One of the most painstaking things about any build is when an enthusiast has to drop their car into the hands and trust of others. Whether it’s an easy install or full-blown engine build, the ability to do the job ourselves would be the best but usually requires a helping hand. And then there are some who just aren’t experienced enough to handle the work, and there’s no shame in that (leave it to those with the know-how to help you build a great car). While there are shops out there with professionals who know exactly what they’re doing, there are some that are out for your money. For every good shop there are countless bad ones so you have to be smart in doing your research. In a perfect world, you’d get the best help possible (that you paid for) and trust your work to a complete stranger—yet as we all know, life doesn’t work that way.
Here’s one tale of an enthusiast’s nightmarish encounters that led up to the completion of this FD3S RX-7. Her bad luck spanned almost three years and in the process her near-mint 1994 Mazda RX-7 started to fall apart in the hands of wrongdoers. Jen Jar is no “n00b” by any means when it comes to cars. She’s owned more than enough cars to be considered “dream cars” to many, but for her, the FD3S chassis was a car she longed for.
“I have always loved the FD chassis because, in my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful cars ever produced,” Jen says. “I searched everywhere for one but they all seemed to be either ruined or completely riced-out. I eventually found one in good condition, except the motor was blown. The person I bought it from told me the motor was fine and the compression was good but it turned out to be a lie.”
She probably wasn’t aware at that time, but that lie would foretell her long list of problems she would later encounter while building her RX-7. The first hill to climb was to get her Wankel engine up and running again. After doing some extensive research and calling various rotary engine specialists, she discovered that a simple rebuild and parts weren’t cheap. Jen decided to take a chance and just spend a little bit more to do something completely different—a 2JZ-GTE-swap from a turbocharged Toyota Supra. While cross-platform engine swaps have become more common nowadays, remember that this was a swap that Jen had envisioned over three years prior. GM LSx swaps are all the rage these days but even today, a 2JZ-swap into an FD-chassis is not a particularly easy one. Jen knew that she was dreaming big, but she had no idea the hell that she was about to go through.
“Seriously, if we were to sit here and talk about all the problems I confronted throughout the build, we would be here all day!” she explains, “It was already pretty horrible that the person I bought the car from sold it to me with a bad motor in it. The 2JZ-swap was supposed to turn everything around but it was just an avalanche of bad luck from there. I purchased all the necessary parts and a swap kit from a very well-known shop that specializes in swaps for RX-7s only to find out that the stuff they sold was garbage! I ended up spending more money fixing all their shoddy products than if I had just pieced everything together or had the parts fabricated.”
Realizing the error of her ways, Jen made the decision to only trust her RX-7 with people that she knew. A big chunk of money was already wasted on parts from supposed “specialists” so she had to find someone locally to accommodate her labor-intensive 2JZ-swap. She told us, “a friend of mine recommended that I take my car down to the shop where he worked as a shop manager. It was a fabrication shop focused mostly on domestic vehicles but since it was my friend, I figured he would take care of me. I thought that he would make sure everything went smoothly and keep my updated as they made progress on the swap.”
Innocently trusting a supposed “friend” is usually how things can go wrong—terribly wrong. Not only did they not complete the engine conversion, they decided to take advantage of Jen and squeeze whatever they could out of her. “I think this was literally the first time I cried about this car,” she professed, “If they couldn’t handle the task of doing the swap, they should have just told me from the beginning. Instead, their mechanic just tore my entire car apart just so he could get paid for the labor hours. I wasted about a year’s worth of time in my build because of them. They called me and told me they couldn’t do the swap and subsequently slapped me with an invoice worth almost 5-figures! I argued with the owner and just gave up after that. It was the worst financial decision I had ever made in my lifetime and that wasn’t even the end of it—when I got the car back, I realized they not only tore the car down, they also damaged and lost some other important parts of my car.”
Jen’s automotive nightmare didn’t end there either. We’ll spare you the additional ghoulish details; just know that she found another shop in Maryland willing to take on the job but yet again, failed to do anything to the car. If there was a silver lining this time around, it would be that this shop owner didn’t attempt to give her the runaround. He merely explained to her that he did not have the time to dedicate to such a huge task. Jen respected his honesty and moved on. With a Supra engine and a RX-7 no one wanted to touch, things were looking bleaker than ever before. She towed the car back to her house and just stared at it for weeks on end.
