It’s an interesting pub question – do you know what ever happened to the first car you ever bought (not the first car you ever owned if you ended up with a hand me down)? My first ever car I owned was a 1989 Ford Laser, but the first car I ever shelled out my hard earned for was also from 1989 – A series 5 Mazda Rx7 turbo imported from Japan. And until recently I thought it had ended up as a pile or rotary parts in the back of someone’s backyard…
FIRSTLY SOME HISTORY
Back when I had much more hair and wasn’t even beginning to contemplate the ins and outs of home ownership, I had a hankering for something for more interesting than the grandma spec Morrcan Beige beast that was my Ford Laser. After attempting to secure some finance for a 180SX (the finance company didn’t think that was a good idea and said no) my heart turned to the FC3S, esspecially the Series five which a) I could possibly get a loan for and b) still looked great for a car that came out when I was just 9 years old.
I wanted one so badly I could practically taste it.
Originally I’d found a brilliant example in a town I used to work in – and it looked glorious. Resprayed bright red with KYB shocks and shiny 18’s, it was absolutely gorgeous and the price was right so I planned to buy it. The trouble was, the owner proceeded over the next few weeks to look more and more suspicious. Especially when his brother called me one day and asked if I could pay his dad instead as he was the one who paid for it originally and his brother was highly unlikely to hand that money over if I paid him. The rational part of my head took over and ended the deal there which was very fortunate – it ended up with a stuck seal three weeks later and then stolen the week after that. I could only imagine the nightmare I would’ve endured if I kept going with it.
Roughly a year or so later and I had moved jobs and towns and still had the bug of wanting to own one, no matter what. So I found one an hour away, took my reluctant girlfriend at the time to check it out and proceeded to somehow switch my brain off on the ride over. I say this because it was pretty rough – when you looked at it, some paint would flake off (a problem many owners of UC color coded cars from 1989 seemed to have). If you breathed on it, paint would fly off. Fart, cough, wheeze, whatever and you’d expose more of the factory primary. Yet I somehow still wanted it. There were worn belts that squealed like crazy and the strut tops grinded on corners…yet I stupidly agreed to buy it, paying too much because my heart overruled my head. Oh dear. (We’ve all been there..)
To his credit the owner did change the factory exhaust to a higher flowing one with a Rotaflo muffler on the end as well as throw in the factory blow off valve that compliance had removed for a reason that still escapes me to this day. And the finance company didn’t have any problems whatsoever supplying me with the funds so I picked it up late one night and proceeded to limp it back an hour home for the first of many Rotary related adventures..
But still, the girlfriend at the time really should have sat me down and told me to think some more..
BACK AT HOME BASE
The first thing I did was send it to a local rotary specialist…where it stayed for a week. I wanted them to reinstall the blow off valve and give it a go over but after the first day they found enough to headbutt my bank account severely. It was down on power which turned out to be a failed coil pack. The pulleys were all loose and the belts were shot not to mention that a few belts were setup incorrectly and one of the four plugs was toast. Luckily after putting everything back into place the compression test showed that the engine was still nice and strong which was handy as I was just about to set the whole project on fire due to frustration. Remember kids, test drive as many examples as possible before you agree to buy – it’ll so you so much heartache in the end.
The roadworthy was next and unsurprisingly there was a few things left to fix – turns out the salted roads in Japan had caused a nasty section of rust in under the car that needed to be cut out and the battery wasn’t clamped down, the terminals were falling to pieces and the testing station preferred one of the fog lights to be installed in the front bar…instead of in the passenger footwell where the previous owner had left it. So there was more cost.
Since insurance wanted a self arming three point immobiliser installed before they’d even begin to insure my grey import, off to the auto electrician it went. This provided a much needed moment of amusement as the installer told me ‘The boss told me never to work on one of these f***ing things ever again as wiring it up took way too long…’
And after all that?
Well it turned out to be brilliant and one of the funnest cars I’ve ever driven. Yes after all that, the first car I ever bought actually turned out to be what I hoped for.
LIFE OF BRAP
Sure it was loud (a fact that the neighbours really loved me for when I was warming it up on weekdays at 5am) and sure it drank like a fish like petrol was going out of style but when it was on song, it was quickish, agile and great fun to take for a spin. So I proceeded to take it everywhere. One morning while on holidays I decided I needed a long drive to clear my head…so I hit the road and drove for 8 hours without a hitch interstate, stayed for a few days and then proceeded to turn around and do it all again with nary a problem. Just the complete random adventure my life needed at the time.
I hit the Great Ocean Road in it (one of Australia’s most picturesque roads) and raced along the cliff tops with the stereo playing tunes as loud as my ears could bare it. I took it to Rotary cruises with fellow enthusiasts and even moved house in it (not recommended considering how little space it has). I took girlfriends travelling in it and daily drove it everywhere. I loved it and most of the time when it behaved, it loved me back.
