An RX-7 built for street, show and drag racing, but most of all, skids!
Most of us will remember our first performance car, a vehicle lodged so strongly into our memory it may have shaped our automotive future. But for the likes of Lance Collis, that chassis would never leave their side, instead changing and adapting to continue to deliver the excitement felt 15 years earlier. How many people do you know who are dedicated to one chassis?
Lance first test drove a Mazda RX-7 Series 4 at a local car yard around 16 years ago, and was completely sold on eventually owning one. He loved how they looked, performed and felt on the road. So on his 21st birthday, after years of driving his Ford Laser, he decided he would treat himself and purchase his dream RX-7.
This wasn’t to be a passing fad that he would grow out of, the Series 4 became a true labour of love — which is extremely admirable in today’s society, when cars are swapped often and sometimes monthly. “I started off by doing all the usual things young guys do to their performance cars, like the intake and exhaust. One day the water seals let go, and my fairly quick and reliable daily turned into a big project,” Lance told us.
The decision was made to have the engine freshened up by RoTech Services, along with some vital upgrades that would see the Mazda making a bit more power for a few years longer. “The car was a little beaten up from being around workshops for so long, and the usual wear and tear from a car of this age, so I decided to paint it,” Lance explains.
The engine bay wasn’t painted at the same time as the body, but not too long afterwards good friend Jarrat Syme arrived back in New Zealand after his OE, and was looking for something to keep himself busy. “I remember going to work one day with my car in one piece, and by the end of the day the car didn’t have a nut or bolt left in the engine bay,” Lance comments, saying his response back then was, “Shit man, I hope you know where that all goes!”
Jarrat assured him he’d “got it all under control” and sure enough, the motor started first time once reinstalled — it’s safe to say they were both stoked with the effort. But it wasn’t to last, as three weeks later things took a turn for the worse when a poorly repaired crack in the exhaust manifold failed, as Lance explains. “I had a piece of weld fall out and go through the engine and destroy an intake housing, so I had to have another engine built.”
Now it was entering its second chapter, Lance decided he was too used to the power the RX-7 was making with the high-flow factory turbo, and it was time for a massive change in direction. He decided to go to the next level and build a tough street and show car.
He began with a power increase, thanks to a much larger Holset HX40 turbo and upgraded fuel system to match, including an in-tank Aeromotive Stealth fuel pump, custom fuel rails and twin -6 braided fuel lines. A stand-alone ECU wasn’t purchased after he made a very lucky discovery, that his ECU had been tuned by none other than one of the best rotary tuning houses in Japan — RE Amemiya — so it was left completely untouched. The Holset HX40 and the 60mm M&H wastegate were mounted to a one-off steam pipe manifold built by Jarrat.
With a turbo this large sitting on some very tasty fabrication, Lance was dead set on taking the RX-7 for a test drive. Everything ran flawlessly, but the dynamic duo were not done yet and decided it was time to pull it all apart again, freshen it up and port the new polished plates to awaken the 13B. Soon after, the RX-7 hit the dyno to ensure the mixtures were correct, ready for the boost to be increased. The HKS boost controller was set to a conservative and reliable 14.7psi (1 bar) and spun up a surprising 319kW at the wheels, a number the ECU was very capable of handling safely.
Now, with the rebuilt engine and the very deep PPG jet-black paint job, Lance decided to debut the RX-7 at the 2011 4&Rotary Nationals. That was the beginning of it all, and he entered many events each year, including the 4&Rotary Jamboree at which he took out best original paint and best Series 4–5 in 2011. In 2014 he won the RX Master award, and best RX-7 Series 1–6. But his car wasn’t just built for show, it was built to go fast and do great skids — as Lance says: “I love doing skids.” But skids are just the calm before the storm, the ruthless onslaught that is this Mazda as it brawls its way down the drag strip, with times dropping as low as 12.2 seconds at 116mph (186kph) on extremely warm street tyres.
Lance will continue to drag race the RX-7 and compete in shows, and with another chapter completed, he is ready to put the car through yet another revamp. The goal from here is to reach 370kW at the wheels, which is easily achievable with the planned MicroTech, 20psi of boost and the knowledge he has gained over the years. You may be seeing this RX-7 for a while, but when you do, the skids will be bigger, the drag times will continue to drop and there will be even more trophies surrounding it at shows.