Recovering a Relic of the Past: Ryan’s Mazda Story

Sometimes your old car is just waiting to become your new car again. See how Ryan’s old RX-7 reentered his life.

My name’s Ryan. I’m a Mazda guy through and through. Currently, I’ve got a 2016 MX-5 Club as my daily driver with a ‘95 Miata converted to an Exocet as my most recent project. As the Exocet becomes more stable and less of a project, I started thinking about what I should work on next.

The ND is my 14th Mazda vehicle in as many years, so this new project was definitely in my wheelhouse — I wasn’t planning on straying far from my roots. However, I didn’t realize at the time just how close to those roots my next project’s journey would take me.

The story I have to tell doesn’t involve the ND, or any of the dozen cars before it. Like any great story worth telling, you have to start at the beginning. …

Sixteen years ago, I got my first car. It was a 1988 Mazda RX-7 10th Anniversary Turbo II. Not before, or since, have I loved a car so much. Not for lack of trying, of course — those of you that know me well can attest to my sample size. But you never love a car as much as your first. Some of my most vivid memories of young adulthood were made possible by this car. I can still hear the engine winding out, carving through the forest roads outside of town back when I was so sure I was invincible, and that the tires would always hold.

I can still smell the summer air and remember fondly the adventures that car took me on. A friend and I went on an adventure in that car that took us to the heart of Texas and back in a handful of days. It was a car full of memories. Then, when I was a younger man in a moment of weakness, I sold my RX-7 because I was in school and needed the money. And that, as they say, was the end of that.

Twelve years later, I was talking after dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. We started chatting and got on about cars and the good ol’ days, and I started wondering about my old car. That night when I got home, I remembered I still had a folder full of old paperwork for my old RX-7 stashed in a closet. Looking through documents that my younger self couldn’t care less about, I found a treasure trove of receipts, service records, original brochures, and flyers — even before I got it, someone had clearly loved this car. I made a decision right there: I needed this car back.

Over the next few weeks, I tried to figure out how I was going to find the RX-7. And also, if I did find it, how was I going to afford to get it back? Late one night, I logged onto the RX7Club forum for the first time in over a decade and looked in my inbox. Empty. Then, just in case they kept old messages, I looked in my sent folder and found a single message — a message I had sent to the new owner of my RX-7 almost 12 years earlier. He hadn’t logged into his account since 2010, but I shot a message out into the void and waited. A few days went by, and then in the middle of the night I got an email.

Turns out, amazingly, he still had my old car.

The catch? After he bought the car from me, his wife had some medical issues that prevented him from doing anything with it. So my old RX-7 sat. And it sat. There in a field just outside Yakima, Washington. For 12 years, it sat there; with the windows down.

The ravages of time have not been kind, but thankfully the damage isn’t irreversible. As a bonus, he never even changed over the paperwork and I’ve technically owned the car this entire time.

Sometimes your old car is just waiting to become your new car again. See how Ryan’s old RX-7 reentered his life.

So, of course, I did what any rational adult who catches the nostalgic scent of his youthful misadventures would do: I asked him if he would consider selling the car back to me as is. He told me he felt bad about letting it sit, and that because the car meant something to me, it was mine if I wanted to come get it. I shot a quick text message to my Dad to borrow a truck, another to (frequent blogger, race car driver, and all around good guy) Derrick for a trailer, and a third to my friend Trevyn to enlist a copilot/co-conspirator, and the plan was set.

We headed out early on Saturday and drove through snowy mountain passes, over rivers, down sketchy dirt roads, and eventually arrived at what could charitably be described as a graveyard for sports cars. We found the RX-7, loaded it up, picked through my RX-7’s one-time-owner’s warehouse of spares for a few odds and ends, and headed back home. Now, my first Mazda is sitting safely in my garage, out of the weather.

Sometimes your old car is just waiting to become your new car again. See how Ryan’s old RX-7 reentered his life.

This car is largely responsible for the person I am today. It ignited my passion for cars and all things mechanical. If you’re a rotorhead in the Pacific Northwest who has a line on some black interior parts you could part with, let me know — this interior is trashed. If you’d like to keep up with the car, you can find me (@mrryanbaker) on Instagram. I made a post on there about the RX-7 that was a little more succinct. I try and post about the cars as much as I can, but forgive me if I end up distracted by projects.

