Five years ago a young Aaron Keach was standing on the grassy bank alongside the then Champion Dragway at Meremere. It was the weekend of the 4&Rotary Nationals and Aaron was happily taking in all the action.
Then, out of nowhere, inspiration chugged into life in the staging lanes to his right. An angry howl filled the valley as Craig Dyson and his Dyson Rotary team fired up their famous Series 5 Mazda RX-7. The yellow, 1200hp, 20B-powered Aussie machine blared its unique 20B sound out to the crowds as it jerked towards the water trough.
Once onto the strip, Craig brought up the revs and dropped clutch. The 20B howled and the big rear treads billowed smoke as the car thundered down the strip. After backing up and inching up to the line, the lights dropped and the RX-7 leant back on its hind-quarters, fired off the line and barrelled away.
After buttoning off at half way, the Dyson machine still pulled a high 8-second quarter out of the bag. It was well off the car’s 7.45 @ 305kph record, but it had done more than enough to change Aaron Keach’s life forever.
“After seeing the Dyson car run, I realised that no one had really built a cool FC (Series 4 and 5 RX-7) in New Zealand,” Aaron tells NZPC. “I decided then and there I’d build one.” Of course, Aaron didn’t quite realise how much of a nightmare he had just created for himself, or how many years it would take to complete; but as they say, you’ve got to pay the cost to be the boss. After finding himself a rugged 1988 Series 4 Mazda RX-7 to use as a base, he slowly began his dream build.
While he was figuring out exactly what he wanted to use between the struts of his car, Aaron also sat down with Grant Walker of GT Refinishers in Auckland to figure out exactly what he wanted to do with the exterior of the RX-7. He had some big plans for his wheels, and that meant a wide-body conversion to allow for the big rollers was definitely on the cards.
Grant is a bit of a maestro when it comes to steel fabrication, so it was decided that the car would use bolt-on Dmaxx fibreglass front guards (due to good availability and low cost) and custom hand-formed steel rears. Sure, working with steel is a lot more expensive and time-consuming, but the end result is more than worth the extra effort.
The new guards, which pump the car 80mm wider than factory on each side––=, are complemented by a full BN Sports body kit, but it’s the paint job that really sets this car apart. Aaron tells us: “I was going to get Grant to paint it in a gold/brown colour from a Toyota Corolla, but in the end I decided to go with my West Auckland roots and paint it satin black. There were plenty of matte and satin black cars around, but no one had really done a good quality one.”
It was while this work was being completed, over two years ago, that we first saw Aaron’s RX-7. We were impressed by the quality of the build, and the plans for the motor and the wheels, which were being test-fitted when we turned up. The massive 19-inch 3-piece Work Meisters, ordered brand new from Japan, looked amazing in black/polished-lip form, and measured 9-inches across at the front, and 12-inches at the rear. We told Aaron we’d love to shoot it when it was running, and told us it shouldn’t be more than a few months away.
However, as happens with many projects as big as this one, it has been a tough few years for this car. Every time we saw Aaron out and about, we’d ask him if the car was ready for the photo shoot, and every time he would say it was nearly done.
The car originally ran a Curran Brothers Racing 13B race motor – in fact the very same motor that powered Brent’s RX-2 to seven quarters before it went triple turbo triple rotor – but Aaron ran into big problems with the electrical and ignition system at the dyno.
We had planned to shoot the car straight after its tune, but that obviously was not going to happen now.
“The wiring was really messed up – I was pretty pissed off,” Aaron says, “so I eventually just decided to start again. It kind of worked out well though; the 13B was way too serious for my car. Brent [Curran] had a milder-built 20B sitting in his workshop, and he offered to swap motors.”
While the new bridge-ported, dowelled and balanced triple rotor was making its way into the RX-7, Aaron decided to look at rewiring the car himself. Taking his time and carefully going through the whole car, the West Auckland native methodically overhauled the entire system, which now performs faultlessly and fearlessly.
It was about this time that Aaron hit phoneys, an imitation crisis which shook him to the core: “I’d owned the Work wheels for a couple of years now, but since I bought them people had started making copies – fakes. They look pretty similar and they’re about a fifth of the price. I needed to do something different with the Meisters to make them stand out more.”
In a brilliant move, and one that really makes this car in our opinion, he took his Works back to Grant at GT Refinishers and asked him to paint them in a brilliant custom green hue, and had the rotor housings on his 20B painted to match. The resulting clash between the flat black body and the aggressive wheels is nothing short of spectacular.
On the outsikirts of West Auckland, Aaron is very happy that his FC3S has finally reached the photo shoot. However, when the new 20B triple rotor set up was being tuned a few days earlier, it made 391kW at the wheels at only 5000rpm, and then ran out of fuel.
“It needs another wastegate and bigger injectors to get more power out of it,” Aaron told us. Despite this, a quick strop reveals one seriously vicious machine, both in beautiful boosted 20B sound, and pure straight-line performance. Surrounded by a 9-point cage and strapped tightly into RPS seats, we couldn’t think of anywhere better to be.
Sure, the edges of his rear rims have been scraped to the metal by the guards and the perfect satin paint will probably see a few stone chips sooner, but that’s life and doesn’t matter to Aaron any more.
His car is running, it looks amazing, it’s damn fast and soon to be much faster, so Aaron’s happy. He has plans to enter the Mazda in everything from Superlaps, to burnout comps, shows and everything in between. After all those years of frustration you can be sure about seeing Aaron finally enjoying his RX-7 during the coming months.
Five years after gaining inspiration from a car that once graced the cover of NZPC, Aaron now finds his own car in that exact same spot – and that’s exactly what makes our culture so great. You never know, his car might inspire someone else out there to build their own weapon. Look out for a full feature in 2013 – fingers crossed!
For more photos and full specifications, visit the Performance Car website.
Words: Peter Kelly. Photos: Adam Croy