I went out for a quick drive a couple weekends ago and brought my camera with me. Preferably, I would have waited until sunset to take these shots for better lighting… but I didn’t feel like waiting around all day to do that. So instead, I went around noon, the time of day with arguably the harshest lighting possible.
I wish I at least had a flash with me to balance out the highlights. Given the situation, I resorted to Photoshop and post-processing to help compensate.
My agenda here is not to talk about photography gibberish, but rather touch base on the state of affairs with the car itself. The past few months have been non-stop… from the day I wired money away blindly to the weeks the car spent its time on jackstands being wrenched on. The culmination of this monstrous effort is what you see in the above pictures, a car that I can now deem as being “mine”. Being able to impart a unique fingerprint onto a car is all part of the fun, and one of the main reasons why I chose the RX-7 in the first place.
So now what? I don’t want this to sound anti-climatic, but I’m thinking about just pushing the car off to the side until I can come back to it. The first phase of this project is complete, although I feel that there should be 2 more phases before it’s truly well and done. Unfortunately, I’ll need to slow things down now. The amount of energy and money invested cannot realistically continue at the same rate for long.
Every single day for the past few months, I was always thinking about what part to buy or what needs to be worked on next. There was little time for rest, the focus was consuming and constant. On average, I probably spent no less than $1000 weekly, every week. During the times in between, I generously supported local businesses. There were countless shops and services I had to rely on and run back and forth to. William’s for the paint, DCT for the steering wheel re-wrap, AutoRnD for the footwork, All Bay for the powder coating, Nichol’s for the restrictor plate fabrication, Dale’s Hardware for stainless fasteners, O’Reilly’s for an endless amount of random necessities, and the list goes on.
We’ll see what the future holds, as there is still much left to do. For now, I’m just happy to take a step back from it all and let the dust settle.
One of the parts I wish I could have kept from the Mini Cooper was the Braille B2317 battery. I was eager to have this battery again so I bought another one, but forgot to account for the direction of the posts. When it came time to drop it in, I realized the RX-7 needs a reverse post version to fit properly. Out came the credit card yet again to correct the issue…
Currently, the regular post B2317 battery is adorning my shelf and collecting dust, in case anyone reading is interested and wants to pick it up.
With fresh tail light bulbs installed at the rear, I had to do something about the headlights as well. Admittedly, I briefly thought about using a drop-in HID kit but luckily was able to slap myself out of it. Regardless of how often I’ll actually be driving this car, I refused to pool myself with all the assholes and amateurs who blind everyone with their HID’s. If you have halogen housings, either properly retrofit a set of HID projectors so the cut-off can be aimed or just don’t use HID’s.
In the end, I decided on going with a pair of H4 PIAA Xtreme White Plus bulbs (like I did with the Miata). There was an option to buy new housings with HID projectors already retrofitted, however, I didn’t think it would mesh well with the RX-7. Pop-up headlights with projectors… wasn’t feeling it. While I’ll upgrade and modernize things like the head unit, other areas should remain the same to retain the 90′s era novelty.
The headlight covers have to come off in order to access the bulbs. A couple weeks ago, I noticed a strange but very slight dimple on the passenger side headlight cover. In the time that has passed, I bought a new OEM cover and had William repaint it. I guess I really am picky.
Before everything was buttoned back up and adjusted, I took care of the cloudiness in the headlights (after working on the car for weeks in the garage, all the smudges and dirt that have accumulated are rather evident in this picture):
After, good as new with a bit of polishing:
Here’s a picture of what the lights look like when on. You can also see the Cree LED’s in the combo lights, which have a nice blue to them.
Who would have thought the oddball combination of adding mudguards to a sports car would yield such great results? I’ve always loved the look and favored a set of mudguards all-around over side skirts. Although, the idea of running ’99 side skirts is floating around in my head, but time will tell if this comes to fruition.
Keep it simple. A set of wheels with a lowered ride height is enough to radically transform the aesthetics of a car. When executed properly, little else is required. The key importance here is the fitment.
By fitment, I’m not talking about slamming a car with wheels that poke out. Nor am I talking about sunken wheels with large wheel gaps. It’s the balanced medium that only the wise pursue.
I was eager to see how the Work XD9‘s would look on the car, however, my preliminary guestimate of the coilover heights were off. I will admit to finding the task of dialing in the ride height laborious and tedious. Unfortunately, there is no way around it. Accept what needs to be done and get busy. I had to jack up the car and take the wheels on and off over a dozen times before all 4 corners were properly set.
In the beginning, this is what the fronts looked like when the car was first placed back down on the ground.
