No real developments yet, I’m still waiting on my interior panels to be completed. I was eager to finally have them back before the Thanksgiving break, but a few more issues were discovered and they weren’t ready. So instead, I was granted a few days off where I paid little attention to the car.
The only thing I did was torque down all the lug nuts and then posed my dog for this picture.
For the first time in 3 months, I returned the car back to the ground today. While I’m lucky to be in California where a “real” Winter does not exist, I still want to drive the car before the rain starts. The plan was to lower the car off the jack stands last weekend, except I had to buy another set of non-REVO Project Kics R40 lug nuts to clear the front ARP studs. This is probably my 4th or 5th set of these Project Kics…
With the Advans, wheel changes are going to be a lot more tedious now. The lug holes on these wheels are super deep into the face, and there’s minimal room to navigate with a socket. A quick slip-up will easily scratch the wheel’s paint. By design of the RS/RZ, the spokes are slightly protruding outward near the rim, which is going to be an area of high debris susceptibility. I’m going to have to get the dark gunmetal paint color-matched and keep a small touch-up bottle.
Other than that, the wheels have definitely affirmed my allegiance to 18″ sizes. While 17″ wheels can look great, after trying out both, I think 18″ wins in its overall presence.
Fingers crossed I can finally get my trim panels back soon and button up the interior. This chapter of the car’s build is becoming quite elongated. Then, as you may be able to guess from the picture, a well deserved wash will be in order.
If the lack of recent updates didn’t already betray it – progress has been slow. Delays seem all too normal and wait times continue to grow. After about a month at the body shop, I was able to pick up my new front bumper. And by new, I mean a used pre-’99 bumper I was able to find from a local RX-7 buddy. He had the bumper sitting in storage for years and was kind enough to give me it for FREE! On top of that, the bumper was actually in great shape. Typically, the plastics melt and deform from heat and sun exposure over the years. The top portion will become wavy, with darker colored cars being more prone to this. It’s hard to find a used bumper in the condition I was looking for across the country… yet I was able to grab this one a few miles from my house at no cost. Sometimes, things just work out.
The reason why the bumper took so long to get painted was because it had to be redone twice. I was explicit on getting a couple minor dips removed, since any imperfection will be visible to plain sight when painted black. I suspect that I am in the minority – having opted to go back to the older bumpers. Going through 2 ’99 bumpers has made me weary of them. They look sharp from certain angles but odd and bulky from others. With their narrower profile, the pre-’99 bumpers maintain a higher level of sleekness and look better without a plate, in my opinion.
Figuring out the front bumper for this car has been quite the ordeal. My primary concern was the fitment and lack of structural deformities, like the curled edge from the ’99s. Thankfully, this pre-’99 bumper has a better overall fit and finish. I may raise the hood latch up slightly in the future to tighten the gap in the front.
I screwed up mounting the front emblem because the double-sided tape wasn’t trimmed perfectly clean. It was already too late because the emblem had been stuck on and the tape bonded. This caused me to spend 2 extra hours carefully removing the emblem and scraping off all the tape residue. The task was particularly stressful because the bumper had fresh paint.
I purposefully chose the regular R-package front lip to stick with the “stock body” theme. The other idea was to leverage the RX-7′s more retro appeal. With the bumper installed, I planned on installing the wheels and lowering the car back onto the ground. Unfortunately, since I am no longer running a 5mm spacer at the front with the Advans, the extended ARP studs hit the top of my Project Kics REVO lug nuts. This means I will have to buy another set of Project Kics lug nuts in open-ended form to mount the front wheels… awesome. I’m sure you can see how this stuff can get expensive, fast.
A welcomed inevitability… While I was ordering the Rein Hard exhaust, I indulged in my curiosity and peeked around Yahoo Japan’s auctions. Conveniently, I spotted a set of Spirit-R Recaros with tilting seat rails. Until now, I held off on these seats for as long as possible, primarily due to their exorbitant price tags. These are surely an epitome of a luxury item. Nevertheless, I knew my interior would never be complete without these seats, so I bit the bullet and had my contact secure a bid.
These seats come in 2 variants, black in the earlier RZ models and then red in the Spirit-Rs. Evidently, the weave pattern in the carbon kevlar was updated in the later RZ years. Given the fact that the Recaros were available only in exclusive models, quantity is limited. I have to say, they are undeniably one of the coolest OEM seats out there. Leave it to Mazda to partner up with Recaro and offer a carbon kevlar, fixed back bucket seat.
