Over the past 2 years I have been stuck with a very broken C6 Corvette ZR1. Entangled in a legal battle, the ZR1 had really dampened my joy in the hobby we all love. After finally settling the long drawn-out case and selling the car shortly after, I was honestly feeling a little burnt out on cars. But enter quarantine and a mild April, well, the itch to drive crept back in. I put out some pretty specific feelers preparing for a lengthy search.
About a week later I got a response to my posting for a Mazda RX-7. It was everything I was looking for and then some; the one caveat being that the car was 700 miles away in Tulsa, OK. This is a situation where you’ll find out a lot about who you’re buying a car from, for better or for worse. It turned out that my seller was an extremely accommodating individual. He had no problem taking as many photos or videos as I requested, fixing the very minor flaws in the vehicle before I had it inspected by an independent shop, and more.
After the car was thoroughly documented, and I had all the paperwork in place to cover my ass from another Corvette situation (my fiance can attest to the level of detail I was going to), I borrowed a truck and trailer, a great friend, masks and sanitizer, and we hit the road for an 11 hour haul to get the new ride. However, as with most of my automotive purchases, challenges are always just around the corner.
Picking Up The Car
I was able to borrow a good friend’s diesel truck. He had given me a heads up that he hadn’t maintained the fuel filter this year (yearly on diesels) so it might throw a check engine light, but I could clear it and keep going. I also rented a trailer from a Facebook friend, and it was not in the greatest condition, but it was enclosed and available. When we hit the road at 3pm we noticed a vibration at speed, but chalked it up to wheel balancing due to the variability at different speeds.
The next 12 hours went by without issue. We were a bit slower due to hauling and stopping for fuel 3 times and the fact we were 30+ feet and 9000+lbs. The line of tornadic thunderstorms didn’t help either.
Once we were 30 minutes from our hotel we crested a hill and the vibration plaguing us the entire drive disappeared. My co-driver behind the wheel and I immediately look at each other with confusion then shrugged. We were both pleasantly surprised until he looked out the window and saw sparks flying down the highway behind us.
The Issues Begin
It’s now 2:30 in the morning and we have a flat. There is a spare in the trailer, but we did not have the tools or jack that we needed. They were sitting in a nice pile waiting for me in my garage, but due to my excitement I completely forgot them. Slightly panicked, I message the seller not knowing if he was even awake. Turns out he was. And not only was he awake, he also offered to come with his 1400lbs electric impact, lightweight jack, and sockets. This is what makes an incredibly kind human. 90 minutes later we have the wheel changed and he offers to show us the car since we’re all wide awake at this point anyways.
We look at the car, walk around, put it up on his two-post lift, and go through it in detail. However, it’s 4:30am and we’ve been on the road for the better part of 15 hours. I don’t know how much of this I’m going to retain. The seller had no expectation that this would be the official hand off of the car so he suggested we get as much sleep as we ccould and he’d get us lined up with his tire guy to swap out two trailer tires in the morning.
We circle back after an extremely fast tire change and look at the car in the light of day. It is as gorgeous as I remember from the groggy night before. The seller offered to take me for a ride to get acclimated to the car before driving it myself, which I always recommend to those buying a high performance car. It drove beautifully and was/is savagely fast. Soon after we exchanged check for title and load up an array of spares before hitting the long road home.
The Journey Home
Not 30 minutes into the journey back, we get a check engine light and reduced power, on an uphill with 12,000 lbs of vehicle. It very much caught us off guard, but we quickly cleared the code and the trucked on. Unfortunately, 15 minutes later, the same issue popped up. This time we were going uphill with a semi right behind us. Definitely not an ideal place to lose power. We cleared the codes again and started searching for a dealership to help. Luck struck again, as there was one 15 minutes ahead, immediately off the highway that had an opening and the parts to get us in and out in an hour. 90 minutes later we’re back on the highway and just settling down for what should be a smooth journey home. The issues faced were resolved with luck and the extreme generosity of the seller.
It was another 15 minutes until our good friends Check Engine Light and Reduced Engine Power came back on. All bets were off at this point. It was going to be a long ride home. We decided to clear and move on thinking it might be because we were under a half tank of fuel. After filling up, we went another 30 minutes and the same codes popped up. This stumped us. We decided to back the speed down to 55 and be ready at all times to clear the code. The issue was predictable to the point that we knew it would happen when we were loading the engine. So we did our best to avoid loading and continued on.
It turns out it was an issue with the injectors. Once the ambient temperature dropped below 55°F we were golden and able to do the full 70-75 mph. We had finally made it home without further issue. So let me introduce the new ride.
The New Ride
It is a 1993 Mazda RX-7 R1 with a GM Performance LS3 V8 purchased as a crate motor. There is carbon everywhere on the car. The hood, hatch, doors, mirrors, gauge surround, door sills…everything is carbon. It has a mild cam and makes 460 whp, but weighs a mere 2800lbs. It is an absolute riot.
The RX-7 is extremely balanced. It handles like it is on rails. The power is savage and immediate. The driver feels connected with the car as it is very analog. You can feel the road but it is still a comfortable ride. The stock suspension hasn’t been replaced with a full race setup. Rather, it has Koni struts and a set of lowering springs that give it a great stance, but retain the stock comfort.
The car is painted in GM Shark Grey with a matte clear coat. It is not a wrap, it is full paint! And the carbon accents give it a modern feel.
This car is as good as it gets. It is raw enough to excite you, but not to the point where you do not want to drive it. It is comfortable enough to drive on Minnesota roads, but sporty enough to tear into the Lakeside roads. I am so excited to share the car with all of you and for the journey ahead!