You’ll be happy to know that she did eventually catch her break though. Local Virginia coilover suspension supplier, Fortune Auto, came to her rescue. They were adding a new service division dedicated to setting up suspensions for customers as well as building race cars for local enthusiasts. The head mechanic heard of her many dreadful encounters and was determined to break her string of bad luck. “He was great,” Jen says happily, “And meticulously spent hours not only completing the swap, but also repairing all the problems left by the first shop that totally screwed me over.”
Knowing that her money was finally being spent correctly, Jen began purchasing upgrades for her engine. The cylinder head of the 2JZ sees improvements with HKS 272° cams and adjustable cam gears, while the stock turbocharger has been replaced with a larger Precision 6265 turbine. Adjustable coilovers are Fortune Auto 500 series units that were installed in-house during the swap. Getting the power from the engine out to the 18-inch CCW LM20 wheels and Hankook rubber is a 5-speed Toyota R154 transmission that originally came from a Mark III Supra. The exterior of Jen’s RX-7 remains mostly stock, other than a ’99-spec OEM front lip and rear diffusers from Fujita Engineering Evolutional Development (FEED). Once the Toyota engine and drivetrain were installed, the only thing that remained was to figure out the wiring. From previous reading, you would most likely assume that this is when things go haywire but Jen refused to let it happen. She discovered a spot in Maryland known as Freed Engineering whose sole purpose of existence is to work on 2JZ-swapped vehicles. Ben Freed, the owner, also specialized in creating engine wiring harnesses for cars that have 2JZ-GTE hearts. Jen says, “I brought my RX-7 to Ben and was overjoyed when he put the finishing touches on my build. I cried when I finally heard it start-up for the first time! It was such a long time coming and it felt so surreal to know that my journey was complete.”
Jen Jar’s road may have been a tumultuous one, but her perseverance is proof that the final result is worth all the difficult trials. And like countless PSA announcements have told us over the years, “Do your homework kids!” That way, you can possibly avoid running into the same problems.
1994 Mazda RX-7
Owner Jen Jar
Hometown Powhatan, Virginia
Occupation Operations Manager at Fortune Auto North America
Engine 1995 Toyota 3.0L 2JZ-GTE; HKS 272° camshafts, cam gears and timing belt; Freed Engineering ported cylinder head, custom-made 4-inch intake, engine mounts, downpipe, turbo manifold, charge-pipe, intercooler, 2.5-in intercooler piping and oil pan; custom billet Infiniti Q45 throttle body; Fuelab fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator; RC Engineering 650cc fuel injectors; A’PEXi Noir exhaust; Precision 6265 turbocharger and 46mm wastegate; TiAL blow-off valve; Setrab oil cooler; Koyo radiator; Samco Sport cooling hoses; FAL cooling fans; Battleship Grey powdercoated valve cover w/champagne painted plug wire cover; titanium dress-up bolts; custom heat shield w/Fortune Auto gold reflective heat barrier
Drivetrain Toyota R154 transmission; custom aluminum driveshaft; Exedy twin-plate clutch and lightened flywheel; Freed Engineering shift lever
Engine Management OEM Toyota Supra ECU; MAP-ECU tuned by Force Fed Performance; HKS Fuel Cut Defense; Freed Engineering custom engine wiring harness; Turbosmart E-Boost Street boost controller
Footwork & Chassis Fortune Auto 500 Series coilovers and camber plates with Version 3 pillow balls; Swift 9kg/7kg springs; Energy Suspension bushings
Brakes Hawk HPS brake pads; Goodridge stainless brake lines
Wheels & Tires 18x9.5" +27/18x11" +32 CCW LM20; 245/35R18 & 285/30R18 Hankook Ventus V12 EVO tires
Exterior ’99-spec OEM Mazda front lip and taillights; FEED diffusers; rolled and pulled fenders; custom LED turn signal lights
Interior Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel; Works Bell steering hub; Fortune Auto Smart-series titanium shift knob; reupholstered front seats w/black leather, suede and red stitching; Alpine IDA-X001 head unit
Thanks You Fortune Auto North America, Matt at FAST (Fortune Auto Service & Tuning), Freed Engineering, Dan at CCW for being so helpful with finding the perfect fitment, Force Fed Performance, Faiz Rahman, Dress Up Bolts, and my amazing husband who helped me with this project from the beginning and was my shoulder to cry on (literally) when it looked like the car was never going to be finished.
WWW ccwheel.com; fortune-auto.net; reed-engineering.com