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1993 Mazda MPV - What The F@&%?

You won’t see this minivan taking kids to soccer practice.

Nate Hassler
Jul 2, 2012
Photographer: Armin Ausejo
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Here at Modified, we have made an active attempt over the past several months to expand our horizons in an effort to bring the readers a more diverse kind of reading experience. Instead of sticking to a formula that we know works, we want to change it up a bit and bring forth some content that other magazines would never likely consider running, due to fear of backlash from people not appreciating an oddball for what it is.

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We feel like true automotive enthusiasts should appreciate anything that has a unique character to it, even if it is a bit off the wall. This particular feature is the very definition of off the wall, even if it may appear very unmenacing on the surface.

By now you’ve figured out there’s more to this ’93 Mazda MPV minivan than meets the eye. Just in case you haven’t already skipped ahead to see the engine bay and spec sheet, let me make it easy for you: There’s a VG30DETT in there. Yup, a twin-turbo JDM Z32 V6 in a Mazda rear-wheel-drive minivan. You may be wondering why anyone would modify such a vehicle, and in fact one could go so far as to call this car crazy, silly, or even stupid, but saying any of those things without knowing what has gone into this car, and why, would be shortsighted and unfair to the creator, David Swenson of Seattle, a man who is very much in love with his minivan.

To fully understand why David has built this van, we need to travel back in time to when he was just a lad of 6 years. “The interesting thing about this build is that this is my first car,” David explains. “When I was 6 years old, my family took a trip to Edmonton, Alberta, in the MPV, and that was my first experience in it. We used this van to carpool all through [my upbringing], tow the boat on vacations, and make the long haul to go visit Grandma in the summers. There was nothing this van didn’t do.”

It hasn’t been all peaches and cream for David and his van, though. When he reached middle-school age, David began to develop a feeling of resentment toward the van because it was not exactly cool or stylish. Even though it was better than being dropped off by the school bus, David never really developed a draw toward cars, and if we’re completely honest, we can understand how that happened. Much to his dismay, upon reaching the legal age to drive, the van became his to do with what he pleased. It was at this time that David began to think outside the box and try to come up with ways to make lemonade out of lemons.

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“In high school, I began by taking out the middle seats, and giving [the van] a healthy dose of sound system wattage that could set off car alarms,” David recalls fondly. “High school lingered on, and I continued to use the MPV for shuttling my friends and hauling the boat to the lake. I began to fall in love with the MPV. There was nothing it couldn’t do, nothing it couldn’t haul, and nowhere it couldn’t go. But just as every love story progresses, the relationship was missing something. I had a need, a need for speed.”

So what’s a boy to do when he has the need for speed but has a car with next to zero aftermarket support? Customization, of course. David and his father began looking around for an engine to replace the 103hp factory MPV V6, and after taking rough measurements and doing a little number crunching, they ended up with a JDM Nissan VG engine from a Z32 Fairlady Z. At this point, we want to interject slightly and say that although this whole idea sounds completely insane to most people, we love the fact that David and his dad tackled this project as a team (not without outside help, though) and out of the pure joy of wrenching.

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“I began the swap [over the course of] the summer before I entered college,” David tells us. “I had fallen in love with the MPV so much that I even purchased a beater MPV to fulfill the transportation duties during the swap.” If that’s not dedication, or at the very least the most extreme example of Stockholm Syndrome we’ve ever heard of, we don’t know what is. “I enlisted the help of Andre at Pina Motorsports in Kent, Washington, to provide a shop with a lift and loads of auto knowledge,” David continues. “After dynoing the MPV on its stock JE V6 to get some baseline numbers (103 hp and 157 lb-ft of torque to the wheels), I moved it over to the lift and took some wire cutters to the harness. There was no turning back now.

“Working through that summer at Pina, lots of people came in and contested my sanity and the notion of such a minivan. Some were skeptics, and some were able to see the brilliance. One customer, a local police officer and EVO owner, told me this was ‘just plain stupid.’ Roughly four months later, after the transplant was complete and the period of recovery was complete ensuring the host didn’t reject the infusion, we strapped it back on the dyno, ran the engine through a couple of full load cycles, and hit 388 hp and 383 torque.” 

