Growing up with older siblings can do funny things to an impressionable young lad, especially when those siblings spend their time building iconic cars: Aaron Walden’s UZNGAS RX-7 and BNZOUT Toyota KE70, not to mention the other family projects undertaken along the way. For the youngest of three Walden brothers, Jamie, his family’s affinity with the Mazda rotary would shape his own car life from a very early age.
“From watching at the track, to watching him rip engines, diffs, and gearboxes out and getting them going again, I grew to like them [rotaries] over the years. I’ve always liked the sound and the feel of a rotary when you’re driving; there is nothing quite like it,” explains Jamie.
With an influence that strong, it wouldn’t be long before the youngest Walden decided a two-door Mazda 323 was to be his dream machine; in fact, he was only 15 at the time.
Fast forward eight years and Jamie’s dream popped up for sale. The 1980s Mazda 323 in question had been built up over a period of years by one Cameron Corbett. The bridgeported 13B and five-speed, custom coilovers front and rear, and roll cage were all there and ready to go. It had been a long-term project for Cameron, but, just after completing it, his life split between New Zealand and Australia, forcing the sale — and Jamie was ready to pounce.
Life often has a way of stuffing up even the best-laid plans, as only eight months into the ownership of his dream car, Jamie’s hand was forced and the hatch was put up for sale and quickly found itself off down the line to a new home.
Now, you’re probably wondering how the car came to be back in Jamie’s possession? Almost instantly, the regret from letting the car go started to eat away at Jamie, and those brothers were also not letting him forget about that mint hatch he had sold. The gap certainly wasn’t filled by the slammed Euro S Accord (NZPC 200) followed by the bagged Navara but, as luck would have it, a second chance was about to present itself on Trade Me. After only 12 months of ownership, the new owner was looking to move the hatch on. Jamie caught wind of the way things were going and made the quick decision to list the ute and hope it would sell before the hatch did. Well, the ute did sell in time and the cash was handed over without as much as a second thought.
The hatch, now wearing a new paint job, was brought back to Auckland in September 2014, and Jamie’s older brothers soon dished out an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Keep the hatch and we’ll panel and paint it. It was the one job that Jamie had planned on doing from the first time the hatch came into his possession, and the new job was not really up to the standard he had planned, but when you have one brother who works for PPG and another who is a skilled panel beater / painter, your expectations are going to be high.
The Walden team kicked into action, stripping the car back to a bare shell. The engine bay received plenty of extra attention, the wheel wells were smoothed out, and any hole not needed was welded up, before the brothers moved on with what we understand to have been plenty of hours of blocking. As they could only do the work after hours and in the weekends, the car was constantly trailered back and forth from their workplaces. A target date of the V 4&Rotary Nationals 2015 had been locked in.
As the competition edged ever closer, the family found themselves working right up to the deadline, literally bolting the hatch back together just in time to leave for the show. The brothers had set two goals: to win ‘Best Paint’ and ‘Best Display’. If you attended the V 4&Rotary Nationals you would likely have seen the blue V can display — an almost perfect match to the PPG Electric Candy Blue hue. The display was a nod to the green V can display the Waldens had all those years back with the BZNOUT DX, which had earned them ‘Best Display’.
It wasn’t to be with that award, but they did walk away with ‘Best Paint in Tough Street’, an award representative of the stack of hours they had poured into the prep.
But immaculate paint aside, this is by no means a show pony, as Jamie points out. It’s a street car — one that Jamie puts to use whenever possible. The custom coilovers and six-point page ensure it’s a go-kart with a WOF, and the few future plans that Jamie does have involving a wheel upgrade will ensure he keeps the promise to his brothers not to sell the car — at least, not for a while yet. Perhaps this will be the car that influences the next generation of Waldens to carry on the family tradition. Who knows?
1980 Mazda 323
- Model: Mazda 13B, 1300cc, twin rotary
- Block: Full-cut bridgeport, lightened rotors
- Intake: K&N high-rise filter, 48mm IDA Weber, ported intake manifold
- Fuel: Holley electric fuel pump
- Ignition: MSD ignition coils, MSD leads, NGK spark plugs
- Exhaust: Twin 2.25-inch exhaust, four stainless packed mufflers
- Cooling: RX-7 radiator, RX-7 oil cooler
- Other: De-loomed engine bay, smoothed arches, radiator panel smoothed
- Gearbox: Factory RX-7 five-speed
- Clutch: Heavy-duty Puk
- Flywheel: Lightened
- Diff: RX-7 LSD
- Other: Four-bar rear end, custom driveshaft
- Struts: (F) RX-7 S1 adjustable coilovers (R) custom QA1 coilovers
- Brakes: (F) RX-7 S4 four-pot calipers, slotted discs (R) RX-7 S2 discs
- Other: Wilwood brake bias controller, roll cage
- Wheels: 17x7-inch Lenso RS5, 20mm spacers
- Tyres: (F) 195/40R17 Hankook (R) 205/40R17
- Paint: Electric candy blue painted by Scott Walden at Precision Panelwork
- Seats: Race Pro seats
- Steering wheel: OMP suede
- Instrumentation: Auto Meter Pro gauges; water temperature, oil temperature, oil pressure, fuel, voltage, speedo, rev counter
- Other: Race Pro gear knob, helmet net
- Power: N/A
- Driver/owner: Jamie Walden
- Age: 25
- Location: Auckland
- Build time: 2.5 years
- Length of ownership: 2.5 years
- Thanks: Jasco Automotive, James Walden, Scott Walden, Precision Panelwork, Aaron Walden
This article was originally published in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 228. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: