Autocross to Win
What seems to come to mind for some when thinking about rotary powered sports cars is a distinct lack of torque and a sound akin to lawn equipment. Let me tell you, this car plays be neither of those rules. This 3rd generation RX-7 has the perfect amount of power anywhere you want it and makes noises most Subarus would be proud of. The owner, Kurt, has truly made something incredible out of an already special car.
Words do very little justice to how quick this car is. I’m not sure numbers would do a whole lot better. Mazda knew what they were doing when they rolled together the idea for sequential turbocharging in the FD. Some may shout from the sidelines that one giant single makes more power but they are completely missing the point. The turbo setup in this car is the same that Mazda envisioned but has had some remapping to make it a little more friendly to autocross and easily put down enough power. 313 horsepower and 278 ft-lb of torque just don’t properly convey the feeling this car gives. All of the tuning and wrenching to make those power figures a reality were done by the owner; gotta love a project that also provides valuable learning experiences.
From the time the 3rd generation RX-7 was announced it was a car worthy of bedroom wall posters. It is arguably one of the best looking cars to come out of the 90’s. In its day it held Mazda right with the competition of other import sports cars and solidified the rotary engine as nothing to be trifled with. This example was found in rough condition and brought back to life with the sole purpose of being faster around the cones than whatever else comes out to play. It has had a few different iterations along its journey to be what you see before you, it is a result of a long road of progression towards a more competitive car. Since the beginning the goal was to create a reliable example without straying too far from the factory outline and Kurt has done a wonderful job.
When driving this machine it is impossible to not be impressed with the amount of refinement, both from the factory and from the very functional mods, that allows you to confidently throw the car through any corner you can find. The way it puts down power is completely perfect. This is handled by a completely reworked suspension including adjustable rear end links, coilovers, some much larger sway bars, and plenty of bracing. Hammer down on corner exit and the car spins the tires, not into clouds of white smoke, but just enough to let the rear end walk out and rotate the car in the direction you want to go. Get on the brakes late and it skitters into the turn with the nose already pointed at the apex. The amount of balance can only be described as automotive zen.
Corners are where the lap times are made, and there is no doubt that this car was honed for the express purpose of demolishing those corners, but the unexpected consequence is a car that is giggle-inducingly fast. When you get done listening to the turbo and induction noise punctuated by rotary fed backfire filled shifts and look down you realize this car is fully capable of sending you to prison. Triple digits are achievable in places that you should never even try and I’m not sure where the power lets up, but I can tell you I never even got close.
You would never guess that this RX-7 started its current life as a trashed project car. The performance is better than the engineers could have imagined and the thing looks absolutely beautiful. Being one of the iconic Japanese sports cars from the 90’s, it definitely had a lot of hype to live up to but this FD goes above and beyond. I’m really not sure what is better than hearing the faint sound of tires struggling for grip while the first turbo spools. Maybe the fact that it just. keeps. going.
In racing it is often said that it is not about peak power, but more about the area under the curve. The number on a dyno plot is only a snapshot of how the car behaves. Making torque through most of the RPM range is the important thing when you are trying to get out of a corner or make a pass without downshifting. This car exemplifies that saying and shows how consistent power delivery and a flat torque curve can make a car regularly show up at the top of the raw times standings of any autocross. Anyone who can find something to hate on about the rotary engine or even import cars in general after driving this car needs to take a good hard look at their standards.
I for one am glad Mazda stuck with its rotary program and pushed forward with innovation that made the FD possible. Without this type of engineering foresight cars like this wouldn’t be nearly as relevant as they are now. Driving this tuned piece of 90’s perfection truly gives me hope when I look at the automotive advances that are occurring right now. I can’t wait to see what someone does with the latest and greatest cars out now after it has been sitting neglected beside someones house for a few years.