And if you're thinking that it seems like a long time since I sold the 964, well you're right! It was October 2013, and what happened between then and now is a bit of a story. But I figure you guys like stories, so he we go...
An FD has always been on the bucket list, so after the 964 was unexpectedly sold, I asked my friend Kristian from http://www.ironchefimports.com/site/ to find me an RX-7. In terms of which models would be complied, Mazda Australia sold FDs here in very tiny numbers up until mid 1999. So any FD from late 99 onwards is fair game, which is good because it means that we're looking for a Series-8, which is the last of the line and the most developed.
I gave Kristian my specifications, which was to say: Type RS, RZ or Spirit R in grade 4.5 or better, totally stock in white and with under 40,000ks. So for the next few months (which is a hint as to how long it took), every week Kristian would email me a selection of cars that might interest me. Wednesday would be the best day of the week, because that was when all the cars from the big Tokyo auctions on Thursday would be released onto the net.
Roughly 50 FDs would hit the auctions every week, but of those only 10 or so would be 2000-2002 models. And of *those*...they would mostly be 70-80,000km examples, and so most of the time the car we were looking for remained elusive.
Then after a few weeks of searching, what seemed to be THE car popped up.
It was a 2001 Type RZ, with 19,000km on the clock and Grade 4A. First...a note about the auction grading. The top rating is 6, but it seems that even the most perfect used car can only muster up a rating of 5. 3.5 is "average" for the age and is starting to be scruffy, so a Grade 4 is nice and possibly quite mint, but the question is whether it's closer to a 4.5 or a 3.5...and the "A" rating is for the interior condition, which is a good sign as the RZ has fixed back seats which tend to wear heavily on the sides.
So what's a Type RZ? Well, rather surprisingly the FD model range was unfeasibly huge:
Type RB: 265ps, one oil cooler, small brakes & 16in wheels
Type RB-S: luxury version with rear wing and nicer interior
Type R: 280ps, twin oil cooler, still small brakes and 16in wheels
Type R Bathurst: ...with added coilovers
Type R Bathurst R: ...and now some rice in the form of a Mazdaspeed interior carbon-look trim kit
Type RS: bigger brakes, 17in wheels, fixed Bilstein suspension, lower 4.3 (vs 4.1) diff, and closer stacked 5spd ratios.
Type RZ: RS but 2str only, 17in BBS, carbon hardshell seats, harder/lower version of Bilstein suspension
Spirit R: RZ (but some have recliners and 4str) with various cosmetic embellishments.
The range opened at Y2.9mil for the base model and screamed up to Y3.9mil for the Spirit R. The most popular models seem to be the Type R, which makes sense as it's just as powerful as the RS/RZ/R but was $5k cheaper. So...Type RZ? Good thing. Only 250 made, which makes it a nice and rare special edition.
Kristian's guy in Tokyo checked the car over and gave it the thumbs up, and I gave instructions to Kristian to bid on it for me....sadly the auction went quite bananas and the hammer finally fell at a point $10,000 north of my maximum budget. All of the old Japanese supercars from the late 90s are fetching crazy prices in collectible-spec, so this was to set the tone for the next few months.
A few more weeks would pass, and we're now deep into November 2013. Nothing promising popped up until this one came along:
A Type R Bathurst R, in sunburst yellow and Grade 4A with 27,000kms on the clock, and one owner with books.
The auction sheet was promising, only noting a ding on the fender and door and nothing else. It obviously had aftermarket wheels (looks great on Regas) and an exhaust, but the kms were low and I was happy to proceed.
However, when it was inspected in the flesh, it didn't pass muster and was scruffier than the auction sheet suggested. While the auction sheets for each car are a good thing, at the end of the day, these auction houses do 15,000 cars a week, and so sometimes you need a physical inspection before you buy. The auction inspectors tend to grade a car pretty mathematically based on how many imperfections they find, but it seems that sometimes an undinged car that is generally quite scruffy overall can get a higher rating than it deserves. So we throw this one back into the pond and move on.
A shame though...it looked damn good in the photos! And the sunburst yellow is a rare colour, only available in the limited edition Bathurst R.
The following week, there was still nothing promising. Except for this white Spirit R, which inexplicably had been popping up on the auctions feeds since I started the search. Kristian has been pretty lukewarm about it whenever I brought it up, so I never pressed him on it.
But since we hadn't had any luck for a while, I figured it didn't hurt to ask...
Like the yellow one, this one had a zorst, which I didn't want. But it was a Grade 4B with 48,000km on the clock.
The auction sheet was pretty clean, with a few minor dings here and there, and a weird couple of XX's which suggested that the bonnet was replaced at some point.
We didn't get much further than that though. Kristian made some enquiries and it turns out that the car's been going through the auctions every week since July. We thought about making an offer, but the reason it was unsold was that it had a sky-high reserve price. Good FDs get snapped up straight away, but this car's been on sale since forever...and as of last week, it's still doing the rounds today.
And then in early December...came the heartbreaker.
A grade 4A, one owner with books...Type R...with five thousand kms on the clock.
Stock as a rock, with the peashooter exhaust and all.
It was inspected, and I received enthusiastic reports about how it even still has a new car smell.
Did we bid on it? Fuck yes we did. I even raised my budget by $5k just to get it. I figured that I could drive it for three years and it would still have less than 30,000km on it. And while black is my least favourite FD colour...I didn't think we could pass up on this one. So I told Kristian to go for it, and patiently waited next to my phone for a few hours.
But sadly...the auction went totally crazy, and the hammer fell at Y3.3mil. Yes, that's right, a 12yr old FD sold for exactly what it cost new in 2001.
So we wait some more, and weeks pass by with nothing on the horizon (yes I know there is a Type RS with 52k below...but this was the same week we bid on the bleck one)
Some cars which we passed up on came around again...
It is interesting though...that most of the FDs on sale here in Australia seem to have very low kms, but in 3mths of searching through hundreds of cars in Japan, only three cars with low mileage appeared on the radar. Do the math huh
By the time, it was the week of Christmas and I knew that Japan shuts down for a little while until January, so I'd pretty much written off my chances of finding a car in 2013. But then...there it was!
It has 18in Gram Lights wheels (which I wasn't that keen on)...but it was mechanically stock.
The auction sheet noted some dings on each door, but when the car was inspected, they were so faint that Kristian's guy Troy couldn't even see them (and I can't spot them today either). Super-clean 44,000km example in a Grade 4.5, so the highest-graded car that we'd bid upon to date.
The car was listed as a Type R Bathurst R, although its chassis number and build plate suggested that it's actually just a regular Type R Bathurst. But, it definitely has the Mazdaspeed carbon interior kit (someone had nicked the Mazdaspeed gearknob though) so it might as well have been one.
So we bid...and got it! Rather shockingly, it went for $4000 under my budget too. I suppose that 44,000kms might be too high to be considered collector-spec, and at 650 units made, the Bathurst R can hardly be considered a rare edition. But hey...I owned an FD!
A few days later, I was invoiced, and paid the Japanese ex-auction price. And while we waited, I discovered a service called http://www.japaneseodometercheck.sto.my/ which allowed you to get confirmation of the car's mileage from the Japanese rego office.
About a week later, I received this. The noted mileage was 39,200km in December 2010 (these are Japanese-format dates) and 41,000km in March 2013. So the 44,000km odometer reading would seem to check out.
Also interestingly, the rego certificate shows the address of the last owner, which I stalked on Google maps to the bucolic end of Chiba. So she's been a Tokyo car (sorta).
Then it was an interminable wait until mid January, when the FD boarded a car carrier headed for Sydney, where it would be unloaded at Port Kembla docks on the 31st Jan. Surprisingly, it didn't take long to clear the wharf process, and then I got billed for the shipping, duty/GST and wharfage costs.
Todd and Adam at JLM were kind enough to let me visit, and didn't seem to mind when I got down on my knees and began to lick the fenders.
Holding my breath, I turned the key, and she burst into life smoothly. Phew.
