The Pursuit of Power

No matter how cliché swapping the rotary in an RX-7 for a big hunk of American metal is, you really don’t care when you’re sitting in a car that makes almost everything else you’ve ridden in feel like a joke. Being a tried and true rotary lover, it always pains me to see the light glinting off of a signature LS intake manifold as the hood rises on an RX. Even with an undying passion for rotaries I can’t join the rank of haters that are going to bash this car. I might even go as far as to say let them hate. Having a closed mind is only going to keep them from having as much fun as the rest of us.


Second gen RX-7s are honestly my favorite of the trifecta. A convertible with a Turbo-II drivetrain in it would be the ultimate beach cruiser. This convertible is the ultimate feelings killer. It is rare to find a swapped car that has every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed. The time spent making this car a perfectly melded combination of Mazda chassis engineering and GM power is truly impressive. While the term sleeper doesn’t really apply to anything that lopes this hard at a stop light, it definitely doesn’t give up its true nature without a bit of prying.


When talking with the owner of a V8 swapped RX-7 I usually find that they started with that intent in mind. Finding a shell is easy and a junkyard V8 is even easier. AJ took a different approach. Having a second gen convertible with the full T-II drivetrain swapped into it as a daily driver in school made him appreciate the style and sophistication Mazda pulled together for the RX-7. When it came time to embark on another project, with a bit loftier goals, another second gen vert was the logical choice.


The heart of a late model GTO was repurposed and has found a much more entertaining home, including GTP Stage 3 Race heads, beefed up valvetrain, custom intake, headers, etc. Rumor has it that the FC was designed with the idea of fitting the fabled 20B rotary that was used in the Cosmos that were never destined for this side of the world in it. This left plenty of room for the V8 to be placed without much compromise. Sticking with the motor/trans/ECU from the low mileage GTO meant that this swap was a lot less fuss than you’d think looking at the end result. With off the shelf kits available it’s amazing more people don’t go down this road.


While it might seem like this build is just some well sourced parts getting bolted together, the devil is in the details as they say. Having a kit available for a swap like this allows a lot more thought and care to be put into the small things, not just how to fit the motor and make sure the chassis still performs as it should. Everything is in its place, nothing looks hacked together or feels like it was forced. This is exemplified by the nearly unchanged interior.


The stock gauge cluster was left alone, all the HVAC and radio controls are the same you would find in any RX-7 from this era; only probably way nicer. There are subtle changes around but nothing that jumps out at you. The shift light hidden behind the AC vent might be an old-school trick but I find it a perfect reminder of the sleeper status this car exudes.


Along with that sleeper vibe is another touch that I couldn’t not mention, the exhaust. Behind the eight cylinders of American muscle that propel this RX-7 down the road is a legitimate Racing Beat dual exit exhaust. It’s quite strange hearing a loping V8 while looking at the name etched into the tips. When confusing people at car shows is all done and it’s time to get down to business that exhaust gets cut out of the system by electronic cutouts that really let you know it’s not a rotary. Did I mention they are remote controlled with a key fob?


If the power increase from the engine swap alone isn’t enough, let me say (in my best Billy Mays impression) but wait, there’s more! An NX Shark nitrous kit can deliver up to another 150HP on top of what the far from stock LS6 is already making. I haven’t ridden in the car with the nitrous going, but I do know that it doesn’t have nearly enough traction on the streets to even use the motor alone.


The distinct lack of traction is no fault of the chassis though. A Granny’s Speed 8.8 rear end kit is fitted in the back, along with the hardened axles needed to put down the power. A Granny’s Watts link keeps everything in line and Fortune Auto coilovers make sure the suspension is where it should be. This is truly a polished package.It’s turn heads cruising the beach polished. It’s pick your kids up from school polished. It’s throw down at the track polished.


While going fast in a straight line was the main goal of this build the owner actually first introduced to me at an autocross event. The car had never been built for that type of racing but was quite respectable on course. If anyone thinks that a drag car can’t handle the corners, then they need to take some notes. While it will never be truly competitive with the classing systems used at those events, it is just plain awesome to have a car well sorted enough to be used in whatever discipline you want.


Even being a diehard rotary fan and wanting nothing else but to race Mazdas, this RX-7 checks all the right boxes in my book. It is definitely the fastest RX I have been in to date, although I hope someone can come change that (hopefully with some spinning doritos and a few turbos). Even more awesome than the car itself is the vision and passion put into it by AJ. This build is so far removed from the typical V8 swap that it leaves me wondering what else could benefit from this kind of treatment. It also shows that all the naysayers need to stop hating for the sake of hating. I dare them to not crack a smile in the passenger seat.

Zach Grant

Instagram: zachneedsinstagram

The List:

  • LS6/T56 from low mileage 2004 GTO
  • Hinson engine swap kit
  • GTP Stage 3 Race Heads
  • Patrick G custom grind Comp Cam 231/235 .617/.621
  • Texas Speed & Performance hardened push rods
  • ARP head bolts
  • PRC .650″ lift dual springs
  • Custom intake
  • Stainless Works headers
  • Wilwood adjustable master cylinder
  • Mcleod Original Street Twin Clutch
  • Granny’s Speed Shop TA/SA upgraded deluxe 8.8 kit
  • Granny’s Speed fabricated Watts link
  • Fortune Auto 500 series coilovers
  • QTP electric exhaust cut outs w/ remote contro
  • Racing Beat REV T2 mufflers
  • NX Shark nozzle nitrous kit 75/125/150 shots
  • Lingenfelter LNC-2000 2-step/ timing tuner

Without Words: