20B SCREAM

TEN-YEAR TRIPLE-RO­TOR MAZDA 1300 PROJECT

NZ Performance Car - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS: MAR­CUS GIB­SON PHO­TOS: CHIM PA­TEL

et’s be hon­est here, no one ever sets out think­ing their build will take them the bet­ter part of a decade to com­plete. That’s es­pe­cially so if you’re in your early 20s, a time when you’re filled with blind op­ti­mism and youth­ful en­thu­si­asm, and you gen­er­ally won’t have had enough build set­backs to know any bet­ter.

It would seem that most of these ea­ger bug­gers reckon that their build will take no longer than two years, no mat­ter how daunt­ing the task that lies ahead. That’s the ex­act goal a much younger Si­mon An­drews Ma­cleod set him­self, but there he was, pulling out of his drive­way for the maiden test run of his 1300, some 10 years af­ter rolling the moss-cov­ered and much­ne­glected Mazda into his work­shop for the first time. Sure that trip was eight years be­hind sched­ule, but does he care? No! The car is 10 times the ve­hi­cle he ex­pected to build, but this is no fluke, as Si­mon is clearly a car builder with an eye for de­tail and who is not afraid to take the grinder to any­thing that doesn’t quite work out the first time around. But more on all that a bit later.

The build be­gan when Si­mon was in his early 20s. Fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion of his BFMR project, he’d started the search for a chrome-bumper Mazda to work on, and look­ing at a few failed projects led him to a work­mate’s re­cently ac­quired shell, an un­mo­lested Mazda 1300 that looked as if the earth was at­tempt­ing to re­claim it.

Un­de­terred by the project’s scope, Si­mon set him­self the afore­men­tioned two-year goal and started gather­ing parts. “In my head, I had it low­ered on some Mod­gies with a 13B bridge­port, just nice and clean. So, not plain Jane, but some­thing sim­ple that would only take a cou­ple of years to com­plete,” Si­mon re­calls of the ini­tial plan. But, be­fore any of that could hap­pen, there was a moun­tain of rust to be re­moved. “It re­ceived brand-new chas­sis rails, driver and pas­sen­ger floors, sills, and rear guards. It was quite a bit of work; I ended up mak­ing my own ro­tis­serie and bolt­ing the shell onto that so [that] we could work on it eas­ier,” he says — and all that de­spite the fact that he also shifted to Aus­tralia dur­ing this time. How­ever, while you might think this would have hin­dered the build, it ac­tu­ally be­came a bless­ing, as al­though only a few of these lit­tle Maz­das made it onto New Zealand roads new, they were a com­mon gro­cery-getter in sub­ur­ban Aus­tralia dur­ing the 1970s, so it’s eas­ier to source parts there. Mind you, that wasn’t al­ways the case, with com­po­nents like the three-piece bumpers prov­ing a real headache. Both coun­tries even­tu­ally coughed up parts, but Si­mon did need to fab­ri­cate a new cen­tre for the rear and have it chromed.

It wasn’t all junk­yard scroung­ing, though, as some new parts were still on of­fer at Phil’s Ro­tarys, Queens­land, in­clud­ing pan­els and door locks, rub­ber kits, and light lenses. It was fair to say that Si­mon’s parts stock­pile was be­gin­ning to grow.

The three-lay­ered Mazda Spicy Orange pearl paint­work was laid on by Si­mon him­self, and can be found on all sur­faces in­side and out “In the time build­ing it, the scene has changed so much that there are so many car shows, track days, and drag days that there’s al­most one every month, or two months. You don’t even need to drive it on the street, as, soon as you do an event, you’re either chang­ing some­thing or prep­ping it for the next event, which I en­joy more than driv­ing it on the street,” says Si­mon, de­scrib­ing road driv­ing as “a night­mare”

Each re­turn trip to New Zealand saw min­i­mal clothes packed to al­low room for those items, which did get him the odd side­ways look when he checked in at the air­port with over­sized lug­gage — at one point, Si­mon even had a bon­net in hand.

Three years had passed by this stage, and that orig­i­nal dead­line was long for­got­ten. Then, just as Si­mon got it to a rust­free state, a Cosmo 20B popped up on Trade Me and all thoughts of a 13B flew straight out the win­dow.

Wast­ing no time, the boys jumped Cook Strait and went for a road trip to pick up the triple-ro­tor, an en­gine that Si­mon knew would be nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated long be­fore it was in the bay. It was a low kilo­me­tre ex­am­ple and in great con­di­tion, but run­ning it stock was never the in­ten­tion, so it was even­tu­ally dropped in to Stu Law­ton for him to re­build, us­ing high-com­pres­sion RX-8 ro­tors and a bag of his tricks so that 10,000rpm pulls would not re­sult in spun bear­ings or chat­ter­ing apex seals.

Long be­fore the en­gine re­build could hap­pen, though, the chas­sis un­der­went a se­ri­ous amount of work to han­dle the in­tended power. This be­gan with a diff job that didn’t go to plan: “I got the rear end built by a place that did a good job, but it was a lit­tle rushed, and, in hind­sight, I should have taken my time and fig­ured out what I ac­tu­ally wanted,” says Si­mon. “I had just spent all this money, and, man, my car looked re­ally lame — it was re­ally high and on 17x7s; I was just re­ally dis­ap­pointed. We got it back

from the work­shop, and a mate who dab­bles in sus­pen­sion and en­gi­neer­ing stuff was like, ‘Nah, we have to go low and wide’.” And like that, out came the grinders, bin­ning all the fresh tin work that Si­mon had just spent a bomb on. Then, be­fore any­thing could be welded in place, the wheels needed sort­ing.

