4.0 RX-7

My love for RX-7’s had turned into an interest in fixing cars.  I joined the Industrial Tech and Engineering Academy in my High School, which was the closest thing to Auto Shop we had.  We explored automotive, welding, soldering, and more. We had a Universal Technical Institute (UTI) rep come in and show us all about the school. It planted the idea of becoming an automotive technician in my head.  I still had a year of high school left to mull it over. Shortly after high school, I had bought an FD (see FD + broken thumb= Higher Education) and decided I was going to give it a go at being an automotive technician.  I started this path by attending UTI’s new campus in Sacramento.  I was part of the second class to graduate there. My end goal was to be accepted into one of UTI’s manufacturer sponsored programs.  I figured if I was going to go to UTI then I was going to make the absolute best out of it.  I quickly became known as the “rotary guy” at UTI.  Being that the school was new, we would always get excited to see what new cars and people were going to show up with the next group of students.  Sadly no RX-7’s ever showed up in my time there.  My second class was taught by Mr. Moots and was basic engines.  Mr. Moots was and older teacher with loads of experience especially in the diesel field.  He found out that I had an RX-7 and told me that he, too, owned one.  The original owner of a 1984 RX-7 GSL-SE.  For those that don’t know the, GSL-SE was the top of the line fuel injected 13B equipped model of the 1st gen RX-7’s.  I talked to him about it and he told me that it had been sitting for quite some time.  It had around 135k miles and was all original, but he had parked it and the battery died and so it sat for many years.  I asked him if he wanted to sell it and to my surprise he told me that if I graduated with a 4.0 that he would give me the car.  Since my goal at UTI was already to get good grades I said, “Challenge accepted!”  Throughout my year at UTI Mr. Moots would ask me if I still had a 4.0 GPA and I am pleased that I was able to graduate with a 4.0 and 4 different “Student of the Course” awards (given to the student with the highest scores of a particular course).  I also interviewed and was accepted to the Merceded Benz ELITE program at the Rancho Cucamonga UTI campus.  A manufacturer paid 3 month Mercedes Benz specific training program.  Shortly after graduation I arranged a time to pickup the GSL-SE and Mr. Moots made good on our deal.  The car was currently not running and registration was long past due so I would have to tow the car home from Shingle Springs, CA.  He lived on a hill with a windy narrow road and so I parked at the bottom of the hill and road up to his house with him.  We put some air in the tires and then he towed me down the hill with a rope connected to his Diesel VW rabbit.  He drove much faster than I anticipated and on the foggy damp day I must say it was quite a nervous “first drive.”  The tow home was also interesting because we had loaded the car on the U-Haul facing backwards.  The weight wasn’t quite balanced right and resulted in a trailer that would occasionally sway back and forth.  I had to stop in the rain and try to move the car further forward to keep the weight over the tongue.  I managed the rest of the way home with out incident and unloaded the car and immediately got to work.


First things first was getting a battery in it and seeing if the car would start.  I changed the oil and put some fresh gas in the tank along with a new battery and gave it a crank.  To my surprise it started right up!  It actually ran really good.  I got a temporary moving pass and was able to drive it on the street. With only a few weeks before I had to leave for Rancho Cucamonga my time to work on the car and get it registered was very short.  I was unable to get the car smogged and registered before I left.  So I drove the FD down to Rancho Cucamonga, returning home once every few weeks.  It came time to smog the FD in December, which it failed miserably.  So now I had to park both RX-7’s and drove my parents Ford Expedition back down south.  The rotaries would have to wait until after graduation.

FD + broken thumb= Higher Education

It was just after graduation, 2004.  I had decided to sell my 1990 GXL and then my second 87′ that I had painted.  I sold the GXL for $950 and the 87 for $3600.  I don’t know what happened to either of the cars.  The guy who bought the GXL said that he intended to V8 swap it.  I sold the 87 to a guy who came from the bay area.  He got a really nice car at a great price with fresh paint.  What I got was, a jump start on my way to owning the pinnacle of RX-7 design.  The 3rd generation RX-7 (FD) was in my crosshairs.  The hunt was on, I scoured the internet checking rx7club forums, craigslist, and autotrader.  After a while of searching I found a 93 Montego Blue Automatic touring model with 212k miles and it was only 350 miles away from me down in Burbank, CA.  By most peoples standards they would have passed on this car based on those facts alone.  But at $9500 the price was right.  I contacted the seller for more information, the engine was rebuilt around 180k miles and ran good.  Second owner and had been well maintained.  The car had tokico 5 way adjustable shocks, greddy intercooler pipes/elbow, a downpipe, and silicone vacuum lines. Other than that it was stock.  My friend Kyle and I made the trek down to Burbank to look at the car.  I test drove the car and fell in love, even though I hate automatics.

