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Thread: My 1971 Mazda RX2 Coupe Restoration and my new JNT!!

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    My 1971 Mazda RX2 Coupe Restoration and my new JNT!!

    Hi guys,

    thought I would post a thread on my little piece of J Tin - a 1971 Mazda RX2 Coupe.

    I have wanted one of these cars for as long as I can remember. I fell in love with the shape of them when i was about 4. My Grandfather had a white RX2 sedan when I was a kid, and I was obsessed with the tail lights and the RE badge on it!!! :shock:

    We had a neighbour who had an Orange RX2 coupe and the colour combined with the style of the car have been etched in mind forever!!

    After owning and modifying many many other cars (mostly Japanese) I finally decided it was time to build my dream car.

    After months of searching - with very few to choose from - I came across an ad in the Trading Post for a rolling RX2 Coupe that had been in a shed for many years. It came mostly complete (in boxes and milk crates) and had some spares. It looked pretty honest if you could see past the inch of dust and faded BRG paint job!!

    After a bit of negotiation, the coupe was on a trailer headed for its new home. My brother came with me to pick it up, and we were harrassed the whole way home with dudes giving us the thumbs up and offering to buy it!! What a laugh.

    Here she is about to be unloaded

    Being pushed to her new home

    And resting!!

    I started attacking her straight away, with a complete tear down, and bead blast to follow. This way i would know exactly what i was dealing with in terms of rust and previous bodgy repairs......

    Which i soon found it had a couple...

    I also learned at this point that trying to build a car in a small single garage sucked...

    The car was then paint stripped by hand on all the large flat surfaces and sent to the blasters to get all the edges, engine bay, boot and underneath back to bare metal.
    I was pretty nervous as to what might come back, having just seen my mates RX3 coupe come back with no boot floor, "speed holes" everywhere and the last 6 inches of the roof above the back window missing.... :shock:

    Ready for the blasters

    I was pleasantly surprised when i went to get her. Only a couple of minor rust spots around the front pillars and a little bit on the bottom of one of the quarters....not even a pin hole in the boot floor!!
    There were some other nasties though...but they will come later...

    I guess it was a good thing that this car had been stored inside for such a long time as Mazda's and water don't mix very well!!

    The car was etch primed and put back in the garage.
    At this point I started formulating what I wanted to build, what i needed to find and how much it was going to cost..... :cry:

    The original plan was to go along the lines of 13BPT, supra box, hilux diff, mini tubs, half cage, coil overs and build it Pro Street style. The cost scared me a little, but I soon got over that.....

    As I was formulating my plot and gathering up parts, life made a change, and my Wife and I decided to expand the family, change careers, and sell the house and move to something bigger - Yes a bigger garage!!

    The RX went into storage in etch primer under tarps. It sat there in the corner of my Brother-in-laws shed with a Capella sedan that I bought for $200 for several years - nearly 5 actually.......

    Well after all these changes - new house - 2 years of house renovations - new daughter - etc , all the while the RX sat in the back of my mind. At one point I was going to sell it, but I new I would regret that for a long time to come.

    Finally the bug got too much, and I plucked up enough courage to go and retrieve my now neglected peice of J Tin!!

    Here she is at her new home

    And now the build begins.....

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Great post, look forward to reading your future updates... make sure you finish it !

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Thanks Gypsy. I must admit that your RX3 build thread is one of the reasons that I joined here, and I use your thread as inspiration.... often!!!

    Your build up so far has been simply amazing and i love how you (like me) do everything yourself - at home.

    While i may not posess quite the skill set that you seem to have, the only thing that i plan on outsourcing is the assembly of the engine. The rest is home built.

    I won't ruin the surprise just yet, but you will see some pics soon that will bring back some memories!!

    I am quite a bit further along in the project than my first post implies, so keep an eye out.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Its a good forum jdmrx2, some good posts here...

    My skill base developed as I encountered each new problem and there are plenty in my car :lol: Take your time and practice on some scrap pieces, all it takes is a bit of practice and common sense.

    Post more pics !

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    And now the build begins.....

    At this point I am much older and wiser (haha) than I was before. My tastes have changed somewhat and the build goes in a totally different direction!!

    I came across a well known photo on the net of an orange RX2 Coupe parked outside a Japanese Club. It is totally stock with Herschel orange paint, steel wheels with chrome trims, pin stripes and those wonderful guard mirrors that the Japanese have blessed us with.

    The inspirational photo......

    I fell in love with this photo. It bought back memories of our neighbours old coupe. The decision was then made, that photo would be the “guideline” for my build.

    My car was originally painted “AO” from the factory (Herschel Orange) so it seemed fitting to use the colour scheme and build the car loosely around this picture. As I said earlier, the car is getting a “Restification”, so do not expect a 12a twin dizzy in the bay. I already have a 13B extended Bridgeport (with Gilmers!!!!) and Cosmo 12A turbo box.

    Oh, in case you are wondering, yes it is a GENUINE series one RX2. Built in March ’71.