Overall the seats were in great condition, the backs and seat rails were very clean. Unfortunately, there was sun fading on the red cloth and one of the bottom bolsters was torn at the seam. The tear was easily correctable, but the fading was not since it was on the large, shoulder areas. Instead of fiddling with a repair work that may not have matched, I ended up having everything reupholstered. In the process, I had to bring one of the seats to a body shop first because I found a small, razor blade scratch on the back. They were able to fill it in with clear coat and it is virtually unnoticeable now.
For the reupholstering, the clear choice was to go with suede. Seeing how easily the standard Recaro material faded, I didn’t feel it was worth pursuing. I also didn’t go all-out and pick Alcantara again, because the yardage required to cover both seats would have accrued an immense cost. Furthermore, I see these seats as wear items with unavoidable maintenance. This explains why it’s so hard to find the Recaros in perfect condition, because by design of a bucket seat, the material is highly susceptible to wear. I instead went with another line of automotive grade, synthetic suede – in red. Reupholstering them in black was an option, but I was swayed to stay with red for the contrast. Selective loudness is a good thing, in my opinion.
The job took over a month to complete because one of the center sections was accidentally ripped during reassembly, and the embroidery had to be redone. In the end, I was happy with the results and it was refreshing to have the seats returned to their rightful glory.
For good measure, I rubbed the backs with polish and added a layer of wax.
I also had the seat belt guides replaced with brand new ones from Mazda.
The embroidery work, which had to be outsourced locally, was especially good. They matched the Recaro font well.
These Recaros were essentially the ONLY option on my list aside from staying with the factory R2 seats. Given how cramped the cockpit is in the RX-7, I had no interest in messing with aftermarket seats that may rub the door panels and/or are off-center in alignment. Because the Recaros are truly OEM, installation was a cinch and the fitment was perfect.
I remember installing Bride Vios III seats in my previous RX-7 and its shoulder bolsters rubbed the door panels slightly. As I have aged, so have my brand inclinations… Recaro is the only brand of seats I am willing to have displayed in my car. I guess this preference is similar to my favoring of Brembos over StopTech, etc.
The Recaros are great for “aggressive” street use and light track duty. They hold you in well, but there is definitely room to spare. A size specific racing bucket will be more snug and probably more stiff.
Revamping the interior and figuring out the front bumper’s situation has been a slow, deliberate process. While most of the work that needed to be accomplished got sent out to various shops simultaneously, a couple components are taking longer than others. So the waiting continues…
There wasn’t much I could do last weekend. It pains me because I would love to steam forward and have the car back on its wheels. The weekends are also the only days I can find time to actually get things done, which incentivizes my productivity. The slower pace gives me breathing room, but I’ll admit, I’m not accustomed to sitting so idly.
I ended up just vacuuming the interior and throwing in my like-new OEM RZ floormats, which gave me a tiny sense of accomplishment. I’m not sure if these are specific to the RZ models only, I only know they’re offered exclusively overseas. These were definitely an impulse buy, a byproduct of habitual late-night classifieds cruising. Since my custom berber floormats were still mint and hardly used, I will save them as spares. The OEM mats are better quality and come with a nice, metal RX-7 plaque.
The styling may not be for everyone, but I like the uniqueness. While they are made for RHD cars, fitment was surprisingly good. The only issue I noticed was that the driver-side mat ran up the dead pedal slightly more than before.
I probably should have called it a day and grabbed a beer after “installing” the floormats. However, the trooper in me still had energy so I decided to install a reinforcement brace Sake Bomb Garage gave me for their Rear Fire Extinguisher Bracket next. The mount flexed and had more movement than I liked. After drilling a hole into the bracket, the added brace helped to triangulate and stiffen the lower section and keep the floor’s sheet metal from flexing. Kudos to Sake Bomb Garage’s customer service for taking the time to follow-up with this and actually producing a remedy.
Lastly, I added Dynamat to the Speaker Adapters in an effort to seal them up better and reduce the potential for vibration.
I limited my application to only the adapters. I’m sure the full surface of the doors could benefit from Dynamatting, but doing so would stray from my strictly defined “pure & minimalistic” ethos for this car.
