Ever since the inception of the first modern automobile — the originator and date of which could be argued for years — the world has been blessed by many amazing designs and truly beautiful four-wheeled creations. In the very beginning, many of these cars were designed with function playing a more important role than fashion. Thankfully, that changed over time, and there are a few key designs that really stand out from the massive collection of cars that have speckled our streets and highways over the years. Among the very recent automotive designs, there are few that marvel the raw beauty of the third-generation Mazda RX-7; the lines of this car from the factory are just fantastic, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree with that statement.
Rich Farrell knew that he would be foolish to try and do touch up on a Rembrandt or add a wing to the Taj Mahal. We’re not saying there aren’t ways to make the FD3S body style look good in a different way, but why mess with something that’s not in need of change? Rich’s FD is more like a “no frills” approach to how a great car can be made into something even better, without losing touch with its original character. And by “original character,” what I mean is essentially a stock body. Yup, you read that right. This is a stock-bodied car on the pages of Modified. So what is it about this car that caught our attention when we saw it at last year’s Deals Gap Rotary Rally? It’s simple: less is more.
This car first came into Rich’s possession almost 15 years ago. “I bought my FD back on New Year’s Eve 1998, bone stock!” Rich remembers fondly. “It’s been a long journey; the previous owner kept the car factory and pristine for me. I think if I gave him a joy ride now, he’d probably mess his pants!”
Rich also tells me that he’s not alone in his quest for clean rotary-powered sports cars. “RX-7s run in the family — my dad owns a 300-whp Vintage Red FD and my brother owns a 350-whp Silverstone Metallic FD. Both have engines that I street-ported and built myself. I also have a ’90 black-on-black, drop-top FC RX-7 for sunny summer days.” With a collection like that in his immediate family, it’s not necessarily surprising to learn that Rich’s own Vintage Red FD is the most powerful of the bunch, pushing out more than 500 whp at 22 psi. This power comes courtesy of the meticulously built 13B-REW and A-Spec 500R Garrett ball-bearing turbo. Rich likes to do things right, so there’s more to the engine than meets the eye, things like 2mm RA Black ‘Super’ apex seals, oil passage modifications, as well as drivetrain mods like a super-rare OS Giken gear set and 4.33 Type-RZ final drive.
If you think Rich goes through a lot of motors with such high power levels, you’d be wrong. “I hear stories about unreliable turbo rotaries, but I haven’t blown an engine since 2003, and have been making over 400 rwhp since 2006 and 500 rwhp since 2010,” Rich says. Maybe there’s something to those upgraded apex seals after all?
The suspension of the RX-7 is already exceptional from the factory, but Rich knew he could take it a bit further and improve it even more. A set of custom-valved Zeal Function X coilovers call his FD’s undercarriage home, and a nice arrangement of rare JDM braces, bars and arms hold everything nice and tight down below. Stopping power comes from Racing Brake open-slot, two-piece rotors and Endless MX72 pads held in place with help from an interesting and less common mod: TiSpeed titanium brake pad backing plates. These little numbers help ensure that the pads stay put under heavy-duty braking, such as what you might encounter along the Tail of the Dragon. For street use, Rich has chosen a simple and clean wheel, perfectly suited for the FD3S body shape. Fiske Profil 5 wheels (measuring 18x9.5-inch +38mm up front and 18x10-inch +32mm in back) look just so “right,” for lack of a better word. Not too much bling and not too boring — these wheels are just right for Rich’s FD. And because he’s no fool, Rich has wrapped the Fiske’s in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires for dry-season use. We imagine this FD doesn’t see too many New Jersey winter days.
Since we’ve covered the outside of Rich’s car (stock, aside from a ’99-spec front bumper and lip and lighting modifications), let’s have a seat inside for a moment. If you’ve never sat in the driver seat of a FD, you need to — the feeling is much more like being inside a tightly packed cockpit than the cabin of a car. Rich and his passenger are held securely in place by a set of Kevlar-backed Recaro SPG seats, and Rich stays informed of all underhood happenings from a row of Defi Link Meter amber gauges displaying boost, engine gross temperature, oil pressure, oil temperature and fuel pressure. A Nardi 350mm Sport Type-B steering wheel is held in place by a Works Bell quick release, a pleasing combo to finish off the subtle yet race-inspired interior package.
“After many setbacks due to over-boosting and the steep learning curves associated with these cars in 2000 and 2001, I finally accomplished my goal of 500+ horsepower at the rear wheels (I run 22 psi on the streets) on 93 octane with water injection in 2010. The car was built completely by me with the help of many friends along the way,” Rich says. “It’s always been a street-driven car, and for the last seven or so years, has been a weekend driver. It’s not a purpose-built show car, by any means, but it has won its share of shows over the years. I bought her with 27,000 miles and the chassis has more than 126,000 miles, as of this writing — you know I’ve gotten my seat time in the car!”