    After the blasting session a couple of nasty surprises became apparent.
    1. The car has had a decent front right hit.
    2. The car was repaired POORLY

    The front right corner has been cut off at the strut tower (and not unpicked properly) and the radiator support panel has been cut and shut about halfway along. Also the chassis rail near the steering box has cracked in 2 spots and has been welded up once again, POORLY. Worst of all it had been repaired using a cut from a series 2 capella, while this car is a series 1.

    The studs that bolt the main cross member into the car are also damaged, ie 2 broken, the other 2 have stripped threads. Under all that bog the engine bay looked OK when i bought it, but looks can be deceiving. Especially if you are an artist with filler!!

    The solution was to do a complete “nose job” on the car. Luckily I had bought a Capella sedan to come to the rescue. I paid $200 for the car. It was owned by an old guy who bought it new. He gave it to his Granddaughter to drive to Uni in it. Someone backed into it and dented the guard. Then it got a flat battery.
    She bought herself something a bit more modern, so I bought this thing. I jumpstarted it and back streeted it home with no rego. Sweet. Sold the driveleine, raided the rest for parts. It was odd, the front half was very tidy, the rear had SERIOUS rust issues. Maybe it had been half in a carport. For years.

    Unfortunately I then had to sacrifice some J Tin. The capella got cut in half. Shamelessly.....

    But at least it is rescuing some other J Tin.

    Some pics of the front end damage

    Here you can see the series 2 repair job. The headlight holes are totally different. In this case they simply just hacked the crap out of the hole to make a series 1 light fit. Nice!

    Here is the donor and the recipient lined up together. I remember thinking at this point “What the %$#& am I doing?”

    I am about to hack a classic Japanese car.....

    First up I had decided that I wanted a nice, clean simple engine bay. I have grown up with some of Australia’s nicest cars, having travelled Australia back in the day with a very clever fella who happens to build gorgeous cars. Both of his big efforts made Top 10 honours at Summernats (Australia’s biggest modified car event of the year) more than once.

    This is where my clean engine bay thing comes from. I just love a tidy bay. I hate wiring and what not being visible, but I am not building a show car, so a compromise had to be made.
    It had to be clean, but not over the top.

    I attacked the new nose, removing the battery tray, all brackets and anything ugly or un-needed. I then welded up all holes and have smoothed the bay over a bit. The worst thing in RX2 engine bays is the horrible recess that is left when you remove the battery tray. A contoured panel was fabricated and welded in. Much nicer.

    Some pre-work shots

    The sway bar mounts were rusted out on the donor front, so were replaced with the ones off of the original front.

    Trial fitting

    The donor front was sent to the blasters to be cleaned up before being unpicked from the firewall, chassis rails etc, but before this was to happen, I had to “Man up” and cut the front off of my baby!
    What a nerve racking experience!! I procrastinated about it for days!!
    Finally a mate of mine said to turn on the grinder, close my eyes and just cut it. He said that once I did that, there was no turning back!!
    He was right. I cut the nose off and it was a major turning point. I couldn’t go back now!!

    Here’s the first cut. Please excuse my dog’s starfish. It seems to turn up all the time in photos!

    And here’s the result. 2 half cars and one scared owner!!

    Also decided to tidy up the firewall a bit at this stage. Removed the drain channel and smoothed a few things.

    Welded in the new sway bar mounts and tidied.

    And some general tidy up of firewall and engine bay prior to plugging the new nose on.

    Next.....on goes the new front!

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Absolutely love it jdmrx2, its amazing what age can do to your thoughts. Mine was originally going to be a mild street machine.... just dont know what went wrong.... Im building mine to 95% original.

    By the way what sort of nutter cuts the front off their car, you must be mad :lol: Its a good decision though with that rail. Before you start your plug welding dumby fit your panels and try and get your gaps as best you can, as well as measure your diagonals to ensure all is striaght. It took me a while to align everything before the first tack was made.

    I have a couple of other factory Rx2 coupe photos in that colour that I'll try and dig up for you.

    Thanks for posting the photos, I'll be keeping a keen eye on your build. Dont be shy to ask about anything Ive done either, whether it be regarding tools or metal work. There's alot I dont know, but if I can make your job a little easier Im happy to.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Thanks Gypsy. I will surely pick your brains along the way with plenty of stuff.

    If you find those other coupe shots that would be great!!

    If I get time tomorrow night, I will post up some more progress info and shots.

    Just had a look at your A pillar work. Nice. Bloody time consuming isn't it!
    Can you get in behind the cowl in a RX3 like you can in an RX2? I have treated and sealed mine from in behind the dash. Will put cavity wax in their at a later date.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Pawtucket, Rhode Island
    8) Great work man!! Keep it up and make sure you keep us posted. :wink:

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Ok so now the new front was ready to go on. I had taken all kinds of measurements prior to pulling the car apart and also took some of another RX2 sedan.
    Lining the new front up was the hardest bit of the whole nosecut job. I can’t remember how many times it went on, was adjusted, measured, readjusted, marked, taken off, put back on, adjusted etc.

