The turbocharged, rotary-powered FD Mazda RX-7 is one of the most legendary Japanese cars ever, but even with modifications, it was never really the hypercar-slayer that its owners dreamed it to be—until now. Here’s everything you need to know about what could be the most powerful and unique Mazda RX-7 ever made.
With such a large amount of modification going on in the RX-7 community, it stands to reason that there should be cars that rise to the top as beacons of the community, as shining examples that prove what can be accomplished with the aging-yet-still relevant platform.
That’s where RX-7 nut and lifelong member of the more-money-than-brains-club Rob Dahm comes into play with his Mazda RX-7, dubbed Project Ahura.
For those of you unfamiliar with Rob Dahm, he runs a YouTube channel that’s apparently run primarily as an excuse to spend laughable amounts of money on cars. The car in question, however, started off as an already heavily modified Montego Blue RX-7 that Dahm had since he was a teenager, and like most tales of young love, it went through many weird phases, ending in one hell of a blossom—even if it is still technically a work in progress.
The name “Ahura” came from the fabled Persian god of wisdom Ahura Mazda, one of the company’s namesakes. It’s a fitting title for the car that aims to break records and act as the flagship of the extensive RX-7 modding scene.
It will house the four-rotor Wankel engine that was lost for months by UPS, then mysteriously found on eBay hundreds of miles away from its intended delivery location. The project’s main goal is to have a streetable car that can break the elusive 242 mph speed record for a rotary car on the Bonneville salt flats, which was set by Mazda and Racing Beat more than two decades ago.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the third generation Mazda RX-7 is one of the most sought-after cars of its generation, for a few reasons. For starters, it featured the last of Mazda’s turbocharged rotary power plants, a 1.3 liter, two-rotor Wankel known as the 13B.
Next, it was, according to some, the most beautiful Japanese car ever made, present company included. Its style was uncompromising and the fact that it was designed in the late ‘80s was a testament to the forward thinking nature of Mazda’s design team at the time. Save for the pop-up headlights and large sidewall wheel and tire combo, the car could be shown as a concept today.
Finally, the car produces lustful looks from passersby because as it stands, it’s nearly impossible to find one in good shape, unmolested by the effects of time, homemade boost controllers, and eBay body mods.
But even as far as RX-7 mods go, Dahm’s is on another level. He set out to complete this project with a company known as FR Performance, led by NHRA legend and RX-7 guru Abel Ibarra, who would provide the manpower, craftsmanship, and years of rotary knowledge. Dahm would head the design and foot the project’s eye-watering $250,000 budget.
While Ahura’s build time was only three short weeks until its debut as a rolling shell at SEMA, its design and planning process took several years and countless sleepless nights.
The most interesting aspect of the car, however, isn’t its name or the iconic individuals associated with it. The real star is the absolute insane level of engineering that made this car the outlandish rolling chassis you see before you.
Project Ahura had to go through a complete redesign of every single system, including its rigid unibody structure, essentially making it impossible to ever go back to drawing board, should some major problems arise down the line. No guts, no glory.
The body of the car, while maintaining much of the RX-7's trademark sex appeal, has been widened by nine inches and lengthened by an additional eight with the help of a completely custom tube frame that was hand-bent and welded into the existing body of the car. A rocket-bunny style widebody kit and 3M 1080 vinyl wrap was installed, without any of the hard edges and rivets that render VWVortex fanboys tumescent.
The wheels are gold square-stanced, 10.5-inch wide 19-inch Vossens, which increase the relatively small car’s overall footprint, and while they’re a far cry from the stock 16-inchers that came on the car 22 years ago, it’s a testament to the fact that a simpler design is almost always a better design.
The powerplant, however, isn’t a sculpted and kneaded mass like the exterior - it’s a goddamn sledgehammer. Project Ahura sports a 2.6 liter, 4-rotor that had to be custom ordered, as no factory 4-rotor currently exists on Earth. It’s mated to a Hollinger RD-6 sequential manual gearbox with straight cut gears, meaning that driving it will both be incredibly cool and deafening. You’ll need a clutch pedal to engage 1st gear, but everything after that is between you and the shifter. Eat it, Ferrari.
The all wheel drive part is taken care of with an E36 M3 front differential with Wavetech helical LSD guts, and a M5 rear differential, with another LSD, though Dahm didn’t specify its make or particular hooning capacity.
On top of the front-mid-mounted engine is Garrett’s new 98mm, second generation ball bearing turbo. According to Garrett, this turbo can push about 2500 horsepower worth of air in a piston engine, so it won’t skip a beat when fulfilling Ahura’s modest 1800 hp race gas goals. On pump gas, Dahm expects the engine to produce 1200 horsepower at the wheels and, get this, be usable as a handling platform. All of this madness will be handled by an Adaptronic standalone engine management system, with the traction control, launch control and torque split being controlled by another, independent controller - a tall order when you’re controlling more power than a Bugatti Chiron.
To put this into perspective, in race trim, this car will have a better power to weight ratio than a Koenigsegg One:1, with a one-off chassis designed by a YouTuber in Michigan. I don’t doubt this project for a second, but don’t think there isn’t a fair bit of insanity at play here.
The most interesting part of the entire project, and one that Dahm himself touts as the pinnacle of this build, is the suspension. If you’re looking at pictures of Project Ahura’s front subframe and say to yourself, “Gee, this looks a lot like what’s on Ken Block’s Hoonicorn,” then congratulations, person that doesn’t exist, you’re absolutely correct. The entire suspension was made from the dimensions of the infamous 1,400 hp Hoonicorn used in that Gymkhana video that you’ve probably shared with your stoner buddies.
The specs were given to Dahm by ASD Motorsports, the original builders of Ken Block’s iconic beast, with redesigns and modifications to the system made by Dahm himself after he forced himself to learn AutoCAD when things weren’t completed to his standards.
It features an Formula One-style cantilevered suspension with adjustable coilovers for maximum lowness with real-world suspension travel, custom made spindles that house Corvette ZR1 wheel hubs, and the ability to knock an unprepared Mazda tech out cold when and if Dahm brings it in to the dealership for a scheduled oil change.
As far as safety, Wilwood 6-piston calipers with huge 14" slotted rotors make the car stop, and a 5-point safety harness and FIA-rated Sparco seat is installed for when the brakes aren’t enough.
No word on whether the car’s original airbag still works, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s little more than a party favor at this point.
While the project is far from finished, Dahm maintains that the over-budget and ahead-of-schedule project should see its first rev on March 1st of 2017. Shortly thereafter, we’ll get a drive in it and hopefully not have to quickly apologize about breaking a quarter million dollar Mazda.
You can stay updated on the project on Rob Dahm’s YouTube page and Facebook. Wish him luck, because God knows I wouldn’t wish that many apex seals on my worst enemy.