When I walked into Sanjay’s JDM paradise, nestled in a North York industrial park, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the fire-hydrant red FD Mazda RX-7, but the humble, pint-sized 21 year-old law student who owned it. Four years ago, Sanjay was a rotary fanatic fresh out of high-school, and had his heart set on building an FC Rx-7. He found a shell to start with and put down a deposit, only to find out that later the same day the owner had sold the shell for nearly double the original asking price to someone else. Sanjay crushed, abandoned his dream project.
Later, he found out that his roommate was going back home to Japan for a visit. Sanjay gave his roommate some cash and sent him on a single mission: go to a Japanese auction and buy me an RX-7. After half a billion skype calls, a wrecked FD was found for $2800 complete with dents, nicks, a bent sub frame and a non-running motor. Sanjay bought it blind, so when it arrived he knew a ton of work lay before him. It turned out that a new fuel pump was all that was needed to get engine running, but after a month Sanjay pulled the motor apart to find its side seal springs completely flat.
Rather than rebuilding the motor, Sanjay sourced a silver FD circuit car from Japan that had been rolled at the Tsukuba circuit. Importation laws prevented them from bringing the car back, so they cut the car in two and imported only the front half, providing Sanjay with a new rotary for his FD. The motor came built and made 350 hp when dyno’d on the stock twin turbos, complementary of unique Japanese porting. Today, it sits on winter tires and wheels plasti-dipped green for the holiday season. It makes 400 hp during the racing season, although it’s currently detuned to 320 hp.
Yep, you read correctly, winter tires. This car is a daily in the truest sense of the word. Sanjay picks up groceries and caters to drunk friends in the FD’s excuse for a back-seat. On weekends it lives for track days, and does everything any other university student does with their car. Is it temperamental? Absolutely. The motor was torn apart, cleaned, and refreshed last November, but it didn’t feel right. It was abnormally stiff, so much so that it would flood. When he pulled off the oil pan, absolutely everything was covered with a sheet of shredded copper. Turns out that one of the bearings were replaced with a defective part, and the whole rebuild had to be redone.
The most amazing tale Sanjay told happened at a track event at Cayuga. Soon before he went out and bought “authentic” aluminum lug nuts, which turned out to be awful knock-offs. On his third lap of the day, he felt a wobbling which he assumed was a brake problem. Before he could even get off to inspect the car, a rear tire came free from the hub and flew up and into the quarter panel, mangling it. What did he do? He got a lift to a local Canadian Tire, bought a set of steel lug nuts, hammered out any studs that were visibly bent, hammered out the mangled quarter panel, and got back on the track. Given that he doesn’t have a death wish, he took it easy and ended up in third place with a 1 minute 22 second best time. Later, he fixed the quarter panel and repainted the whole car with the gorgeous finish you see today.
The incredible thing about Sanjay is he does everything himself, right down to rust proofing. Even the paintjob was done in small paint room in a corner of the shop. This guy does his own alignments using string; I mean everything. He talks about cracking open a rotary the way most of us would refer to oil changes. He started working on rotaries with his father in first grade, who of course played a huge roll in future projects.
A daily driven, FD Rx-7 that came to Canada destined for the junkyard, now with the heart of a Japanese racecar, completely build by hand.
Notes about the shoot
Andrew Zhang and Milan Svitek, both extremely talented photographers, and myself met up with Sanjay early in the day to begin what ended up being a five hour interview. Two and a half hours of notes later, we fired up the FD and did our best to get it to shoot flames before heading to lunch. That naturally involved taking pictures through the sunroof of Milan’s Volvo and taking turns experiencing the twin-turbo glory of the FD. Under 5000rpm, the typical ‘brap brap brap’ of the rotary is recognizable miles away. Above that, it sounds like a frighteningly fast vacuum cleaner as the noise of two turbos takes over.
I’d be doing a huge disservice if I didn’t mention any of the awesome JDM goodies that littered Sanjay’s shop. The newest member of the family was this pretty blue E80 Corolla packing a whopping 58hp from a 1.8L four cylinder, making it the only piston car Sanjay owns. A lonely white FC Rx-7 sat in another corner sitting on seriously meaty R888 tires. Both are slow, casual projects. A clear plan hasn’t been made for the FC yet, but Sanjay suggested that if he owns the Corolla for much longer it’s going to end up getting a rotary swap. Being a shop like any other, there were customer cars around, including a Scion FRS undergoing a molded wide body kit – the first in Canada. These guys do everything, but have somewhat accidentally become a rotary specialty shop.
My experience with Sanjay and his FD was so much more than a look into a car, it was a look into the culture surrounding an engine which for years has been both glorified and hated among car enthusiasts. Does the rotary engine have a future as a viable engine? That’s for a whole other article.
- 13b Raceported by Westwood Auto
- BNR Stage 2 Twins w/ ported wastegate
- 3" full exhaust
- Custom made Tt mays shotgun exhaust with titanium piping
- OS Giken gearset
- OS Giken twin plate
- Blitz Reverse mounted IC
- Koyo N Flow
- AEM Meth- Injection
- Showa SP coilovers
- Poly Urethane bushings
- Re-Amemyia AW-7's
- 17x10 rear (255/40/17)
- 17x8.5 fronts (235/45/17)
- Yokohoma AD08r's
- Re Amemyia AD Facer bumper
- Knight Sports fenders
- Carbon Fibre spoiler
- Custom mounted rear diffuser w/ aluminum full under tray