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Code Red

This Rockin' J-Spec Rotary is the Convergence of Form and Function

Aug 7, 2002 SHARE

The RX-7 is alive and well in America and the Land of the Rising Sun.

Although not sold new in the United States since 1996, the RX-7 remains in production in Japan.

This means Japanese performance companies are still pumping out freshly inspired parts for the car--inside and out. Getting upgraded power in the form of turbos and tuning electronics and the

J-Spec look by way of body kits is easy. Plus, the designs of all these items are current, following today's trends and utilizing today's technology.

The JDM look is defined by the use of stock parts from a Japanese counterpart on the U.S. version of the same vehicle; it's been popular since the mid-1990s.

However, this popularity mostly centers on the Honda nameplate. Further, it seems rather boring to make your car look like a stock car in Japan--where's the power in that?

The aforementioned J-Spec look is what we call a car built to look like it was tuned and constructed in Japan--what a hot-rodded version of the car would look and feel like if it used mostly Japanese parts. This is the approach Allentown, Pa.'s Alex Nguyen took when he set forth to create a wild show-and-go RX-7.

A key advantage for Nguyen is that Japanese body kit makers come out with fresh designs each year, where the demise of the RX-7 in America translates into fewer new kits. Geography was also an advantage; we can't think of many places a J-Spec RX-7 would stand out more than the blue-collar, forged-in-steel landscape of Allentown.

Nguyen accomplished his mission and has done so well in creating the complete package, he landed the cover. His 1993 RX-7 is J-Spec, from its C-West body tuning to its Cusco footwork as well as under the hood where GReddy, A'pexi, Feed and Bonez are on call.

Heads turn and jaws drop when this Mazda is cruising Main Street. Nguyen employs a wild, yet tasteful, C-West body kit. The front clip provides aggressive ducting and incorporates JDM-style fog lights. The headlamps have been converted with C-West carbon-fiber inserts and CATZ lighting elements, eliminating the conventional pop-up headlamp assembly. A KnightSports carbon-fiber hood adds J-Spec style with its crazy vents and reduced weight, while D-Speed clear JDM sidemarker lights and JDM Efini badging are some of the subtler touches that drive home the car's J-Spec look.

The Mazda was sprayed with Dupont Tri-Color red paint with copper and gold pearl mixed in. The hood was not painted so all could appreciate its exotic use of materials.

For footwork, Nguyen dialed direct to Japan for a set of Sard GT-spec coil-overs with upper pillow ball mounts for added stiffness. Also on the order sheet were front and rear Cusco anti-roll bars and front and rear Cusco strut tower braces. A Brembo brake upgrade sporting huge 14-inch rotors help Nguyen balance speed and traction. Toyo Proxes T1-S rubber wrapped around Blitz Technospeed aluminum provide the RX-7's contact patch. The 19-inch combo features 19x9 and 245/35R-19s at the nose and 19x10s and 275/30R-19s in the rear.

Thrust is provided by the ultimate body slam for those who still believe there's no replacement for displacement--the 13B Wankel rotary. While the all-motor Civic Si is lauded for making 100 hp per liter, the 1.3-liter 13B unleashes 196 hp per liter in stock twin turbo trim. If it were a small block Chevy with 5.7 liters of displacement, this "V8-Rotary" would belt out 1,117 hp.

However you play the numbers game, it's all about getting more from less. Nguyen attacked the Mazda's engine bay with a vengeance and nearly sucked up all of GReddy's inventory in the process. The 13B has been race ported and fortified with Hurley 2mm racing apex seals, then fitted with a GReddy T78 single-turbo conversion complete with three-row GReddy air-to-air front-mount intercooler. The T78 is secured with a stainless-steel GReddy turbo manifold and flows through polished piping. A GReddy 3-inch downpipe and external wastegate regulate spool up, while a Type R blow-off valve guards against compressor surge in the intake tract. A polished GReddy elbow pipe adds spice and enhances flow into the engine. The GReddy party is rounded out with a pulley set as well as oil and radiator caps.

The turbo system's Thermal Tec heatshielded downpipe leads to a Bonez mid-pipe and onto a wild Feed titanium exhaust system from Japan that is light on weight but not on the wallet. The fuel system features a Weldon pump, Essex regulator and custom RSP rail with 850cc primary injectors and 1600cc secondary injectors.

Engine management is handled by an A'pexi all-star tag team of a Power FC with Commander used alongside an A'pexi AVC-R boost controller, Super AFC fuel computer and ITC ignition timing computer.

In its current state of tune, the powerplant generates about 460 hp at 18 psi on pump gas, but Nguyen drives the "7" at low boost (10 psi) most of the time--until enticed at a stoplight that is. When the hammer is dropped, a Fidanza 9.5-lb. flywheel and ACT clutch put the twist to an ACPT carbon-fiber driveshaft.

The closer you get to the Mazda, the more it impresses. Duck your head inside and you feel as if you have transitioned into a "Matrix universe." The cockpit sports some of the usual suspects--a MazdaSpeed carbon-fiber dash kit, NR white-faced dials, Sparco steering wheel with MazdaSpeed adapter, Auto Meter pillar pod, GReddy shift knob and Pettit Racing sill plates. From there, it advances to Sparco Torino seats, Sparco harnesses and Sparco pedals with Defi gauges strategically placed throughout the interior.

The hardest hitting aspect of the interior is the audio/visual system. The Mazda flexes a four-screen DVD theater with a Kenwood DVD player with 6.8-inch display in the console and a trio of Kenwood 7 inchers in the rear cargo area. The system plays DVD movies and incorporates a Kenwood DVD-based navigation system and a Kenwood CD player. A pair of stout Xtant amplifiers power 5.5-inch front and 6.5-inch rear Boston speakers and a 12-inch Eclipse aluminum subwoofer. If this isn't entertaining enough, a Sony PS2 can be brought to bear on unsuspecting passengers.

This car has it all--smooth rotary power, muscular bodylines, high-tech interior and all the in-between details that make a lasting impression on passersby, enthusiasts and show judges alike.

As with many enthusiasts, Nguyen has the bug bad and says he won't stop until he has the ultimate show-and-go RX-7. His lofty plans for the FD-3S include a three-rotor Cosmo transplant, twin HKS GT3037S turbos, a sequential six-speed HKS gearbox, an R-Magic widebody kit and Ogura clutch set. With these mods, Nguyen hopes to add to his sponsor list, which currently consists of Valvoline, Meguiar's and Toyo Tires. J-Spec has never looked so good.

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