QOTW: What should become of the totaled JNC FD Mazda RX-7 R1?

The sad specimen you see here is all that remains of JNC’s formerly mint original 1993 Mazda RX-7 R1. Purchased from its fastidious original owner, this once-beautiful FD was one of only 350 R1s produced in Competition Yellow Mica, putting it at the apex of third-gen RX-7 desirability. With few of these variants remaining in original, unmodified condition, our intention was to maintain and preserve this car as one of the very best examples in the world, but fate had other plans: a theft of the car and, by the looks of it, a collision with every K-rail on Interstate 5.

Needless to say, we are heartbroken by this turn of events, and also a bit lost. With preservation of the car’s originality now off the table, we’re not certain what to do next with our beloved-but-ruined FD. Though “preservation-class” classics are all the rage these days, the reality is that the top tier of the collector car world is filled largely with restored automobiles. It’s nearly impossible to find a Porsche 356, Mercedes Gullwing or Shelby Cobra that hasn’t at least undergone a color change in its lifetime, if not a full restoration or replacement of a damaged engine. As the hero cars of Japan’s bubble era slowly assimilate into the collector car mainstream, it’s worth considering whether or not to perform a comprehensive, concours-grade restoration on our FD. Generally, well-restored cars pay no penalty in valuation or reputation when compared to their original-condition brethren, and while it would be a very expensive proposition, bringing this car back to its as-new glory would ensure that a significant piece of JNC history would live on as a reflection of its former self.

That said, no matter how thorough or expensive the restoration, in our eyes there would always be an asterisk next to this car. It’s possible that we would never be able to see our violated FD as anything other than a lost opportunity, its restoration a crime against our mission to preserve an original piece of history. Such a notion gives us pause when contemplating whether to even keep the car at all, much less embark on the daunting task of sourcing unobtainium NOS parts.

There are, of course, other options. The R1 was intended to be a track car, and in its day it was a highly successful autocross weapon. Now that originality is off the table, perhaps a vintage race build would be an appropriate resurrection for our FD. Or, we could bow to the sad economic reality of this situation and whip out the R1’s organ-donor card, parting it out so that other FDs might live on. We’ll have more on the whole theft story soon, but for now:

What should become of the totaled JNC FD Mazda RX-7 R1?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the best gift for a car enthusiast?“.

Our QotW generated a number of useful holiday gift ideas for the JNC enthusiast
(though looking back, perhaps fender skins for an FD would be ideal). Taylor C. and f31roger‘s model kits, Jonathon P.‘s 10mm socket sets, and Fred Langille‘s gas cards were all suggested, but it was Jim Klein who really got at the essence of what makes us petrolheads tick:

Every real car enthusiast needs a designer set of Rose-tinted glasses, the better to reminisce about the old cars they never should have let go that were all perfect all the time without any foibles, and in the case that mechanical disaster did strike them it was always completely obvious what was wrong without consulting some computer and they magically seemed to practically heal themselves with nothing more than a gentle tightening of a few random 10mm bolts under the hood.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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20 Responses to QOTW: What should become of the totaled JNC FD Mazda RX-7 R1?

  1. jim simpson says:

    The car may be wrecked but that does not mean it can’t be fixed and enjoyed with careless abandon… and used parts may be the answer… as the unsullied originality is no longer a thing,
    Once nicely reassembled and painted it’s life can continue.

  2. jan groenendijk says:

    the car being stolen and damaged is tragic, heartbreaking even.
    But if there’s ever a silver lining, be it a wafer thin one.
    She’s been set free now, it’s previously immaculate state is no longer holding you back from modifying, pushing it hard or making it your canvas.

    Personally i’d do my best to restore and upgrade the car.
    if the FD was mine i’d start and ‘outlaw rx7’ build. same as you see a lot of classic porsches that get restomodded into period correct-ish weekend racers.

    Vintage Mazdaspeed parts (a-spec body, no wing), suspension upgrades, a largely stripped interior, a car stripped down to everything you’l need to enjoy the spirit of the rx-7

  3. CycoPablo says:

    At least it’s recovered.
    Not sure of your insurance status or the US system in general for full comprehensive inclusive of theft coverage.
    If it were my car it would be insured for an agreed value. I’d make the insurance claim and see how I feel about it after the repairs. You never know, that asterisk may not be the deal breaker you fear.
    If it proves to be, there will always be a buyer for this car. I’d use part of the sale money to grab an S660 — something uniquely Japanese but less attractive to thieves.

  4. Ian N says:

    Easy – that’ll all buff out!

  5. Tom Westmacott says:

    Really sorry to see this, and I understand the heartbreak having acquired and preserved a great original car.

