GIVING THEM A TASTE OF KIWI
EXPAT KIWI DEAN ROPHIA IS SHOWING THE AUSSIES HOW WE KIWIS GET IT DONE WITH HIS TUBBED MAZDA 808 WAGON
Moving to another country can be one of the most stressful things someone can undertake in their lifetime. Having to farewell friends and family, switch jobs, gather and relocate everything you’ve acquired, it can all be a bit daunting, even if it’s something that’s been in the pipeline for some time. Additionally, it could be said that one of the most challenging aspects of immigration is re-establishing a solid circle of mates in a foreign country. This is something, however, that is made considerably easier by realizing a common interest — in Dean Ropiha’s case, a love for pistonless Mazdas.
Birds of a feather flock together, and when Dean shifted to Australia a little over eight years ago, it wasn’t going to be long before he found his way into the Queensland rotary scene. Having left New Zealand with fresh imprints of a certain RX-3 (Brendon Smith’s ‘ROT8N3’, NZPC 215) in his memory, he knew Mazda ownership was something he’d have to pursue. As he recalls, “I remember seeing this coupé, and I thought, ‘I want one, bad!’”
As is not uncommon with a build of this nature, it took a couple of cars and several realignments of the goal posts, so to speak, before the 808 settled into the build we see today. “I bought a two-door hatch first,” Dean explained, “Rebuilt the whole car and put a 12A bridge port in it. It was fairly rough, but I built it into a pretty sick hatch.” However the end result wasn’t quick enough for Dean’s liking, and following a few deals amongst mates within the crew, he found himself the proud owner of a ’76 Mazda 808.
It originally sported a piston motor, like all exports of the same model, but the heart of the wagon had already been replaced with an NA 13B set-up, though regardless the whole car was soon put
through a serious makeover. “The build started off like most do,” Dean recalled. “I bought it from a mate in primer. Then somehow Clay (of CCC) convinced me we should tub it, to make it sit low. The next day the floor was cut out, and the list went on.” Fabrication began, which meant attention also turned to the rest of the car. The brakes would never be up to the task of slowing the wagon from its new-found pace, and so were upgraded with Commodore units which joined the obligatory electronic line-lock kit. As the floor was modified with tubs, plenty of modification was also needed in the suspension department, and a custom coil-over kit and Toyshop camber tops were installed in the front to complement the QA1s and rear chassis clip down the back. Contrary to what you might think, the car rides really well. “I expected it to be alright, but it’s unbelievable how well it drives,” Dean added.
The original plan for a new powerhouse involved a 12A paired
with a T04 turbo, a combination that even made it all the way into the engine bay, post fabrication and paint. However, that wasn’t meant to be, and the 12A was soon scrapped as Dean intended to run its bigger, badder brother. “I heard of a good deal on a 20B, so I sold the 12A set-up to a mate for his 1200 sedan,” Dean continued, “But before I could buy the 20B I found out my wife was pregnant, so I passed on it and decided to finish the car off with a 13B turbo: I kind of figured that if I didn’t finish it off straight away, I probably never would.” Clay at CCC was enlisted to construct the motor, and set out putting in the hours to create something that would ultimately spin a hefty 373kW at the rears. The heart of the monster consisted of a 13B from a Series 8 RX-7, which was bridge-ported, rebuilt, and prepared to handle the pressure thrown at it from a formidable GT42R turbocharger. It would be relatively senseless to try and force that sort of power out through a fragile driveline, and so a twin-plate clutch now sends the ponies down through a custom three-inch driveshaft to a tried-and-tested Ford nine-inch differential.
Not wanting to skimp on the details, Dean had the whole car rewired and the engine bay deloomed while he was at it.