Finally, like I said in my Instagram post, “Welcome home Annie, this time I’ll do it right.”

Ryan

10 Tips for Garage Days

Garage days and your Mazda

Garage days have been around for as long as the practice of modifying cars. Wrenching on your projects, some good company, hot food, cold beer — what could go wrong? Hopefully nothing, but that’s typically not the case in all honesty, especially in the Mazda game. Murphy’s Law truly takes effect, and what can happen usually will happen.

Garage days and your Mazda

Coming from the Bay Area, where I was the main go-to tech guy, I usually had two to 12 Mazdas at my house on any given weekend. (How the homeowners association didn’t get mad, I will never know.) I’ve been around the block a time or two and seen what can go wrong on garage days. I’ve seen what turns a fun day into 20 trips to the hardware store, tools everywhere, missing parts, and the typical “What did I get myself into?” feeling.

If you have a big job coming up and you’re questioning whether you can do it, some of these tips may help you get it done faster and more efficiently, and ensure you have a good time — instead of pulling your hair out.

Preparing for modding your Mazda

Tip 1: Preparation

Don’t wait until garage day to check the box. Always make sure you have the right parts and hardware in advance. Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “How could some people wait that long to open their shiny new parts?” Honestly, I agree. But some people toss the boxes aside and don’t open them until the day of installation. I’ve seen people go to put on that new part and discover they’re missing something they need. Get all the hardware taken care of beforehand.

Tip 2: Tools

Be prepared for different outcomes that may happen and have all the tools that you need at hand. If you’re lacking proper tools, I’d recommend working with a buddy who has a better collection. Having nice quality tools makes all the difference.

Tip 3: Rise and shine

Start early. Nothing sucks worse than nighttime falling with the car halfway apart (especially when you have work the next day and it’s your daily driver). If you can, plan your job to go over the course of the weekend so you’re less stressed and can take your time.

Flashlight for working on your Mazda

Tip 4: Plan for drops

Have a quality flashlight and a pick-up magnet handy. On a garage day, it’s not a matter of if but when you drop something important. There’s nothing worse than when that dropped part falls into the abyss or someplace you can’t reach. Keep a pick-up magnet for those annoying bolts. The flashlight is good for easily spotting shiny things, and for overall lighting during the job.

Tip 5: Really read the instructions

Thoroughly read up on the installation. Read the instructions. Read the forums and talk to some friends for tips. There is usually something helpful out there you may not have known already. For specialty jobs, know your torque specs and procedures.

Tip 6: Stay stocked

Stock up on brake clean, PB blaster, WD40, carb clean, gloves, or whatever else you might need beforehand. It’s annoying to have to stop what you’re doing just to go buy a $6 item that was forgotten. Also, if you wear them, get plenty of gloves. Your hands will thank you at the end of the day.

Tip 7: Catch a catch can

Have something around to catch fluids. Occasionally, people get deep into a job and realize they have to disconnect a line they didn’t know they’d have to. It’s always good to have some sort of catch can. Especially ones that can be sealed off so you can dispose of it easily. This goes along with our first tip, but I’m mentioning it again, because some people will overlook this.

Catch can to keep your garage clean

Tip 8: Organization

Organization trays are awesome. Use sticky notes for trays or zip locks you can label to keep tabs on bolts and nuts for their component parts. This makes reassembly on a big job much faster.

Prevent scratches in the garage

Tip 9: Prevent scratches

Moving blankets or big blankets are amazing for preventing any scratches while you’re leaning over the hood. Also, blankets help to hold the tools you’re currently using. You can drape them over and attach them with masking tape to keep them in place.

Check your work on your Mazda mods

Tip 10: Check your work

Once you’re all done, be sure to verify all of your work before starting the car. Verify torque specs, connectors, and the rest. After you start up, quickly check for any possible leaks, listen for odd noises, etc. For example, make sure no exhaust gas is escaping from the downpipe gasket.