    However… ten years ago I bought a nice stock FD. When I drove it, I realised this car wants to be driven hard – the more you push it the better it gets. The smooth engine seems to demand a wide-open throttle all the way to the buzzer. As the grip runs out equally at both ends, so it responds even more eagerly to the driver’s smallest touch. As the brakes bite, the solid pedal lets you blip the engine right back up to the redline as you grab a lower gear, trailing the brake to get even more rotation into the next apex.

    The problem is, making a habit of driving like this isn’t really compatible with maintaining complete originality. You might need some slightly bigger wheels and brakes, and you will want better air and water cooling at least. And there’s always a risk of running out of road and finding a tyre barrier.

    And yet – if you don’t drive it like this, you’re not untapping the car’s soul, not appreciating what makes the FD truly special.

    So my thought is, get it repaired, give it the brakes and cooling to sustain track use, and drive it hard. Because, like a ballet dancer or footballer, what’s really special about the final RX-7 is the way it moves.

  6. Nathan Smith says:

    I believe you answered your own question in your writing without even realizing it. Restore it, spend the time, the effort and the willpower into finding the NOS pieces you want to restore the car. Obviously modifying the car could be fun, but in the long term the value of the car will still be more put back to a factory state. As you said yourself, even the highest priced collector cars have mostly been restored…

    If you feel the need to modify it, keep all the original parts and don’t do anything that can’t be easily reversed.

  7. Land Ark says:

    You have my utmost sympathies. I am anxious to hear the story and hopeful to find out that the perps were caught – though realistic enough to know they probably weren’t.

    My answer:
    JNC has a HUGE web presence. It’s time to leverage that clout to save the FD. There are a lot of YouTube and other social media personalities who are well known for their amazing work repairing and restoring cars to better than new. In the vain of Vehcor and Mad4Motors just as examples there is a lot of interest in seeing cars come back from the brink.

    If you collaborate with someone and the restoration is documented and shown to be flawless, it’s possible that its fame could make it worth much more than a typical concourse restoration.

    No, it’ll never be original again, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth saving.

    • Sedanlover says:

      I completely agree here and this is mirroring what I was going to say.
      Document the restoration/build and then take it to SEMA.
      Use your powers for good on this car. Access the community that loves an underdog. There are plenty of people out there that will help and many ways, and this project could almost be a shining example of how strong the car community is, especially on a global scale.

  8. Nigel says:

    Lightweight parts, Watanabe wheels and autocross. And now you can be able to have moe fun with it.

  9. Jim Daniels says:

    I think you should let me know were I can haul my trailer to pick it up. I will let you know about the out come when it is finished.

  10. Chet Manley says:

    I see the restoration option has already been discussed here, so I am going to play devil’s advocate.

    You have an exceptionally rare car that now has a hell of a story and every body panel except for the roof appears to be damaged in some way, so you have a chance to have a mind blowing build guilt-free.

    Perhaps consider building it into a Japanese time attack-style car? There is a whole universe of parts in Japan that have evolved in the last 20 years since the OEM+ JDM look took hold here and I have yet to see anyone in America really make use of those parts in any meaningful way. You see the occasional RE-Amemiya or Rocket Bunny part here and there. However, there are seemingly endless random shops in rural Japan building incredible FDs with domestic parts.

    BE CRAFT Technical Factory actually has a Competition Yellow FD that comes to mind now that I think of it. But, there are tons of designs out there from places like Garage Rise Up or RS Pantera to pull from. The world is your oyster if you wanted to go this route.

  11. f31roger says:

    It sucks to see the FD recovered like this… ughh.

    As I said in text, JNC features a lot of restoration and saving of cars. In all honesty, I’ve lost my EG and EK civic to theft and wish I “bought back” those cars. But I was traumatized, angry and just wanted to get away from Hondas/mainstream cars.

    I know first hand restoration is expensive (I’m rebuilding a former magazine car that was drift missile with 10yrs of abuse/neglect). But I feel if the car hold sentimental value or any other significance, DEFINITELY REBUILD. I know many people might not care for a car like mine (Infiniti M30), but an FD will always attract attention.
    Especially if the history, authentic ownership (no IG clout), and I always say, the Hero archetype journey makes the car a bit more interesting rather than a museum model.
    This FD is already rare and who knows what people are gonna charge for a base FD.

    I’ve spent almost $20k rebuilding my M30/RB25det and it’s been all out of pocket and piecing together and no resources.

    Hopefully, this rebuild will get some help from the industry and Mazda’s Heritage program! So everyone, fire off those emails!!!

