The name ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett first became synonymous with the rotary engine after his Skidfest antics in a certain blue 808. That car is back — with a new owner and looking as fresh as the day Mike pulsed onto the Velodrome, opened the door, and hit third gear

The year was 2004 and the venue was the Manukau Velodrome — an arena generally inhabited by Lycra-clad cyclists was awash with 1000s of car enthusiasts with a blood lust for burnt rubber. A blue 808 wagon made its way through the tunnel and emerged onto the pad, erupting in a cloud of smoke and wall of noise that only a 13B peripheral port (PP) could produce. Behind the wheel was a young ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett — then a somewhat unknown FMX rider who proceeded to stamp his name into the rotary halls of fame, helped in part by a single wild stunt, one that is still talked about today. Mid skid in his Mazda 808 wagon powered by an all-new and very raucous Kiwi RE 13B PP, Mike brought the car to a standstill, flicked on the line lock and got out, all the while keeping that 13B singing. The crowd absolutely lost it. Mike stole the show, won the event, and set the internet forums alight — yes, this was pre-Facebook days — and a legend was born.

Here’s one we dug-up from  ‘Mad Mike’s 2005 nzpc yearbook feature

 

 

Mike found the sport of drifting soon after, and was forced to sell the 808 to fund his new-found passion. “It was the hardest ownership-paper signing I had ever done, when handing the keys over to Nathan Karatau (rest in peace), but as soon as I saw drifting at Pukekohe, I knew that was the real proving ground,” Mad Mike recalled. 

After it left his possession, the car passed through countless sets of hands and fell into disrepair, until it was rescued by Carl Thompson around five years ago, who then undertook a huge rebuild. Carl gave it a new lease on life, new paint, new wheels, and a rebuilt PP. But it was soon sold again and continued to be passed around as all the good bits were removed, one after the other. “I saw it pop up on Trade Me a few times in a pretty bad state — all the good stuff had been taken out and it was thrashed,” Mike said. “I have thought about buying it back a few times.”

But Mike wasn’t the only one who saw the Trade Me listing last time around. Stefan Collins also spotted the wagon, quickly realizing it was the very 808 he had fallen in love with in 2004. “I have always idolized this car, ever since I was 14 when I was at Skidfest, and then seeing it in NZPC. I have followed it ever since, until it seemingly dropped off the face of the planet,” Stefan explained. The car had left such an impression on the 14-year-old that early Mazdas became his passion. He even searched for three years in the hopes of finding an 808 wagon that he could build up as his own. However, it wasn’t until he gave up that search after finding nothing suitable that ‘FURSTY’ popped up for sale, looking a little worse for wear. “I knew it had been painted white at some stage, and looked further into it and found [out that] it was in fact the original car. I thought to myself, instead of making my own, I would restore it to the 2004 Mad Mike spec,” he told us. 

Stefan contacted Mad Mike, who happened to have all the sticker files on hand to perfectly replicate the ’04 look. The only slight tweak Mike made was swapping the rear window logo on his RK character from Shift to his own logo

 

 

A deal was brokered, and, after hopping islands north and driving the 808 back home to Seddon, Stefan wasted no time in stripping it down to a bare shell to survey the damage. It had easily been through 10 owners since Mike, and it was showing its age. A bit of rust was rearing its ugly head, and plenty of bog hid panel damage from what surely must have been popped tyres and late night antics. A good mate who is also a panel beater was enlisted, and he went about pulling all the panels back into line and also restitching the front back into place. Using nothing more than a trusty 2005 NZ Performance Car yearbook and a few images on the net as a guide, the ‘smurf blue’ was recreated and laid on inside and out. But the resto went much further than that. Stefan contacted Mad Mike and his partner, Toni, and explained his plans. Mike not only still had all the original graphic files on hand, but was also more than happy to help out, and even offered to fit them for Stefan, though time was not on his side, so a mate installed them instead. 

Now only weeks away from completion, and looking just as it did back in ’04, complete with blue rotor housings, blue roll-cage padding, and the deep-dish Modgies, disaster struck. “My property took a hammering during the November 2016 earthquake. It shook us pretty bad, and when I opened my shed door, I couldn’t believe my eyes: my road bike had been ragdolled between my RX-4 and the 808,” said Stefan. The right-hand side of the 808 needed to be panelled and repainted, and the graphics reapplied. Another call-out to Mad Mike, and a fresh set of graphics was on its way to Seddon, while local businesses pitched in to get the repairs done in time for the car’s debut at Timaru’s V 4&Rotary South Island Champs, which were only two weeks out.