I hope these tips are helpful one day! Make sure to follow the CorkSport blog for more Mazda modification tips and information. And, if these tips do come in handy, tag a photo of the finished product with #CorkSport on Instagram and show us your ride.

Cheers,

Brett

 

 

Winter Projects Update: Break in Procedure

CorkSport break in procedure

Over the past couple of months, CorkSport noticed that a handful of people — including a few guys here in the Washington and Oregon area — are doing engine builds over the winter. It’s very exciting to see more people raising their power goals and pushing the limits of the platform. As I continue to follow certain engine builds, I noticed that the question of a proper break in procedure always comes up.

We can all agree that making sure the rings fully seat themselves is the most important thing in the life of the piston, but everyone has a specific way of breaking in a newly built engine. Still, you may be looking for some guidance. Here at CorkSport, thanks to Master Mechanic and Technical Advisor Vincent Melon, we use a specific break in procedure we thought we’d share.

CorkSport break in procedure

Life comes at you fast

Four months ago, I blew a quarter-sized hole in the notorious piston three that forced my hand — it was time to get a built bottom end. I learned a lot during this build process and, most importantly, learned what a proper break in procedure looks like. I wanted to make sure to list out the steps Vincent and I took to guarantee the engine would be solid when fully broken in so that we could help folks like you who might go through the same process.

 

Breaking in a Mazda engineCorkSport's Vincent breaking in

Mazda engine blockHole in Mazda piston

 

Oil tips for breaking in your engine build

In our opinion, one of the most crucial parts of the break in process is choosing the correct oil to break in your new build. For people who aren’t sure which oil to go with, here’s what we recommend you run: Driven BR30.

Driven BR30 oil

Vincent has done a lot of research on this specific type of break in oil and swears by it. This oil will end up costing you around $10 a quart, and you’ll need around twenty quarts by the time the break in procedure is all said and done.

Burning the midnight oil

Once you have the oil you need, new plugs, and the engine put back together, it’s time for the crucial first startup. When you first start the car again, you will want to rev the car throughout the rpm range for about 15–20 minutes to get your coolant system and oil hot. This first step will work out any air bubbles in your cooling system. It will also keep any extra metal bits in the engine fully suspended in really hot oil. Once you’ve kept the rpms consistent for about 20 minutes, it’s time to change the oil. The next few steps are super easy to follow:

  • Change the oil again at 400 miles.
  • Change the oil again at 800 miles.
  • Change the oil again at 1000 miles.

Make sure when changing your oil at these increments, you keep a close eye on what the oil looks like. If you do not see metal bits in the oil you are changing, you’re fine. If you do notice a continued amount of metal in the oil, make sure everything is running and machined properly.

During the first 2000 miles, keep your rpms above 3000 and avoid cruising at any certain speed or rpm for long periods of time. The most crucial part of this process is making sure to change gears a lot. You can get into boost, but we recommend that you give the engine about 1000 miles before you really start romping on it. Once you have reached your 2500-mile mark, you’re good to drive it any way you like, and you can go back to using whatever type oil you want.

Cheers,

Luke

 

Shift Knobs and Tailpipes: A Car Guy’s Valentine’s Day

Mazdaspeed3 Leather Steering Wheel

While we prefer the smell of motor oil, the wafting scent of roses everywhere tells us it’s Valentine’s Day. If you’ve got a special someone, by this point you’ve bought the flowers and candy, made a dinner reservation, and detailed your Mazda, with a substantially lighter wallet telling the tale of your romance-fueled efforts. If not, what are you doing reading this blog? Get to work before before you end up demoted to the couch!

But for those who might not have a date set up, don’t worry. Your true love (your Mazda), will always be there for you. Here are a few ideas for how you can spend Valentine’s Day with your ride so you don’t end up sitting home alone handling your camshaft.

Dinner and a movie

Spending an evening in guarantees one thing: You’re not driving. And we know you — you’re happiest when you drive. So, we’re giving you a destination. Hop in your Mazda and go grab a burger or a slice. Afterward, hit the cinema and enjoy some kick-ass action. We recommend you check out “John Wick 2” and watch Keanu Reeves wreck shop on anyone and everyone that crosses him. Or, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s time to check out “Fast and Furious” star Vin Diesel’s “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.” If you happen to run into a cute, single lady at the theater, why not offer her a ride home?

