TRI­UMPH OVER AD­VER­SITY

JAKE NEST HAS HAD MORE THAN HIS FAIR SHARE OF PROB­LEMS WITH HIS RAD­I­CAL RE AMEMIYA KIT­TED RX-7, BUT JUST AS EVERY CLOUD HAS A SIL­VER LIN­ING, EACH IS­SUE HAS BEEN SOLVED WITH A PER­FOR­MANCE EN­HANC­ING UP­GRADE

Japanese Performance - - WHAT’S IN - WORDS: DAN SHER­WOOD PICS: JIMI LEE

RX-7 owner’s tri­als and tribu­la­tions have shaped his badass track build

What is it that at­tracts peo­ple to own­ing ex­otic and po­ten­tially lethal an­i­mals as their pets?

For ex­am­ple, why would any­one choose to spend their days tend­ing to the ex­act­ing re­quire­ments of a ven­omous snake or spi­der when they could save them­selves a lot of has­sle and po­ten­tial near death ex­pe­ri­ences by opting for a hum­ble ham­ster? Maybe it’s the brag­ging rights that go hand-in­hand with be­ing the master of a ter­ri­fy­ing taran­tula or a sin­ful ser­pent that at­tracts them. Maybe it’s the thrill of the rare and ex­otic that gives them their kicks. Or maybe it’s the fact that each time they come into con­tact with their hellish coin­hab­i­tants they are ef­fec­tively rolling the dice with their health and gam­bling their well­be­ing on the un­sta­ble mus­ings of a wild crea­ture’s cere­bral cor­tex?

Of course, only the most fool­ish of ex­otic pet own­ers goes about ac­quir­ing such an­i­mals with­out car­ry­ing out thor­ough re­search into the sub­ject, so you have to as­sume that they know what they’re get­ting into from the out­set.

But that’s not to say that some won’t get bit­ten with a lethal dose… A sim­i­lar com­par­i­son in the au­to­mo­tive world would be the own­ers of ro­tary-en­gined ma­chines. In the scheme of things ro­taries are still ex­tremely rare and ex­otic things, shun­ning the more con­ven­tional re­cip­ro­cat­ing mo­tion of a pis­ton engine in favour of the cir­cu­lar mo­tion of a tri­an­gu­lar Wankel ro­tor. In the­ory , they op­er­ate in a very simple man­ner, which, with less mov­ing parts than their pis­ton-en­gined equiv­a­lents, should equate to greater re­li­a­bil­ity and longevity. How­ever, as we all know by now, this is rarely ever the case. In­the real world, hor­ror sto­ries of cat­a­strophic engine fail­ures and con­stant re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues sur­round ro­tary-en­gined ve­hi­cles, to the point where most of the mo­tor­ing world re­fuses to touch them with a barge pole. How­ever, just like the rep­tile-lov­ing her­peto­cul­tur­ist hell-bent on keep­ing an al­li­ga­tor in­his bath­tub, there are still in­di­vid­u­als out there that are pre­pared to take on­the risk of ro­tary own­er­ship for the thrill that only a pair of spin­ning metal triangles can pro­duce.

27-year-old Jake Nest is one such in­di­vid­ual who has taken a punt on one of Mazda’s finest sports coupes.

‘I first fell in love with the FD RX-7 af­ter see­ing one in a mag­a­zine years ago,’ Jake re­mem­bers. ‘But it wasn’t un­til I was trav­el­ling in Aus­tralia, and I saw an all black, bridge-ported RX-7 drive past, that I re­ally started to con­sider mak­ing the jump into ro­tary own­er­ship.

The sound, aero and men­ac­ing styling had me hooked! So when I got back to Eng­land a year later, my first port of call was to pur­chase an RX-7.’

And he made good on his prom­ise just six weeks af­ter he got home. Un­for­tu­nately, that’s when the trou­ble started...

The engine’s water seals – a ro­tary engine’s equiv­a­lent of a head gas­ket – had per­ished, mean­ing an ex­pen­sive engine re­build was on the cards. Un­der­stand­ably not happy with the sit­u­a­tion, Jake re­turned the ra­di­ant red RX-7 to the seller, for a re­fund.

