After getting hooked on rotaries at 21, Sim Harratt has dabbled in all method of modified motors, however when the prospect to purchase one other FC RX-7 arose, he couldn’t resist rekindling his ardour for this wankel-engined surprise.
Characteristic from Quick Automotive. Phrases: Dan Sherwood. Photographs: Ollie Wildsmith.
Nostalgia is a fickle factor. As time passes and reminiscences fade from crystal readability right into a hazy dream-like blur, it’s exhausting to recollect the true emotions you had round sure topics. It’s like your mind has compressed the reminiscence right into a cerebrally-stored JPEG, deciding on sure components of occasions and deeming them surplus to necessities and solely conserving what it thinks is the vital stuff. This will result in the entire rose-tinted spectacles phenomenon, the place the way in which you keep in mind occasions could be via a really distorted lens of how they really felt on the time. It occurs with the whole lot we expertise, from our first job, our first loves, and even our first automobiles. With intense scrutiny, we are able to see they really weren’t the perfect of instances. Like perhaps you had been working for peanuts and had been handled like a canine’s physique, or your different half broke your coronary heart, or the primary automotive you owed was actually a rust-riddled, gutless previous banger. However but we frequently look again on these instances with fondness nonetheless. And it’s this retrospective optimism that, left unchecked, can usually lead us into making poor selections later in life.
36-year-old engineering and contracts supervisor Sim Harratt is aware of solely too properly the difficulty that nostalgia can land you in, particularly on the subject of automobiles, because it was his personal thoughts that tricked him into making a doubtlessly unwise purchase, as he considered a potential buy together with his coronary heart as a substitute of his head.
“I had an FC RX-7 again after I was 21-years-old and it was my first expertise of a turbocharged Japanese automotive,” he recollects with a smile. “I beloved it and it gave me an actual gentle spot for rotary-engined automobiles.”
However as a lot as he ‘thinks’ he beloved that automotive, there was clearly a cause that he moved on from it and his subsequent two automobiles, a Fiesta RS Turbo and a UK300 Subaru Impreza, had been each piston powered.
“Now I give it some thought, the FC did have its issues,” he muses. “Clearly, being a rotary it was fairly thirsty, each for unleaded and 10W30, however it did run actually sweetly and I had no issues with it… till it blew up!”
Being only a younger whippersnapper on the time, Sim’s engine data was scant at greatest, but he determined to get caught in and enter the darkish artwork of rotary engine rebuilding.
“I barely knew something about piston engines, and had virtually no thought about rotaries, however I assumed: ‘how exhausting can it’s?’ Seems I had bitten off greater than I may chew.”
With typical garages unwilling, or unable, to assist and even supply recommendation, and wankel specialists few and much between, Sim struggled with the rebuild and shortly discovered himself needing one other automotive to get himself to work and again whereas the rebuild continued to pull on ever longer.
“I purchased a Fiesta with a 2.1-litre ZVH engine swap as a each day whereas I mounted the RX-7,” he says. “Sadly, that didn’t fare a lot better and broke down on me, with what was later recognized as a cracked cylinder head. I wasn’t having a lot luck.”
Needing to get not less than one automotive working with a view to get himself to work, Sim was at a crossroads: both blindly plough on with the RX-7 rebuild, or promote the Mazda to fund fixing the Fiesta. And when a substitute ZVH cylinder head got here up on the market, Sim’s alternative was made for him.
“For the subsequent few years I stayed away from rotaries as I simply wished to stay to one thing that I knew I may repair if issues went incorrect, and there’s such a wealth of quick piston-powered automobiles on the market I used to be spoilt for alternative,” Sim says. “After the Fiesta I acquired the Subaru, which was one other good automotive, however finally the dangerous reminiscences of the FC pale away and all I may keep in mind was how good and distinctive it felt to drive. The sleek, linear energy supply and the superior distinctive exhaust be aware. I began to get an itch for one more one.”
So when he noticed an FC Turbo 2 pop up on the market for the discount worth of £600, he was solely too wanting to take one other punt at RX-ownership.