These pictures are from the day I brought it home

I purchased the car and drove it home with a box full of extra parts and receipts from the original owner.  It didn’t take long until I was researching the 5 speed manual swap and everything that entailed.  Which included an engine harness, clutch and brake pedals, transmission, ECU, 9.5lb flywheel, and 4.10 rear end (as opposed to the 3.90 automatic rear end).  It took about a month but I found most of the parts in one place in the bay area.  A real score.  The only problem was that I had never undertaken such a large project.  This is not a simple swap by any means and my wrenching experience had basically been, oil changes, installing an HKS intake, and a catback exhaust.  I called up my friend Ben at Rotary Evolution (Karack) on the forums who I had made friends with through many RX-7 club meets in my FC’s.  Between him and I and another friend we labored through getting everything swapped over.  Ben did most of the work and was totally awesome.  I really could not have done it without his help.  While we were pulling out the automatic the transmission slipped off the jack and landed on my thumb, which was now broken.

That same day I had a pre-enrollment interview with the rep from Universal Technical Institute (UTI) about attending and learning how to become an automotive technician.  When he asked me if I was really passionate about cars I simply held up my thumb wrapped in ice.  Seemed to be enough of an answer for him.  (More on my experience at UTI in the next post)  So we finished up the manual swap and the car…. didn’t start.  But my time was up with Ben he had to head home to Marysville.  I did more research about the swap and figured out that there was a dash connector from the engine harness that needed some re-configuring.  I’m not proud of the work I did, but I hacked up some wires and connected them according to what I had read and got the car running!  It wasn’t good work, but it was running.  I took it for a test drive and was blown away by how much faster the car was with the light flywheel, manual gearbox, and 4.10 rear end.  Night and Day difference.  I was ready to go out to slay 350z’s, Camaros, WRX’s, and S2000’s.  Needless to say this car got me in trouble pretty quickly.  A speeding ticket that nearly lost me the car straightened me out.  Knowing that a technician cannot be insured at a dealership with two points kept me on the straight and narrow.  I drove this car daily and even got to go to a few autocross events.  This car taught me a lot about driving and controlling a vehicle.  It also taught me that I needed to learn more about working on cars because I was CLEARLY in over my head with this one.

As you can see the car went through a few phases.  From stock body with no spoiler to an R1 spoiler and finally to an RE-Amemiya tail light spoiler.  I owned the car for about 30k miles and the car wouldn’t pass smog.  I had just begun working at Mercedes Benz of Oakland and making decent money but I needed a car to drive to work from Dublin to Oakland. I began shopping for STi’s, EVO’s, and C5 Z06’s.  I listed my FD for sale for $8500.  The guy who bought it flew in from Illinois to pick it up and drive it back.  Unfortunately he didn’t make it, as the motor gave out going over the Sierra Nevada mountains.  He managed to rent a truck and trailer to tow it home.  He began an LS1 swap that he never completed and sold it on to someone else who supposedly finished the job.  I attempted to find this car for a short while before purchasing my second FD last year and that was all the information I could find out about it.  Do you own my old car?  Would love to see what it’s up to now!


Roadside Find

Shortly after buying my second RX-7 I decided to delve into re-painting the whole car.  In hindsight it didn’t really need it, but I was young and full of ambition.  Consequently I was in WAY over my head.  Needless to say the car remained in a primered state for way too long.

During this primered state, driving down Briggsmore avenue, I spotted an RX-7 on the corner at Oakdale road.  A common spot at the time for people to park their cars for sale.  I stopped to look at it, a 1990 Black on black GXL model.  Up until this point I had only owned 87’s.  For the second generation of the RX-7’s they had two iterations.  86-88 were considered S4’s, with a visual and mechanical upgrade implemented for the 89-91 model years known as the S5. So for me, this 90, had the appeal of the S5 which I had never owned before.  The car had just over 200k miles, it was a 5spd and a GXL which is a fully loaded model of the naturally aspirated cars.  The price was a glorious $900. The GXL model came equipped with better wheels, spoiler, sunroof, adjustable suspension, leather seats, power windows, A/C, and P/S.  The S5 also has better tail lights bumpers and mirrors compared to the S4 model.

So now, with my first wrecked car, my primered second car, and now a third RX-7 all parked at my (parents) house.

