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1988 Mazda RX-7 (FC3S) - Heavy Metal

Meet One of the Baddest FC Mazdas To Roam Middle Earth.

Brad Lord
Jul 27, 2012
Photographer: Alastair Ritchie
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In this day and age, cooking up an original recipe for a tough car is something much easier said than done. While there are limitless ways to modify a car, bringing something fresh to the table is never an easy task. But by marrying the best bits of several different performance automotive sub-genres, including drift style and drag racing performance, 23 year-old New Zealander Aaron Keach has done just that with this 1988 FC3S Mazda RX-7. The result is SLAM IT: one of the toughest JDM imports rolling on Kiwi roads.

Right from the very beginning when the RX-7 was stock and very rough, getting it looking just right was something high on Aaron’s priority list. “I knew I wanted to run a [body] kit, but it took me a long time to decide exactly which one,” he says. “By the time I eventually settled on a BN Sports kit for the bumpers and side skirts, I had also made the decision to go wide, so it took me even longer to find the ‘right’ fenders!” By the time the car was ready to paint Aaron had picked up a pair of fattened D-Max fenders for the front end, but was still at a loss for what to do at the rear. The guy charged with the bodywork side of the equation—Grant Walker at GT Refinishers—had the perfect solution, however: hand build them from steel to Aaron’s personal specification. The desired look was pulled together with a custom crafted drag-style rear wing, before the whole car was painted hot rod-style in PPG Satin Black. The overall result is simple, but extremely effective.

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Like the exterior, when it came to the interior Aaron didn’t want to overcomplicate things. He describes the cockpit as “raw” and it’s a pretty accurate description. A full rollcage, two race seats with harness belts, a Nardi steering wheel and a Wilwood pedal box is pretty much it. A few Defi meters were thrown in, but there’s no dashboard, no carpets and no speedometer. “If you know how fast you’re goin’, you get scared,” Aaron says speaking of the latter, “so I solved that problem by simply removing it!”

The other key prerequisite was to ensure the RX-7’s bite was as big as its bark. In other words, with such a staunch outward appearance Aaron wasn’t going to settle on anything less than utter overkill between the front strut towers. And he found exactly what he was looking for in a wild three-rotor 20B package courtesy of local rotary specialist, Curran Brothers Racing (CBR). Brent Curran—the brains behind CBR—isn’t only one of New Zealand’s most talented high-power rotary engine builders—he’s pretty handy behind the wheel too, having pointed his own car (a methanol-guzzling 20B triple-turbo-powered ’71 Mazda RX-2 coupe) to a 6.99-second/196.99mph pass on the strip. If that’s not testament enough to his tuning prowess, then the monster lurking under the hood of Aaron’s car certainly is.

A CBR drag-spec 13B engine initially found its way into the RX-7, but along with a few set up issues, that proved to be a little too peaky for the street. It was pulled (only to go on and power Brent’s RX-2 to a seven-second quarter!) and replaced with a “milder” 20B package. In reality, however, it’s anything but. Beginning with a genuine 20B block, CBR enlarged the factory intake ports to bridge-port specification, fitted FC3S series five rotors complete with race-grade 2mm apex seals, as well as lightening and balancing the eccentric shaft, and modifying the stationary gears. Suitably spec’ed, Brent then set about formulating a forced induction system of serious proportions based on Aaron’s requirement for “big power with reliability.”

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At the heart of the set up is a BorgWarner S400 turbo with a TiAL wastegate for boost control. A large custom-piped front-mount intercooler was factored into the equation, along with a bespoke Frank Wigg Fabrication intake and a four-inch exhaust system kicked off through a five-inch turbo down pipe. Fueling the fire necessitated the use of some equally serious gear including a Carter lift pump, twin Bosch Motorsport 044 fuel pumps, an SX fuel pressure regulator and six (3x 1000cc/3x 1600cc) high-flow injectors feeding off custom rails. A MicroTech LT16 engine management system gives the firing orders.

For street duty, around 12psi (0.8bar) of boost has been dialed into the equation, resulting in a dyno-proven 550hp at the rear wheels. According to Brent there’s a lot more capability in the current setup, and with 20psi (1.4bar) of turbo-generated pressure forced through the block, he’s adamant the engine would push over 800hp to the treads! To handle the power a Quarter Master twin-plate clutch is employed, but impressively enough the rest of the driveline is pretty much factory fare, save for a lightweight chromoly flywheel and a Mazdaspeed LSD-equipped rear end.

