DO­ING IT FOR THE BRO

A ROLLING TRIB­UTE TO A FALLEN BROTHER

NZ Performance Car - - News - WORDS: MAR­CUS GIB­SON PHO­TOS: ADAM CROY

Car­ry­ing on the le­gacy of friends that have left us too early can take many forms — inked skin, first­born name­sakes, and yearly pil­grim­ages are all time-hon­oured ways of keep­ing mem­o­ries of the dearly de­parted alive. When Sa­muel Har­ri­son trag­i­cally and pre­ma­turely passed away on May 7 2010, long-time friend Dave Matehaere could think of no bet­ter way to pay trib­ute to his rota-head mate than to go hell for leather to com­plete Sam’s un­fin­ished FC RX-7 in time for Sam’s brother Jake to drive it to the head­stone re­veal. What Dave didn’t ex­pect, how­ever, was to be­come cus­to­dian of the car. “I had stored the car for Rosana Har­ri­son, Sam’s mother, and man­aged to get it run­ning so that his brother Jake could drive it to the un­veil­ing of his head­stone. Not long after, with the prom­ise that I would build Sam’s dream, I was gifted the car.”

The hon­our of that was not lost on Dave, who set out to build the FC in the way that he be­lieved Sam would have, given a de­cent bud­get to see the pro­ject through. Over the next few years, the shell sat dor­mant as parts were col­lected and a plan was formed. We’re sure that many of you will at­test to how self-im­posed dead­lines can of­ten pro­vide the mo­ti­va­tion needed to see a pro­ject through, and Dave was about to set him­self the sec­ond sig­nif­i­cant dead­line in the car’s his­tory: “I had al­ways in­tended on driv­ing the car to my wed­ding, but, when my soon-to-be-wife Hay­ley gen­tly re­minded me that our wed­ding was well un­der five months away, I then re­al­ized it was time to pull fin­ger and get shit done.”

By his own ad­mis­sion, for the next few months, Dave be­came a ghost, cram­ming hun­dreds of hours of build time into any spare mo­ment that he wasn’t at work. The FC had been some­what thrown to­gether to make it drive­able for Jake, and needed to be stripped right back and built prop­erly if it was go­ing to meet Dave’s high stan­dards. If you don’t know Dave, you will al­most cer­tainly at least be fa­mil­iar with some of his handy panel-and­paint work: Bruce Tan­nock’s S13, Ian McKay’s ‘DSORDA’ Fa­milia, the ‘SHADY3’ RX-3, and the ‘ST8FRD’ Ford Es­cort, to name a few. These are all im­mac­u­late, award-win­ning cars and a tes­ta­ment to Dave’s skill be­hind the panel ham­mer and spray gun.

To achieve a sim­i­lar fin­ish, the FC was taken right back to a paint-less, naked shell, be­fore a BN Blis­ter kit was sourced from a lo­cal sup­plier. While it wasn’t a par­tic­ually bad fit­ting kit we’re told, the hours that Dave and friend Jay­den Grainger have poured into cor­rect­ing any flaws is a lit­tle mind blow­ing. The pair led down a rab­bit hole of spritz­ing, bog, prim­ing, and then sand­ing; a process that was stuck on re­peat like a scratched CD. And only after a good 300 hours did the PPG Toy­ota Liq­uid Metal fi­nally touch the pan­els.

Thank­fully, not all as­pects of the build were this painstak­ing. In fact, when it came to the run­ning gear, it was the com­plete op­po­site. No­tice any­thing fa­mil­iar in Dave’s en­gine bay? Cy­cle your mind back to Is­sue No. 179 and Matt ‘Chuckie’ Jack­son’s FC RX-7 with its bridge­ported 13B turbo. When Chuckie hung up his D1 driver’s hat and looked to part out the FC, it just so hap­pened that Dave had a 180SX in a colour scheme that matched the FC. “I was go­ing to sell that to start the en­gine build for the FC, but I saw Chuckie post up his mo­tor, and, within three or four days, the deal was done. He took away my 180, and I had a mo­tor pack­age that would have cost me dou­ble what the 180SX was worth to throw to­gether.”

Apart from a new colour scheme, the pack­age re­mains mostly the same as it was when it ran in Matt’s FC. The Holdsworth Au­to­mo­tive–built 13B barely had a 1000km on it when it bay-hopped along with the FD man­i­fold, the Mas­ter Power GT35, full ex­haust, and the V-mount in­ter­cooler. Even the tune on the Link G4 RX re­mains. To fur­ther sweeten the deal, ev­ery­thing bolted into the fac­tory bolt holes as if it had been fab­ri­cated for Dave’s car. This is sur­pris­ing when you con­sider that Matt’s FC fea­tured a tube-frame front-end.

Pump­ing out 326kW at 15psi to the rears, it’s more than enough to keep Dave happy. He even got to spin the 19-inch rear tyres mo­ments after say­ing “I do”, as the car was com­pleted with­out a day to spare — the first drive was to the wed­ding it­self.

While Dave him­self is in­clined to pick apart his own work, the awards have not stopped pil­ing up since the car’s com­ple­tion, in­clud­ing Best FC RX-7 at the Na­tion­als two years run­ning, for the first of which Sam’s mum Rosana was in at­ten­dance. There are also plans to get her in the pas­sen­ger seat for a strop around the track in the very near fu­ture. And while track work was not Dave’s fo­cus with the build, ex­pect to see the FC swap­ping lock-to-lock some­time in the fu­ture. Although he can’t quite bring him­self to bruise the pan­els just yet: “I used to drift my cars, but I need to dam­age it first, then I will prob­a­bly get back into it. I had full in­ten­tions of drift­ing it when I was build­ing it, but, as soon as it was

While not much re­mains from the orig­i­nal build, Dave made sure to keep some­thing built by Sam: the gear­box cross mem­ber, which was adapted to take the FD fivespeed. He also keeps a photo of Sam in the glove­box a stag­gered 18-/19-inch Work Meis­ter combo fills the big arches with ease, although the cost of 19-inch semis sees Dave back­ing off ear­lier than usual when the clutch is popped

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