BUZZZN - Bessim's 1969 Mazda 1500 Sedan


Story and Photos: Ben Winstone


A common problem in the rotary scene these days is the dilemma facing car owners when they are wanting to stand out from the crowd. In some cases, a set of big wheels, a flashy paint job or made-over interior will do the job, or perhaps they will take it one step further and drop a rotary into something out of the ordinary. Something like an extremely rare 1969 Mazda 1500 SS sedan perhaps...

This is just what Bessim, the owner of this particular example has done, and it is believed to be one of only two 13B Turbo 1500 sedans in Australia.


If you think the design of the car looks a little different from other Mazda models of the period you would be correct. The car was originally penned by Italian design-house Bertone with the intention of becoming an Alfa Romeo, however things did not go to plan, and after Alfa Romeo decided not to use the design it was snapped up by Mazda. It's curvaceous shape often splits people's opinions with some admiring it and leaving others not too sure about it. Either way it is certainly a different looking car with a touch of flair that perhaps could only be created by a European designer.


Rotorworx, located in north-west of Melbourne was the workshop of choice for Bessim, and proprietor Vlad Berak (who is always looking for something different to rotorise) set out to enable the car to live up to it's plates.


Starting with the extremely popular Series 4 RX-7 13BT turbo motor, the engine was pulled down and given a stage one rebuild, which involved new 2mm apex seals, a new water seal kit and gasket set, new oil control rings, and a full engine re-spring. Whilst this was happening, the side plates were also given an extend port to allow more air and fuel into the engine.

The car retains the standard T03 turbo and uses a custom exhaust manifold which dumps exhaust gases through a three-inch mandrel-bent exhaust system. The standard top-mounted intercooler is retained, along with the standard 550cc 13BT injectors. A Microtech LTX-8 engine management system is in charge of the fuel and ignition. The standard Rotorworx 13BT conversion package includes a full EFI fuel system involving a surge tank and pumps.


Once it was all back together it was mounted using custom engine mounts as you would expect, however Vlad explained that the conversion wasn't without it's share of problems: "the tunnel needed extensive modifications to allow the gearbox to fit (a common problem with early model cars), and because the car has a lower floor plan and high chassis rails this also caused problems when trying to fit the motor" he comments.

Once the whole setup was completed, some time on the dyno resulted in a power output of just on 180kw (241hp) at the rear wheels, Vlad notes that "this is pretty much on par with the rest of our standard 13BT conversions", and with some decent rubber under the rear end, "the car should achieve a 12-second time slip at the strip, whilst retaining absolutely impeccable drivability and reliability".


The drive train responsible for putting this power to the ground consists of a heavy-duty clutch and steel flywheel package, mated to a Series 4 RX-7 turbo 5-speed gearbox and a custom heavy-duty tail shaft. As the car was built to a budget, a 13B model RX-4 diff has been used under the rear end, obviously stronger than a standard 1500 diff, and if treated with a bit of respect should live a relatively long life, Vlad comments that "one of our other cars, the 'ETAV8' RX-4 ran into the tens using an RX-4 diff, so they can handle a bit of punishment".


Wheels can make or break a car, and the 17-inch ANZ wheels chosen by Bessim suit the 1500 extremely well, using 215/40 tyres on both ends. Hiding behind the wheels are standard 1500 front brakes, while the RX-4 drums are retained on the rear. The car has been slightly lowered, adding a touch of aggression to its stance.


Inside Monza racing-style seats have been added along with an Autometer water temperature gauge. A Pioneer CD player also provides some tunes whilst cruising and contrasts with the woodgrain dash. The exterior has also received a coat of fanta orange to ensure that the car stands out just that little bit more.


Whilst previous feature cars have been heavily focused on drag use, this 1500 has been built primarily for street use as a cruiser, and there is no doubt that its aims have certainly been accomplished. For a car that stands out, looks neat, and goes and sounds well, Bessim's 1500 receives full marks.


(It's also important to note that on the day of the photo shoot, Melbourne was living up to it's stereotypical weather and it was raining outside, therefore the photos had to be taken inside.)



Rotorworx - 4 Disney Avenue, East Keilor, (03) 9331 7756,


Model: 1969 Mazda 1500 Sedan

Engine: 13B Twin Rotor Turbocharged

Engine Modifications: Rebuilt Series 4 13BT motor (extend ported), standard inlet manifold, standard T03 turbocharger (with internal wastegate) and top-mounted intercooler, 3-inch Stainless-Steel exhaust from the turbo back, Microtech LTX-8 engine management system.

Driveline: Rotorworx steel flywheel and heavy-duty clutch package, Series 4 RX-7 5-speed gearbox, heavy-duty 3-inch tailshaft, locked RX-4 diff.

Suspension & Brakes: Standard coils (front and rear), standard brakes (front) and RX-4 drums (rear).

Performance: Approx 180kw (241hp) @ wheels.

Wheels & Tyres: 17-inch ANZ wheels (front and rear), with 215/40/R17 tyres all round.