25 October 2007

Fousekis' 1993 Mazda RX-7

The last decade has seen significant growth in the influence of Japanese automotive culture on U.S. enthusiasts, and arguably the hottest new trend to work its way to North America is called VIP, or Bippu. Once associated with elements of the underworld in its native land, the styling is all about creating understated sophistication, a look that’s commonly characterized by a lowered ride height, large diameter rims with broad-faced designs and low offsets that sometimes sit tucked into the fenders, a full body or lip kit and glossy paint, traditionally in black, white, gray or silver. These elements are generally found on luxury sedans of a variety of marques.

Nick and Selina Fousekis of Fontana, Calif., are followers of the VIP canon, but like a lot of Japanese inspiration that finds its way Stateside, they had a slightly different translation of the auto fashion. Rather than go with a big, boxy four-door platform, they instead chose to build up their 1993 Mazda RX-7, a sports coupe. Says Nick of the reason for choosing such a decidedly unconventional foundation, “[I wanted to make] the perfect blend of VIP styling on a sports car chassis.”

You might think the Fousekis are a little mad for pursuing such an eccentric project, until you learn more about them and in particular Nick. A lifelong enthusiast, his love for sport compacts was sparked after his first “midnight meet” in San Diego in 1993. He has owned several since, and parlayed his passion into a career, currently serving as Brand Manager for Falken Tire. There he has spearheaded many initiatives, including the formation and proliferation of the company’s US drift program and development of Falken’s VIP tire line, earning a rep as something of a visionary.

This is actually the second go-around for the Fousekis RX-7, which received media attention previously when it was a streetable show car built to appear circuit ready. Looking for a new challenge, and seeing how the VIP swing had worked through the scene so far, Nick chose to go in an entirely new direction with his Mazda.

At first glance one would almost mistake the RX-7 for a much more opulent model, in part because the paint is from one, a black from a high-profile German OEM sprayed by the color-smiths at San Diego Collision Specialists. Outward appearances are further massaged with a KS Auto Burnout aero kit and a small handful of vinyl graphics tastefully applied by Enrico Del Mar at Modern Image. At each corner of the Mazda are hallmarks of the look, massive 19-inch AME LX wheels shod in Falken FK452 rubber, a special model design exclusively for VIP vehicles.

The coupe’s cabin has been re-done in an elegant red-stitched black suede motif, including the stock RX-7 door panels, MOMO adjustable seat and Sparco steering wheel. In addition, a pair of A’PEXi gauges in a pod on the dashboard and a MOMO shift knob are found inside, as is an Alpine Blackbird portable navigation system, multimedia receiver/AV head unit with screen and a set of Alpine Type-R separates. Under the Mazda’s hatch in back, the in-car entertainment system is completed with Alpine amplifiers and a 10-inch subwoofer firing from a custom enclosure built by AutoFashion in San Diego.

The beauty of imbuing a sports car with VIP style is that it’s still a sports car underneath the elegant dressing, and the Fousekis know this. After all their RX-7 was once a combo street/circuit/show car, and they hoped to maintain some of that flexibility, so as such kept much of the performance modifications already made. That includes a stock 13BT engine that was rebuilt by renowned tuners XS Engineering in Garden Grove, who prepped the turbocharged motor with 3mm apex seals and a wild street porting job. The original Mazda turbo was also freshened, and an A’PEXi blow-off valve and intercooler have been implemented into the forced induction system.

The compressor section pulls in air through an A’PEXi twin filter setup and sends the charge through a GReddy intake manifold, while the turbine half propels spent gasses to the A’PEXi GT Spec exhaust. To accommodate the increase in induction, an SX Performance fuel pressure regulator and pump are employed, and combustion events are tuned via a A’PEXi Power FC and Commander engine management. Once the 13B mill gets up to speed, putting power to the ground is handled largely by the Exedy clutch and Kaaz limited-slip differential.

Ride height for the FD chassis is made adjustable thanks to a foursome of Buddy Club coilovers tucked up into each wheel well. Also under the fenders, G-Tech stainless steel brake lines for added pedal pressure, and for the forward running gear a Rotora brake upgrade kit that consists of calipers, rotors and pads. Finally, the third-gen. RX-7 is made more rigid with the use of aluminum strut tower braces front and rear by Japanese company JIC Magic.

Whether or not the Fousekis’ hit their mark of producing the perfectly balanced luxury and performance sports car is all in the eyes of the beholder, but few will deny the RX-7 stands out. The US VIP scene has yet to travel down this road, and this Mazda is very likely on the cutting edge of the phenomena. For Nick, though, it wouldn’t be the first time.

 
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