550+kW 20B

NZ Performance Car - - Front Page -

Cast your mind back around four years, and the stance move­ment was re­ally just start­ing to find its feet both here in New Zealand, and on a world stage. Tyre stretch, de­mon cam­ber, rims that poked out of the guards, and wheels wider than eight inches were all on the rise. One of the most in­sane New Zealand builds — and one which gained plenty of over­seas no­to­ri­ety — was Aaron Keach’s 520kW 20B-pow­ered FC RX-7, a car we fea­tured on the cover of Is­sue No. 173. But there was a prob­lem — although it looked awe­some, all that 20B power up front was go­ing to waste, as Aaron ex­plained. “Any time you put your foot down it just spun the rears. I got sick of not be able to plant it. You couldn’t use the power, it would just go all over the road. I de­cided to make the most of the 20B by putting it into some­thing which could han­dle the jan­dal. I wanted some­thing that would hook up, some­thing with slicks.”

At around the same time, Brent Cur­ran from CBR had a seem­ingly OK­con­di­tion pis­ton-pow­ered Mazda 808 which was the per­fect base for the build. Aaron was sold, and over the next two years it was trans­formed into a tough street/ strip small-tyre 808. The FC RX-7 was stripped of all the nec­es­sary com­po­nents, and the rolling shell was passed on. The only prob­lem was, as Aaron soon found out, his sim­ple plan of swap­ping it all over to the new chas­sis ready to go rac­ing quickly spi­ralled out of con­trol. “I was orig­i­nally just go­ing to put in a Se­ries 4 [RX-7] gear­box and Hilux diff be­hind the 20B, but then Brent got in my ear and sug­gested I put a de­cent diff in it, and just run it on fac­tory leaf springs. So I got a good diff [an al­loy Strange nine-inch], then he was like, ‘if you have the diff you may as well three-link it’, so I did that, then he was like, ‘oh well you have all that shit you may as well get a de­cent gear­box’, so it just went from there.

It’s pretty much Brent’s fault that it got to where it is.”

Early on in the build the 808 was dropped to GT Re­fin­ish­ers, where the seem­ingly OK-con­di­tion shell soon re­vealed its true con­di­tion — with rusty quar­ters and a rusted out and poor­lyre­paired floor­pan. “We ended up cut­ting off the en­tire rear end, and I pur­chased a rear cut for $100, which Grant stitched on.” One of the big­ger tasks for GT was the ex­ten­sive in­te­rior tin-work cov­er­ing the ad­justable three-link nine-inch diff and 28- by nineinch Mickey Thomp­son ET Streets. This is where the build di­verted from your tra­di­tional 28-by-nine-tyred drag car, which would re­tain the fac­tory chas­sis rails, but given the rest of the 808’s chas­sis that would have left it sit­ting much higher than Aaron wanted.

Once the chas­sis and tin work was sorted it was handed over to Sinco Cus­toms, in Hamil­ton, to have the 20B mounted and a few other pieces of fab­ri­ca­tion done. That was the idea, any­way, but it soon spi­ralled into re­fab­ri­cat­ing ev­ery­thing, as noth­ing swapped over from the FC’s en­gine bay would play ball when it came to fit­ting it into the tighter con­fines of the 808’s en­gine bay, and that meant new man­i­folds, catch can, plenum, cool­ing sys­tem, and ex­haust. Ba­si­cally the only re­main­ing bolt-on parts car­ried over from the FC were some of the in­jec­tors, the ECU and the en­gine block.

The goal was to run on both street and strip, so when it came to gear­box se­lec­tion a com­pro­mise had to be made, as a full drag box wouldn’t suit those trips to the dairy or beach, and a syn­chro gear­box wouldn’t last very long at the track with big launches and high-rev changes. The re­sult was a Tre­mec TKO600 with a Lib­erty dog-en­gage­ment gear set.

Aaron col­lected the car from Sinco just a few weeks ahead of Christ­mas 2014, and with the un­veil date set for the 2015 V 4&Ro­tary Na­tion­als just over a month and a half out, he had only six weeks to build a com­plete car, in­clud­ing two weeks for paint.

