the very capable FC3S chassis he had in his possession. "I found some videos of Mitsuru Haraguchi's famous yellow FC online, and I was immediately inspired."
After dreaming and scheming for a while longer, the inevitable (but not fun) first step of initiation to the world of rotary car ownership happened. The trusty 13B motor died (for the first time) and it was time to figure out what was to come next. Pat came into some money and took the plunge, ordering a slew of wonderful goodies for his baby, including a fresh motor to get the car back on the road. After dropping some serious cash to get what he thought would be a nicely done, race-ready car, Pat and everyone else who saw it was disappointed by the results. "I was still new to the game so I found a shop to do the majority of the first build for me," Pat says. "I won't name any names, but they did a piss-poor job. I was not pleased with the outcome."
Down but not out, Pat made a few calls to try and start the process over again. He and his good friend Vince Hafner-who, at the time, had recently opened R/T Tuning in Lansdale, PA-decided to tear into the car and get it right this time by rebuilding the FC from the ground up.
Vince and Pat spent many sleepless nights working on the FC, stripping everything down and even going so far as to cut out the first rollcage, all the while Pat was busy in mechanics school. "After my bad experience at another shop, I wanted to learn how to get things right," he says. An understandable sentiment, and what better way to learn than going to school and rebuilding your own car simultaneously? The process of Pat's final build took time-in fact, it took the better part of three years start to finish.
It was about this time when the car was fully taken apart that Pat decided that the factory white paint had to go. He wanted to do a major overhaul, so a color change was the natural choice. Following his original inspiration from Haraguchi, the R1 Competition Yellow Mica color from a '93 RX-7 was chosen, and to really set the car's exterior apart Pat turned to RE Amemiya for body treatment.
An extremely rare kit was ordered, consisting of a RE Amemiya Pro2000 front end with headlights, front bumper, side skirts and aero mirrors start the lineup. Pan Speed overfenders, a Border Racing aero hood (another extremely rare item) and RE Amemiya Pro2000 carbon-fiber rear diffuser, rear wing with winglets and fiberglass rear window frame finish off the unique exterior of Pat's FC. To say these parts were difficult to come by would be an understatement. "I actually had to order the body parts through a furniture retailer in order to get a reasonable price on shipping," Pat recalls. After nearly eight months, the goods finally arrived and, boy, was it worth the wait. The unique combination of color and aero selection make the car's exterior second to none.
During the downtime waiting for body parts, Pat and Vince kept themselves busy working on the car after work and on weekends. After all, Vince has a shop to run day in and day out, so the FC took on the role of a long-term project. No one involved in the build wanted to half-ass anything, least of all Pat, so taking the time to do things right and wait for the perfect parts was just fine in his book.
Pat had been spending so much time at R/T Tuning and was learning so much that once he finished school he went on staff and now works full-time as a tech alongside Vince and the rest of the crew. As Pat's taste in cars grew and he began to appreciate the different ways any one type of car can be built, he realized that he needed a direction for his build. Originally, he wanted the FC to be a time attack beast, but he changed his mind shortly thereafter. Getting sideways just seemed like the right thing to do.
When setting up the car for drifting, Pat and Vince carefully tested and dialed in the suspension over a period of several months to get everything perfect. They began with a set of Zeal Function B6 coilovers and swapped out all stock arms, links and bushings in favor of specialized aftermarket pieces in each department. One thing that may strike you as odd about this FC is the lack of a rear sway bar; Pat says this helps keep the car nimble and predictable on the drift course. Footwork is handled by a variety of wheels-Pat has several sets that get rotated in from time to time. Currently, the car sits on a set of unmistakable Volk TE37 wheels in staggered sizes, measuring 17x9 inches (+15) up front and 18x9.5 (+12) in the rear. In addition to the offset and staggered size, H&R spacers have been added to give a little extra style and stance, and the result is simply beautiful. White on yellow never gets old.
On the inside, Pat's RX-7 is all function. "When I first got the car, I wanted a street car, but that soon changed as we began the rebuild at R/T. We wanted to make the car a full-fledged drift car, so a minimalistic interior is key," Pat says. A pair of Bride Zeta 3 L seats and Sparco four-point harnesses keep the driver and passenger secure and safe, protected further by a Nate Dog Customs welded in eight-point custom rollcage. The driver's display is an obvious upgrade, coming in the form of an AIM Sports MXL Pista. This piece does so much that it's hard to call it a "gauge cluster" or a "dash." I suppose one could call it an "all-inclusive digital readout," which provides the driver with nearly any information he could need during the heat of competition.