WAY TOO LOW. I don’t see how anyone could prefer that kind of ride height. All the kids nowadays are engaged in a competition to see who can have the lowest and most unusable car. I can state this with certainty: sooner or later, every one of these people will grow up and move past their ways. It is perfectly excusable to go for this style if you’re in your teens or early 20′s. Just have fun but remember not to try too hard…
Anyway, I was eventually able to complete all the grunt work and the car was sitting at my approved height – a touch under 25″ floor-to-fender all around. I probably raised the fronts up a good inch to inch and a half from its initial setup before I was content. The rears sit under 25″ when there is a full tank of gas (I forgot how big the tank was, it ate up nearly $70 worth of gas to fill).
Much better. Purposeful function begets true beauty. I only drove the car around town briefly, but so far, there has been no issues with rubbing. I can roll over railroad tracks with ease, and I don’t have to block traffic to slow down for them. Best of all, I can drive the car as it was designed to be driven. It is blasphemous to “stance” out a sports car like the RX-7 and render it into a handicapped poser-mobile. I’m going to hold my tongue on the social commentary, as I can go on and on about this topic. I’ll save it for another post :-)
The XD9′s are 18×10″ all around with +18 offset in the rear and +38 in the front. The tires are Federal RS-R’s in 255/35/18. This is my ideal fitment.
I had to save installing the front bumper until near the end to keep it out of the way of things. The car looked quite incomplete without it, though.
I started off by putting on the ’99 rebar and under tray.
The bumper was then carefully inserted into the fender holes, which is definitely a 2-person job. While flexing the sides into position, they can easily spring out and scratch the fender so it was done with the utmost care and delicacy. With the bumper in place, I slowly adjusted all the gaps. As good as some aftermarket bumpers may be, you just can’t beat OEM polyurethane in terms of (ease of) fitment.
Last but not least, I bolted on my ’99 carbon fiber lip (don’t mind the compound dust).
I still need to play with the headlight covers, but will get to that when I install the new bulbs.
For the fourth time, I’ve bought yet another pair of black on black alcantara shift and e-brake boots from Redline Goods. This is a staple of mine and works well on any car… a must-have detail; especially so with the RX-7 because there is already so much suede material inside, the boots tie the theme together nicely.
Here is a work-in-progress picture of the interior:
I remember during the first day when I was driving the car, I went to pull off the detachable ashtray and the entire shifter surround trim lifted up with it. It turned out the the trim piece was missing a few spring clips. So I bought a new set of those clips to properly secure it, as well as a new ’94+ trim piece (just because). Later on, I noticed a half-inch rip on the side of the vinyl transmission tunnel cover, so that too was replaced. I can’t help it, Ray Crowe at Malloy Mazda has great service and offers club pricing on new OEM FD parts… it’s too easy.
And After with the new goodies in place:
(I really dislike the A-pillar gauges, but they’ll have to stay… for now)
I went with the FEED shift knob to match the roll bar. The ashtray was ditched, because I don’t smoke and never will, in favor of a more usable armrest which doubles as a small compartment. Since this is a JDM item, the lid opens reversely.
To further refresh the interior, I threw in a pair of berber floor mats with a black serged border. I had the RX-7 logo moved from the side of the mats to the middle-center, around knee depth.
New vs Old:
I went for the OEM route with the steering wheel, in the flavor of a ’99 Nardi. The pre-’99 steering wheels, much like the tail lights, are one of the worst items on the car. Not only is it hideous, but the 380mm diameter is too large. When driving, it literally sits on my lap.
Granted the ’99 Nardi is only 10mm smaller at 370mm, but that is still an appreciable difference. As soon as I received the steering wheel, I took it to DCT Motorsports in Mountain View to have it rewrapped in Alcantara. New padding was fitted to make the girth 1mm thicker. The stitching was done in a European diamond pattern, and sectioned into quarters – influenced by the Porsche GT3 RS steering wheel. Everything is black on black, I’m not a fan of the “JDM” red nonsense.
After sitting on my workbench for the past couple of months, I finally had the chance to throw it on.
Interestingly, the impetus behind many of the upgrades I’m implementing comes from me being unsatisfied with a given feature of the car. If something needs to be fixed, it’s funner and more worthwhile to make it better in the same process. For example, the sideskirts and wing needed to be uninstalled, so the whole car was repainted. Old mounting holes were left behind on the chassis, so a new replacement roll bar was installed to fill them up.
Now in this case, the lower DIN pocket that came with the car had an ugly, red carbon fiber overlay on its lid. I know you can’t see it because the lid is down, it was so bad I didn’t even want to take a picture of it:
I didn’t feel like slowly peeling off the overlay and buying a new DIN pocket is pricey. So essentially, I was pushed towards the direction of redoing the whole shebang with a Pioneer Double DIN head unit. Would I have done it regardless of the stuck-on overlay annoyance? Yeah, probably…
As with any head unit install, the harness wiring must sorted out first. All connections were soldered and heatshrinked, because just crimping wires together is lazy work.
