Mazda’s rotary-powered RX-7 has had a cult following since its inception thanks to its unique Wankel engine. The third-generation chassis, though, known as the FD3S, has become a classic icon of both Japanese design and power production over the years.
When he was young, Mike Jtineant was surrounded by American muscle cars thanks to his family’s affinity for hot rods. Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers, and even a V8-swapped MGB all could be found in his driveway. His first car, a 1984.5, 20th Anniversary Ford Mustang GT350, was more show than go, but his older brother Rodney had a 1976 Mustang Cobra II with a built 302 cubic inch engine on nitrous, and Jtineant soon found himself taking more of an interest in tune-ups and turbos as opposed to speakers and stereos.
One fateful day, Jtineant’s father wanted an RX-7 and took him along for the test drive. “That hooked me on the turbo rotary combination,” recalled Jtineant, who loved the graceful, elegant bodylines of the 1990s-era models and how well the rear-wheel-drive cars handled straight from the factory. Years later, when he was in his early 20s, Jtineant decided to buy one for himself.
After looking for over a year and finding only Mazda RX-7s that were out of his price range or had automatic transmissions, Jtineant finally gave up and bought an SUV instead. “A few months after, my wife called and told me about a red third gen RX-7 that had been sitting across from her work for a couple weeks,” laughed the man, now 49 years old, who purchased that very same car just two days later.
It was 1997 at the time, and Jtineant was content with enjoying his new piece of JDM car culture history. “Once I felt the stock twin turbos kick in, it was amazing,” he added.
The pristine red 1993 Mazda RX-7 he now owned originally featured a two-rotor, 1.3-liter 13B-REW twin turbo engine under its hood, but Jtineant wanted more. “I have put a few complete motors in, but usually, like any race motor, you are just repairing the needed parts and the more power you throw at it, the window for mistakes gets smaller,” said the man. “And, we had our share of mistakes made on tuning and cracked entire plates in half along with putting holes in rotors from serious detonation!”
Ready to take a big step up in 2021, Jtineant ordered an upgraded Billet Pro engine from Promaz Automotive in Australia and received a fully machined replacement ready for him to build. “They CNC machined the intake ports and precision drilled the motor for 16.5-inch studs. The rotating assembly is balanced and the rotors were shaved and clearanced by Balancing Whiz,” he clarified.
With no pistons, rods, or cams, the rotary engine’s simplicity is an engineering masterpiece as there are no moving components other than the two rotors and eccentric shaft. In Jtineant’s case, he chose to use rotors from a second-generation FC3S 1987 Turbo II model RX-7 along with a newer Mazda RX-8 shaft and a Bacon RotorSports Racing oil pan to complete his enhanced 13B.
Jtineant also custom fabricated the T6-flange exhaust manifold which proudly displays a single 91mm Garrett GTX5533R GEN II ball bearing turbo pumping its spent exhaust gasses out through the massive 5-inch downpipe. Coupled with a TiAL 50mm blow-off valve and a Turbosmart Gen-V PowerGate60CG 60mm wastegate, the Garrett snail is capable of producing more than 1,400 horsepower.
“We run one mechanical nozzle in the charge pipe to act as a liquid intercooler,” noted the builder, who selected a Pro-Jay Typhoon intake manifold and 90mm throttle body. “We’re also running 12 Siemens Deka 220-pound/hour injectors with three mechanical injectors which come on time-based or map-based.”
Controlled by a FuelTech FT600 engine management system coupled with the rest of FuelTech’s latest and greatest offerings including FTSPARK 750 capacitive discharge ignition system, Peak and Hold injector driver, boost controller, Nano wideband O2 sensor, gauges, and more, Jtineant hired Ryan Rodriguez of Puerto Rico to flawlessly configure the tune-up.
Now far removed from his stereo and show car days, Jtineant specifically selected the remainder of the drivetrain components for drag racing use. The robust G-Force GF2000 transmission was paired with a McLeod drag mag clutch and matching flywheel, and a G-Force shifter. Next, a carbon fiber driveshaft from The Driveshaft Shop and safety loop were installed, terminating into the Grannas Racing/Strange 9” rearend.