    My 11 year old son was invaluable through this process. 8) He was the official “adjustment double checker dude” and general hand with lifting, holding and clamping.
    Probably not as exciting as Playstation for him, but a good way to get him outside and involved.

    Trial fitting

    Checking gaps

    Apart what seemed like an eternity of stuffing around, the front looked and measured out perfectly.
    At this point I made some markings and tacked the nose on in 4 spots, as well as supporting it with stands and a jack. This was so I could trial fit the hanging panels and check their gaps.

    Tacked on

    From underneath

    Trial fitting hanging panels

    At this point I was pretty happy with my efforts. Now I just had to pull it apart again, undo the tacks, finish cleaning everything up, treat inside the chassis rails of the new nose section and prime the firewall that would be behind the nose clip with weld through primer and simply re-attach.
    An absolute bucket load of plug welding followed this so that the finish would look near factory.

    Having never plug welded before, I did a bit of research, practiced HEAPS, found a great clip on Youtube of someone doing it, practiced again. When I felt like I had mastered it, I went straight to the car and got cracking. It actually didn’t take that long, but it required a fair amount of concentration. I was stoked with the effort. A few needed to be tidied up with the grinder, but all in all they came out great!! 8)

    After all this I wound up with something that looked like this.

    You can see that I have put some filler over a couple of seam welds at the tops of the bay where it joins the body. From the factory this area is rough to say the least and does not flow. I wanted it to blend fairly seamlessly.

    At this point I couldn’t resist temptation any longer and had to fit my Japanese mirrors that have been in boxes for ages.
    Unfortunately they are not genuine Mazda, as they are not available new anymore and stooges want Ferrari prices for second hand ones.....So I went for brand new genuine Toyota TE27 Levin mirrors. Personally I like them better than the Mazda ones and at the end of the day I am building this car to make one person happy.....ME!! They will be painted in dark grey to better suit the car at a later date. The mirrors were a bargain!! About $300 including freight – and that was through a Toyota Dealership!!

    You will also notice that I have changed the front from a series 1 to a series 2. I like the series 2 front better as I feel it flows with the twin round tail lights. Once again not original, so the uber purists will turn their noses up at me, and it will “devalue” the car. Don’t really care, I like it this way and the car will never ever be for sale anyway!!

    I trial fitted some new bits like the radiator and overflow to make sure that any custom work was done prior to paint. I don’t want to be stuffing around come reassembly time, so everything is test fitted as early in the build as possible, so after the car is painted, it should just be a big jigsaw puzzle.

    The ally radiator was an off the shelf “bolt in” for RX2,3,4 and series 1-3 RX7!
    Yeah right. I reckon that it would go straight in an RX7, but not the RX2. I have since made up new custom aluminium brackets that lift the radiator and snug fit it. The overflow was simply a custom bracket using the factory location for the horns.

    The oil cooler (a series 1 RX7 item) was also custom adapted to the bottom of the radiator on rubber mounted brackets. I initially bought a series 5 RX7 turbo one, but they are way too wide to fit neatly in the front of an RX2, so I sold it and bought the early RX7 one. It fits neatly, but only just!!

    Early test fit of radiator

    Some more engine bay stuffing around.....

    Getting closer to the look that I was after ......

    A few weeks after this, I got the bug again and decided that a few more things needed to be welded up and smoothed.
    This is the final result of what the bay will look like. I am really happy with the result. It should look very clean and tidy with it’s hidden wiring. Also seam sealed all the joins on the strut towers etc.

    Finished bay in primer

    Also tidied up the trans tunnel. RX2’s have massive mounts in the tunnel, which restrict using a bigger box. The passenger side one was removed by a previous owner apparently by getting a Tyrannosaurus Rex to chew it off!! :lol: Talk about rough. I welded in a new section which I cut from the donor car’s floor. I also repaired the shifter hole which had also had a lunch date with T Rex. They must have got whoever was in the back to change gears for them!! :lol:

    Trans tunnel smoothed.

    In the above photo please note the poor man’s hoist. I never new 20 litre drums were so handy!!

    On that point, if you hadn’t already guessed this car is being built on a budget similar to that of a large Big Mac meal!! With day to day living expenses, a mortgage and 2 kids in private school, there isn’t much left over for the old girl, but she is doing OK.

    Personally I like the financial challenge of building this car. I am determined to build it on a shoestring budget, but not cut corners or compromise the finished product. It is too easy in today’s society to build a “cheque book car”. Anyone can do that. This is a true homegrown “backyard” build up, not a car that that will go from shop to shop to get the current “this month’s trend look”. I am proud of this fact, and am determined to see it through.

    I estimate this car will cost me the same as a current “Drive away, no more to pay” 3 door hatchback thingy. I am keeping every receipt as i go, so will tally them up at the end!!! Regardless, it will be a shitload more fun than any Korean hatchback!!

    Until next time....

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    wow, it looks amazing! Wish I could do something like this, but just dont have the time or patience to sit down and do it. Good luck.

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