Don’t get us wrong here, guys; sure, some really high-quality cars are built in New Zealand, but we simply can’t compete with the level of elite show cars that our ANZAC brothers and sisters are turning out across the ditch. These machines are incredible. They go well beyond the normal expectation for a build, to a level of flawless perfection, all in aid of satisfying the judge’s critical eye. Historically, the elite class has been one dominated by V8s, but every blue moon, along comes an import that knocks them all out of the park.
Last year, that car was John Saad’s RX-3 — a vehicle that fueled plenty of keyboard warriors online wars about whether or not it can actually be driven. Love it or hate it, there simply isn’t another RX-3 that can touch this thing when it comes to quality, fit and finish; hell, it has most other elite cars reversing right back into their average, ordinary garages.
At its 2014 debut, the Sydney MotorEx judges awarded it the Top Judged Elite Award. John then took on board all judges’ feedback, modifying the car ahead of the biggest show on the Australian calendar — Summernats — where he walked away with the very prestigious Top Judged car in the Elite Class after winning Top Undercarriage/Driveline, Top Engine Bay, Top Interior, Top Special Effects Paint, and Top Pro Custom. It was looking very promising for John to take overall Grand Champion, but a fault with the alternator would stop him finishing the driving events.
A trophy haul like that, at what is a V8-orientated event (and with the calibre of show cars vying for the elite awards), is simply unheard of for a rotary. Achievements like this make the team at NZ Performance Car want to hat tip John and those involved in the four-year process.
The car’s journey has been well planned, and it is no accident that John’s trophy cabinet is now stuffed full; he has achieved exactly what he set out to do over the four years. Neither is this a story of rags to riches by any means. What was cut up was, in fact, a one-owner immaculate example, something John says caused people terminal cringe at the fact he was taking the grinder to it. “People would tell me I can’t chop up something so nice. But I would tell them ‘It’s my car, and I can do what I want!’ I didn’t want to start with something that was already half chopped up, or rough. I was building an elite-level car and wanted a good base,” John tells NZ Performance Car.
There were really only a few key workshops involved with the project; Chris from C S Engineering fabricated all the custom metal components before it was handed to Custom Bodyworks, who took care of the panel and paint. Mick from Sewtime constructed the interior, and SCR built the engine. In total it took four years to complete; four years of full-time hard graft that began with nothing more than a roof, rear quarters and door jambs sitting on a jig. It’s not mutton dressed as lamb, it’s pure handcrafted beauty that needs no smoke and mirrors to hide imperfections — it’s simply flawless. “For me I think that for the next two or three years, the RX-3 will still be up there with whatever comes out. Obviously there will eventually be cars that come out and take it to a whole other level, but our aim was to take it to the extreme and I think we did that,” John explained.
As MotorEx 2015 loomed for John — his hometown event — he really wanted to win. And, having taken on board the notes and advice he received in 2014, he did just that — going on top claim the Meguiar's Superstars: Grand Master award, and subsequently earning him and his RX-3 a permanent home at the table of Australia's motoring elite.
Having claimed its glory, the RX-3 will no doubt be out cruising Sydney’s streets, proving that it’s no show pony and how you see it at a show is how you will see it on the street; something that we think is very cool, and will keep people guessing for years to come. It might not float your boat, but we challenge you to build something of this quality, fit and finish. We don’t want to say it’s unachievable, but its certainly an achievement that few can ever hope to meet.
Photos: Eric Tang
1973 Mazda RX-3
- Model: 13B Cosmo, 1300cc, two rotor
- Block: Series 5 housings, Series 4 rotors, Psycho seals, Series 4 stationary gears, Series 4 eccentric-shaft, mild ported Cosmo plates, custom oil pump, electric water pump,
- Intake: Polished Cosmo manifold, custom intercooler, custom three-inch piping, Plazman throttle body
- Exhaust: Twin 3.5-inch stainless system
- Turbo: Garrett GT42R
- Wastegate: TiAL 60mm
- BOV: Turbosmart 50mm
- Fuel: ID 1000cc injectors, MagnaFuel fuel pump
- Ignition: MoTeC
- ECU: MoTeC
- Cooling: Electric waterpump, custom alloy radiator
- Extra: Polished and HPC coated components, deloomed wiring harness
- Gearbox: C4 trans, billet internals
- Diff: Mark Williams modular diff, S-Trac 4.11:1 LSD
- Extra: Mark Williams axles
- Struts: Custom coilovers (fully polished)
- Brakes: 16-inch Wilwood rotors, six-pot Wilwood calipers, custom pads
- Extra: Custom four-link
- Wheels: (F) 20x7-inch polished Bonspeed ATOMs (R) 22x12-inch polished Bonspeed ATOMs
- Tyres: (F) 215/30/20 Pirelli (R) 335/25/22 Pirelli
- Seats: Custom retrimmed leather seats
- Steering wheel: Leather- trimmed Billet Specialties
- Instrumentation: Dakota digital dash/gauges
- Ice: Sony headunit, six-inch splits
- Extra: Leather door cards, dash, floor, roof lining, surrounds and dash; custom pedals, billet moulds in hood lining and door cards
- Paint: House Of Kolor Galaxy Gray
- Enhancements: Custom front and rear tubs, full body drop, shaved front end, custom beaver panel, shaved rear vents, custom side lenses, detailed undercarriage, smoothed engine bay