Mazda Nostalgia – 323 GTX


I recently got a good dose of nostalgia when I agreed to help my dad pick up his new (to him) car, a 323 GTX.  A longtime friend of mine had one sitting in his driveway looking pretty sad and I had mentioned it in passing to my dad that he was looking to sell it.  

Like most GTXs you find for under ~1k they need some love and this car was no exception and it needed to be towed home.

After spending an hour looking the car over once it was home I realized home much I still remembered about these cars.  Honestly, it has been 7 years since I looked at a GTX in person and the floodgates in my mind popped open with piles of information on what we needed to check out first in the car.  

As we continued to look over the car, answers to why things were not working just came right out. A good example is why does the cooling fan turn on when you crank over the engine? I didn’t even have to look, I knew there are several sensors which the car looks at to #1 turn the fan on and #2 what speed to run it at based on temperature, the A/C is turned on, etc.  Turns out the car didn’t have either of the two temp sensors plugged in or they are broken.

As we went over the car I was listing off items we need to check or replace to get this car back up and running as it should be a funny feeling came over me.  I really felt good to be working on one of these cars again. This time the money pit isn’t mine thankfully, but if I ever want to get that “good old days” feeling from my early twenties all I have to do is go over to my dad’s house and pick up a wrench as there is almost certainly something which will need to be fixed.

The fun part of this adventure is the answer to why did he buy it.  Like most 323 GTXs they are meant to be raced and this is no exception as it will be run in the Gambler 500.  Never heard of the Gambler 500 before? Well, it is like chump car or Lemons racing, you can prep a cheap car and go rally racing with it. Having a ~500 car survive the weekend of navigating GPS and not breaking down in the middle of nowhere is the challenge.

Some of you remember my old GTX which was sold to another local GTX aficionado sitting in the normal position of being broken and needing time and money thrown at it to get it back on the road again.  If you haven’t seen the car before here is a few pictures of it in it’s natural habitat which I have dug up.

If any of you decide to pick up a GTX, remember it doesn’t take much to get your 323 to do this and not leave the transmission in pieces….


Sno-Drift 2011

I had a chance to attend the aptly named Sno-Drift Rally the on Jan 28th and 29th in Michigan. Man it was cold too with the high temperature of 16 degrees. The rally is run around (and in) Lewiston and Atlanta Michigan which is in the middle of nowhere (see map below for the middle of nowhere)

A map of the middle of nowhere

I attended the event as a guest of Thayer Mazda who is a sponsor of the event. Thayer Mazda supplied the green light car for the for Rally America to use. Thayer took a 2011 Mazdaspeed 3 which is sponsored by CorkSport and Mazda and built it from the ground up.

2011 MazdaSpeed 3 Rally Car

2011 MazdaSpeed 3 Rally Car

The Mazdaspeed 3 is equipped with the CorkSport Mazdaspeed 3 SRI, CorkSport SRI Airbox w/ Carbon Lid, CorkSport 80mm Catback Exhaust, CorkSport Skid Plate, CorkSport Urethane Exhaust Hangars, and CorkSport Motor Mount Inserts.

There were two Mazdas competing in the Sno-Drift Rally, a 2008 Mazdaspeed 3 driven by Wyatt Knox and a 1988 323GTX driven by Erik Zenz. The Mazdaspeed 3 was on pace the first day to challenge for the 2wd G5 title but a flat tire and some difficulty with snow and ice changing the tire held them up. On Saturday Wyatt fought back to get to 4th place in 2wd and 18th overall. Not too bad when there were 45 cars that started the event and a good half of them were 4wd models.

MazdaSpeed 3 Rally Drift

Photo credit Lee Sam

At the super special stage a lucky 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 owner got a chance to take his car out on the course for a quick lap after the rally cars had finished up.

Special guest MazdaSpeed 3 on the track

The super special spectators got a special treat with a guest appearance of the “Stig” who was accompanied by an attractive (freezing) lady.

Stig and friends

More Stig

I would like to give a big thanks to Thayer Mazda for bringing a massive tent with power to the super special stage. They had heaters, a DJ, two couches, two big screen TVs, and a Mazda 2 parked inside the tent. Everyone was welcome to warm up in the tent and enjoy the extra comforts provided.

Thayer Mazda tent at the Sno-Drift Rally

The rally was a great event to attend. If you are anywhere near the Sno-Drift Rally next year I recommend attending. Just make sure you bring some warm clothes.


Goodbye 323 GTX

Goodbye 323 GTX. Goodbye Cusco, GT Spec, Pedders, Autometer, Injen, Knightsports, KVR, RE-Amemiya, Mazdaspeed, and about 50 other product lines.