An incredibly balanced car with phenomenal stock handling, Jtineant made only minor upgrades to his RX-7’s independent rear suspension such as adding an adjustable anti-roll bar. All of the factory control arms were left in place, but the front shocks and springs were replaced with components from one of Japan’s finest manufacturers, HKS, while the rear shocks were modified by Precision Racing Suspension and the rear springs were replaced with a set from Hyperco.
“The front brakes are a custom kit from Bacon Racing using Wilwood components with a custom mount bracket by Wilmeranic Mazda and the rear brakes are OEM,” shared Jtineant. “I’m also running RC Components Torx wheels in the front and Mac-Fab beadlocked Weld wheels in the back with Mickey Thompson ET Drag 26×10-inch slicks.”
Jtineant was such a fan of the FD’s original aesthetics that he chose not to make any modifications on the exterior at all. The vintage red paint is still the same that was sprayed by the factory in 1993, and all of the body panels are original, as well.
Similarly, Jtineant kept the car’s interior as close to factory stock as possible, too. The upholstery is the same as it was 30 years ago, save for the addition of an integrated 25.3 SFI-certified roll cage fabricated by David Lemmond’s Race Shop (which replaced the prior 8.50 cage), DJ Safety ColdFire 302 fire suppression system, and carbon-fiber race seat with a Stroud safety harness and window net.
Mostly competing against himself and trying to improve his times, Jtineant raced at some local King of the Street events near his home in Alabama. He made sporadic appearances at several Import Face Off and Import Showdown events, but began running at Jason Miller’s famed Haltech World Cup Finals: Import vs Domestic race at Maryland International Raceway in 2018 in the Wild Street class.
“I also ran the Pan American Nationals at Atco in New Jersey…it’s like the Rotary Nationals,” he added. “If I wanted to be the fastest guy at the track, I would have built a piston motor, but I like being different because it makes being fast that much more rewarding.”
Later, Jtineant set his sights on setting the independent rear suspension rotary elapsed time world record, and he achieved the feat at Orlando Speed World Dragway in 2022. There, with boost levels in the 60-70 psi range, he ran a new personal best 1/4-mile elapsed time of 7.72-seconds at 187 mph.
Having owned his RX-7 for more than a quarter-of-a-century, Jtineant has made a lot of memories with his Mazda and there’s still plenty more to come. “I plan to get the car more dialed in and race the 7.50 index class for 2023. It will be neat to see a stock chassis IRS car on tiny 26-inch tires competing with the 2,100-pound big tire Starlets, Datsuns, and similar cars,” he proclaimed.
While handling so much horsepower with such small tires can certainly be a handful, Jtineant loves the challenge of slipping the clutch just enough so that the car hooks and pulls a good wheelie without smoking the tires completely or without rear steer causing problems while he’s got the front end in the air. He learned to pedal accordingly so he could land and start steering sooner, and has since added a Lemmond’s-built rear tubular subframe to tame the monster Mazda RX-7.
Over the years, Jtineant has turned his youthful purchase into the car of his dreams and met some incredible people along the way. The turbocharged 13B rotary engine keeps him smiling as it spins to high-heaven, and his wife, Michelle, as well as his three children, Jacob, Justin, and Jasmine, along with his brother, Rodney, have all had his back with the build since day one. “If your family isn’t behind you, it’s never going to be enjoyable, so I really appreciate their support,” he added. “There’s nothing better than spending time with family and friends at the track…and breaking records.”
Car: 1993 Mazda RX-7 (FD)
Chassis: 25.3 SFI by David Lemmond’s Race Shop
Engine: Promaz Automotive 1.3-liter Billet Pro rotary
Rotors: 1987 Mazda RX-7 Turbo II (FC)
Eccentric Shaft: Mazda RX-8
Power Adder: Garrett GTX5533R Gen II turbo
Transmission: G-Force GF2000
Fuel Management: FuelTech FT600
Rearend: Grannas Racing/Strange 9-inch
Brakes: Bacon RotorSports Racing with Wilwood components (front), OEM (rear)
Wheels: RC Components (front), Mac-Fab beadlocked Weld (rear)
Tires: M&H (front), Mickey Thompson ET Drag (rear)
Quickest E.T.: 7.72-seconds (1/4 mile)
Fastest MPH: 187 mph (1/4 mile)
Best 60′: 1.31-seconds