On the outside this 1990 Mazda RX-7 looks fairly stock. Be that as it may, Chris Daniels didn’t go too far out of his way to fool anyone. If the “No Rotor” license plate doesn’t blow cover for this LT-1 swapped Mazda RX-7, the deep rumble burbling from the tail pipes should confirm there are no rotors spinning under the hood.
Why a V8 powered Mazda? Daniels’ wife, Shanna was hitting the drag strip in her naturally aspirated Subaru 2.5 RS. When she decided she wanted to go faster, the Subaru was traded in for a Nissan 350Z and Shanna promptly began bringing home 13-second timeslips. She found the Z to be uncomfortable day to day, so she decided to sell the Nissan in favor of a sporty, but more suitable daily driver.
Several years prior to this project Chris has a red RX-7 Turbo II. He loved the car, but wasn’t a fan of the rotary engine. Since he had already built an 11-second Firebird, Daniels thought it would be cool to combine brute V8 power with the agility of a four-wheel independent suspended Mazda RX-7. He bought the Mazda and a wrecked 1995 Firebird Formula to donate it’s LT-1 and six speed manual transmission.
The LT-1 short block was built by Kurt at Magnum Machine and was topped with a pair of aluminum Trick Flow heads and the stock LT-1 intake. R.J. Hryniewick made the induction piping and handled some necessary modifications to the radiator. A Delteq ignition system was installed to replace the GM Optispark. Jeff at Carolina Auto Masters then chose the cam grind and tuned the car to 364 rear wheel horsepower.
Daniels used a Granny’s Speed Shop V8 swap kit to mount the small block in the Mazda’s frame. Granny’s Speed Shop specializes in kits to mount alternate drivetrains in the RX-7 and other vehicles. The headers are Hedman pieces intended for a small block Chevy in a Jeep. Gary at Superior Automotive in Portsmouth, VA fabbed the custom dual exhaust with Hooker Aero Chamber mufflers.
The B&M shifted T56 transmission sends power through a Ram HD clutch to an aluminum F-body driveshaft, shortened by Gregory’s Fleet in Hampton, VA. A stock Turbo II limited slip rear end spinning 4.10 gears helps to turn the tires to smoke.
Whenever you significantly increase a vehicle’s power output you’re going to find the weakest link. Daniels found the Mazda’s IRS to be that link, snapping half shafts at the drag strip. He did manage to put the car in the elevens before breaking it though, posting an 11.9 second quarter mile run at 115 mph.
In street trim the RX-7 rolls on a set of 18 inch Shuk BS1 wheels and BF Goodrich g-Force T/A KDW-2 radials. Daniels upgraded the Mazda’s suspension with poly bushings, Zeal B6 shocks, and custom rate H&R springs. Daniels’ buddy, Glenn Kopp helped to dial in the suspension.
The RX-7 came from the factory with four wheel disc brakes and four piston calipers all around. Daniels did the factory one better with Hawk brake pads, cross drilled rotors, and stainless steel brake lines.
Inside, Daniels made a custom dash insert for the gauges and stuffed it full of Autometer Cobalt gauges. The Mazda’s interior remains otherwise stock, with supportive bucket seats covered in factory black leather.
Shanna Daniels didn’t share any of her thoughts with me regarding the Mazda’s comfort level, or how it was treating her on her daily commute. Come to think of it, every time I saw the car Chris was driving. I also heard a rumor that the Firebird grenaded its motor, which makes me wonder if Shanna was actually the half of this couple with a new car. As I said before, Chris Daniels hasn’t gone too far out of his way to fool anyone.