I needn't have worried, and the FD was all that it was promised to be, and bloody mint A promising find was the service sticker, which suggested that it had some sort of major service in August 2013 at Sanai-Works which is a rotary specialist in Chiba (which makes sense, since the previous owner lived close by)
And that...was that. In mid-Feb it seemed like the car was all ready to go, but we still had a long wait before the Dotars paperwork from Canberra was done, and the compliance plate issued. So we waited...I was a bit surprised though, because when I imported the Hako in 2007, I recall that there was only a 3wk turnaround on getting the DOTARs paperwork. But today, it's ballooned out to 3mths. I believe that DOTARs only has three guys processing these import applications, so I guess they must have either cut back on their resourcing, or there are lots more cars being brought in now.
Anyhow. It was a 4wk wait.
But the day did finally come, and last Thursday I went to JLM to pick up the paperwork (DOTARS import approval, blue slip and Japanese purchase invoice for the car) and made my way to the nearest RMS.
Now. Don't. Get. Me. Started. On the RMS. Let's just say that three hours and three visits to 2 different RMS offices later...I had my rego slip and number plates. I paid JLM the $2600 for the compliance costs, screwed on the number plates and....just drove home.
Where the OCD can begin First, I hit the car with the snow foam lance, and a nice thick coating of Concours wash. The idea is that the foam stays on the paint for 10-15mins, softening all the dirt. In fact, a lot of the dirt just slides off the car along with the foam. Then rinse with a bucket of clean water, and a wash mitt.
At this point, it's pretty clean and shiny. Unexpectedly for a car that's been sitting outside a lot of the time since December, the paint is in great shape and isn't very gritty at all. I think the previous owner went to some lengths to keep it in good order.
Next step is this stuff, Iron-X.
You spritz it on all over the car, and immediately a reaction starts, it begins to really stink and lots of little nibs and particles on the paint turn purple. These are iron filings and deposits from industrial fallout, trains and what have you.
The Iron-X loosens it all nicely and then you rinse with the Karcher and snow-wash it again to get all the purple stuff off.
This is my clay bar after doing the roof. The Iron-X is pretty good stuff, it seems to do half the job of the clay bar and so there isn't much left for the clay bar to pick up.
At this point, the paint is nice and silky, and I'm pretty happy with the surface prep.
For the polish, I like this stuff.
Which I apply with a medium/"kompressor" pad
This step gets the swirls out. I reckon in hindsight I could probably have gone this step a few more times, but the paint wasn't that swirly to begin with, and it's okay for now.
Then lock in the polish with Menzerna polymer sealant.
And at this stage, it's "polished" and the paint is nice and smooth to the touch.
The final step, is a coat of wax to make it reflective, and I use this stuff.
It's just a final wax to make it more shiny.
I think...against some flouro lights, I reckon I could have gone a bit harder on swirl removal, but this will do for now.
And I have to say that I was getting used to the Gram Lights rims too.
You can tell in the auction pics that somewhere along the way, the Mazdaspeed gearknob that's meant to be standard fitment with the carbon-look interior has gone missing. I guess it's an easy $100 on Yahoo Auctions for anyone along the way who has the opportunity to pinch it. It's been NLA for many years, but my go-to guy for rare Mazda stuff is https://www.facebook.com/jdmpartsrupewrecht and yes he had one in stock
And er...while he was at it, I asked him to throw in some Mazdaspeed MS01S wheels into the shopping cart too. These are the period-correct Mazdaspeed wheel option for Series 8.
The Gram Lights are 18x8.0 and 18x9.0 but these are also made by RAYS, are 17x8.5 and 17x9.5 and are forged rather than cast. They're noticeably lighter when you pick one up.
I also wasn't a big fan of the colour-coded front spoiler, so I ordered a new one from Mazda Australia, which actually had them in stock.
Much better! And about 10mins after I removed it from the car, someone on the FDRX7 forum bought the old white one.
The other NOS part was the rear badge, which was missing some elements (it's easy to catch a wash mitt on them and tear it off)
This had to come from Japan tho.
Then I redrilled the front number plate to make it sit higher...and I think it looks a million times better than last Thursday when I picked it up