MADRX - James' 1989 Series 5 RX-7 TII

Story and Photos: Ben Winstone

Perhaps one of the more underrated sports cars of the early 1990's, the Mazda FC RX-7, combined stunning turbocharged rotary performance with the sleek looks of a two door coupe and sporty handling. The series 5 models featured the most refined and reliable Mazda rotary engine at the time and although originally priced at over $50000 new, they have now dropped into the mid to high teens, becoming a unique alternative to the current flood of Japanese imports.

One of the more neater and powerful examples currently buzzing around Melbourne's streets is James' immaculate 1989 Series 5 TII model.

After owning a Series 4 TII which was written off coming home from work one night, James spotted an ad in the Trading Post which featured a 'highly modified' Series 5, and needless to say, James bought the car soon after.

These modifications included the engine being rebuilt with 3mm Apex seals, whilst also receiving a mild porting. The standard turbocharger had also been high-flowed and a 3" exhaust also added, creating that heavenly rotary 'brap-brap' noise. A TurboSmart boost controller was also fitted, allowing the 13B Turbo to receive a few more pounds of boost when required.

Externally, the 'Seven' had been resprayed in white, while rolling on 18inch ITC Schneider rims which really suit the car and make it even more visually stunning. Inside, the cabin had received hugging Aerotech reclinable buckets, a obligatory MOMO wheel and Razo gear knob. Being a car audio fan, James also transferred the system from his previous RX-7 into the new one. A Pioneer headunit now controls the tunes which play through two 10" free air subs and Boston acoustic splits. Powering these are a Sony 4x50w amp.

Satisfied with how the car was currently performing and sounding, James decided to ease off on the modifications for about a year. However an electrical problem developed and began to plague the car, causing it to run roughly and was really hampering power output.

Diagnosing the problem was like trying to find a needle in a haystack, so rather than keep spending money on the mysterious problem, James made the wise choice to switch to an aftermarket programmable engine management system (EMS). After visiting Rank Rotary, (, who also happen to be agents for Wolf EMS, it was decided that a Wolf system would be installed on the car.

By this time it was the middle of 2001, and the new Wolf 3D V4 model was about to be released, so James decided to hold off and wait for the new model to arrive. After a delay of several months, the V4 finally arrived and was installed into the car. A week before Christmas, the 'Seven' was picked up and the difference was incredible, the car drove much better and harder than before and there were no more electrical dramas. You couldn't ask for a much better Christmas present (well maybe except for a brand new Series 8 RX-7 perhaps, but that's getting away from the story)...

Soon after, the standard clutch began to slip like a dog on tiles, so this was replaced by Rank with a Centreforce II item, as well as installing a 'Swiss cheese' lightened flywheel to help transfer the power.

By now, it was close to Easter, which meant that the Easternats were on at Sandown raceway. James entered the car and performed very well in the time trial and go-to-whoa events, however this small taste of competition left him craving for more power from the car.

In an act of coincidence, a fellow rotor owner was looking to sell his T04B turbo setup, including all the associated parts to make the conversion hassle free. James jumped at the opportunity and also had Rank install a water injection system to try and keep the intake temps a bit lower. The Wolf 3D features Aux outputs, which enabled the water injection to be hooked up easily. Boost was also raised to a steady 13.5psi.

With this new setup, James headed off to take part in AusRotary's ( dyno day, where the car reeled off an impressive 207kw at the wheels. A pretty good effort considering the relatively low boost setting and still using the standard top-mount intercooler, (or as some like to call it, inter-warmer because of the fact it sits on top of the motor, absorbing the heat and losing its effectiveness.)

Naturally, the top-mount intercooler's days are numbered as James plans to ditch it for a larger front-mount unit very soon. Also on the cards are a bigger turbo which will hopefully allow the 'Seven' to make around 300kw at the wheels when sorted.

The end result is a car that goes, stops, handles and looks terrific, whilst being at home on the track, strip or street. What more could you ask for?

Well perhaps an extra 150 kilowatts or so....

James would also like to thank Pete and Brad at Rank Rotary as well the guys on the forum for their help and support over the ongoing build.


Model: 1989 Mazda Series 5 RX-7 TII

Engine: 13B Twin Rotor Turbocharged

Engine Modifications: 3mm Apex seals, Mild porting, 3inch exhaust, T04B turbo, Turbosmart boost controller, Wolf V4 EMS

Driveline: Standard Mazda 5 speed, 4.1:1 LSD differential

Performance: 207kw @ rear wheels on 13.5psi

Wheels & Tyres: ITC Schneider 18 x 8 inch