Well the reason for the $900 price tag is that on occasion this car smoked like a freight train when it was cold.  As it turns out, it was the results of failing water seals.  It magically still passed smog, but I only drove it a handful of times due to the intermittent smoke and a starter issue.  I can’t remember why or when the decision was made to sell the car, but I really wish I hadn’t.  I should have kept it, rebuilt the motor, and drove it another 200k miles. It was so fun to drive and felt much faster than my S4 did.  To this day, I still wish I could have an S5 again. Though recently I’ve really been jonesin’ for an S5 convertible, which makes me laugh, because I used to hate convertibles!  Guess some things grow on you with age.

Some finished pictures after painting my 2nd car.  Turned out really nice thanks to the help of my Uncle Randy who was experienced with painting cars.  I had some help with the prep work from my friends, Matt and Jeff.  Shortly after the paint job was done I decided to sell the car and start the hunt for an FD (93-95 RX-7)

One heartbreak, Two Rx-7’s

My first car and love for automobiles lasted almost exactly 11k miles.  Eleven thousand miles of pure joy.  I had installed a catback exhaust, HKS intake, and an aftermarket stereo and speakers.  I had new Motegi wheels and tires on the way.  It was a mildly foggy morning of my senior year in high school.  February 4, 2004, one of the worst days of my life.  I was driving to school and had just made a left hand turn onto a main road (2 lanes each way with a suicide lane in the middle).  I get up to about 30 mph when a car that was parked on the right side of the road suddenly makes a U-turn right in front of me.  I got on the brakes as quick as I could and did a non-abs skid right into her drivers door.  I was crushed and so was the front of my car.

I feared the worst knowing my car wasn’t monetarily valuable and awaited the insurance report.  Total loss.  To add insult to injury they offered me a whopping $2000 for my mint condition 87k mile FC.  Unacceptable!  I fought them on the value of the car and eventually got $3800.  I bought the car back for $200 and removed all my aftermarket parts.  I was on the hunt for a new FC.  I managed to find a very clean car down south and the buyers agreed to meet in Fresno, CA.  Again, I was unable to test drive the car because I had broken my ankle in a tennis match for the varsity tennis team. So Dad, test drove the car and everything checked out and we purchased the car for ~$3500.  Although it had around 135k miles it was a one owner car that was very well maintained.  It was even the same COLOR!  Most people at school didn’t even realize that I was in a collision and got a different car. I got some help from my friend Lisa in the RX7 club and installed the exhaust and intake along with the new Motegi wheels.

I made custom plywood mounts for some kicker L7 subs where the storage bins go.

So I was back on the road a few weeks later when my ankle healed.  But the story doesn’t end here…


Passion for the Mazda RX-7

I decided to create this site to share my journey of building my dream car, a 1993 Mazda RX-7.  Along the way I also needed a place to share some information I have assembled into how-to tutorials. Figured this would be the best way in which to do so.  My passion for RX-7’s began when I was 15 years old.  Rocking my sweet learners permit, counting down the days until I could spread my wings on the open road alone.  One small problem, I didn’t have a car. I had been searching already, scouring auto trader and the free car trader magazines at gas stations.  It’s 2002, the internet isn’t quite as big as it is now.  I’m approaching my 16th birthday, car-less, with all the enthusiasm of a toddler who just learned how to walk.  My mom walks in and says, “Do you like Mazda Rx-7’s”….. uhh that’s a sports car right?  YEA I LIKE THOSE.  Turns out just down the street from where my mom gets her hair cut sits a 1987 Mazda Rx-7. So we go to look at the car. It had a for sale sign in the window, “1987 Mazda RX-7 76k miles, 5 spd manual, 5.0L V8, $4000”  LOL by this time I had done enough research and talked to my dad about it who knew it was a Rotary engine car.  We chuckled about the V8 comment, called the owner, and test drove it.  I, of course, have never driven a stick shift car in my life.  So my dad drove it, but I FELL IN LOVE.  This was the cleanest, all original, second  gen I have ever seen to this day 16 years later.  We bought the car, me paying my half $2000, that I earned rebuilding and selling a Victorian Upright Piano.  I then spent the remainder of my 2 months with a learners permit learning how to drive stick.  Stalling all the way!  I still remember trying to pull out of the Raley’s parking lot after I had just ran into a friend from school.  I was so nervous trying to look cool, I stalled it….several times… and had to switch seats with my mom.  She can drive stick like a boss.  I was so embarassed, but continued my lessons with mom and dad until I was proficient at rowing through the gears.  On my 16th birthday I took my license test and passed, I was free to move about the world!  This car began my passion for cars and RX-7’s.  It wasn’t long until I’d be on to RX-7 number two, three, four, and five.  Number six I had to wait a long time for. My next post I’ll tell you where my first car ended up and about the cars that followed!