“I bought the automotive on a little bit of a whim,” he shrugs. “When it got here up on the market I hadn’t seen one for such a very long time I jumped straight in. The advert acknowledged that it was a runner however was overheating and its MOT had simply expired, so the plan was to get it again on the highway as quickly as potential and simply take pleasure in it.”
With the seven safely on his driveway, Sim’s first port of name was to kind the overheating situation, which was discovered to be a easy air lock within the cooling system. As soon as this was purged, she purred like a kitten.
All was properly in Sim’s world on the time. It appeared he had bagged himself a little bit of a steal and he booked the automotive in for some pre-MOT checks and was feeling optimistic. However that is the place issues began to go downhill.
“It turned out that the ground was a rusty mess!” he says regretfully. “The automotive was very low after I went to take a look at it and I used to be so blinded by the nostalgia of rekindling my love affair with an FC RX-7 that I forgot to do a number of the most simple checks. I felt like a proper mug!”
As soon as once more, Sim had a choice to make, as there was no means the automotive would go an MOT with out some severe work. Nonetheless, now somewhat older and hopefully wiser, he selected to stay with the seven and pull out all of the stops within the course of!
Assured that his expertise had been now as much as the duty Sim eliminated the engine and set about welding any areas of purple rot, nevertheless, the patches he may see had been solely the tip of the iceberg and, like a decaying onion, as every layer was eliminated it revealed but extra rust.
“I’d by no means seen something prefer it!” he exclaims. “The automotive had beforehand had patch after patch and it was horrific. I used to be overwhelmed, so the wheels went again on and that’s the way it stayed for the subsequent two years.”
However even that feeling of despondent disappointment quickly began to evaporate and, because the months handed, Sim discovered a brand new enthusiasm for the automotive and rented a unit with a pal the place the mammoth process of restoring the rusty RX may start.
“The primary job on the record was the ground and sills,” he remembers. “They had been so dangerous that there was nothing I may salvage for reference as to what they even regarded like, so I rang a Mazda fundamental vendor and was shocked to search out they may get the sill restore panel, so I ordered one immediately.”
Because it seems, it wasn’t fairly so simple as that although, because the sills are in three sections: entrance, center and rear, and Sim had solely purchased the center part.
“I wanted assist, there was no probability I may change all of those components alone, so I handed my center sill part over to an in depth pal who works at a basic automotive restorer specialising in E-Sort Jags, and he bent me two new sills utilizing the Mazda half as a template.”
Sim carried on welding and grinding again and again till one facet was full, the place it was then onto the opposite facet, to do the laborious job another time!
“I acquired to a degree the place I’d eliminated a tonne of filler from the rear quarter panel and located that it was in too dangerous a form to be repaired correctly, particularly as I didn’t wish to add a great deal of filler again onto the panel and I felt that overfenders the place a brief lower, so I continued on with different works whereas looking for a donor automotive that might get me the all of substitute components I wanted.”
Finally, a complete shell turned up for subsequent to no cash so Sim snapped it up and acquired cracking once more. Fortunately the donor automotive had different components he may use too, together with two rust-free entrance wings a second set of window glass and that all-important rear quarter.
“With the assistance of my buddy Rob Bailey, we unstitched the previous panel welds and swapped them over with the mint donor panels,” Sim explains. “It was certainly one of my favorite jobs in the long run, because it seems to be so daunting, however it’s really a lot simpler in the long term than flinging filler on the drawback.” And from seeing the completed product, you’d by no means guess, because the panel gaps and alignment is healthier than manufacturing facility.
“The engine bay was subsequent, so I welded up all of the unneeded holes – and a few that I later discovered I did want! – and gave it the smoothed and tucked look whereas nonetheless retaining some authentic options,” Sim says. “It was then on to making ready the whole lot for paint.”