While looks were ob­vi­ously a huge fac­tor, the real rea­son he chose the Sim­mons was ac­tu­ally be­cause they’d fit over the FC RX-7 brakes and within the fac­tory body lines, plus — the ic­ing on the cake — you could or­der any size and dish you wanted for the rear. Nat­u­rally, Si­mon elected the big­gest dish on of­fer, which re­quired the Hilux diff to be short­ened again. “I had to tell the guy a lit­tle white lie about it be­ing for an­other car, so he didn’t ask ques­tions,” Si­mon re­mem­bers. To achieve a much lower stance, the rear shock tow­ers were raised so that the 18x10.5s would tuck deep within the rear guards — so much so that tak­ing a wheel off now re­quires re­mov­ing half the ex­haust and the re­moval of the rear shocks.

The rolling body was then dropped to Shel­don at Mo­tor­sport De­vel­op­ments, who Si­mon de­scribes as a per­fec­tion­ist. Shel­don re­placed all the rear panel work, and es­sen­tially built a half chas­sis with new frame­work from the tun­nel back, which ties into the fac­tory rails, the rear four-link, and a much big­ger tun­nel with built-in drive­shaft hoop. Shel­don went to great lengths to en­sure ev­ery­thing is sym­met­ri­cal and as clean-look­ing as pos­si­ble, with all the sus­pen­sion hid­den un­der the tubs.

Any­one who knows a 1300 will know that they are tiny cars, and once you start adding big­ger tun­nels and large tubs, the cabin

space sud­denly shrinks — by so much, in fact, that the Racetech seats needed to be nar­rowed 30mm each side to squeeze them in.

With the chas­sis work com­pleted, the pan­els were next on the list, and be­lieve us when we say that this was no easy feat, even with the re­pro rust-free pan­els. Luck­ily, Si­mon, a pain­ter by trade, had the right mates to lean on at Cus­toms Body Shop be­fore he could get down to lay­ing some colour on the in­side and in the smoothed en­gine bay. Of the cho­sen orange tint, he says, “I had de­cided on the colour five years ago. It’s a fac­tory Mazda colour, and I stuck with it all this time, which is pretty much un­heard of for a pain­ter, as so many new colours come out.”

The 1300 was rolled back into the paint shop for a se­cond time once the en­gine had been wired and fired, as the dead­line de­but loomed. But this was the mo­ment that Si­mon had been wait­ing on for near-on 10 years: all those parts he had been col­lect­ing could all now be bolted into place, and, fi­nally, he would get to test drive his cre­ation. Af­ter miss­ing the planned de­but at the Na­tion­als as a rear bumper wasn’t com­plete, he now had his eyes fixed firmly on three days of thrash­ing at RE­union. A quick 10-minute blast around the street “had me shak­ing”, and then it was straight to race mode at RE­union, though, sadly, the weather did not play ball. Still, with only a run-in tune de­void of about the top 4000rpm it will see once it’s run in, the lit­tle 1300 per­formed fault­lessly. “I went out and gave it a good boot — it was ac­tu­ally re­ally good and han­dled like a lit­tle go-kart, so I guess I should have trusted my­self a lit­tle more, as I have re­placed ev­ery­thing, so there is no rea­son for it to fail,” Si­mon tells us.

You’re prob­a­bly ask­ing when we’ll see the lit­tle Mazda hit­ting the streets in its na­tive Welling­ton. Well, the truth is, while it was orig­i­nally be­ing built to earn a WOF, with ev­ery­thing up to cert stan­dard, Si­mon be­lieves that, with the mul­ti­tude of events now on of­fer, from car shows to track days and drag events, it’s un­likely to ever see road use. Cos, once you’ve had a taste of a shriek­ing 20B at 10,000rpm in a sub-one-ton chas­sis with no speed lim­its, will you ever be able to bring your­self to shut it up and stick to the road rules? Yeah, us nei­ther.

“It han­dles like a go-kart” Si­mon tells us, which is no sur­prise con­sid­er­ing its size and sub-1000kg kerb weight

Stu Law­ton hand­crafted a set of stain­less head­ers that merge into one sin­gle 3.5-inch, with min­i­mal muf­flers

Mazda 1300s are by no means big cars, es­pe­cially when you go and add big­ger tun­nels and a roll cage. The Racetech RT4009s re­quired nar­row­ing 30mm on each side, and they still only just fit in

EX­TE­RIOR PAINT: Mazda Spicy Orange EN­HANCE­MENTS: Panel work by Ben from Cus­toms Body Shop Si­mon was able to make use of many new parts avail­able off the shelf, ev­ery­thing from a full rub­ber kit to new lenses PER­FOR­MANCE POWER: Yet to be dy­noed Triple car­bon trum­pet–topped 50mm throt­tles feed the 50mm pe­riph­eral-ported ports via a long run­ner man­i­fold, which shifts the torque curve at the lower rpm range

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