EN­GINE-BAY PERVERSION

RX-8 EN­GINE-CON­VER­SION GUIDE

NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS: JADEN MARTIN PHO­TOS: SUP­PLIED

It may have been the suc­ces­sor to the wildly pop­u­lar Mazda RX-7, but, un­for­tu­nately for the RX-8, it never re­ceived that same kind of glory. Many crit­ics slammed it for its beefier ap­pear­ance, which was in part de­signed as a by-prod­uct of the elon­gated MX-5 chas­sis used to test the 13B-MSP (Re­n­e­sis) heart that it would even­tu­ally re­ceive. The car, fea­tur­ing rear sui­cide doors, orig­i­nally ap­peared as the RX-Evolv con­cept af­ter catch­ing the at­ten­tion of the higher-ups at Mazda. And that new ro­tary power plant didn’t do its pub­lic opin­ion any favours ei­ther, with al­most all ex­am­ples be­ing sent to hell thanks to a hand­ful of se­ri­ous is­sues pre­sent­ing be­tween 80,000km and 120,000km. Apex seals were no­to­ri­ous for leav­ing the build­ing pre­ma­turely (even more so than nor­mal), and they have proved a hard nut to crack when it comes to push­ing any kind of power out of them, es­pe­cially com­pared with the ease found in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

And, as the years have pushed on, an abun­dance of the cars have been left sit­ting around with blown motors as a re­sult, de­spite the chas­sis it­self be­ing quite de­cent, and they can be had for dirt cheap! So, it comes as no sur­prise that peo­ple are start­ing to catch on to them as the per­fect base for en­gine con­ver­sions. If you’re look­ing to pull trig­ger on a con­ver­sion of your own, we’ve pooled to­gether all the de­tails that you’ll want to con­sider about the chas­sis it­self, the chal­lenges you might face, and we’ll give you the in­side word from those that have com­pleted a few of the more pop­u­lar con­ver­sions them­selves.

First gen­er­a­tion

The first-gen­er­a­tion RX-8 (chas­sis codes SE3P and JM1FE) was pro­duced through model years 2003–2008. De­signed by Ikuo Maeda, the son of Matasaburo Maeda, the lead de­signer on the Se­ries 1 RX-7, it was of­fered solely in a front-mi­dengine, rear-wheel-drive four-door, four-seater quad-coupe con­fig­u­ra­tion. Mazda claims a near 50:50 bal­ance split and a low po­lar mo­ment of in­er­tia, mak­ing them eas­ier to turn in, which was achieved by mount­ing the 13B-MSP be­hind the front tow­ers and the petrol tank in front of the rears. The shell is con­structed from steel, while most of the body pan­els are al­loy and plas­tic, and the man­ual op­tion makes use of a car­bon-fi­bre drive­shaft that dropped weight and low­ered the ro­ta­tional mass, al­low­ing the high-revving tanga to spin.

The front sus­pen­sion set-up of­fers dou­ble wish­bone, while down back you’ll find multi-link rear, which also of­fers a torque­sens­ing con­i­cal lim­ited-slip diff (LSD). Its de­sign and typ­i­cal Mazda engi­neer­ing make for solid driv­ing dy­nam­ics straight out the box that can be eas­ily im­proved on with truck­loads of af­ter­mar­ket sup­port.

Looks-wise, the RX-8 is most notable for its rear-hinged ‘freestyle’ rear doors, sim­i­lar to sui­cide doors, that open up to the rear seats. There is no B-pil­lar be­tween the front and rear doors, mak­ing use of the lead­ing edge on the rears to act as a vir­tual pil­lar for rigid­ity. Un­like its pre­de­ces­sor, the FD RX-7, the RX-8 is longer, wider, taller, and heav­ier, which can be seen in the curvier body pan­elling. MAZDA RX-8 (GEN ONE) YEARS: 2003–2008 WHEEL­BASE: 2703mm WEIGHT: 1309kg (man­ual) CON­FIG­U­RA­TION: Front-en­gined, rear-wheel drive EN­GINE OP­TIONS: 13B-MSP Re­n­e­sis POWER: 173kW (six-speed man­ual), 141kW (five-speed man­ual), 158kW (six-speed auto)

Sec­ond gen­er­a­tion

Mid­way through the RX-8’s pro­duc­tion life, in 2008, Mazda un­der­took a re­fresh that saw the struc­tural rigid­ity im­proved through ad­di­tional reinforcements. The team added a trape­zoidal shock-tower brace and strength­ened the front tow­ers to re­duce the flex that oc­curred in the ear­lier mod­els. The rear ge­om­e­try was also dealt to in the name of bet­ter han­dling, and the fi­naldrive-gear ra­tio on man­ual trans­mis­sion cars was short­ened from 4.444 to 4.777, so that it would get off the line quicker.

Mazda took the op­por­tu­nity to mod­ern­ize the ex­te­rior de­sign slightly as well, giv­ing the bumpers more ag­gres­sion and chang­ing out the lights at both ends for sharper ex­am­ples. The over­all length in­creased from 4425mm to 4470mm, while weight took a hit, with a 64kg in­crease in the man­ual op­tion. A larger ex­haust was added, and a re­vised ver­sion of the Re­n­e­sis heart saw a third oil-in­jec­tion port in each ro­tor hous­ing to feed oil to the mid­dle of the ro­tor. MAZDA RX-8 (GEN TWO) YEARS: 2009–2012 WHEEL­BASE: 2,703mm WEIGHT: 1373 kg (man­ual) CON­FIG­U­RA­TION: Front-en­gined, rear-wheel drive EN­GINE OP­TIONS: 13B-MSP Re­n­e­sis II POWER: 173kW (six-speed man­ual), 141kW (five-speed man­ual), 158kW (six-speed auto)

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