Check out our ultimate driving playlist for music suggestions for the ride to and from the movies.

Leather play

You’re too smart to get roped into a screening of “Fifty Shades Darker” this Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little fun with leather — by installing CorkSport’s Mazdaspeed 3 leather steering wheel.

Mazdaspeed3 Leather Steering Wheel

We’ll opt for the soft, stylish feel of hand-wrapped and stitched leather on a racing-inspired grip any day. If you’re feeling bold, add a leather shift knob. Once installed, hold on tight. You’re in for a wild ride with these two.

Can’t get enough? We’ve got a leather e-brake handle, because braking safety is just as important as an agreed upon safeword.

Oil and massage

On this special day, it’s time to treat your baby to a little TLC. Dim the lights and break out the oil … then turn the lights back on so you can see what you’re doing. Give your whip an oil change and, if you really want to splurge on your Mazda, install a CorkSport SkyActiv Aluminum Oil Catch Can. If you want to be extra smooth, add a CorkSport Oil Catch Can Drain Valve Kit to your cart, so you can really be slick with the oil. Your ride and your garage will thank you. Then, bust out the loofa and the wax and give your baby the massage she deserves, rubbing her down from tail end to headlights.

CorkSport Mazdaspeed Waxing

These suggestions are sure to get your engine revving. Date or not, your Valentine’s Day will be an affair to remember. Treat yourself to a new part and have the night you and your Mazda deserve. Whether you spend the night modding or taking your ride to a late-night movie, tag us with #CorkSport in a photo so we can immortalize your Mazda romance on our Instagram feed.

What’s In Our Garage: Dustin’s Custom Projects

So you may not realize this, but most of us at CorkSport are actually car guys/girls. While I’m sure most of you are at least somewhat familiar with what we have here as far as company cars, I was thinking you may be curious what some of us are working on when we’re not “on the clock” so to speak. That being said, first I’ll give you a little bit of my background as it relates to cars.

When I first came to CS back in 2011, I was probably a bit of the odd man out when it comes to cars. While I’d owned and customized 40 to 50 (or more) cars, I’d never really been into the import scene. I was always more into lowriders, 4x4s, old school customs, minitrucks, and pretty much anything and everything that was not a tuner car. When I started, my daily driver was a fully airbagged 1976 Chevy stepside truck (see below), and I had two other old school projects at home: a 1955 Pontiac which was also bagged, and I was building a 1963 GMC big window shortbed.

This was my daily driver and that was more or less my normal ride height. Of course all of the tuner guys at CS thought it was pretty funny (which I get). A lot of people wonder “why would you build something to drag it down the street?” My answer is, “because I can and most people can’t.”

The Pontiac was a little bit classier and, while fully bagged, it didn’t “lay frame.” This car was more about the custom body work that you would never notice unless you know what a stock ’55 Pontiac is supposed to look like, specifically the rear end.

 

Those vehicles are long gone by now, so what have I been working on since then? Immediately after those, I bought an MS6, which you may have seen in the past. We used it at CS for product development and testing on various products, so I’m pretty sure some pics made it to the old interwebs at some point. That was my first taste of a tuner car and, while it was fun to drive, it just wasn’t my thing. So I sold it to another employee here.

 

Since then, I’ve played with a few 4×4 trucks, a diesel Silverado, and a ’97 F-150 which I still have and plan to build into a desert truck at some point (though that’s not yet in the project status). So what am I working on? I’m taking it back to the old school and building a minitruck — and yes, it is a Mazda but that’s just a coincidence.

 

A little backstory on this truck and how this project came to be: I’m probably older than most of you, but when I was a kid in the late ‘80s, minitrucks were the thing. 15” wheels were considered big wheels back then, and 195/50x15s were the standard low profile tires — quite a bit different than today. So when I was 12 in 1990, my mom went and bought this ’89 Mazda B2200 which was already lowered and had fancy red 15” wheels and a red tenneau cover. It was a pretty sweet truck by most peoples’ standards back then and IT WAS MY MOM’S! Seriously, whose mom drives a sweet minitruck?