When you peek under the hood of Pat's FC, you see a heavily modified 13B in a clean surrounding. What you don't see is the harrowed history of this particular engine bay. Pat says with a laugh, "The motor that's in there right now is actually the fifth one for this car. And every time the motor popped, I would go out and buy another rotary car in the meantime!"
Some people would cringe and call that madness, others would just smile and nod, knowing the addictive character of rotary-powered cars. The current setup was put together by Pat and Vince with the help of Jose Leduc, a well-known drag racer on the East Coast who lives and dies by the rotor. After blowing the fourth motor during a dyno session soon following the install, Pat was understandably unnerved by the idea of dyno-tuning the latest rotary reincarnation. His luck improved this time, and his baby held together and made a whopping 510 hp at 18 psi on Pennsylvania pump gas. I guess the fifth time's the charm!
All said and done, Pat Dulcey is more than a decade into this car. At age 28, Pat is finally satisfied with how the car looks, feels and drives. Having run a few events in 2009 to dial in the car's suspension and get a feel for how it really acts, 2010 is sure to be a year to keep your eyes peeled for a bright-yellow, Haraguchi-looking FC3S sliding around. Good things come to those who wait, and to those with class. Throughout my time spent with Pat and Vince, they never once mentioned the name of the first shop that did a real hack-job on Pat's car. To the guys at R/T Tuning it's all about the term, "Stay Classy"-just look at Pat's windshield banner if you need a reminder.
Specs & Details
'89 mazda rx-7
Engine Mazda 13B-T rotary
Engine Modifications KD Rotary race port, Super Black 3MM apex seals, Atkins corner seals, 93+ corner seal springs, polished E-shaft, 3 Window Race main bearings, GReddy TD07 25G turbo, turbo manifold, 47mm Type-R external wastegate; Corksport 80mm downpipe, RTM V-Mount intercooler with GReddy core, RE Amemiya titanium 80mm Dolphin Tail after-cat exhaust, RC 850cc injector (primary), Bosch 1600cc injector (secondary), Speed Machine primary fuel rail , surge tank; Border Racing secondary fuel rail, SX Engineering fuel pressure regulator, Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump, Rotary Performance in-tank fuel pump, AN -6 fuel lines and fittings, Fluydine radiator, Flex-a-Lite Fan, Samco hoses, RTM oil coolers, Pinnapple Racing oil pan, removed oil metering pump, MMR Racing engine, transmission and differential mounts
Engine Management Motec M4, AIM Sports MXL Pista
Drivetrain Exedy Twin Plate clutch, Rotary Performance SS braided clutch hose, KAAZ 1.5 Way LSD, 4.30 ring-and-pinion, Rotary Performance axles
Suspension Zeal Function B6 coilovers, Energy Suspension front control arm bushings, MMR Racing rear control arm bushings, subframe mounts; AWR toe cam eliminator bearings, camber links; MazdaTrix DTSS eliminator bushings, subframe link; RTM Rear Toe Arms, front Super Angle Spindles, steering angle spacers, power steering cooler, Cusco front upper strut tower brace, rear lower tie bar
Wheels, Tires & Brakes Volk Racing TE37 17x9 (+15) F 18x9.5 (+12) R wheels, 235/40R17 (f) 255/35R18 (r) Federal Super Steel 595 tires, Endless 4-pot calipers, rotors, SS braided lines, brake pads; Willwood brake adjustable proportioning valve
Interior Nate Dog Customs 8-point rollcage, custom aluminum door panels; Bride Zeta III L seats, Sparco 4-point harnesses, 1st generation RX-7 shifter, custom center console, AIM Sports MXL Pista
Numbers 510 hp at 8000 rpm, 330 ft-lbs of torque at 7000 rpm
Worth Knowing R/T Tuning has a knack for building fast cars that also happen to last a long time and do well in competition. Its well-known S13 has a simple setup by many standards. Rocking a chipped-up, broken bodykit and using a stock-style fan clutch, this car won't be winning any shows. But when some guys will be in the pits kicking their tires and shaking their heads, this car will continue to drift reliably as it has the past four years. The Lexus you see in the back of the photo is a new project for Vince and R/T.
Worth Knowing RE Amemiya is a Mazda-specific tuner based out of Chiba, Japan. Founded in 1974, Isami Amemiya started the company tuning cars for the street and has since made a name for himself in racing circles as one of the premier rotary gurus in the world. Competing in the D1 Grand Prix and Super GT Series, RE Amemiya cars are tough competitors and demand respect on the track.