ONE MAN'S QUEST TO BUILD THE COUN­TRY'S BEST RX-2

21-YEAR-OLD TIM JOHN­SON SET OUT TO PROVE A POINT — ONE WE THINK HAS BEEN NAILED HOME WITH HIS TRO­PHY-SNATCH­ING RX-2

NZ Performance Car - - Front Page -

Ev­ery year at the V 4&Ro­tary Na­tion­als, there is that one car that stands out from the rest — its build qual­ity, at­ten­tion to de­tail, and over­all bad-as­sery are just strides ahead of most other at­ten­dees. This year, that award (it’s not ac­tu­ally an award) would have to go to Tim John­son’s Mazda RX-2 which won the crowds over, fol­low­ing an 18-month ground-up build fin­ished only hours be­fore the cov­ers were pulled at the show. Those 18 months had been a hard slog for the young man, work­ing up­wards of 80 hours per week, jug­gling be­tween his day job as an ap­pren­tice me­chanic earn­ing cash to pay for the build, and pro­gress­ing with the build it­self. The hard slog paid off, earn­ing him a swag of awards in­clud­ing the cov­eted RX Mas­ter, Best RX-2, Best En­gine Bay, Best Un­der­car­riage and Sus­pen­sion, and Best Dis­play in open class. In fact, Tim ex­pended so much ef­fort com­plet­ing the build, that his body sim­ply shut down the fol­low­ing week. “I got glan­du­lar fever, ton­sil­li­tis, and strep throat. My body is still not right; but work­ing 160 hours in 12 days will do that to you,” Tim told NZPC.

If you had asked Tim 18 months ear­lier whether he could see him­self win­ning the RX Mas­ter at the 2015 Na­tion­als, his re­ply would have been a def­i­nite “No.” You see, the build wasn’t re­ally sup­posed to hap­pen, at least not to the ex­tent you see here. The RX-2 was a fin­ished car when Tim pur­chased it, and a pretty nice one at that. “I had just fin­ished mod­i­fy­ing a VU HSV Maloo ute. It had a new ex­haust, in­take, fresh tune, and was slammed on ad­justa­bles, which made it a bit of a pig to drive. My brother took it for a drive and it was a bit damp — well, that car ended up writ­ten off in a bank, so I started look­ing around at ro­taries. I love their

sound and how far peo­ple were tak­ing their ro­tary builds. I found this RX-2 in Christchurch, and me and two mates drove there and back in one day,” ex­plained Tim. The Se­ries 2 sedan had orig­i­nally been built in Wan­ganui by Chad Mill­bank, and had been through a few hands since Chad sold it. Thank­fully, the bare metal re­spray chad car­ried out, had held up, and it had al­right parts in the right places, in­clud­ing all the fac­tory in­te­rior.

Tim knew it needed some work, but the bones were good, so he limped it back home to the Taranaki, com­plete with stuffed Se­ries 4 gear­box, and a Hilux diff that was try­ing to shake the arse off the RX. Thank­fully, it made it all the way back home with­out ei­ther com­po­nent call­ing it quits. Tim wasted no time putting in work. “I ba­si­cally took the en­tire en­gine bay apart in the sec­ond week I owned it, and went out to see the Raikes boys at Global Stain­less. I started say­ing I wouldn’t mind get­ting this fixed and that pol­ished. They were good bas­tards and said, ‘na, bring it all out and we will teach you how to do it.’ So I pol­ished it all up, put it back to­gether, and then a cou­ple of weeks, and a few big burnouts later, it started to get hot. Be­cause the gear­box and diff still needed to come out, I went all-in, balls deep.”

This would mark the be­gin­ning of an 18 month jour­ney of week-in, week-out work­ing, both day and night, to fund it and get it fin­ished. One of the first tasks was sorting out the en­gine. From the out­set Tim wanted to have 373kW (500hp) on pump gas, and run a 10-sec­ond pass. The cur­rent sus­pect ex­tend-port 13B was pro­duc­ing 260kW (350hp) at the wheels, so it needed to go. Fear­ing that a 21 year old wouldn’t be taken se­ri­ously over the phone, he made the trip to PPRE to dis­cuss plans in per­son with War­ren, who was con­fi­dent that his team could make it hap­pen. That af­ter­noon, Tim left the work­shop hav­ing pur­chased a 13B bridge-port block, E-boost con­troller and cus­tom spec’d Mas­ter Power T70 turbo. The block had once lived in Glen Huijs’ NZPC 9-Sec­ond Club FC RX-7, and needed a new home. All the hard work so it could han­dle some boost had been done; the port­ing, stud kit, and oil­ing and high rev mods. All that was needed was screw­ing the block to­gether, a job PPRE han­dled us­ing all new seals and gas­kets.