‘The seller spe­cialised in buy­ing and sell­ing RX-7S,’ Jake ex­plains. ‘He was cool about every­thing and ac­tu­ally of­fered to ex­change the faulty red Mazda for a black one. Of course, black was the colour that I’d al­ways wanted, and along with a Gar­rett T04Z sin­gle turbo con­ver­sion mounted to a Greddy man­i­fold with ex­ter­nal waste­gate setup, a stain­less steel ex­haust, a set of BC coilovers and some match­ing black wheels, and, even though it was a bit rough around the edges, I was only too happy to take him up on his of­fer.’

How­ever, while the car’s colour may have been an im­prove­ment, the plethora of prob­lems com­ing out of the wood­work were any­thing but.

‘It wasn’t ex­actly how I had imag­ined RX-7 own­er­ship,’ Jake laughs. ‘There was just one prob­lem af­ter an­other. First the clutch started slip­ping, then the ra­di­a­tor started to leak, a coolant hose split, the turbo sys­tem de­vel­oped a boost leak and the ex­haust started blow­ing. In the first year, I reckon I spent more time fix­ing the thing than driv­ing it!’

But Jake’s pain was not in vain, be­cause every prob­lem led to him over­com­ing the is­sue with an up­rated al­ter­na­tive. So while the con­stant stream of faults seemed like he was for­ever tak­ing one step for­ward and two steps back, in re­al­ity each is­sue was push­ing the per­for­mance po­ten­tial of the build ever fur­ther.

A new V-mounted ra­di­a­tor and intercooler later, plus a host of other cool­ing, fu­el­ing and

breath­ing up­grades, the Mazda’s mighty sin­gle turbo’d mo­tor was singing sweetly again.

‘With the mo­tor sorted, I de­cided to strip the in­te­rior,’ re­calls Jake. ‘I had a bunch of parts from an old track Star­let project I’d aban­doned, such as a sin­gle bucket seat, har­ness and steer­ing wheel, so I de­cided to put them to good use in the Rex, com­ple­ment­ing a bolt-in rollcage I fit­ted. But no sooner had I com­pleted the in­te­rior makeover than the starter mo­tor and HT leads died.’

You’d think that at this point Jake’s en­thu­si­asm for the project would be wan­ing, but noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

‘The RX-7 has cer­tainly had its prob­lems, but it’s just so good when it is work­ing that it’s easy to for­give its nu­mer­ous short­com­ings in the re­li­a­bil­ity depart­ment,’ laughs the Hamp­shire-based ro­tor­head.

‘So rather than plan­ning to ditch it, I de­cided to take things to the next level…’

Un­like many RX-7 ad­dicts who pro­claim their love of the Mazda’s fac­tory lines, Jake has never been a fan of the OEM look and has al­ways fan­cied adorn­ing his FD with a wide arch kit, so when he spot­ted an RE Amemiya GTAD wide body con­ver­sion up for sale on the FD:UK fo­rum, he was only too keen to snap it up.

‘It was up for a good price so I wasted no time in se­cur­ing the deal,’ he says. ‘I then stashed the kit, plus a few other ex­te­rior up­grades in a unit I was bor­row­ing un­til I had sourced the other items that were on my wish list for the RX-7’S rein­car­na­tion.’

Wheels were next, as the bloated arches needed suit­ably wide rims to fill them. Af­ter look­ing at var­i­ous brands and styles, Jake came across the Cos­mis range, where the mix of cool deeply-dished styles and ex­tra-wide widths meant they were the per­fect choice.

Sourced through Drift­works, Jake se­lected a set of 9.5x18in XT-206R wheels with 255-sec­tion front and 285-sec­tion rear Fed­eral RSR tyres.

A huge 1600mm GRAMS GT FRP spoiler blade with cus­tom wing end-plates and Dragon Per­for­mance GT wing stands was the last piece of the puz­zle and fi­nally sig­nalled time for the ex­te­rior trans­for­ma­tion to be­gin.

‘It was the day be­fore Japfest 2016 when my mate Loz and I be­gan fit­ting the kit,’ Jake chuck­les. ‘We started at five in the morn­ing and fi­nally had every­thing mounted up at ten o’clock that evening. The kit wasn’t the best fit to be hon­est, and needed a lot of tweak­ing, but we got there in the end, we just didn’t get chance to paint it.’

