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
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,...