“Its all been built by young lo­cals, we haven’t re­ally sent any­thing other than the en­gine away to be built. Bax­ter, Ber­gen, Chris Udy, and Jono Paintin — they are all pretty lo­cal guys. It just goes to show what young guys can pro­duce. For my next car, I want to do it all. Ev­ery­thing, from the paint to the en­gine, to re­ally show what I can achieve.”

Back­ing the en­gine would be a Se­ries 4 RX-7 gear­box that Tim had re­built with the help of a work­mate. In fact, it’s one of three he has re­built, and once those are gone he will be look­ing into some­thing a bit stronger. The 4.3:1 Hilux LSD has also been re­built, this time with the cor­rect back­lash, with the help of an ex-boss. For a young me­chanic like Tim, it has been a good op­por­tu­nity to up­skill, and gets him closer to his goal of be­com­ing a per­for­mance-car me­chanic — not that this RX isn’t one hell of a CV in it­self.

With the driv­e­line sorted, Tim and the Raikes broth­ers had been schem­ing up plenty of cus­tom work to carry out. This in­cluded the dual ex­haust sys­tem, as Tim ex­plains, “Ber­gen’s the main guy, we just started smash­ing around ideas. I al­ways wanted to run the screamer pipe to the rear, and it sort of just snow­balled from there. It ac­tu­ally took just un­der 50 hours to make the ex­haust and 30–40 hours pol­ish­ing it.” The de­tail put into it even ex­tended to cus­tom ro­tor-shaped flanges, and re­mov­ing all the welds from the Adrenal­inR rear muf­flers for both sys­tems.

This OCD de­tail­ing car­ried on through­out the un­der­car­riage. Tim and a few mates, who he bribed with free KFC, sorted the un­en­vi­able task of re­mov­ing all the un­der­seal and any brack­ets that weren’t needed. Then, any com­po­nent that was bolted back on was ei­ther painted, pol­ished, or cus­tom made, if it wasn’t up to Tim’s ex­act­ing stan­dards. For parts like the sus­pen­sion cas­tle nuts and swaybar wash­ers — where your com­mon, black com­po­nents would usu­ally suf­fice — Tim wasn’t happy that they would be mis­matched, so had friends at Reid Ma­chin­ing cus­tom make new ones from stain­less. All up, he spent over $1500 on nuts and bolts alone.

Wher­ever you look on this car, you will find some cus­tom de­tails — things that, for the most part, were hand­built by Tim and his friends. Half of it we ac­tu­ally didn’t no­tice un­til Tim pointed it out. Next time you see this car in per­son, take the time to look over ev­ery inch, be­fore it’s all cov­ered in rub­ber and road grime

Although it was in okay con­di­tion, the paint was show­ing its age, so Tim had an­other lo­cal, Bax­ter, re­spray 80 per cent of the shell. Tim ad­mits he got it to a point where the build be­gan to be a lit­tle ob­ses­sive, and thoughts of not driv­ing it started to creep into his head. Thank­fully, th­ese didn’t last long. “I did have a small stage of think­ing I might not drive it, but real­is­ti­cally, I couldn’t not. Last week I drove it for a wed­ding and picked up some peo­ple, and there were 100 peo­ple out­side the pub with their cam­eras out. They were all city slick­ers, and just couldn’t be­lieve a car like that could come from a small town like it has. Stuff like that makes me want to get it out, you know. I don’t think it will be that hard to clean un­der­neath. Sure, you are go­ing to get a few stone chips, but touch-up paint will have that sorted. The ex­haust is a work or art, but if I do get a cou­ple scrapes on it, its not like I can’t re­place a piece.”

With over 35 hours poured into pol­ish­ing the ex­haust sys­tem, it’s one of those de­tails that no one will ever see, but damn it’s beau­ti­ful. There’s a full three-inch sys­tem for the turbo, and the two-inch sys­tem for the waste­gate wraps it­self around the main ex­haust. Both fea­ture cus­tom ro­tor-shaped flanges, and exit at the rear through Adrenal­inR muf­flers, which have had all of the welds smoothed

The in­te­rior has been re­trimmed to a near fac­tory look, with a set of Evo VI Re­caros up­hol­stered in the same fash­ion as the fac­tory seats, but with a lit­tle ex­tra hold­ing power

With the RX-2 now road legal, we’re glad that Tim isn’t shy­ing away from driv­ing it. Af­ter get­ting some heat cy­cles through the fresh en­gine, he’ll be adding in some boost, at which point we will re­ally get to see what this home-built car can do — not that what this group of highly mo­ti­vated and very tal­ented young guys has pro­duced isn’t proof enough that the im­port scene is in good hands. But, hey, fry­ing some tyres and run­ning a 10-sec­ond pass will just be the ic­ing on the cake for this de­tail devil.