So while ev­ery­one was at the beach or bach over sum­mer, Aaron was fu­ri­ously piec­ing the car to­gether. “I ba­si­cally built it in just over a month from a bare shell,” he ex­plained. And by build we mean ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing wiring in the Mi­croTech him­self: “I had some­one wire the FC for me and he butchered it, which killed a 20K mo­tor. I then had a shop try and fix it, but they butchered it too. I ba­si­cally rewired that en­tire car my­self, and made it work. That’s why I went with the Mi­croTech in this car, as I knew what I was do­ing with it. I have wired ev­ery­thing on its own cir­cuit so that it’s easy to trace prob­lems down the track. If I have an is­sue with, say, a gauge, a coil, or a fuel pump it’s only that cir­cuit I need to look at, it makes it much eas­ier to prob­lem-solve.”

A few weeks be­fore the Na­tion­als the car was handed over to GT Re­fin­ish­ers so the team could get a coat of paint on. Thank­fully no panel work was needed, as things got a lit­tle crazy. “I like to do things a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. At the end of the day ev­ery­one does nice, shiny paint. It just wouldn’t have stood out.

This way it stands out, and I don’t have to worry about scratch­ing or dent­ing it, as it’s al­ready got dents,” Aaron ex­plained. Many will re­mem­ber his FC, which had a full satin balck steel wide­body and bright green Work Wheels, and this time they de­cided to go one step wilder, with a faux patina. Many peo­ple be­lieve it’s a vinyl wrap, but it’s ac­tu­ally the re­sult of hours of paint­ing and sand­ing be­fore a fi­nal, base clear coat to seal it all in. The fin­ish­ing touch is the Ale­jan­dro’s Mower Re­pairs shop signs on each door, as a lit­tle tongue-in-cheek poked at the ro­tary en­gine that lies be­neath the car’s skin.

The week lead­ing up to the show it was all hands on deck to get the project com­pleted and fired for the first time so it could be driven into the ASB Show­grounds, where it fea­tured as one of the main un­veil cars. But now all that is done, it’s time to get the lit­tle jobs sorted so it can be made road legal, and Aaron can get some seat time and learn the art of ped­alling a big-power small-tyre drag car. First up he will re­tune the Mi­croTech with the en­tire new en­gine set-up, he’s hop­ing it will make close to 600kW on E85 at the wheels. His FC man­aged a best ET of 11.4 on mega-cam­ber street rub­ber with 520kW and a ton more weight, and all signs point to the fact this will be a fast street car, whichever way you look at it.

If you ask us, Aaron has man­aged to build it to look equally — or more — tough than the FC it’s re­plac­ing, and this time around he will ac­tu­ally be able to put that power to the ground in what we hope will re­sult in some wheels-up an­tics — the per­fect bal­ance of form and func­tion.

We love that the panel work is left raw, there’s no bog hid­ing the fact it has had a rear panel stitched on, and rust re­pairs. Sure it will never win best paint at a car show, but that’s not what it was built for

The in­te­rior is bare-bones race-car fod­der, with lit­tle in the way of crea­ture com­forts ex­cept a sur­pris­ingly comfy un­padded al­loy Kirkey seat. But who needs com­fort when you’re blast­ing sub

10-sec­ond passes?

Just when you thought that one Holset Pro55 turbo would be enough for the 20B, there are plans to add an­other one at some stage soon, and pos­si­bly re­duce the size of the turbo ex­haust hous­ing to suit

It’s fair to say that rocking around the streets with a Deist parachute hang­ing off the back of your car

is a clear sign that things are a lit­tle more se­ri­ous than your av­er­age streeter gets

Cur­rently the boot space is empty, but there are plans to fill it with an 80-litre fuel cell, at which point the en­gine bay–mounted 10-litre cell will be­come a surge tank for events like Power Cruise. It’ll also be use­ful when Aaron is out cruis­ing, as 10 litres of E85 will not last very long

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