David has mixed together a lot of parts from many different carmakers to complete his Frankenstein’s monster minivan project, but he tells us it was not as difficult as one may think. “Using a two-post lift made the swap unbelievably easy,” he says. “Lifting the van off the subframe and motor assembly was no problem. The VG fit like a glove, and I was even able to use OEM MPV motor mounts in the stock location with my stock radiator in its stock location.” David has spent a lot of time since the van first became reborn to finish bits off here and there and to slowly replace every last thing that needs updating or upgrading. He has plans to swap in a 9-inch Ford rearend soon, a modification we’re sure will drastically change the characteristic of the currently non-LSD-equipped (think one wheel burnouts) van. David also has a new motor sitting on his shelves, waiting, a motor he hopes will be good for more than 400 hp. He says he would love to quadruple the original output of the MPV, and we’re sure that’s completely within reach given the right supporting mods.

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In a nutshell, David has taken a car he once loved, then hated, and found a way to love it again. “When I progress further in life, my dream is to have a fleet of MPVs,” David muses. “I’ll have this one, another dedicated for off-road, and a special MPV with the stuff dreams are made of.” Even though we may not share David’s exact enthusiasm toward Mazda minivans, we certainly can’t fault him for loving what he loves.

So if you live in the Pacific Northwest and ever find yourself face to face with an unassuming looking Mazda van, keep your ears open for that spool. Don’t be surprised if David smokes you, and don’t be mad, you’re not the first.

Specs & Details
'93 Mazda MPV
Engine JDM Nissan VG30DETT turbocharged V6
Engine Modifications Coolant to throttle-body bypass; removed all emissions equipment & air conditioning; single fuel pressure regulator; Unorthodox Racing water pump, alternator, power steering aluminum pulleys; Flex-a-lite electric fan; aluminum performance radiator; dual Z32 MAF sensors; dual HKS SSQV blow-off valves; dual DSM side-mount intercoolers; Hallman manual boost controller; Chromex ceramic-coated upper plenum & coolant pipes by Performance Coatings; custom grounding system; oil filter relocation kit; 300ZX NA power steering pump; Fluidyne High Performance 15 row oil cooler; Walbro 255-lph fuel pump; Magnaflow performance satin stainless steel mufflers; Z1 Motorsports split stainless steel downpipes; custom 2.5-inch inch intercooler piping by Pina Motorsports; custom dual 2.5-inch inch into single 3.5-inch exhaust; dual Quick Time Performance electric cutouts
Engine Management NisTune; A’PEXi SAFC II
Suspension stock struts (f); Monroe air shocks (r); 3-gallon air tank; Chrome Viair 380C compressor; Energy Suspension bushings
Drivetrain Custom one-piece driveshaft by Aukeen Drivelines; Z1 Motorsports–upgraded auto transmission; Precision Industries 3,600-stall 9.5-inch Dragon torque converter; Hayden Automotive 678 transmission cooler w/ custom fan set-up; stock open differential w/ 3.91 gears
Exterior Original Midnight Blue paint; custom trailer receiver, metal rear bumper, hood vents, foglights, reverse lights
Interior original seats & upholstery; custom center console; Custom gauge cluster by Advanced Waterjet Cutting and Design; converted column shifter to floor (from a Z32); rear heater delete; Auto Meter Phantom speedometer, tachometer, wide-bands, water temperature, transmission temperature, oil temperature, oil pressure, fuel pressure, boost, & fuel level gauges; Alpine W-205, Type-S 6.5-inch component speakers; Resonant Engineering XXX 12-inch custom 3.9cf enclosure tuned to ~27 hz; Audiobahn A2200HCT; Stinger 5 farad capacitor; dual Stinger 200-amp relays, wiring, terminals, distribution blocks; Kinetic HC1800
Wheels, Tires & Brakes ’02 Ford Mustang 16x7.5-inch wheels; Motorsport Technology hubcentric aluminum rings; Yokohama Avid V4S tires, 245/50R16 (f) 255/50R16 (r); 300ZX 30mm four-pot aluminum calipers w/ custom mounting brackets; custom SS brake lines; Subaru B9 Tribeca 315mm x 30mm rotors (f); Hawk HPS pads; stock rear drums
Thanks To Dwayne and the guys at Metal Supermarkets in Kent for the support, Andre at Pina Motorsports for the wisdom and lift, Jim at Specialty Sheet Metal, my brother, Perry, my mom, Judy, and the neighbors for persevering through the unmuffled sounds of the MPV TT and the late nights in the garage.

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By Nate Hassler
180 Articles

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