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Dragged & Bagged

13 May 2022



I just loved the shape and body lines; to me, it was like a Japanese Viper or Corvette — a classic that just looks so go od. I spent years looking for just the right one,” owner Minh begins.

It is well after 6pm and there are still sparks flying, hammers hammering, and the sound of tools hitting the floor. Welcome to another day at Auckland’s Spec 2 Development, where the owner of this smooth-looking street cruiser plies his trade. Describing himself as the floor sweeper and fish feeder, it’s clear that Minh does a little bit more than that, with his own work seen throughout the beautifully clean Series 6 RX-7 known as ‘AIROUT’ or, formerly, ‘OHNO50’.

While many are familiar with this sleek machine from recent car shows and regular sightings on Auckland roads, how it came to be, it seems, is a combination of careful planning and a bit of just plain old good luck. Minh has been around a while and owned a few other cars, including an Altezza that he says was so slammed that in the end everything on it was just about wrecked. He’s also got an Evo hiding away that has the makings of something very special — but maybe more about that later, as we are here to talk all-things rotary.

One thing that does appear common as we look at previous and current car photos is a preference for a ground-scraping ride height. Minh says that he knew what he wanted right from the start with this build. The goal was “sound good, look good”, as he puts it, and it took almost two years before he saw what he thought was an ideal project base located down in Christchurch.

Largely bog standard — but panelled and resprayed in the factory Spirit R Titanium Gray — this ticked the right boxes. To this day, the finish has stood up pretty well considering this is a car that does get used and abused. Money moved and plane tickets bought, it was off to the South Island to pick the car up, bring it back up the island for a bit of a fun scenic drive, then set about making it look how Minh wanted. While still looking for a base car, hours and hours were also spent researching airbag set-ups and finding just the right combo that would both allow for the slammed look and handle a bit of right-foot abuse.

Installed by Minh himself, the set-up comprises BC Gold shocks with a coilover-to-bag conversion kit and AccuAir e-Level that achieves the ground-scraping look that really sets this car apart. The iconic 18-inch three-piece Work Meister wheels are a perfect choice for the smooth body contours and fill up the guards nicely in staggered 9.5-inch front and 10.5-inch rear widths. Tasteful additions of later model factory and RE Amemiya bodykit parts create a look that is sleek yet hints at the menace that lies within.

With looking-good part now taken care of, it was on to the sounding good. Here is where, we are told, the good luck came into play. Purchasing what was marketed as an unfinished project off Trade Me — to use Minh’s own words, “I didn’t really care as long as it made the right noises” — he came to be in possession of a bridgeport 13B from an unknown engine builder that proved to be surprisingly healthy once run up on the dyno, making over 300kW.

As tends to happen, the car had enough power until it didn’t, and when you have a tuner like Brian at NDT as part of the build process, it was inevitable that the engine set-up would continue to be tinkered with. There was a bit of a laugh here as Minh says, “Everyone thinks he’s an RB guy, but to me the most important part is to trust your tuner.”

The set-up now features a whole heap of quality parts to make north of 400kW on pump gas while retaining that trademark pulsing sound that its owner so desired. Both owner and tuner are loyal Haltech ECU users, so it’s no surprise to find a Haltech 1500 controlling things, while an IC-7 dash keeps the driver aware of what’s going on. Throw in a BorgWarner S300-frame turbo with a 1.00AR twin-scroll housing and Turbosmart 50mm Pro-Gate, full mil-spec wiring loom, and a fuel system — including water-meth — that can keep up with a car that is thirstier than a schoolboy on ball night, and you have the makings of a serious street and strip weapon.

As with everything on this build, the engine bay had to keep with the theme of looking good, and there’s custom fab work on display throughout. Much of it bears the brand of Spec 2 Development — with Dinh to the fore in both designing and carrying out the welding work — with off-the-shelf parts from GReddy, Plazmaman, and Fenix Radiators. At this point, we would expect an owner also to mention a fair amount of drivetrain work, but, in this case, we suspect there are regular tyre replacements going on, as the car retains a factory gearbox fitted with a scatter shield and uses a five-puck clutch and lightened flywheel combo that’s never given any issues. The path of least resistance is clearly the 265-wide tyres, which struggle for traction on Auckland road surfaces.

As we talk about this grip, or lack thereof, we learn that the car is capable of easy mid 11s on street tyres and has also made its way onto the infamous ‘naughty list’ for running a 10.86-second quarter at 129mph (208kph) on a set of Mickey Thompson drag slicks. Having proven its capabilities, and with no desire by Minh to fit a cage into what is already a confined space, the car is now retired from drag racing, and that allows it to retain a tastefully done interior that features basic mods and stereo but really is just background to the noise of that engine.

So, how good is the build? Well it’s got a 10-second time slip, a 400kW dyno sheet, and a handful of show trophies to its name already, so we think the owner has pretty well hit his goal of it looking good and sounding good. A modern-day classic, perhaps, with a twist of street menace.

Now, about that other build — guess we’ll be back to visit Minh again sometime soon!


AGE: 30
LOCATION: Auckland
BUILD TIME: Two years

THANKS: Biggest thanks to Dinh, the boss man at Spec 2 Development; my wife and Millie; all the Backyard Development boys

This article originally appeared in New Zealand Performance Car issue No. 291