In the end, I omitted the rear speaker wires because those speakers were being removed anyway to fit the roll bar. The pair of co-axial speakers in the doors will be sufficient. Having rear speakers in a small car is counterproductive, as most of the time the sound from them interferes with the front stage quality. Personally, I prefer a sound system to be simple. On another note, I also could not hook up the power antenna’s wire because the Pioneer’s harness did not support it. It goes to show that power antennas are becoming defunct technology in this day and age. I could have had the antenna shaved off during the repaint, but chose to leave it for originality and to serve as a novel symbol that harkens to the days of yesteryear.
The new AVH-P8400BH in place:
I used Pioneer’s ADT-VA133 double DIN kit to mount everything in place. The trim ring that came with it matches the texture of the 94+ plastics quite well.
Once particular specification of the AVH-P8400BH that attracted me was its high 800×480 pixel resolution and GUI quality. As functional as double DIN’s are, a downside with them – aftermarket and OEM – is that their interfaces always seem to have been designed in the early 2000′s.
The 7″ screen really fills up the dash and looks great in the car. Time to don my fancy pants. I still need to find time to figure out how to actually use it.
The first owner of my RX-7 had at one point installed an Autopower bolt-in Street roll bar, which was then removed by the second owner. This translate to me buying the car with its body having open holes that required addressing. If the epoxied on sideskirts and large rear wing were the major turnoffs when I was initially buying the car, then these roll bar holes were the next big fault.
A sane and reasonable man would have just left the holes alone and carried on with life. They are not in critical areas of the body, 3 in each of the rear wheel wells and 3 underneath on the floor pan on both sides. 12 small holes in these places really does not matter. Option B would have been to have them welded up.
Since I am neither sane nor reasonable, I went with none of the above and instead bought a new Autopower roll bar in the Race model. The Street version is just a 4-point hoop, while the Race adds in a harness bar and diagonal brace. My other idea was instead to have a custom stainless steel roll bar fabricated and welded in place, inspired by Porsche Tequipment. I opted against this route because 1.) after finally getting it back from the body shop, I didn’t want to leave the RX-7 at another shop for a week or more, and 2.) stainless steel roll bars (would have essentially been made out of small exhaust tubing) are generally not certified by racing sanctions. I may not have intentions to track this car, but regardless, form must follow function.
Not all hope was lost in the form department, however, because I still wanted to achieve that raw stainless steel look. After much research, I had the roll bar powder coated with Prismatic Powders’ Super Chrome base coat and Black Chrome I top coat. Super Chrome is a very shiny, chrome-like silver while the Black Chrome I hues the paint to a more grey, stainless look.
All Bay Powder Coatings did a fantastic job and the paint came out with minimal peel. I’m glad I didn’t go with a typical black color for this roll bar, as I think it will add some nice contrast to the interior.
Although the car originally had a Street model, the Race uses the same mounting holes… but Autopower hand makes all their products on a jig. You can see where I’m going with this. I withheld my premonitions, yet still went into the install with bated breath. All of my doubts and dread were realized, plus gratuity. If I learned anything from the Hard Dog roll bar in my old Miata, it’s that installing roll bars suck.
Before I could even see if the mounting holes lined up, I ran into another problem. The rearmost legs are designed to be detachable and slip on once the main hoop is in the car. After ever so carefully positioning the roll bar inside, I realized that the powder coaters also painted the inner tubes where the rear legs slip over, and there was no way to fit them on.
I tried in futile to simply rub down the paint with sand paper, but eventually accepted what needed to be done. The roll bar was removed from the car and out came the dremel. The powder coat was so thick and the tolerances of the bars were so tight, that everything needed to be sanded down to bare metal. I had to resort to my angle grinder to get the job done. It took literally an entire afternoon of work just to get the rear legs to fit.
By the evening, the roll bar was again positioned back into the car and rested in place. Now I could check how the mounting holes lined up, and as suspicions would have it, they needed attention… Thankfully, the curved wheel well areas lined up closely, I only had to elongate a couple holes on the end plates. The floor pan points were further off. I was able to get to a local hardware store right before they closed to pick up stainless steel washers and tungsten carbide bits for the dremel. Resulting in the remainder of the night and next morning doing a lot of this:
Aligning pre-drilled holes that are not perfectly on mark is MUCH more difficult than just drilling the holes yourself. When I went out to the car the next morning to finish up, I started off poorly by dropping 2 nuts, one after the other, down into the abyss of the interior trim panels. I was seeing red having to fish them back out. I also came down with an awful flu the night before when I was busy dremelling away. Another challenging part of the install was being overly paranoid about actually inserting the roll bar into the car, since one tiny bump against the body could have resulted in a dent or paint chip. I’m not even going to comment on the what-if.
