Cars have changed a lot over the last 15 years. Things like GPS navigation, side-impact airbags and complex variable-valve-timing engines, which are now considered commonplace, were once the pipe dreams of street enthusiasts. Yet, as far as we have come in the automotive world, there are aspects of the cars of yesteryear that still kick ass, things that we miss. Take the Mazda RX-7 as a perfect example. The raw awesomeness of the FD chassis, produced from '92-02 ('98 in the U.S.), retains a massive cult following to this day. And for good reason, just look at it. The smooth curved lines of the body are years ahead of their time - these cars still demand attention more than a decade after the last USDM RX-7 was sold at Mazda dealerships.
They have a way of sticking with people, too - guys like Dan McVicker know about the RX-7 bug bite all too well. As part owner and founder of Sakebomb Garage in Wilmington, Delaware, Dan knows his way around a rotary. When he first picked up this FD back in 2002, he had simple plans at first. "I bought the car bone-stock with 37,000 miles," Dan says. "My initial plan was to do simple modifications with moderate power and leave the body stock, but as you can see that plan went out the window somewhere along the line." That's good, though, because the results speak for themselves.
As one might expect, this car has been through a lot of changes to get to where it is now. After owning the car for a short while and performing a few basic modifications to get his feet wet, Dan's RX-7 landed itself an odd nickname; a less than flattering moniker that has nothing to do with how the car looks: his friends started referring to the 7 as the "Clunker" because of the noisy Cusco 1.5-way LSD Dan had put in the car. The diff is long gone, but the name has stuck. "The first engine died after a boost spike, the second gave its life to a bad tuner and the third was caused by a bad tank of gas. Thanks, Citgo - never again," Dan says.
The current underhood setup is quite burly, indeed, making a formidable 420 rwhp at 17 psi of boost. Built by IRP Performance, an East Coast rotary specialist shop, the 13B sports Rotary Aviation seals, an upgraded GR67 turbo kit with polished and port matched manifolds, Rotary Extreme V-mount intercooler and, of course, a personalized Sakebomb Garage aluminum radiator and 25-row dual oil coolers to keep things properly cooled. A fuel system consisting of 850cc primary and 1,600cc secondary injectors, a Supra fuel pump, and upgraded FPR and fuel rail ensure the rotary gets all the gas it needs to pump out the ponies.
What good is power without control? Dan has upgraded the suspension to an appropriate spec for street and light track use. Zeal Function X coilovers start things off, a nice choice for versatility and comfort. The Zeals are known for their excellent on-track performance characteristics as well as the relative comfort for street driving. With a full array of arms, links and bars from the likes of Tanabe, Widefood, Cusco and Rotary Extreme tie it all together, Dan couldn't be happier with the feel of the car as it sits now. "Last year was my first track event, and this year I made a vow to make it to at least four track days," Dan says. "So far I've attended one event at Monticello, have a track day at VIR lined up and plan on making it to New jersey motorsports park as well."
Because the car isn't a dedicated track beast, Dan and his passengers roll to and from events held in place by a pair of Bride Vios III seats. Aside from the seats and a Racing Shop chromoly roll bar, the interior remains true to its street roots with a few choice GReddy gauges, Nardi steering wheel and a JDM arm rest console.
The exterior package sets a tone for the performance-oriented build. Nothing is cheap or "tacked on," everything has a purpose and looks right at home on Dan's RX. Dan decided to keep the car silver for cleanliness and overall subtle prowess. The Vertex front bumper beautifully complements the OEM lines of the front end, a look that continues with a pair of beefy 25mm Sanai overfenders and side skirts, finished off by a RE N1 vented hood. Some 18x9.5-inch +15 Prodrive GC010E wheels (silver, of course) wrapped in sticky Dunlop rubber give the 7 a mean appearance and provide lots of grip for spirited driving and track days.
"The car has been through many stages of development and I feel like it's pretty much perfect as it sits now," Dan says. "Of course, there are parts of the car that I'm not completely happy with, but in time I'll get everything straightened out." The future plans for Dan's RX-7 are simple - for now. He plans on getting a different hood (one that will fit better) and an exterior re-spray, as well as possibly swapping a twin-rotor in search of more power.
It's nice to know that some things never go out of style; cars like Dan's RX-7 are proof of that much.
Specs & Details
'94 Mazda RX-7
Engine Mazda 13B-REW rotary
Engine Modifications IRP Performance large street ported motor w/ Rotary Aviation seals; GR67 turbo kit w/ dual Tial wastegates, oil pan brace; polished & port matched manifolds; GReddy intake elbow, Type-S blow-off valve, underdrive pulleys; Rotary Extreme V-mount intercooler, resonated midpipe; RE Amemiya Dolphin Tail exhaust; Toyota Supra fuel pump; SX fuel pressure regulator; KG Parts secondary fuel rail, 1,600cc secondary injectors, 850cc primary injectors; Marren fuel pulsation damper; HKS twin power ignition; Unorthodox racing PS pulley; Sakebomb Garage 25 row dual oil coolers w/ Mocal thermostat, aluminum radiator & oil cooler ducting; Rotary aviation OMP adapter w/ reservoir; Cusco oil catch can, stainless steel oil injector lines, BR10EIX iridium plugs
Engine Management A'PEXi power FC, 3-bar map sensor, Blitz SBCID
Interior GReddy boost & fuel pressure gauges, shift knob; PLX SM-AFR; Nardi racing wheel; Racing Shop chromoly roll bar; J-spec arm rest; Bride Vios III seats; Redline Goods shift boot & e-brake boot; relocated battery & fuse boxes to storage bins behind passenger seat
Numbers 420 whp at 15 psi
Thanks Rich at IRP performance, J-tune performance for lending me their lifts, Vitale auto body, Ganesh at Endless USA, The RX-7 community & most of all my friends & family for their support