Like with many other components for the RX-7, short shifters are a dying breed. Aside from eBay, the majority of offerings are out of production and no longer available from their respective manufacturers.
C’s is one maker I’m especially keen on, but given that the company itself is now out of business, it’s safe to assume their RX-7 shifter is DEFINITELY no longer available. While a shifter is relatively basic in its mechanics, quality and detail can still be appreciated. C’s specialized in making short shifters and held a reputation for high caliber construction.
The stock shifter is already nice, which is basically what the installed RE-Amemiya shifter was, so I wanted a shifter that wouldn’t depreciate the feel by being overly notchy or stubborn to work. The general consensus from users who have trialled multiple shifters is that the C’s offered the best refinement. Of course, this is all subjective, but was a positive notion nonetheless.
I sent over a candid email to a contact (same guy who sold me the RX-7 in the first place), who is known to have stockpiles of random RX-7 parts, and inquired on a short shifter. By a stroke of luck, he happened to be in the middle of a part-out on a car that conveniently had a C’s. I jumped on it of course, since this was a rare chance for me to try one of these shifters.
Here are all the parts laid out after cleaning.
The brand of authenticity:
And here’s the C’s juxtaposed with the RE-Amemiya short shifter. I don’t think it’s accurate to call the latter a short shifter. As depicted in the picture below, the “arm” of the shifters are different lengths. The C’s has a longer arm, which raises the fulcrum. The RE-Amemiya is the same as a stock shifter, only the top portion, where the shift knob threads in, has been lowered…
Installation was easy and straight forward. I remade a pair of the paper gaskets myself and greased up the pivot ball prior to dropping in.
After going through all the gears with the C’s, the feel is definitely a welcomed change. The stock throw was nothing to complain about, but it was certainly softer. Now with the C’s, shifts are truly like the proverbial “lever-action of a well greased rifle”.
When I dropped off my dash to Bascom, I also had them install the Alcantara center console cover I had laying around. I bought it from Redline Goods, which is where my shift and e-brake boots also came from. Everything is black on black Alcantara, which should maintain a level on conformity through out the interior.
The console wrap lined up and fit decently.
I requested a bordering be made and added to the bottom edge of the console as an extra finisher. This helped to clean up its edge.
Next, I worked on my new PowerFC Commander holder from Banzai Racing. This style of holder only works with ’93 dashes because it can be mounted inside the glovebox area and the holes are hidden. The first owner of my car unreasonably installed a similar holder into the ’94 dash, which left 3 holes exposed in plain view.
Strangely enough, I hesitated only slightly when I proceeded to drill 2 holes into my newly installed Alcantara ’93 dash for the holder.
It may have been logical to continue using my previous, cell-phone holder that suctioned onto the windshield. At least I would be exempt from drilling any further holes. In this case, function trumps form. This particular holder is still the most optimal solution, in my opinion, so I had to run it.
With the dash removed from the car and completely stripped down, I brought it over to Bascom Trim and Upholstery in Santa Clara. The quote they gave me to do the work was significantly more than other alternatives, but I felt most comfortable having them take it on. I had the dash wrapped in genuine black Alcantara. This is when I came to learn just how pricey the fabric can be (over $100 a yard).
Frugality notwithstanding, I figured attempting a task as daring as rewrapping a dash would benefit from the investment in high-end materials and workmanship. The job took a couple of weeks to complete. In the process, Bascom repaired and reinforced the broken glovebox mounting points on the plastics. I also asked them to permanently affix the defroster vents from the backside, since they have a tendency to lift up at the edges over time.
Since the days of my initial foray into the car world, I’ve always dreamed about having an Alcantara interior. I’m not sure what influenced and anchored the thought, but the material seems so fitting for a sports car. Now almost a decade later, I finally have the chance to fully pursue it.
Once the rewrap was complete, I dedicated an evening putting everything back together. This included mounting on the powder coated crossmember, installing the numerous HVAC ducts, and routing in the wiring harness. Since I reused my original ’94 harness, I had to get a little creative with it and ended up relocating 2 ground points.