Rich is now trying to convert his FD into a more track-oriented machine, but he prefers to drive the car out on the long journey to and from track excursions. “No trailer for me!” Rich says with a laugh. And that statement pretty much sums it all up. Rich is a no-nonsense kind of guy, and his RX-7 is a great embodiment of everything he wants from a vehicle. It’s fast, clean, beautiful and, most importantly, he has his own sweat equity in this thing. If only we could all be so lucky.
Specs & Details
'93 Mazda RX-7
Engine Mazda 13B turbocharged rotary
Engine Modifications IR Performance Stage 3+ street-ported, race-clearanced OEM Mazda 13B crate engine; oil passage modifications & 2mm RA Black ‘Super’ apex seals; A-Spec 500R Garrett ball-bearing turbo system (GT35R hybrid w/ T04Z 67mm compressor w/ 1.0 A/R divided turbine housing); HKS Twinpower ignition w/ GReddy heat range 10L/10.5T racing plugs & NGK Power Cables; long runner exhaust manifold; TiAL 44mm wastegate; full 4" exhaust w/ MagnaFlow center resonator & A’PEXi GT Spec rear section; Groundzero equal-length lower intake manifold; ported & polished upper intake manifold & throttle body; GReddy compression tube; Blitz front-mount intercooler; TiAL Type Q blow-off valve; Bosch 870cc primary injectors & 1,680cc secondary top-feed injectors; KG billet fuel rails, stainless steel hardlines & AN fittings; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator; A’PEXi BNR33 upgraded fuel pump; GReddy oil catch can; Fluidyne radiator; SakeBomb Garage stainless steel oil metering pump lines, dual 25-row Mocal oil cooler kit w/ nylon lines & custom ducting
Engine Management A’PEXi Power FC & OLED Commander; FJO Injector Driver
Drivetrain IR Performance polyurethane motor mounts, oil pan reinforcement brace; Comrade C’s short stroke shifter; Exedy twin-disc cerama-metallic clutch & flywheel; OS Giken forged 5-speed gear set; Attain extra-large transmission oil pan; S4 T2 OEM Mazda clutch-type differential; GReddy high-capacity differential cover; 4.33 Type-RZ JDM final drive set; chromoly rear axles
Suspension Zeal Function X aluminum-bodied custom-valved coilovers w/ 12kg springs (f) & 10kg (r); Tanabe sway bars (f/r); Mazda Competition sway bar mounts (f); Rotary Extreme aluminum toe links & trailing arms; Cusco titanium strut tower bar (f); Axiom Autosports harness bar; Nagisa Auto Gacchiri fender braces (f); Shakitto strut tower-to-firewall braces (f)
Exterior OEM Mazda ’99-spec front bumper & lower lip; URAS front combination lights w/ Knightsports harness; SakeBomb Garage/Theorie LED taillights, true projector HID headlights
Interior Spirit-R carbon-Kevlar Recaro seats w/ tilt rail option, shift knob, e-brake handle; Defi Link Meter amber gauges (boost, EGT, oil pressure, oil temp, fuel pressure); Nardi 350mm Sport Type-B steering wheel w/ Mazdaspeed horn button; Works Bell Rapfix QRS quick release w/ short hub; Mazda ’02-spec JDM front cluster; custom red-surged front floor mats & rear hatch mat; Gearman Winning View black chrome rearview mirror; Flyrx7 60mm quad gauge pod; Widefoot accelerator pedal
Wheels, Tires & Brakes Fikse Profil 5 wheels 18x9.5" +38mm (f) & 18x10" +32mm (r); Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, 255/35R18 (f) & 265/35R18 (r); Racing Brake 330mm open-slot 2-piece brake rotors (f), open-slot 2-piece brake rotors (r); Endless MX72 brake pads (f/r), RF650 brake fluid; SakeBomb Garage stainless steel brake lines; TiSpeed titanium brake pad backing plates (f/r)
Thanks To Ihor & Brian at IRPerformance.com; Dan & Heath at SakebombGarage.com; Ray Crowe at Malloy Mazda; Chris & Ari at RX7.com; Brian Nickell at BNRTurbos.com; Enzo at Enzo-Racing.com; Sean at A-Spec Tuning; my dad & my brother Ryan; Phil Sohn of DealsGapRotaryRally.com; Bobby Rahim for all the paint detailing; the Rotary Addicts crew (Tom, Renna, etc.) for the trackside pit help; my girlfriend Jessica for understanding my addiction; & Chris Carlisi for the help and support over the years — RIP, my friend