(Photos by Dave Nutting – Words by Nutting/Lohnes) – This is a car that makes a big block Shelby Cobra look like the most sensible thing since the GEO Metro. It is by far the nastiest, gnarliest sounding street car I have ever heard. It is not “safe”, it is not comfortable, technically it is not legal in the vast majority of the United States, and it is a car with an ethos that harks back to the earliest days of hot rodding. Make no mistake about it. You may love this thing or you may hate it but what you cannot do is deny that the vehicle before you is a hot rod. This thing is the very definition of a hot rod. This is the kind of car they made movies about in the 1950s.
Exploitation films like Drag Strip Riot, Hot Rods To Hell, and a host of others played into the fears of the general public that young guys were building fast, dangerous, powerful cars and driving them wildly around town. While owner Dave Hershey doesn’t drive this thing around town like a maniac (much), he does a hell of a job handling the beast under closed conditions as I witnessed. I also witnessed a burst of acceleration while entering the highway at 65mph that caused the rear tires of the car to go instantly into fog bank mode. With a curb weight of about 3,000lbs (touch more, touch less) and 843hp to the wheels according to the last dyno session, this car is not something to be trifled with. It’ll kill you and not think twice about it.
In short, if you hate it…blame Nutting.
Chad gives me a good helping of crap every chance he gets about this, while Brian is a little more tolerant given that I park my car down the street when we hang out so the neighbors don’t see it.
However, once in a while my love of these AWD misfits pays off, most recently in the case of this 1993 Mazda RX7. I spotted Hershey’s car for sale in the local For Sale section of a Subaru message board and knew that it was 100% Bangshift approved based on the description and a few short videos of the car tearing up a parking lot. Aside from the handicap that is the original powerplant (Bring it, rotory enthusiasts) the third-generation RX7 is an iconic 90′s design, and the addition of a blown SBC completes the Frankenstein’s Monster-vibe. Brian however, needed a little convincing…
I did need some convincing. If this was some pro-built car with a V8 and meant to go drifting than it wasn’t really something I was interested in. I respect the builders and love the fact that these light cars can swallow LS and traditional small blocks like Skittles, but until I figured out there was something truly sinister about this car and the fact that it was built by a couple of guys who know that it is bat shit scary my heart was not set on hooking up with Hershey to shoot a feature on it.
Brian and I arrived at Dave’s shop around 7 AM, and I promptly started drooling over his Subaru collection, or as Brian puts it: “Spouting off about DCCD, EJ207s, WTFBBQ, etc. Some Japanese nonsense”.
We pushed the car out of the shop to avoid the risk of blowing the rear wall down on the woman who owns the shop space next door and fired up the beast.
Small woodland creatures ran for shelter, windows rattled, birds flying overhead on their migration North reconsidered their decision and headed back South, and a woman who just left her house down the street pulled out her cell phone, apparently to dial 911.
I looked at Brian: “It’s actually not that loud”.
Brian yelled back: “Are you fu#$king high?”
Enough with the back story. This is a 1993 Mazda RX7 and it began its life as a highly desirable R1 model which means that it came with a different nose, better suspension, better interior, and Z-Rated tires. The good news is all of that shit is gonzo, except for the nose. Somewhere an RX7 enthusiast’s soul just cried a little. The 383 traditional style Chevy small block was installed into the car some time ago originally by Dave’s friend and ace fabricator Bob Perry. Perry has a shop in Rhode Island and applying V8 power to small import cars is his specialty. The engine was originally in a first generation Camaro owned by a buddy of Perry’s and when that car left the fold, the motor came out and as a bit of a pet project Perry started to mock it into place under the hood of the RX7. It sat in the corner of the shop with the motor installed for a year. It had no other driveline and basically it was kind of a novelty item sitting there that would make bad ass noise when called upon to do so. Enter the internet.
Dave Hershey saw a video of this car sitting in the shop and rumbling away. He became obsessed with the thing and eventually convinced Perry to sell him the car and then the pair of them set to work on actually finishing it. As you’d expect the cross member in the front of the car is a custom made piece and has actually been changed a time or two. When the car first hit the road, the front ride height was gawky and bad so they actually raised the motor some and were able to lower the front of the car to get the stance they wanted. The blower didn’t fit either way, but with the motor up, it really didn’t fit, so the hood was customized with a grinder or saw to make room for the ProCharger F1C blower. The oil pan was another area of clearance issues for the pair as Perry was finally able to find the most shallow small block oil pan anyone makes and it fit well.
The engine is a 383 stroker small block Chevy with Motown cylinder heads, long tube headers, a cam of unknown specs, a Carb Shop prepared Holley blow through carb, long tube headers, a Victor Jr. intake manifold, and the aforementioned ProCharger F1C that is proudly announcing its presence through the hood of the car. The single pipe exhaust system is made of 4″ tube normally used on International school buses. There is no muffler, which leads to the vicious sound that this car makes. At idle it has a crispness and bellowing tone that is really unmatched by anything I have ever heard. The single pipe seems to amplify the sound and when the engine actually goes to work it is like Satan’s saxaphone at full wail. Just the meanest sonofabitch ever.
The car has four wheel disc brakes from a Nissan 300ZX and the center section for the independent rear end is also from a 300ZX. The axles are from an Infinity Q45 according to Perry, who had to have them machined down to work right in the RX7. The headlights aren’t really part of the program. The directionals could be a little more functional but Hershey has functioning arms, so that’s covered. There are brake lights. There is not a roll cage and this will be something that lots of people harp on. “What do you do without a roll cage?” Frankly, you drive the damned car. Not every hot rod needs a roll cage. Not everything needs to be a race car. This thing clearly is not. It is almighty powerful, a handful to drive, and on the very ragged edge for streetability, but it is reasonably easy to get in and out of. That’s a bonus…right?
There’s a decent sized crack in the windshield from the chassis of the car twisting under acceleration and Hershey claims that when it achieves even the faintest whiff of traction it will actually torque one of the front wheels off of the ground. There have been two small pieces of steel added to the chassis but nothing of any significance…or usefulness.
According to Hershey, anything over quarter throttle results in near instantaneous ignition of the rear tires. The little 245s literally do not stand a chance back there. Hershey is a high performance driving instructor who has a year of experience in the seat of this thing but honestly, I wasn’t running for a ride in it. This is one I was more than happy to experience as a vested spectator.
When we asked Dave if he would be interested in doing some burnouts and stuff for us so that we could get some action photos, he said sure and then went on an insane mission to wipe a pair of freshly mounted tires completely flat. He was granted honorary Aussie citizenship after the display he put on.
As we like to do, we’re going to tell the rest of the story on this car through the photos and captions below.
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