I don’t really have many old pics of it, but this was when I borrowed it from her to haul a motor for my ’63 GMC project.

 

Even at 12, I loved cars. I would spend my time reading “Lowrider Magazine” or “Mini Truckin’” and drawing pictures of customized cars, so of course I was in love with the truck. I dreamt of my mom giving it to me when I turned 16 and got my license (which didn’t happen), and all of the cool stuff I would do to it. At some point when I was probably 14, the truck was stolen and wrecked which destroyed one of the wheels. You couldn’t get them anymore, so my mom put the ugly Moderns on it, which you can see in the pic above. Then later something happened to the tonneau (don’t remember what). Needless to say, time took its toll on the truck. It wasn’t the same truck anymore, but it didn’t change or take away all the time I spent daydreaming about all of the things I wanted to do to that truck as a teen.

 

So fast-forward 24 to 25 years. My mom was retiring and didn’t need the truck anymore. At this point, it was just a 25-year-old B2200, so it wasn’t worth much to anyone aside from me. She said if I wanted it, I could have it, so of course I jumped on it as I’d been thinking about this truck and what I would do to it for over half of my life. So what were my plans for it?

 

I wanted to mix keeping it how it was with doing some of the things I’d thought about over the years. So the first thing I had to do was put some red wheels on it again, as that’s how it was when I was young. However, I wanted to cross it with a bit of my preferred “old school” style, so I had to mix it up a bit. I picked up some 15” steelies with chrome center caps and had the wheels powder coated red. I also wanted wide white wall tires, but I couldn’t find the size I wanted, so I got other tires and added some Porta-walls for the wide white look. I then replaced all of the bushings and ball joints in the front end and added the new wheels and tires.

Anybody that knows me and my taste for vehicles would know that I wasn’t done at this point, so I continued to collect components for the next step. Full air ride was on its way. I got everything needed to bag it, including a complete 4-link kit for the rear. (Sorry for the blurry pic; it’s what I got.)

I then kind of lost motivation, so the truck largely just sat in my garage for the last couple of years. But a couple of months ago, I started working on it again. I started with notching the frame in the rear so when the suspension is aired out, the frame will sit on the ground (lay frame). I then welded in the 4-link rear suspension as seen below. I used the factory front leaf spring perch for the lower bars. (They’re there; you just can’t see them.)

Then I turned my attention to the front end. If you know anything about these trucks, you know they have a torsion bar front suspension. And if you know anything about bagging stuff, you know that isn’t the easiest starting point for airbags. Preferably you’d start with coil springs, because then you just have to remove the stock coil and put an airbag in its place (more or less). Since these are torsion bars, you have to remove most of the existing suspension and build everything you need in the front yourself. I recently finished putting the bags in the front, which is the hardest part of this project, and am now at the point where I can start making mounts and installing all of the hardware in the rear (a.k.a. the fun part).

The frame is, in fact, sitting on the ground in this pic.

 

If you’re curious what my end goal is with this truck, I’ll fill you in: I don’t want to go full custom show truck. I plan to leave the body, faded paint and all, just as it is. I’ll also leave the big ugly mirrors and stock rear bumper, which is the first thing most minitruckers remove. Really my plan was/is to leave everything outside stock, aside from the wheels/tires, and fully bagged. Then I’ll do a custom interior with a nice sound system. The point is not a show truck; I want the stock look of the truck my mom drove for years with the ability to drag the frame down the street and throw sparks. I also plan to see if I can get another red soft tonneau cover made, so it will be a bit closer to the truck I remember as a kid — just better.

 

Other things I’ve considered are an NA 20b swap with a turbo 2 trans, cuz why not? Or maybe a boosted 302 swap, although that may be a bit overkill for such a small truck. It does have an automatic trans, so I don’t love that, but it works fine for low and slow. Anyhow, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a little look at what I play with when I’m not at CS. Maybe you’ll see some updates in the future, maybe not, or maybe you’ll get a look at some of the other guys’ projects around here. Let us know what you’d like to see and we’ll see if we can accommodate.