A snapped-off tungsten bit, 2 drill battery charges, and enough swearing for a lifetime later – the roll bar was finally installed and the 12 holes are now covered. This was easily the most stressful and enduring job so far, but I’m glad I followed through with it because once finally bolted down, the roll bar did fit great.
What a bitch of an experience. Now I’m sick and I have metal splinters embedded all over my hands. What is done is done. I’ll still need to get a couple small things done in the future, like have an upholstery shop make a trim piece to cover up the rear speaker holes.
Allow me to start this off with a brief backstory. Around the same time I bought my RX-7, the seller picked up this car.
Its owner lost the time and motivation needed to finish the car (build thread here), since the engine needed rebuilding, so she sold it as-is with a fate of being a parts car.
I knew that this particular RX-7 had a titanium FEED Sonic exhaust, and while keenly monitoring the part-out thread, I noticed that it was never listed for sale. This didn’t deter me, I wanted this exhaust and was willing to pull some strings (said strings were conveniently attached to my wallet). Everything is for sale if the price is right. It took a full week of slowly bugging and negotiating with the seller, and then another 2 weeks to eventually receive it.
The effort was worth it in my book, this is my grail exhaust. Full titanium and is super light weight. I didn’t bust out the scales to determine the exact number, but for reference, the straight-through stainless steel midpipe in the pictures below weighs more than the FEED catback.
I cannot handle large fart cans anymore. They will not go near my car. I like the FEED exhaust because of its understated yet exotic looks. Simple in design but brilliant in execution. The tip bends inwards to reduce the severity of the exit angle.
JASMA approved, too.
Decidedly, I perpetuated my intentions to make this car’s aesthetics subtle by ditching the carbon fiber street diffuser. Instead, I bought a new OEM rear valance. With the rear end more sedate, the exhaust becomes more of a focal point.
Since I’m going with a straight through midpipe, I had Nichol’s Manufacturing cut out this restrictor plate for me. I’m hoping this will be enough to keep boost creep at bay. I’m using the midpipe not for power gains, but to provide a more freely flowing exhaust system to help with engine temperatures.
Out of the blue, the idea to sell my Canon S95 popped into my head. So I sold it. The S95 served me well and was a great camera for its size. While it had good image quality, you could still tell that it was a point and shoot. With the rate of innovation these days, it won’t be long before cell phones are equipped with comparable cameras. I think in this respect, point and shoots will become redundant if they cannot provide enough differentiation.
There is a movement nowadays towards more “serious” compact sized cameras, for example the Leica M9 and the Fuji X100. I originally intended on buying the latter to replace the S95, but in the end bought a half decade old Canon 5D Classic. I still can appreciate a pocket camera, but my primary focus is image quality. I don’t travel anymore these days, so I can handle toting around a brick sized camera.
Of all the options out there, why a 5D? My choice can be better explained by first understanding the particularities of the DSLR world. When strictly staying with the digital medium, typically any entry-level DSLR can take the same type of pictures as a more intermediate level camera. When looking at pictures from these cameras on the computer, the differences will be virtually imperceptible. I’ve owned a Nikon D50, D90, and a Canon T2i in the past, my pictures only improved because I improved, not the camera.
What DOES, supposedly, make a difference in image quality is going full frame. All my cameras have been crop sensors, so I wanted to realize the full frame advantage. Similarly in the full frame department, I could have gone with a 5D Mark II or even a Mark III… but the pictures will be mostly identical on a computer screen. So why pay more?
I don’t print photos. I don’t do action photography so FPS doesn’t matter to me. My preferred environment for photography is a controlled one, this renders many of the fancy gizmos and features I’d be paying for in a newer camera pointless.
Sure, the camera has it’s flaws. The ergonomics are not great, the LCD is horrible, there is no Auto-ISO, the button placements could be better, it uses an old Compact Flash card, and file transfers are slow. The low resolution LCD is really the only major flaw, but certainly a handicap I can learn to live with. Especially given the price, these 5D’s are going for a steal in the used market. I bought mine for $630, a camera that once sold for $3,299. The seller also threw in a 50mm f/1.8 II lens for $65 more. So this is a complete full frame camera, ready to go, for under $700… What else out there can even come close?
The real test will ultimately fall on the quality of pictures this camera can take. By virtue of me only owning a 50mm f/1.8 lens on my past 3 DSLR’s, having the same lens again on the 5D makes for a good control variable. Going from crop sensors to a full frame with the 50mm truly does produce a picture with a different feel. See for yourself, most of the new pictures on the RX-7 will be coming from this camera. All I can say: there IS actually difference with full frames.