As we all know wheel choice can make or break the deal, and from the moment Aaron decided to build the car he had his mind made up on a set of classic Work Equips. But finding a set in the right size and fitment proved to be a lot harder than he imagined, and seeing as Work Wheels had discontinued the model from its line-up, he took the next best option and ordered a brand new set of three-piece Meisters measuring 19x9" and 19x12". The wheels sufficed for a year, but the moment a set of used Equips came up for sale, Aaron didn’t let the opportunity pass him by. At 18x11" and 18x13" the fat Equips fill out the fenders nicely, but out the back a pair of custom-engineered arms were required before the rear pair would physically fit.

To achieve the desired squat, and tighten up the 24 year-old car’s handling prowess, the rest of the suspension system got an overhaul, too. Together, D2 coilovers, custom toe arms and camber links, and a full course of performance-grade Nolathane bushes go along way in taming the FC’s tendency to do everything but drive in a straight line when the engine comes on full boost.

Plenty of hard graft and the equivalent of 75 grand is what it took to turn a rough stocker into the sinister looking weapon of mass induction before you, but Aaron isn’t complaining. “The best thing about this build was the people I met along the way and the close friends I have gained from it. Plus, after being broke for five years, I can now enjoy the result of all the hard work. If there’s one thing I learnt along the way though, it’s that cutting corners and rushing into things really does end up costing more in the long run. There’s a lot of truth to that old saying: do it once, do it right!”

Although there are no immediate plans to modify the RX-7 further, when it does eventually happen Aaron says the upgrades will revolve around a revised suspension system, fresh paint and a spattering of carbon fiber. Oh, and a new engine package too, because this one will soon be finding its way into his new project—a ‘77 Mazda RX-3 four-door sedan. If Mr. Curran Brothers Racing has his way, when that happens they’ll be turning the wick all the way up, too. But that’s another story…

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Tuning Menu
1988 Mazda RX-7 (FC3S)
Owner Aaron Keach
Hometown Auckland, New Zealand
Occupation Store Manager
Engine Mazda 20B three-rotor block; CBR custom bridge-porting; FC3S S5 rotors; lightened eccentric shaft; modified stationary gears; 2mm apex seals; Borg Warner S400 turbo; TiAL wastegate and blow-off valve; 5" front pipe; 4" exhaust system; 4.4" rear silencer; custom intercooler with 4" intercooler pipes; FWF custom intake; 3x Injector Dynamics 1000cc injectors; 3x Bosch 1600cc injectors; Speedflow fittings; K&N air filter; Jaz fuel cell; custom surge tank; Carter lift pump; 2x Bosch Motorsport 044 fuel pumps; Russell fuel filter; SX adjustable fuel pressure regulator; custom fuel rails; custom oil cooler; Peterson oil catch can; Bosch coils; side-mount alternator; Gilmour drive pulleys; custom oil pan; custom engine harness; Griffin alloy radiator; 16" fan; 2x 8" fans; custom radiator overflow can; electric water pump; MicroTech X6 igniter
Drivetrain Factory rebuilt 5-speed gearbox; Quarter Master twin-plate clutch; custom chromoly flywheel; Mazdaspeed limited-slip differential
Engine Management MicroTech LT16 engine management system; Turbosmart eBoost 2 electronic boost controller
Footwork & Chassis D2 adjustable coil-over dampers/springs; Nolathane bushes; custom toe arms; custom camber links; custom rear arms
Brakes Rebuilt factory calipers; slotted rotors; Wilwood pedal box, D2 hydraulic e-brake
Wheels & Tires 18x11"/18x13" Work Equip wheels; Hankook Ventus 245/35R18 front tires; 285/35R18 Pirelli P-Zero rear tires
Exterior BN Sports body front bumper, side skirts and rear bumper; D-Max front fenders; custom steel wide body rear fenders; PPG Satin Black paint
Interior 9-point rollcage; RPS race seats; RJS harness seatbelts; Nardi steering wheel; Defi tachometer, boost pressure meter, water temp meter, oil temp meter, oil pressure meter and fuel pressure meter
Thanks You Brent Curran @ Curran Brothers Racing (CBR); Craig @ Mag & Turbo Warehouse North Shore; Clint & Nyle @ Greenlane Speed Shop; Frank @ Frank Wigg Fabrication; Grant @ GT Refinishers; Cody & everyone else that helped out with the build

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By Brad Lord
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