  12. Curtis says:

    I vote to keep it and restore it. Whatever it’ll cost you to find another one in similar condition might be what it’ll cost to get this thing back in a presentable condition. When it’s done, you have a nice story to tell everyone about making it rise from the ashes like a phoenix into something cooler than it was. Maybe not full on vintage racer, but maybe something close to a Japanese street style car from the late 90s/early 2000s?

  13. Alan says:

    First, I’m sorry. We can all imagine how vividly this must suck for you, and as enthusiasts we all suffer from the loss of a pristine original FD, if in a more abstract sense.

    I personally would feel liberated to modify and drive the pants off of it. Maybe repair it to a stock look but add some Mazdaspeed MS02 and a functional, practical drop via some carefully selected suspension upgrades, perhaps some big brakes and a bit more power… definitely a few well-known cooling/reliability upgrades.

    Even a wrecked, formerly pristine FD is an inherently special thing–these cars are driving and engineering magic, and yours can finally be pushed to its limits the way it was designed to.

  14. Jim Klein says:

    Hey, thank you for the decals (and the recognition) very cool and thank you! How do we get in touch? I haven’t seen an email yet (no rush)…

    In regard to the RX, man what a bummer! Assuming it’s fully and adequately insured and space is not an issue, I’d perhaps be looking to replace it with one of the other remaining 349 cars. Then keep this as a parts car for that assuming the insurance company will allow a repurchase?

    Restoring it I don’t think it’ll ever be as perfect as it was, no matter how well done I think there will always be some sense of disappointment (for YOU knowing how it used to be, not necessarily for any future owner of it).

    Parting it out is a lot of work with no compensation for the labor portion involved and perhaps not enough undamaged unique parts to make it worthwhile on a cost/time basis. Figuring out how to safely ship anything much larger than will fit in a handily sized box sucks when done as one-offs. Sad and brutal as it is to say, it may be best to let it go, give things a lot of time, and make some new decisions. You may find that the next year may bring some good alternate opportunities, and don’t count out a replacement JNC from Japan itself, much of the interesting stuff is now old enough to bring in without issue. Or look into a different JDM RX and then use this car to convert it to LHD with factory parts…

    Either way, I don’t think it is a decision that should be rushed…

  15. Mark Farrell-Churchill says:

    If–a big if, but let’s be optimistic–if the perpetrator is eventually identified…hire a helicopter, take the RX-7 for one last ride, and DROP IT ON THE MOTHERJUMPER’S HOUSE!!!

  16. エーイダン says:

    Restore fully and display at every show with a plaque giving the story of the theft, along with the name, picture and address of the thief.

  17. Dutch 1960 says:

    Before you do anything else, have a qualified chassis man look at the car and determine if the chassis is tweaked. Once twist and bends are introduced into the structure, you will never get it “back” to where it was. Especially in a car with such supple handling characteristics, even a “bent back” frame is going to carry both torsional pre-loads and loss of torsional rigidity in the structure, evidencing itself as handling quirks and little handling surprises under load. And that is definitely not what an FD is about. I call it a “relaxed” frame versus a “tight” frame. Relaxed is what you want, and a pranged frame is not a relaxed one, whatever you do to it. (I recognize it is a unitized structure, so I am using “frame” to define that unitized structure).

    From the photo, it is a close call on whether the frame is tweaked or not. If it is tweaked, I would either sell the car outright to someone else, or part it out. For someone preserving automotive heritage, a car that does not function properly is not a good candidate, other than as a static exhibit. Or go down the “tear it apart and build something crazy out of it” path, but that does not strike me as your primary reason for owning such a car.

    If you repair and drive a tweaked car, the theft and wreck will not just replay in your memory. It will replay in every bobble, vibration, and handling quirk that is not supposed to be there, every time you drive the car. You will drive the car waiting for the next bobble to show itself (been there, done that).

  18. Christopher says:

    I think it should be saved. The FD is an icon in the car community world wide. It’s rather odd (and fortuitous) that it was recovered during the 25th anniversary of Gran Turismo. As such, you should build a 25th anniversary Gran Turismo tribute car, based on the top tier FD available in the game, with all the correct parts, graphics, etc. That would be a car worthy of a SEMA spot, as well! You need to seriously consider this option. Perhaps Polyphony Digital and Sony could be convinced to contribute to the project……

  19. Rod Panhard says:

    It’s an interesting car. You’ve got a great story. The car is worth saving. The story is worth telling. I’m certain there are a lot of unobtainium parts in the car, and some that now need to be found.

    I don’t know that putting all that together will cover the out-of-pocket expenses of sorting out the car, but there are much less interesting stories being told out there about less interesting cars. And those guys are certainly underwriting the costs of their renovations.

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