He did make it to Japfest, though, even if the car was a mish-mash of un­painted white glass­fi­bre and fac­tory black paint. The ‘Panda’ look was one that stayed for a while, at least un­til Jake could get the car into his mate’s bodyshop for a full re­spray in Mazda PZ black.

‘I just love the men­ac­ing and moody “mur­dered out” look,’ Jake grins. ‘It re­ally suits the ag­gres­sive lines of the kit.’

And he would go on to en­hance those lines fur­ther by adding an RE Amemiya car­bon bon­net, car­bon head­light

‘I JUST LOVE THE MEN­AC­ING, MOODY, MUR­DERED LOOK’

cov­ers and con­struct­ing a cus­tom car­bon dif­fuser.

But good looks alone were still not enough to stem Jake’s run of bad luck as the slip­ping clutch fi­nally gave up the ghost.

‘When the clutch went, I took the car off the road while I waited for a new OS Giken item and light­weight fly­wheel to ar­rive,’ re­calls Jake. ‘So I de­cided to get stuck in and cleaned and painted the en­tire un­der­side of the car, re­plac­ing worn out items as I went along.’

When the new clutch fi­nally ar­rived, Jake in­stalled it him­self us­ing axle stands on his mum’s drive­way. Un­for­tu­nately, the beefier clutch only served to move the weak­est link to the gear­box it­self and fourth gear started to omit an omi­nous rat­tle.

‘I de­cided to ig­nore the rat­tle and only fix it if it got worse,’ Jake says sheep­ishly. ‘I’d just splashed out on an awe­some Yel­lowSpeed six-pot big brake kit, so I couldn’t af­ford a new gear­box as well.’

But like a per­sis­tent cough that turns into ter­mi­nal lung cancer, Jake’s nig­gly rat­tle was only ever go­ing to get worse, which it did at his next out­ing.

‘I took the car on track at this year’s Japfest show and it per­formed bril­liantly,’ he en­thuses. ‘The power and the bal­ance were sub­lime and the grip from the coilovers was im­mense.’

But then dis­as­ter struck. The rat­tle from fourth gear fi­nally sig­nalled the death of the ra­tio and it could no longer be se­lected.

‘The other gears still worked fine,’ laughs Jake. ‘So I just drove it around block-chang­ing from third to fifth and vice versa. It wasn’t ideal, but it bought me some time to save up for a re­place­ment gear­box.’

And this brings us to the time of the pho­to­shoot. Jake’s had more than his fair share of trou­bles with the woe­ful Wankel, and even as the pic­tures were be­ing taken the car was still plot­ting new ways to cause him pain. The very next day af­ter the shoot the engine’s water seals let go, send­ing a foun­tain of boil­ing water up through the vented bon­net like a geyzer.

‘It hap­pens!’ laments Jake, shrug­ging his shoul­ders. ‘It just means I have an­other rea­son to add some more up­grades.’

And with a full bridge-port engine re­build un­der­way, in­clud­ing a smoothed, wire-tucked bay, full ABS delete and braided lines through­out the car, new oil cool­ers, bil­let fuel rails, new in­jec­tors and a remap, when it’s fin­ished Jake’s RX-7 is go­ing to be back in black and even bet­ter than ever.

So the next time your build throws a span­ner in the works and you’re faced with seem­ingly over­whelm­ing ad­ver­sity, think of Jake and his RX-7 and see each is­sue, not as a prob­lem, but as an op­por­tu­nity to tri­umph.

IT ALL MOUNTS UP JAKE SWAPPED THE RX-7’S STAN­DARD RUB­BER-BUSHED ENGINE MOUNTS FOR A SET OF HIMINS SOLID MOUNTS. THIS UP­GRADE MEANS THE ENGINE AND TRANS­MIS­SION DON’T MOVE AROUND AS MUCH AS BE­FORE AND MAKE FOR A LARGE IM­PROVE­MENT IN THE POS­I­TIV­ITY AND...

THANKS LIST JAR­ROD, JAKE, BRAD AND GE­ORGE FOR THEIR GEN­ERAL HELP, CHAR­LIE FOR PARTS AND TECH HELP, JIMMY FOR DE­TAIL­ING AND KEEP­ING THE PAINT PER­FECT, GABRIEL @GG_CARBON FOR ALL THE CAR­BON-FI­BRE, IAN FOR ALL THE PAINT WORK, LASTLY MY GIRL­FRIEND LAURA,...

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