Rattle cans, Aliexpress piping and too much time at home in lockdown — the FC is done, for now!
Words and Photos: Amy Davidson
Here we are — a year-and-a bit-long project almost coming to an end. Some 402 days, three major lockdowns, approximately 26 rattle cans of paint and a month off for the Bluff-and-back 5500km rotary roadie to achieve this goal. Let’s not sugar-coat it though — to get here the FC sat for 3650 days, shed-hopping before settling on a driveway under a rotting blue tarpaulin. Nevertheless, we are happily and finally here, the light at the end of the tunnel and the finish line for 6BUCKS version one.
It’s an unspoken rule that as you progress through a project, your motivation alters and dwindles, particularly when the goal changes and it’s out of your control. But despite the cancellation and subsequent new date of 2022 for the Impulsive Rotary Only Day, the FC still managed to push on. Mostly to avoid a buy-now purchase of any other Mazda project, although thankfully for the wallet, the cheap rotary project days are over.
Of course, it’s every project partaker’s dream to finish in a timely manner, and without the lockdowns, a great team of people to help, and a huge amount of DIY, this wouldn’t have been possible. It’s only reasonable that when you’re blessed with the best, to get everyone onboard. Because if the past nine months since losing Dad have taught me anything, it’s to encourage and use the knowledge around you. After all, it may not always be there.
The closest thing to having Dad’s input was rallying his friends and high-end ideas to get it done. You can thank him for the injectors and proper plugs. But the motor constituting only a Satin Black rattle can rebuild and the 80mm lower than lowering springs height … he would have had valid concerns. The standard 13B turbo has been blessed with a plethora of AliExpress piping, and multipurpose brackets, from a Hilux bull bar spotlight bracket converted into overflow bottle holders, through to cut-off oil drain flange to space out the turbo. The oil cooler, intercooler and radiator now sit up higher to allow the car to go lower, and at a right angle for more engine bay room.
Underneath, much of it remains fairly stock. But the outstanding work hidden in the adjustable suspension deserves a mention. Anthony from Alignment Specialists in Penrose spent a few lockdown weeks painstakingly modifying the suspension, machining down the shock body and moving brake brackets, making custom low-profile top hats, shortening shocks and providing new springs, allowing more room for lowering. Talk about understanding the goal. He was given pre-shortened shocks and a ride-height goal of over 80mm lower … he certainly achieved the desired look.
The interior is minimal to say the least, currently showcasing a lot of last summer’s Satin Gold rattle can paint job. After scavenging back interior plastics all over the country — which 10 years ago left the car hastily to the dump — the only way to preserve any finesse was to coat them all in Dupli-Color Vinyl & Fabric Paint (Satin Black of course). This is a fantastic product to bring a more vibrant, modern look to the duller grey interior. Even a light coating on the headlining brushed through with a toothbrush works wonders. For the few black trims that needed a spruce, CRC Plastic & Rubber Doctor is the wonder treatment. No carpets and no trims yet past the B pillar as the strut covers were shaved down for a more fluid feel, and subsequently the moulded carpet would no longer work. The final piece of the puzzle that’s proving difficult is fitting reclining bucket seats in a way to clear enough future helmet head space. For now, the factory seats will do the trick. This weekend they will get a light cover of the vinyl paint and a quick clean up.
But the best-looking, outsourced, feature of the interior and engine bay has to be the stunning loom designed and created in only a couple of weeks by the master Andrew Fabrin. With extensive knowledge on rotary wiring, he’s travelled the world helping Mazda and race enthusiasts, notably building the famous Red Bull, and once Guinness liveried, RX-3 Coupe based in Barbados and owned by Mark Maloney. Spitting flames from each downshift of the 13B, it’s worth a YouTube search. In fact as I finish this article, Andrew is outside, kindly going over each aspect of the wiring to allow us a pre-tune start. It’s tense times holding out hope for a 30-year-old motor from a once drift-and-track car, so it’s probably time to change the subject.
The approaching finish line made for a great opportunity to dabble in some family heritage, Millen-style. I popped open the gin and Mum brought over a couple albums of the greatest and most favoured RX-7, the Ashley Forest FC.
This particular album was the year my family went to the Ashley Forest Rallysprint for Uncle Rod to break the one-minute barrier at the Rally sprint. The first event held in 1979 was won by my uncle Steve in a Chevette, but in 1988 it was his brother Rod and son Rhys who took on the challenge in a 4WD FC RX-7 with 13B MFR, breaking the 1min barrier with a time of 59.9s. I’m sure you’ve all seen the video that seems to annually make the rounds on Facebook, but this album gave me an insight into when FCs were at their peak, thanks to my family. Cheered on in the forest end by Mum and Gran in matching rad Mazda tracksuits, and worked on by my wonderful dad — something he got to do a lot of over the years.
That RX-7 will now see its own restoration next year, back to the more vibrant colours it had for its last run in 1992 at Pikes Peak with Rhys driving.
What’s next for the 6BUCKS RX-7? Version two will come in time, involving more horsepower, a roll cage, probable factory positioning of radiator, speed fins on the roof and, I hope, a red hat in exchange for a speed record. For now, it’s test and tune time to finally give it some fun in the sun.
This article originally appeared in New Zealand Performance Car issue 294