When asked about the reactions the 808 gets from the Queensland public, he told us it gets love every time it’s driven. “People follow you to get photos,” Dean said, smiling. “People video you while you’re driving. I get the odd disgusted look, but most people are blown away by it.” For all intents and purposes the wagon gets taken out regularly too — it’s not uncommon to see it on a weekend cruise among 30 other pulsing Mazdas, nor is Dean afraid to take it to an early-morning track session. His boy Felix is into it, and as well as thrash duties, the 808 meets others of its kind on the road outside kids’ birthday parties, a testament to the uniting power of a common love for these machines.
Dean opted for the 12A Savanna nose cone, like many 808s, and a very simple conversion to carry out
Aeromotive fittings and braided lines have been used throughout, a detail
that definitely pays off when the build is complete
HEART MODEL: S8 Mazda RX-7 13B
Turbo, 1300cc, two-rotor ENGINE: Bridge-ported plates,
stud kit, new housings, rotors clearanced, race bearings, SCR
apex, corner and side seals INTAKE: PWR 75mm intercooler core with custom-made end
tanks and piping EXHAUST: Custom manifold, four-inch system with custom
mufflers TURBO: Proboost GT42R turbo
(1.05 rear housing) WASTEGATE: Turbosmart
50mm FUEL: Custom 80-litre drop tank
with internal surge tank, billet Holley lift pump, two Bosch fuel pumps, Xtreme Rotaries fuel rails, Bosch 1700cc injectors, Aeromotive rising-rate FPR ECU: Microtech LT10S ECU COOLING: PWR radiator with SPAL fan, PWR oil cooler, Davies
Craig EWP EXTRA: Airbrushed block and inlet manifold, custom oil catch
can and radiator overflow canisters, deloomed engine bay, side-mounted alternator, Gilmer
drive belt Fabrication was conducted with the intent to ride along at 45mm, which means the rear doors had to be modified to accommodate the depth of the tubs
SHOES WHEELS: (F) 17x6.5-inch Diezel D1Rs (R) 18x10-inch Diezel D1Rs TYRES: (F) 165/35/17 Nankang NSII (R) 265/35/18 Nankang NSII
PAINT: Nitro Blue by R.A.R Embossed ENHANCEMENTS: Repro 12A Savanna nose cone, shaved side indicators, shaved side mirrors,
windows tinted, tail lights and front indicators tinted, all chrome straightened and rechromed
SUPPORT STRUTS: (F) Custom coilovers, Toyshop camber plates, (R) QA1 adjustable coilovers, McDonalds Brothers Racing four-link and Panhard rod BRAKES: Holden Commodore rotors and calipers
DRIVER PROFILE DRIVER/OWNER: Dean Ropiha AGE: 28 LOCATION: Queensland, Australia (Kiwi) OCCUPATION: asphalt supervisor BUILD TIME: 22 months LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: 3.5 years PREVIOUSLY OWNED CARS: two E29A VR4s, 12A BP 323 hatch
THANKS: All the team from CCC — Custom Cars by Clay for building my vision and its continued support with the car, an outstanding group of people that I can’t recommend more. My brother-in-law Kane Donaldson for the amazing airbrush work — the artwork in the engine bay and inside the car are definitely my favourite parts — and my wife for putting up with the money I spent!
Good fuel economy is something this car will never achieve — the 80-litre drop tank doesn’t remain full for very long when the pedal spends a lot of time at the floor
DRIVE GEARBOX: S5 RX-7 five-speed CLUTCH: Direct Clutch twin-plate clutch FLYWHEEL: Direct Clutch DIFF: Ford nine-inch diff, 4:3 ratio, mini spool, 31-spline axles
INTERIOR SEATS: (F) Racepro (R) custom seat to accommodate tubs, full retrim in suede INSTRUMENTATION: Custom Speedhut gauges, Turbosmart E-Boost Street, custom-made alloy dash — airbrushed to match the engine POWER: 372kW (500hp) ATW on 20psi
The dash is airbrushed to match the engine, something that’s definitely unique,
and was done by Dean’s brother-in-law