You may have noticed a recent news post announcing we are phasing out Mazda 323 GTX Parts. The 1988-89 GTX (in USA) was a great car for its time. Many owners have maintained and upgraded their cars to the point they are more powerful and better handling than some of the newest cars. A remarkable testament to the car considering it is over 20 years old!

Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of them left on the road to justify further development and support. Sales have steadily declined for this car for many years. Ultimately, I think the recession was the last straw for us. Very limited inventory remains and we plan to remove this car from our catalog by the end of the year. To answer the most common question we’ve received since the official announcement last week: “Yes, a few parts will likely end up in our clearance sale”. To reflect on the most common comment we’ve received so far, “You Suck”; it is regrettable, truly. We don’t like it either, but it was ultimately our customers that made the decision for us.

We are also phasing out many product lines, as I mentioned earlier. Border, RE-Amemiya, Mazdaspeed, Knightsports, and FEED are venerable Japanese brands. They have always been slow movers for us, have long lead times for our customers, and sales volumes don’t support keeping parts in inventory. Japanese quality is exceptional, truly, and if you have the taste (and wallet) for these parts we are confident you’ll find a way to get them.

Brands like Injen, Centerforce, KVR, NGK, Unichip, Koyo, and Greddy have many products that are redundant to our own catalog. We are committed to making CorkSport parts the best value on the market but we don’t make everything. We’ve selected a few partners to fill out our product line. The remainders are being dropped from our catalog.

We’ll be launching a new approach to business early next year that builds upon our reputation for high quality parts at an excellent value and supported by the best customer service in the industry. This plan requires a commitment we cannot maintain while serving sales of other brand names. When you think “CS” will you think ‘customer service’ (pardon the lame humor)? We hope so.

There are no gimmicks here. We don’t trademark some odd spelling of a performance sounding words to trick you into believing your getting technology that is different from everything else out there. You are smart enough to recognize that sort of marketing. We could try gimmicks like free shipping but that means we inflate our prices to cover the cost (and thus it is not free to you) or we erode profits and have less opportunity to use them to serve you better. Better to know what you are paying for in my opinion.

Our goal is value. Price, quality, support before/during/after the sale, shipping, packaging, and warranty all go into the value equation. We are focusing our product line in order to offer better value to our customers through improved customer service and support.

Please send us your feedback. We promise to read and consider all of it.

– Rich

Derrick’s Mazda Odyssey – How it All Began – Part 2

Continuing from the last blog post about my Mazda odyssey:

I was mentioning my impending transmission swap after I had destroyed the B6T AWD transmission, there where a few more bugs with the transmission swap and I worked them out over the next couple of weeks. The first time I took the 323 around a corner at high speed the car tried to trade ends. A quick counter steer and full throttle put the car into a very manageable slide. This is the way the car should have been delivered I remember thinking as I straightened the car out before the next corner. The 90-94 AWD transmission was setup to put more of the percentage of power to the rear wheels vs. the fronts.

I picked up some second hand Silverstone rally tires from the Tabor Rally Team to mount on an extra set of rims and try my luck at rally cross. The one thing you don’t expect to hear on an AWD car is “I didn’t have enough grip”. The combination of a small turbo which made instant boost which translates into instant torque and a 2600lb car made for lots of wheel spin even with rally tires.

Dori Derrick

As you can see in the picture above, the results were great! I think I exported about 60 lbs of dirt from the Hillsboro fairgrounds back home to Vancouver, WA after that event. It took forever to get the dirt and grass off the bottom of the car. I didn’t exactly set any record times driving that way but after a season of racing it was good enough for 3rd place in open class with the Oregon Rally Group.

There was another rally cross event which sticks with me due to the strange nature of the event. I showed up to the event with some shaved Toyo T1S tires on the 323. I didn’t have a chance to mount the rally wheels for the event. It was a good thing to, as the water truck was a no show. That meant no water to keep the dust down and make the course a muddy mess. My run group was in the afternoon so I got to watch the cars run in the first half of the day. After a while you could see black on the dirt from tires leaving rubber on the course. This was advantage for me with my Toyo tires. My first run out was one of the fastest on the dry grass/hard pack dirt and I placed fairly high overall for the day.

Dori Derrick
Special Thanks to Wayne Flynn at for the great picture above

Around that time I was thinking, you know I could always use more power. So trying out different combos of parts like ECUs and air flow meters I finally settled on running an odd mix of parts. To get rid of the factory airflow meter I went with an HKS F-CON Pro unit that was not made for the 323GTX. This setup uses a pressure sensor connected directly to the intake manifold. It allows the removal the clunky air flow meter and allows you to run vent to atmosphere bypass valves. It also allows you to use a standard BP turbo ECU to run the other basic functions for the engine. A set of 550cc injectors are used with the system for when I decide to get something different for a turbocharger or I decide to go crazy with the power.