Over the subsequent few years Sim spent the odd weekend caught within the unit with a sander taking the entire shell again to reveal metallic earlier than coating it in etch primer and excessive construct and sanding once more. It was an backbreaking job, however as they are saying: fail to organize; put together to fail, and Sim was adamant that there be no extra setbacks with the construct so dedicated to doing issues proper.
“Simply earlier than it was prepared for paint, I moved into a brand new home with a double storage, so after Rob and I laid down the paint, I moved the automotive again to my storage to refresh the engine,” Sim says. “It had been operating high-quality beforehand, however after I took it aside the housings had been badly scored and dented, despite the fact that the apex and facet seals regarded high-quality – virtually like somebody had constructed it like that.”
Now, rotaries have moved on a lot in recent times, however when Sim looked for info on rotary tuning again then, he drew a clean. So, by no means one to draw back from a problem, he purchased a full Bridgeport template and had a bash at porting the housings and rebuilding the motor himself.
“At this stage issues gave the impression to be going properly and I assumed I used to be the boy!” he laughs. “Nonetheless, it wasn’t till later that I realised simply how essential a number of the porting measurements actually are and a momentary of lapse of focus had me clearance my facet seals all incorrect and the motor by no means actually constructed compression, it could begin chilly, however wrestle anyplace else.”
However relatively than admit defeat, Sim was given the variety of Colum at Storage Reg who kindly helped him via the entire engine constructing and modifying course of so the most recent engine is constructed properly and is performing robust.
“I’ve simply began to place some increase into it after the run-in interval, so after an oil change it’ll be off to the mappers to push the efficiency to its full potential, I can’t wait!” Sim grins with lust in his eyes.
And so the cycle will start once more. Sim’s cyclical love/hate relationship with a modified FC RX-7 is ready to go for a spin on the modified merry-go-round once more. We simply hope that this time, his love for these spinning triangles stays rosy and he received’t want the selective spectacles to look again on this time with a smile.
Tech Spec: Modified FC RX-7
13B REW from ‘99 FD RX-7, absolutely balanced rotating meeting by Storage Reg, half bridge ported, Storage Reg 10mm stud package, all new rotor and stationary gear bearings, Rotary Aviation two-piece apex seals and Atkins stable nook seals, Storage Reg refinished housings, Full Operate Engineering hall-effect set off package, FD decrease and higher consumption manifolds, Grams 4x1000cc injectors, DM Motorsports gasoline rail package, AEM gasoline stress regulator, all-new 6an gasoline traces fed by a Walbro 455 gasoline pump, 4x AEM ignition 1A coils and MSD plug leads, Davies Craig water pump and controller, customized water pipes, DM Motorsport water pump delete, alloy radiator with single electrical fan managed by the Davies Craig controller, customized relocated alternator bracket, stainless tubular manifold with Turbosmart 50mm Progate wastegate, Holset HX50 turbo with 25mm rear housing, customized 3in downpipe and exhaust system, intercooler with modified pipework, two 14-row oil coolers and 10an traces, Fueltech FT450 with WB-02 nano, energy steering, ABS and aircon deleted, smoothed and painted engine bay
Specced for 400bhp (estimate)
Commonplace Turbo 2 gearbox and diff, 4 paddle Stage 4 Competitors Clutch
HSD coilovers, uprated anti-roll bar and bushes
Commonplace Turbo 2 calipers with uprated discs and pads, braided hoses
Wheels & Tyres:
9.5x18in ET10 Cosmis Racing XT006R wheels in black with machined lip
Commonplace Turbo 2 sideskirts, smoothed out tailgate holes and customary spoiler eliminated, Ebay rear diffuser, S2000-FD facet skirt extensions, S13 pig nostril entrance lip, carbon-fibre wing mirrors with customized mounts, rear hatch spoiler, carbon-fibre bumper/exhaust guards, LED facet lights
Commonplace Turbo 2 seats, Prosport gauges for oil temp, oil stress and increase, Prosport increase controller, Fueltech FT450 sprint and WB-02 nano, Momo steering wheel and carbon gear knob, Sony head unit and 8in audio system