Super Street - - Contents -

Fewer than five weeks un­til SEMA, Jonny Grunwald was feel­ing more re­laxed than a hip­pie in a ham­mock.

It had been a hot minute since the JDM build spe­cial­ist had left his project man­ager role at Bul­let­proof Au­to­mo­tive, and although the four-year stint had opened quite a few doors, it was nice not hav­ing to hus­tle for a mo­ment.

You may re­call Jonny’s white TCP Magic Mazda RX-7 from when it was show­cased on the cover of Su­per Street last year (Vol. 21 No. 10), and how we spoke of his role as the guy be­hind some of the most bonkers project cars to have ever come out of the U.S. One part ve­hic­u­lar vi­sion­ary, two parts JDM junkie, and all-around great guy, Jonny is the sort of sup­port you want in your cor­ner, which is pre­cisely why those last few re­lax­ing days lead­ing up to SEMA ’17 were turned up­side down with one swift flip of the ham­mock.

Jonny is no stranger to ex­tremely tight dead­lines and in­sane SEMA builds; it’s just that the Mazda RX-8 seen here wasn’t even close to be­ing on his radar. At the time, pro driver Mad Mike Whid­dett had been busy de­sign­ing the Pan­dem aero kit for the RX-8 with Kei Miura of TRA Ky­oto. While Mike was slated to de­but an ag­gres­sive ver­sion of the kit on his tube-frame chas­sis race car at World Time At­tack Chal­lenge, a month be­fore SEMA, Jonny took on the sur­prise as­sign­ment of agree­ing to build a street ver­sion of the kit us­ing an ’09 RX-8 he had just picked up. We guess it only made sense he’d build a sis­ter car to his FD!

The road-to-sema build be­gan when the car was dropped off at Auto Ex­plo­sion, where the orig­i­nally Ve­loc­ity red RX-8 re­ceived a color change to Min­eral White Metal­lic—the same sheen found on Jonny’s FD. He would spend much of his sum­mer in Ja­pan help­ing out the TCP Magic team com­pet­ing in For­mula DRIFT. Af­ter win­ning at Okuibuki in Septem­ber, he fi­nally flew back to com­plete his RX-8 with only two months in which to work. Jonny didn’t come home empty handed as he packed an RE Amemiya grille, hood vents, and eye lines on the plane.

Fun facts about this street fighter con­tinue with the ti­ta­nium wing stands, which de­spite their con­tro­ver­sial aes­thet­ics, are still one of Jonny’s fa­vorite parts of the build. From there, we move on to the Pan­dem add-on ti­ta­nium pieces fea­tured on the front bumper and rear quar­ter at­tach­ments, along with the wing end­plates. These raw ma­te­ri­als alone re­port­edly cost more than his en­tire wide­body kit com­bined and couldn’t even be man­u­fac­tured un­til the Ky­oto-born aero ar­rived from Ja­pan, a mere nine days be­fore SEMA!

With all the ex­te­rior bits taken care of, Jonny and his team got to scan­ning and de­sign­ing ev­ery­thing in CAD, wa­ter jet cut­ting the ti­ta­nium, and burn­ing ev­ery piece by hand. He con­fesses the amount of time and la­bor that went into these de­tails was ab­so­lutely asi­nine, es­pe­cially since only the length­ened and re­designed wing stands ended up get­ting uti­lized. So, while some may hate them based purely on ap­pear­ance, he loves these touches dearly be­cause of all the time and ef­fort that went into them.

Mov­ing on to the en­gine bay, it be­comes ob­vi­ous that a dis­claimer must be made: This is not a swap! The pri­mary fo­cal point of this build was that the man wanted to stick with the Re­n­e­sis II, which meant im­ple­ment­ing ass-tons of en­gi­neer­ing in less than two weeks. Rop­ing in Tur­blown from Min­nesota proved to be part of the build’s suc­cess in this area, as the com­pany had pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with per­for­mance Se­ries 1 RX-8S.

With only a hand­ful of peo­ple ever hav­ing suc­cess­fully pulled off tur­bocharg­ing a bridge­ported Re­n­e­sis II, this move was a huge gam­ble. This de­ci­sion meant mod­i­fy­ing the fuel rails, fab­ri­cat­ing a cus­tom wiring har­ness for OEM func­tion­al­ity, mak­ing a one-off man­i­fold, in­stalling a Borg­warner 9174 turbo, and much more to make it all work.

Be­ing that there aren’t a lot of off-the-shelf items avail­able for this plat­form, tun­ing had to be con­ducted in an ex­tremely care­ful man­ner by mul­ti­ple spe­cial­ists. This meant bring­ing in El­liot White at Adap­tronic USA (who was re­mote tun­ing in Min­nesota at the time), Daniel Kuo from Garage Life, and Fris Cas­sola from Lucky 7, which meant more than 100 dyno pulls were made within 24 hours. Af­ter hit­ting 422 whp and 339 lb-ft of torque at 17 psi con­sis­tently and safely (a world record for the Se­ries 2), the car was ready for SEMA and be­yond.

To this day, Jonny as­sures us his RX-8 is still run­ning beau­ti­fully af­ter 1,300 ad­di­tional street miles. Mean­while, a de­bate among ro­tary nerds has been brew­ing on­line over the ad­di­tional duo of ports on the Re­n­e­sis II mo­tor, as some feel

that the bridge­port will cause the en­tire en­gine to grenade at some point. Skep­tics aside, he re­mains con­fi­dent the car will hold up just fine, even though he does ad­mit to hav­ing a spare en­gine on standby just in case shit goes pear-shaped.

As for how the ve­hi­cle per­forms on the street, where it was in­tended to roam in the first place, Jonny says in con­trast to his RX-7, this build is equal parts re­lax­ing to drive and in­cred­i­bly com­fort­able. Air con­di­tion­ing is some­thing he hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced for the bet­ter part of the past decade or so, and with the RX-7 pre­par­ing for up­com­ing track du­ties and high temps a fac­tor, both per­for­mance Mazda mon­sters have their work cut out for them.

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