I was happy with the 323 until I ran across a set of Advan RC rally rims for sale in Japan. After several months waiting of them at arrive from Japan they showed up at my door. The bolt pattern was supposed to be 5×114.3 which was great. A set of Familia GTR 5 bolt hubs and brakes would do the trick for installation. It turns out the wheels I had received were 5×100 Subaru wheels. In the end this may have been for the better, Familia GTR 5 bolt knuckles and brakes are heavy. After weighing the units they are almost double the weight of the 4 bolt AWD knuckles. For a car that will see rally cross more often than high speed track events light weight rotating assemblies really make a difference. So what am I doing with a fancy set of seemingly useless Advan wheels now? I don’t let too many things get in my way that I want in regards to the 323. I have chased down a set of second hand hubs and I am going to drill them to 5×100 along with a set of rotors. I get to have my wheels and keep the lighter brakes.

Sweet JDM Wheels

This sums up my odyssey with my 323GTX. One thing that has remained constant through all of this is the BF chassis 323 shell. My car is now mid-way through the 200,000 mile mark. It has been in a few accidents, parked in a ditch by someone who didn’t know how to drive an AWD car, rally crossed, taken out on track days, drifted into curbs, and loved like a 323GTX should be.


Derrick’s Mazda Odyssey – How it All Began – Part 1

So when did you know you first wanted a Mazda?  I had my high school years skewered a bit by friends and other influences down the trail of Mazda ownership.  The first Mazda I really wanted was a 323 GTX.  Getting a ride to school in rain, snow, or any weather made me realize how unique the car was.  It didn’t help that the dual rear hatch wings and the decals down the side listing off the traits of a performance car “Full Time 4wd 16 Valve DOHC Turbo”.  I do remember seeing the 88 anniversary edition RX7s in white thinking they were cool but it didn’t have the pull the 323 GTX did.

It took 6 years before I got a chance to purchase a 323 GTX.  I found one in the back of an auto week magazine located in New Mexico.  The car was a 1988 model with no rust and had 132,000 miles on it.  After several phone calls and a generous loan from a friend I flew to New Mexico with a cashiers check for $3750 in my hand. I met the owner the airport in Albuquerque after spending a day in airports with short trips in the air at 3pm.  I drove the car to a nearby restaurant and took a look over the car.  It was a relatively stock car with the rear muffler removed for a bit more power and noise.  The interior was in good shape with no damage.  So we made the deal and I headed on my way back home to Washington State.

This being my first turbo car I did do some reading up on it.  I knew to let the car idle after driving hard for a period of time and to not stand on the gas until the car warmed up.  I had heard term turbo lag but never experienced it before.  About 3 minutes into driving the car to the freeway in Albuquerque I pulled out in between some cars to get onto the freeway.  Standing on the throttle at 1300 rpm and the car didn’t move to fast.  This whole experience stuck with me because of the large truck I had pulled out in front of that had to slow down because some fruit loop in a Mazda pulled out in front of him.  Thankfully my first run in with turbo lag ended with the car or the driver being unhurt.

The drive back to Washington was un-eventful.  The car was solid as could be and I averaged 24 miles per gallon driving through the night in Arizona and So cal to my first stop to rest.  After a night sleep I drove home the rest of the way and arrived in time for work on Monday morning.

My co-workers were pretty amused at the purchase I made.  I heard “you flew to New Mexico to get that?”  Apparently they did not have a good appreciation for fine automobiles that I did (ha-ha).

Skip ahead 4 years and the car had needs some love.   New turbocharger was installed on the car along with a refreshed cylinder head.  That was too much for the poor bottom end of the motor.  At 187,000 miles the piston rings had enough and I looked like the car James Bond with the smokescreen going full blast behind the car.  So at a crossroads of sorts I found myself wondering where to go with the car.  I had read up and seen the 90-94 323 turbo models from Japan and other markets.  Spending some time looking around I located an engine supplier who had a BPT turbo engine in stock.  After a week I had an engine sitting at home.  It took a few weeks to get the installation sorted out with the changes between the engines but I was back on the road with the BPT running on the B6T hardware.

One thing that was nice was the BPT made a lot more torque than the B6T engine.  It only took a year until the transmission let me know it did not care for the extra torque.  I had to get across the street quickly between the flows of cars in downtown Portland.  Going across the rutted street cost me the transmission.  One of the tires left the ground for a second. When it came down BANG went the planetary assembly.  I limped the car home knowing there probably wasn’t much hope for the transmission at that point.  I decided then to use the transmission that arrived with the BPT engine.

The story does continue from here and you can read all about it in Part 2.