Seeing the car return in such a high standard of finish surely brought back memories for many a rotary and Mad Mike fan at the show. Stefan was even using it for its intended purpose, and throwing down some skids, and he extended an invitation to Mike to get behind the wheel once again, although it was politely declined. Mad Mike did say, “I’m yet to see it in person, but I can’t wait. It brings back so many memories [of] good times with the RK boys. Stefan offered me a drive, but I don’t want to wreck somebody else’s toy — I’ll stick to wrecking my own.”

The level of detail in the engine bay is pretty damn close to the ’04 spec, right down to the blue hoses and the location of the overflow

 

 

Stefan says the project still has a little way to go until it’s a completed machine. Currently, it’s rocking a full-cut 13B bridgeport with a 48mm IDA, and he hopes to one day soon replace that with a PP, to return the car to the state Mike had it in, in 2004 — but Mike did have five odd bridgeports in there before the PP, so in time we’re sure Stefan will get there and complete the dream that he had back at 14 years old — to own the infamous FURSTY. 

 Stefan ‘Sherm’ Collins
Age: 26
Location: Marlborough
Occupation: Car salesman
Build time: Three months
Length of ownership: Six months
 
Thanks: ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett and Toni Cook; Ryan Brown, Ewan Mackenzie; Brian McCann; Troy McElhinney; Leigh Church; Kaerian Burton; Alex MacAskill; Blake Jackson; Luciano Zucchetto; Andrew Sloan; DS Panel and Paint, Blenheim; Mag and Turbo Blenheim; Sloan Engineering; Radiator Services; Smith and Smith Blenheim; BB Signs; my fiancée, Latoya Neame; Daniel Thompson

Heart
ENGINE: Mazda 13B, 1300cc, twin-rotor
BLOCK: Full-cut bridgeported plates, high-compression NA rotors, 3mm carbon apex seals
INTAKE: Port-matched intake manifold, 5.5-inch K&N filter
EXHAUST: Two-inch stainless primaries to diff, three-inch exhaust, PPRE modified muffler
FUEL: 48mm IDA carb, Carter fuel pump, Holley fuel-pressure regulator, 10mm fuel lines
IGNITION: NGK spark plugs, Bosch coils, Eagle 9mm leads, electronic distributor
COOLING: Fenix Performance alloy radiator, oil cooler
EXTRA: RCI overflow catch-can, three-inch STA oil catch-can

Driveline
GEARBOX: Series 5 RX-7 five-speed, 6mm steel scatter shield
CLUTCH: Exedy Heavy Duty
FLYWHEEL: 4.5kg chromoly
DIFF: Mazda RX-3 locked rear end

Support
STRUTS: (F) Series 3 RX-7 with coilover sleeve, GAB shocks; (R) Snell rear springs, GAB shocks
BRAKES: (F) Series 3 calipers, Series 3 rotors, B&M line locker; (R) hydraulic handbrake
EXTRA: Double front sway bar, Nolathane bushes throughout, semi-notched rear chassis rails

Shoes
WHEELS: 13x7-inch Mangel Modgie
TYRES: 215/50R13 Bridgestone Eager

Interior
SEATS: (F) KW, E Race harnesses
STEERING WHEEL: Momo
INSTRUMENTATION: Auto Meter gauges throughout
EXTRA: Custom alloy dash by Mad Mike, six-point roll cage, alloy door cards by Mad Mike

Exterior
PAINT: Painted in FURSTY blue by Ewan at DS Panel and Paint, Blenheim
ENHANCEMENTS: Fibreglass 12A Savanna front nose cone, graphics by Mad Mike at Cre8graphics

Performance
POWER: Untested — zero traction on Eagers anyway
FUEL: Dirty old 91

Marcus Gibson

Marcus Gibson has spent his life getting a little grease under his fingernails growing up with a fascination for all things loud, fast, and low. Growing up during the boom of the import scene, the last ten years have seen him work for a few publications, as well as running his own website before taking up a role at NZ Performance Car in 2011. Marcus is as at home with a keyboard or camera in-hand as he is getting dirty in his workshop or at the track, championing that Kiwi DIY attitude.

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