I also spent WAY too much time than I should have figuring out the VIN plate’s reattachment. The wide flanged, black rivets Mazda used to secure them are an odd size. Bascom initially used black rivets that were close in size, but still didn’t cover up holes adequately. I had them removed and decided to install the plate with stainless steel rivets and washers, which covered up the holes and looks quite good. Additionally, I noticed a pair of small blemishes appeared on the plate, likely from being handled at Bascom. It was unfortunate, but I was able to touch them up with a small brush and brown paint.
Due to the dash’s compound curves, Bascom incorporated a seam above the glovebox area to create a joint in the material. Keeping in theme with the rest of the interior, I requested the stitching be done in black.
Finally, the dash was shoved back into place inside the car and bolted down. It was quite refreshing to see the ’93 dash installed and the added simplicity it ushered… the passenger side airbag is a sight that will not be missed.
I never really planned to tackle the interior in such a grandiose fashion, however, the cheapness of it started to add up for me. The RX-7 is an amazing car with many strengths and Mazda did a great job engineering most of its features – except the interior. In their ambition to keep the car as light as possible, they skimped in an area that deserved it the least… now the car is plighted by cheap, thin plastics inside. I think the aesthetics and ergonomics of the interior are excellent, but the FEEL is not. Everything I’m doing now is to help enhance the feel department and raise the overall quality inside. I understand that the foundation may be imperfect, so there is only so much I can do. Even rewrapping the dash is essentially a “best effort” solution. Regardless, an improvement of any magnitude is still an improvement.
Slowly but surely, the car’s interior is coming back together. I am eager to install the remaining pieces once they are ready.
Last weekend, with most of my interior sent off to various shops, there wasn’t much for me to do. I took the opportunity instead to knock out a few smaller items on the list. For one, the finish on the V-Mount’s ducting wasn’t the cleanest. I had a hard time polishing it completely mirror. I removed the ducts and added a brushed look by sanding in one direction with a fine-grade scotch-brite pad. I also trimmed the top edge of the ducts with a nice seal.
Moving towards the rear of the car, I actioned another small issue… the tow hook. The car originally came without one in the rear, so I bought it new from Mazda; however, it was unpainted and bare steel. The idea was to coat it in paint that was similar to the raw, steel color, since I actually liked the way it looked (until surface rust started forming, that is). I decided to try out Dupli-Color’s Stainless Steel paint.
After some sanding, a few coats of self-etching primer, more sanding, and finally a few coats of the Stainless Steel…
…the tow hook was refurbished.
The Stainless Steel paint contained a heavy mixture of metallics, which made laying down several, thicker coats difficult. I ended up having to clay bar off all the extra “grit” from the metallics once the paint was dried.
The stock-sized Stoptech rear rotors I threw on when I installed the Brembo BBK bugged me and seemed like a half-step. After I was finished with the install, I was consistently reminded of the missed chance to upsize the rears as well. With the larger Brembos up front, the rears looked too tiny and threw off the balance of the car – aesthetically, that is. With the car on jack stands, now was the time to revisit the rears.
Conveniently, the ABS delete’s proportioning valve will be useful to bias out the effects of more leverage in the rear with a larger rotor. The options available for the rear are thin, it was either larger RZ/Spirit-R rotors or Racing Brake’s 2-piece rear BBK. However, the latter was no longer in stock from the manufacturer. I was just about to purchase a set of Spirit-R rotors from Mazda in Japan, when I randomly stumbled upon someone else’s Want to Buy listing for the Racing Brake kit in the classifieds. A member replied stating he had a brand new kit available, so I poached and was able to grab it for myself.
While the deal was initially a good one, it was quickly debased to a degree. One of the aluminum rotor hats had chips and knicks all over, presumably from shipping. The imperfections were likely cosmetic, regardless, I ordered a replacement hat with hardware from Racing Brake. The newer hats feature a slight revision in the design, but all of the fitment dimensions are obviously the same.
In order to fit the larger 12.7″ rotors, the caliper brackets will need to be extended. Racing Brake includes a 1-piece, cast extension bracket, which is strikingly similar in construction to stock. I had to paint these brackets to match the Red caliper bodies.
As an added (possibly superfluous) measure to help with the curing, I baked them in the oven after painting.
2-piece Racing Brakes versus stock-sized Stoptechs:
These rotors feature Racing Brake’s unique Open Slot design, which combine the advantages of both cross-drilled and normal slots. I still need to adjust and fine-tune the bias settings on the proportioning valve, and now probably more than before.
