1 of 350: Finding And Modifying My Limited-Production 1993 Mazda RX-7 R1
Story by Jason Poco
Photography by Michael Mauro
Competition Yellow Mica, or “CYM” as most owners call the color, holds a special place in many Mazda RX-7 enthusiast’s hearts. All US-market 3rd generation (FD) Mazda RX-7s in this color came with the R1 package, which included upgrades such as stiffer suspension, dual engine oil coolers, sporty front bumper lip, rear spoiler, and suede-upholstered seats. The R1 models also came with no sun roof, which besides center of gravity benefits, accentuates the iconic double hump roof line. With only 350 of this color imported into the United States, and only in 1993, there aren’t many in a condition like the one I was lucky to find.
This particular RX-7 is extra special, as it is one of the earliest examples to roll off the assembly line, boasting a VIN number ending with “102.” In fact, rumor has it that the first 100 FD RX-7s were used by Mazda for promotional activities and were never sold to the public. If that’s true then this car is a very early car. And if it isn’t true, the December 1991 production tag is still a rarity.
I bought this car in back in 2014 after seeing the car “possibly for sale” a year earlier. It was owned back then by a friend of my brother’s who was a diehard CYM RX-7 fan (at one point he owned three at once, to give some color to the picture). After a year of consideration, he finally decided to sell the car. My brother (who’s owned his 1993 RX-7 since 1999 and now currently owns three of them) got the call, and he relayed it to me with the additional information that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I now know he was right (but don’t tell him that!). When I finalized the sale and brought her home though, the car was basically a rolling chassis since the previous owner had plans to swap in a three-rotor engine that never came to fruition, and had sold off the stock drivetrain already.
In the current culture with engine-swapping becoming more and more popular to make your car stand out of the crowd or to attain easy power, I wanted to stay true to the RX-7’s past by retaining the distinct rotary engine, especially since mine was such an iconic color for the model. I wouldn’t consider myself a purist, but I wanted the car to keep its identity you could say.
I started off buying a brand new assembled core which, surprisingly enough, is still available from Mazda. I didn’t leave it as-is though, and to get more power and drivability from the rotary I upgraded the original twin turbo setup with a simplified single turbo system. To provide more reliable, more efficient cooling, I installed a Greddy V-mount intercooler setup which includes an aluminum radiator and integrated ducting to keep temperatures down. In addition, the dual oil coolers that came standard on R1 RX-7s were upgraded to larger units. To complete the power upgrade, larger fuel injectors, new fuel rails, fuel pump, and ignition system were installed. Lastly, I added a bit of styling to the bay with wrinkle black powder coated components paired with titanium hardware incorporated throughout. I didn’t want a nest of blue Samco hoses but I didn’t want it to be box-stock either!
As with my previously featured 1985 Supra, I prefer the exterior of my cars to retain the original lines, but I like to accentuate them with a more aggressive suspension stance and a tasteful set of quality aftermarket wheels (aka, wheels that aren’t a downgrade over the OEM units). In this case some forged Fikse Profil 5s for period-correct style. This car also boasts the original 25+ year-old three-stage paint, which never fails to put a smile on anyone’s face who sees it rolling down the road. Those are the most salient features of the outside of the car, but I went down to the details as well, having replaced nearly (probably entirely) every rubber and plastic exterior trim piece with OEM Mazda replacements. It makes this car look practically brand new, but it isn’t exactly as it was in ’93. For instance, I have also modernized the exterior a bit with newer-style ’99-spec OEM circular tail lights, Audi turn signals (that remain clear until the signal activates and turns the light the traditional amber color), and HID projector headlight housings that retain the iconic pop-up headlight design, but trade the poorly functional original headlight housings for higher-quality pieces. Everything I’ve done to the car has been in this effort; to improve it without drastically changing it.
The interior modifications followed a similar route, and now the cockpit boasts black Recaro carbon-kevlar seats with fully functional sliding and tilting rails (which were available only in Japanese RZ RX-7 models). In addition,I collected a bunch of Mazdaspeed goodies such as a D-shaped steering wheel, short shifter, and shift knob, along with a Defi multi-gauge setup to keep tabs on the motor and finish off the interior with a simple, functional, and subtly modified look.
Overall, the goal of the build was to have a reliable, road-registered, modified RX-7 that could be driven on the street but also perform well on the track if desired. But more important than that, this car, along with my Supra, has helped me connect with so many people locally and throughout the world. It’s amazing how a shiny piece of metal can bring such different people together, how it can cultivate relationships like little else can. It has brought me closer to other CYM owners in the RX-7 community for starters, and when we come together for photoshoots like this one most people don’t realize how rare it is to see one, let alone two or three together at a time.
With these iconic Japanese sports cars becoming more desirable and harder to find in good condition as the years go on, it’s my guess that values for well taken care of examples will continue their ascent; it’s a good time to start buying the good FDs before they reach the price levels of some of their other ‘90s JDM icons, the MkIV Supra and the Honda NSX. Wherever the price point may be though, I’ll never sock mine away for any fiscal reason, preferring instead to get outside and enjoy the thing. With the crisp fall air helping the turbos and the falling leaves providing the scenery, how could I not?