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RX Baby – Mazda MX-5

11 April 2022

MX meets RX in this mighty Miata Sports Coupe. Let’s look at an iconic performance car and switch it up with some true Kiwi rotor style – Pulse Baby Pulse!

Words and Photos: Rixsta Sammons

Just when you thought you had heard all the stories, the pandemic builds are still going strong, and we found a stunner — a build initiated within the constraints of lockdown. Meet Scott, owner of this Miata — another bloke cut from the same vine as us performance car gear heads who had zero plans to binge-watch Tiger King on Netflix during lockdown, but rather crack into a new project. Now, it would almost be a world record to build this car in one month, so it wasn’t. In fact, it was seven months before it was hitting the Hauraki chase at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, but lockdown made for some great progress.

Starting with a decent-running and driving vehicle, it was time for the light and nimble MX to meet RX, with the crown jewel and source of fusion being a healthy 213hp, full-cut Bridgeport ‘13B’ Rotary. There is a lung-dragging 51mm IDA and K&N filter which hangs out the bonnet for induction and visible drama, an RX-2 Fenix radiator mounted up front to ensure you know it’s got something meaty under the bonnet, and a Davies Craig 14-inch fan to keep the 13B cool.

Killing your ear drums is a ‘Chucky’ full stainless three-inch blast pipe, complemented with a bunch of other cool mashed-up pipes to make this thing perform the way it does. But, highlighting some of the crafty bits we noticed, is a rather radical piece of engineering: the mounting of the rotary engine. It sits on a V8 Roadster subframe — so far back you’re almost sitting on it — which does make for some good counterweight performance driving. Backed up to that is a five-speed MX-5 box with a Series 1–3 RX-7 bell housing and an input shaft machined down. Power is then hitting a seven-inch locked diff giving the driving force.

The minimalist engine bay looks stunning, with its shaved appearance a huge compliment to the rotary engine and work that has gone into fitting it in there. Unnoticeable at first glance is the huge stance on this car with its rocket bunny style kit, and huge Watanabe RS-style 15×10.5-inch (-32P) wheels all round.

A big footprint on the ground with 225/45R15 semi slicks all round aids in providing maximum forward drive, or sideways when wanted. Scott says that around the racetrack there was zero lifting of the gas pedal, and the car wouldn’t kick out unless forced. When it does, though, it’s built to handle it with a drifty-boy set-up, dual OEM calipers on the rear, and a set of four-piston Wilwoods up front. And when that Scandinavian switch needs to happen, a few pumps of the Hydro handbrake and it’s Tokyo Drift time!

The rear section of this Miata fighter jet has a unique look about it; a massive 1700mm wing on the rear and custom-made bash bar tied together with some crossed-over wire and buckles which gives a somewhat tactical look. Things are kept rather simple in the cockpit with an AiM MXL Strada digital dash for keeping a check on all the vitals. Trusty Takata harnesses keep you locked in tight to the set of Bride buckets hard-mounted right to the chassis. “You’re going to feel the car for all it’s worth!” Scott tells us. The weld-in cage is a good choice. From what we have seen out on the track, this car handles like it’s on rails, and bolted to each strut tower are Oz Racing Adjustable coilovers, and Destroy or Die drop knuckles.

It’s fair to say the Toyota C-HR colour holds your interest on the Miata; it’s bright, pops, and sets off the car’s image. Scott has always been a fan of the teal colour pallet — coming up in a feature issue is his Nissan 180SX which has now been wrapped, but was a similar colour. “I love bright and outstanding colours,” he says.

Prospects for the Miata is to put it through its paces and get more drift practice in. As mentioned, he also owns a Nissan 180SX and it’s a cheaper option in the Miata to get the seat time under him in. Something that’s potentially on this cards is peripheral porting of the engine, or even a supercharger. It’s a wild little car, and what’s been achieved so far is nothing less than outstanding. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for the mighty pulsating Miata minter. Is the rotary engine the perfect engine swap for the NA chassis? We think so!

DRIVER/OWNER: Scott Barriball
AGE: 31
LOCATION: Wellington
OCCUPATION: Courier driver
BUILD TIME: Seven months
THANKS: Shaun Williams for the paint, Kurtis Gaw for the wiring, Matt Lauder for the fabrication, Gavin Wenzlick at HPR for the tune, Nik Bura for welding the cage in, Road and Track for all the fittings and hoses, Wayne Ryder for the panel work, Tara Blake my partner for putting up with yet another build of mine

This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue No. 291