Tying into the dash retrofit, I am able to remove the passenger side airbag and effectively the remaining components of the system. Knowing I was moving forward in this direction, I sold off the Alcantara Nardi steering wheel. I later sold away my entire ’99 front end, excluding the combo lights.
With the car bumper-less, I unplugged and took off the 3 airbag sensors that bolted to the front of the car and the computer module in the cabin behind the dash. This cleared up wiring on the passenger side engine bay and from under both fenders. At the same time, I also deleted the horns. The Rothsport quick release has no provisions for a horn, and I honestly don’t want it for this car. Interestingly enough, the signal wiring for the horn is actually intertwined with the airbag’s… so, regardless, taking out the airbag sensors and wiring like I did would have rendered the horns nonfunctional – unless they were spliced back in.
With the airbag sensors and horns removed, a couple pounds in weight was actually shed.
The weight is undoubtedly a minutiae, I’m more pleased with the reduced clutter.
The airbags and horns were the last to-do’s on my relatively long list of components to delete. I finally have this car down to the necessities that I only desire, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The RX-7′s age and provenance should be capitalized, no, lionized to herald the days of purer, simpler sports cars. A key attraction of mine to the RX-7 is its overall lack of unnecessary, burdensome sophistications (but of course, there is always room for more of less). I am disillusioned by the technology packed products of today – no qualified sports car should be able to practically drive itself.
On more objective terms, I personally was not the most trusting of the airbags for reasons I will elaborate: airbags were essentially in the midst of their widespread adoption during the early 90′s – when the RX-7 was released. Having newer technology in the form of an explosive device sitting inches from your face does not exactly command confidence. I wouldn’t want a car without airbags from today’s times… but for a car made 20 years ago, I WOULD rather go without them.
While I have been steadily trimming the fat from my RX-7 with intentions to “refine” it into a pure sports car, there is one feature that won’t be going anywhere: the stereo system!
Unfortunately, given that this car is 2 decades old now, the stock system is very lacking. The Pioneer headunit I installed did appreciate the quality by offering a boost in amps, but there was still room for improvement. With the rear speakers removed, the entire soundstage pivoted on just the pair of door speakers, and in a way, they created a bottleneck. My goal was to do a simple upgrade, I didn’t want to get carried away and run new wiring or add an external amplifier. Updating the door speakers would be sufficient for my needs. Although having a nice stereo system is important, it still plays a more secondary role in respect to the car’s overall scheme and focus. A quadruple-digit wattage setup is more fitting in a daily, or the like.
I had to hold myself back even further when it came time to shop for a new set of speakers. Instinctively, I started my search with high-end coaxial speakers before realizing the folly. Buying expensive speakers to be powered off of factory wiring and only a head unit would be the epitome of overkill. After more careful researching, I settled on the Morel Maximo 6.5″ coaxials. The Maximos are actually Morel’s entry level speakers, so you can imagine the amount of self-control required for me to make this choice (lol). Regardless, these are still relatively midrange and reviews on their quality have been abundantly praiseful. I favored the Maximos namely because of their good sensitivity rating (90.5db) versus other alternatives I was weighing. Sensitivity is correlated with a speaker’s efficiency. The higher the efficiency, the better the speaker is able to convert electrical watts into acoustical watts – which is especially important when you’re foregoing an external amplifier.
Here’s what the larger, 6.5″ Morel looks like next to an old, stock speaker.
To mount the speakers into the door, I bought a pair of these PVC adapters from an elusive vendor.
I say elusive because the seller has been known to ignore communications and not ship people their orders. I was lucky on my first order and received the adapters in a timely fashion. I later bought the same adapters again to have as spares and to modify, but I haven’t heard or received anything in weeks…
The adapters fit decently, but the casing on the Maximos are slightly oversized so they do not sit perfectly flush inside the rings. I may decide to make my own adapters in the future, but unless the PVC adapters vibrate or cause an issue, there is no urgency to perfect them.
Since I had the door panels off for the speaker install, I also removed my driver-side window and then the regulator for servicing.
With the regulator on my workbench, I cleaned and regreased all the cabling and tracks.
I noticed previously that the driver-side window moved a little slower than the passenger-side, so this will help everything slide more smoothly and hopefully enable the window to move up and down faster.