OK, here's the story on the white 88 4 lug car.
Back in 05, met a friend Joe, who owned the car. It was his daily, and I'd see him + the car at all the RX-7 meet ups, etc. Time went on, Both of us got busy with school, until one day back in Nov 2009, when I checked a local racing forum. He'd posted on there, saying he was giving his car away!
I immediately posted, saying I'd take it. 3 other people called dibs on it before me, though.
A few hours later & my phone rings, it was Joe. He told me the situation- Car'd sat for 8 months, wouldn't start, was parked at an apartment complex where he didn't even live at anymore. Had many tow warnings, & was set for impounding on Tuesday, it was currently a Saturday.. So that's 3 days only! Now, being a shit box 80s car that doesn't run, it's sure to be headed to the crusher, which wasn't OK with me.
He told me about the other 3 people who'd called it before me, but said he knew how much I cared for these cars, & would rather it go to me, so he just told them all that it had been sold. An hour later I was on my way with my dad's truck & a trailer to get the car. It was 3 hours north of me!
I got it home, and it looked like this-
Not bad from far away, but there were MANY problems-
-It had no radio
- 4 flat tires
- No brakes (brake pedal went to the floor)
-A blown engine that would not even turn over
-Both door handles were broken (entry into car was by popping the hatch, and pulling speaker cable tied to the interior drivers door handle, which was left unlocked)
-What I would define as a “dis-tasteful” exhaust and wheel s set up (Wheel shop 17”s and 2 HUGE rice cannons)
-The only electrical items which worked were what nesicary to driving were: headlights/brake lights/turn signals, engine ignition system.
-A/C was FULLY removed, except for the evaporator, which had a hole in it.
-Sunroof was RTV’d (silicone sealant) shut
-Holes in roof from severe rust due to sunroof being glued
About a week after bringing the car home, I got a new battery for it, and started seeing what was wrong. Found that the negative lead to the starter solenoid had falling off, and that was the cause of the no start. Once installed, it started right up after 9 months of sitting, and not without a TON of smoke. A new brake master cylinder fixed the brakeless-ness of the car, and a parts car supplied some nesicarry goodies like the door handles. It was about this time when I found out the engine was blown…
Keeping in mind the initial cost of the car, I decided it would be wise to restore it back to daily-drivable condition, however I had to meet two personal goals along the way: 1) anything purchased for the restore would be either ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to the build, or would be bought at an unbeatable price. 2) Keep the car as 80s/original as possible, only upgrading parts when they’re cheaper/better than OEM.
I started out with the engine.
I found a used, known running non-turbo rotary out of an S5 RX-7 (1989-1991). These had higher compression (9.7:1 as compared to the 9.4:1 which is in the car), but could be made to work with a few modifications, and use of the stock wiring harness. While I had the short block out of the car, I decided to tear it apart and rebuild it in my garage; to be sure there wouldn’t be a hidden coolant leak or the like. Upon finishing, I pulled the blown S4 engine out and installed the S5 engine.
From this point on is where I begun the true restoration, in my eyes, of the car:
-I was given an OEM stereo/cassette player (definitely goes along with the 80s them)
-A donor car in the junkyard provided most of the A/C components: condenser, evaporator, all hard & soft lines. I installed a reman’d compressor, new dryer, new expansion valve, and a new rubber o-ring at each coupling joint, and had it filled with Freeze12 (Like R12, but still legally purchasable). A condenser fan was also added, I’ve had vent temperatures of 37* F in April, in FL.
-The warning lights/clock did not work, the wipers only worked on 1 speed, the horn and factory alarm did not work, and the A/C control head wouldn’t blow but on defrost. Everything was fixed by removing the item, taking it apart further to get to the PCB boards within, and resoldering every solder joint. These cars are famed for having bad electrical (almost up there w/ old MG’s haha) but everything works in this car, with the exception of the power antenna mast, & 3 illumination bulbs in the stereo/AC control head.
-I added cruise control from another vehicle, as well as power mirrors, and ignition keyhole illumination.
-The wheels were a Craigslist score for $250, with brand new tires and center caps. They’re period-correct Enkei 92 mesh, 14x6.5”.
-Car was on cut factory springs, I found Tanabe lowering springs and switched to them and it actually RAISED the ride height.
-Rust in roof was cut out; panels cut from a donor RX-7 were welded in. An acrylic sunroof (very rare) was found for $50 and installed.
-The dash was pulled to remove the carpet, along with the hatch carpet and all seat/storage belts. Everything was scrubbed down with a hard bristle brush/soap & then pressure washed. The main carpet had to be dyed RIT “royal blue” to bring back its color. The interior, save for the seats, is like new.
-I installed the S5 Intake manifold, which has a more efficient flow path. Mazda engineers discovered that >5000 RPM, at the moment the intake port is shut by the rotor, a shockwave like pulse of intake air at ~1psi is sent traveling away from the port. This manifold takes advantage of this phenomenon by opening a passageway for the pulse to travel, when above 5000 RPM, into the other rotor’s intake port. The effect is called VDI, (Variable Dynamic-Effect Intake), and combined with the .3 higher compression, allowed this engine to make 160 bhp over the 146 of the original engine. (This engine was actually the record holder of the most power per liter displacement, only being 1308cc in size. The record was lost to the RX-8, with 238bhp, also 1308cc.) The intake manifold also has provisions for opening secondary intake ports above 3800 RPM. In the 1989 and up cars, these were opened from pressure actuators receiving pressure from the smog pump, and opened via solenoids controlled by the ECU. This being an 88, I had to use aftermarket RPM trigger switches, which send out 3V at a set-by-user RPM point (in this case, 3800 & 5100 RPM). The 3V travels to relays which step up the voltage to 12V, which is then sent to OEM emissions solenoids which weren’t used due to the newer emissions on the S5 engine. A factory smog pump supplies the air to these solenoids, which in turn, control the pressure actuators. A round-about way of making a newer factory design work in an older car.
-I did away with the exhaust, in favor for a fully stainless steel mix of Borla cat-back/ Racing Beat (Big name in rotaries) header & presilencer. New, it was a $920 combination; I got extremely lucky and obtained it for only $7!! This was probably the best deal I’d gotten on the car!
-The red hood is a rare factory hood; however it’s made of aluminum and is half the weight of a comparable steel hood.
-I put a sport aero kit (front air dam & front/rear rear tire spats, aero spoiler, and aluminum engine under pan) from an 86-87 sport RX-7. I plan to make a full underbody pan soon; similar to what’s going into new cars, for a better drag coefficient.
This being said, the only thing NOT touched yet is the paint/body work. I’ve buffed and waxed it, but that only does so much when there’s dents covered in rust-proofing paint, mis-matched hoods, and battlefield-esque welded panels on the roof. I’d love to have it painted, but that takes away from the do-it-myself aspect, as well as the cost aspect. I’ve got about $5000 into the car entirely, which is quite a lot.
I've learned SOOO much from working on this it's crazy. This is definitely the car that's gotten me hooked, and I'd almost venture to say I like it the most out of all of them just because of the amount I've done with/to it. Here's some pictures of how it is now!
Only real goal is to pull out the big dent on the drivers side, and paint it. I think I can learn to paint once I buy the equipment, and do a good job myself. Just another skill to learn!
More coming soon!