23 October 2007

Mazda RX-8 by Sammy Lam2004

The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” apparently doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Take Sammy Lam and his 2004 RX-8 for example. Every single piece and part of his brand new ride was functioning perfectly as intended from the factory, so he did what any normal gear-head would do – he changed everything. Some would say Sammy has this problem that won’t let him settle for average in any category, especially performance. The need to overachieve in handling, cosmetics and power is what has transformed an unspoiled RX-8 into this head-turning street rogue that you’re likely salivating over right now.

Sammy is no stranger to the Mazda brand. Before purchasing his RX-8, Sammy challenged corners in his 2002 Miata MX-5. His sole reason for buying the roadster was his obsession with its pure balance and spirited handling. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that when he traded in his Miata for the RX-8, the first thing he did was address the handling. Although the RX-8 had almost everything he was looking for – 4-doors, rotary engine and hardtop – he felt it needed that ultra-responsive ride it seems only a Miata can provide.

It began with a simple pair of Mazdaspeed front and rear strut bars and snowballed into a full-blown chassis stiffening addiction. A second rear strut bar from JIC was added beneath the first one. A custom 6-point front strut brace further complemented the Mazdaspeed piece with added rigidity. The reinforcements didn’t stop there, as Sammy felt it necessary to install an Autoexe lower sub-frame brace to keep things tight below deck. He was so concerned about handling and balance that he even went to the extent of relocating the battery over the rear axle and reduced its weight by switching to a race cell.

The handling didn’t change significantly until the thicker and stiffer front and rear sway bars from Tanabe were installed. With the frame as rigid as it could possibly be with bolt-ons, Sammy took handling to the next level by swapping in TEIN Flex coil-overs. Each dampener is electronically connected to TEIN’s EDFC system that allows the suspension to be fine-tuned on the fly from an onboard control unit.

To fully capitalize on the stiff setup, Sammy had to choose a sticky competition tire to handle the increased lateral loads. He chose the Yokohama Advan A032R rubbers and wrapped them around staggered 17-inch Work Emotion CR Kai lightweight wheels. Beyond the deep bronze spokes sit a 4-piston Brembo big brake kit up front, while the rear is outfitted with Project Mu 2-piece SRC-Pro rotors and Titan Kai racing pads. The well above-average brake system allows Sammy to push harder on the track without fear of brake fade or sponginess. After Sammy’s first track day in the RX-8 he was sufficiently pleased with its handling and braking upgrades, but left Lam with a new hunger for speed that needed satisfying.

He skipped the appetizers and went straight for the main course, a GReddy turbo kit. Rotary genius Juni at JRX Rotary is responsible for the reliable 330HP 13B Renesis transformation. Sammy needed to drive the RX-8 everyday to work, so they compromised with a well mannered 9-lbs of boost. Juni complemented the kit with a GReddy Type S blow-off valve and a custom wastegate. The increased engine heat is cancelled with a Mazsport cooling fan kit and a Koyo radiator full of ARC racing coolant. Backpressure is minimized via a race-spec catalytic converter and a HKS Legamax exhaust. In an effort to squeeze out every last unit of power, a Sunco Hyper Voltage grounding system was installed. To better protect his rolling investment, Sammy tops off his rotary with specially formulated Idemitsu turbo rotary synthetic oil.

Sammy wanted his RX-8 to stand out visually from the sea of played out tuner cars. He accomplished this by searching high and low for the rare parts that were of only the highest quality. Take for example the RE-Amemiya carbon fiber front lip with canards that is the only one of its kind currently in the US. The carbon fiber obsession didn’t stop there, either, as he also went for the VIS V-Speed hood and a custom adjustable rear wing. The license plate was relocated off to the side and a custom front grill modification was made to allow for more air to pass to the intercooler. Last but not least, one of Sammy’s favorite touches is the Euro-spec rear rotary fog light that was custom wired to act as a third brake light.

The cockpit of this RX-8 is intricate with gadgets and performance accessories that are sure to frustrate even the most experienced valets. An Autopower 4-point roll cage limits access to the back seats but gives Sammy a sense of safety on those weekend track days. The factory seats were quickly swapped for a set of white Alcantera suede Recaro SPG seats mounted on the lowest height Bride seat mounts available. Takata 5-point harnesses have the job of keeping the pilot strapped in at all times. A Nardi steering wheel mounted on a FET quick-release hub allow for quick and easy access in and out of the car. A customized center pod houses Defi boost, EGT, oil and water temperature gauges constantly monitoring the engine’s vitals. A Greddy Pro-fec B Spec II boost controller changes the engine’s attitude with the flip of a switch, while the Innovate wide-band oxygen sensor makes sure that the air/fuel mixture remains optimal. The interior package is topped off with a titanium shift knob from A-Spec.

Far from average, and really just short of a race car, Sammy is delighted with his creation, or so he thought. As we write this he is already considering a larger turbo, or help us all, a complete rotary swap. Whatever he ends up doing, you can be sure that it will be done right. As he’s shown, Sammy is not one to cut corners on quality or craftsmanship. Until then, Sammy can mostly likely be found harassing lesser cars on the street during the week, and passing victims on the track on the weekends. To us anyway, it already sounds like a perfect ride.

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