EN­GINE: Se­ries 5 13B, 1300cc, 2-ro­tor BLOCK: PPRE bridge-port plates, skimmed ro­tors, 3mm race apex seals, high-rev mod­i­fied sta­tion­ary gears, flowed oil gal­leries, S5 ro­tor plates, PPRE dow­els, PPRE cus­tom sump IN­TAKE: Si­mota air fil­ter, three-inch in­ter­cooler pip­ing, sil­i­con join­ers EX­HAUST: Cus­tom three-inch pol­ished stain­less sys­tem, cus­tom ro­tor-shaped flanges, Adrenal­inR muf­fler TURBO: Cus­tom Mas­ter Power T70, steam pipe man­i­fold WASTE­GATE: Tur­bosmart Pro-Gate 50mm, two-inch pol­ished stain­less full-length ex­haust, Adrenal­inR muf­fler BOV: TiAL 50mm FUEL: Bosch 044, Carter lift pump, up­graded in­jec­tors, cus­tom fuel rail, 8mm fuel lines, Tur­bosmart reg­u­la­tor, Speed­flow AN fit­tings, orig­i­nal fuel tank IG­NI­TION: MSD leads, Bosch coils, Mi­croTech ig­ni­tor ECU: Mi­croTech LTX8 COOL­ING: Fenix ra­di­a­tor, cus­tom hand-cut fan shroud, 14-inch fan, Fenix oil cooler, high flow ther­mo­stat EX­TRA: Tur­bosmart E-Boost, de-loomed and shaved en­gine bay, cus­tom oil catch can, pol­ished stain­less heat shroud, cus­tom CAS cover, cus­tom ro­tor-shaped T-bolt clamps, dome or cap screws used through­out, pol­ished ev­ery­thing, solid en­gine mounts

POWER

Cur­rently on run-in tune

HEART

SUP­PORT STRUTS: (F) Koni cus­tom coilovers, ad­justable dampers, (R) cus­tom KYB struts SPRINGS: King springs BRAKES: Wil­wood mas­ter cylin­der, cus­tom brake lines, cus­tom stain­less brake pins, PPRE brake brack­ets, Wil­wood four-pis­ton calipers OTHER: White­line sway bars, Toyshop cam­ber plates, Su­per­pro bushes through­out, ad­justable four-link rear, af­ter­mar­ket bump stops, cus­tom stain­less cas­tor shims, cus­tom stain­less sway bar wash­ers, new tie rods and bushes, cus­tom stain­less cas­tle nuts, cus­tom stain­less nuts used through­out, de­tailed ev­ery­thing

WHEELS: (F) Rota Grid V 15x8-inch, (R) Rota Grid V

15x9-inch TYRES: (F) Toyo T1R 195/45R15, (R) Toyo R888

225/45R15

SHOES

IN­TE­RIOR SEATS: Evo VI Re­caro, re­uphol­stered to mimic fac­tory RX-2 seat STEER­ING WHEEL: Sport­line IN­STRU­MEN­TA­TION: OEM ICE: JVC head unit, four-inch speaker

DRIVER PRO­FILE DRIVER/OWNER: Tim John­son

AGE: 21 LO­CA­TION: Taranaki OC­CU­PA­TION: Ap­pren­tice me­chanic

BUILD TIME: 17 months, on­go­ing LENGTH OF OWN­ER­SHIP: 18 months THANKS: Dad, mum, and Michael for putting up with me dur­ing the build; Andy and Jan, my bosses, for putting up with me be­ing a zom­bie; Ber­gen and the Raikes bros, for the sick fab work; Shane Reid Auto Elec­tri­cal; Buzz Green­way at Enzed hose doc­tors; Bax­ter from Kevin Barkla Car Pain­ters; the boys at Reid Ma­chin­ing, PPRE; the boys — you know who you are; Ge­off Rag; Mike Hornby; Richard and Lance Wagstaff; the boys at BNT; HPC; Croucher & Crow­der En­gi­neer­ing Co;

Jono Pan­ton; Graeme Kel­son; and all that have helped

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