It wasn’t cheap though – the turbo ate itself and so it got sent off to be rebuilt, rebalanced and high flowed. The ageing Mazdaspeed 4 way coilovers started leaking so some brand new Pedders units took over. And then things started to deteriorate like hard to reach pipes and rubbers. Switches would die and I had to teach myself the art of soldering to resurrect them time and time again. Then the engine started to get tired and prone to flooding if left too long. Most of the time I could unflood it myself with half an hour spare and an extra battery just in case but sometimes I had to call in the experts. Baz the father in law and ex mechanic could help me with basic things but the 13BT was a complete mystery to him (I still remember him wondering what the hell he was looking at the firs time he saw it.) And when a local mechanic who used to race RX2’s and 3’s back in the day delivered the bad news that the compression was really starting to get to the ‘pricey rebuild needed’ stage, I finally bit the bullet and call it a day. I had a growing family, a mortgage and not enough money to keep it in as good as condition as I’d like. So I took it off the road to tidy it up a bit, listed it in a few places and waited for the day when I’d have to hand over the keys…
Figuring it wouldn’t be worth much, I posted it up on a local free classifieds site and hoped for the best. After a couple of weeks, the offers came in – not money, offers to trade my car for another. There was an Audi 80, a 4×4, an R33 Skyline, a first gen Supra and a couple of others. Since I was in the market for a Toyota Soarer, it must have been fate then that dropped a Twin Turbo (even though I wanted a V8 at the time) in as one of the offers. So I got in contact with the guy and over a couple of weeks worked out a trade plan.
The day to check out each other’s cars came and I took the father in law with me to make sure I didn’t miss any mechanical problems. 500 metres from the place we were going to meet up though and suddenly my Mazda died. Right in the middle of the freeway. I started it up again, it proceeded to die again. I had to keep the revs really high and limp it into a servo to make it to the meeting place – I figured the seal had gone and it was all game over – who would want to swap a truly wrecked car?
Thankfully after an hours wait, the local road safety guy rolled up and laughed because we all missed the obvious, a hose had fallen off the air intake. With that back on the RX7 roared back to life and the test drive was on. Aside from a warning on the dash for a bad tail light and an air bubble or two in the power steering setup (turns out it was actually a dying pump but he wasn’t going to tell me that) the Soarer looked great. And even more amazingly after all the dramas in the first hour and it’s pretty rough condition, this guy really wanted the Mazda. So the deal was made, plans were put in place about the swap and we drove home…where the exhaust fell off just metres away from my house.
When the Mazda has a bad day, it really has a bad day.
Luckily I had it and a couple of other things fixed before the handover and late one Tuesday we met up in the same spot, signed the paperwork, handed over the keys and waved goodbye to our previous rides. I’d swapped sports for luxury and one turbo for a set of twins, cloth for leather and ‘Zoom Zoom’ for ‘Oh what a feeling’. Oh and I finally had a car that could fit a baby seat – my son was thrilled 😉
Fast forward to a couple of months and I read the bad news on Facebook over a coffee – the Mazda was racing from the lights when all of a sudden something went BANG deep inside it and it wanted to race no more. Either it was rebuild or part out time and I really believed what was left would be destined for a scrapheap. It’s a sad day when you think the first car you ever bought was no more.
A LETTER CAME IN
Roughly a year after the trade I got a letter from the Registry saying that they needed my signature to finalise the process of disposing the car to someone I’d never heard of. A quick phone call filled in the blanks – the guy I bought it from never actually registered it in his name, somehow pulled a dodgy and now was getting rid of what was left to wash his hands of it. Yep, the first car I bought must have been destined to be pulled apart now to allow other cars to live, surely?
FAST FORWARD TO NOW
While surfing again I came across the same colour, same model Rx7 with the same rims I had (Starcorp Concept 5’s) up for sale in the next state. Then I noticed the vented light cover looked similar to the one I installed and badly painted way back when. Upon further investigation the HKS pod was the same and the exhaust looked thick enough to be a rotaflo. The dash didn’t look like the one I had but I was getting very excited now – either this was my old car, somehow resurrected and painted and living again…or it had benefitted greatly from mine being pulled apart. I couldn’t resist the temptation, I emailed the seller because I was dying to know.
He replied back on Facebook and after a check of parts, time periods and the vin number…(drum roll please…)….it was my car!!
The first car I ever bought is indeed reborn and brapping over 500ks away. Hallelujah, hip hop hooray!
NEW OWNER, NEW DRAMAS
The latest owner bought it from the state I hailed from and explained the kid who sold it had no idea about anything, including previous owners, history or modifications. He still bought it, drove it back and it just made it over the border before the gearbox promptly exploded.
Yeah, my old car never fails to impress does it? 😀
After a gearbox refresh it then spent a bit of time in the local rotary specialists getting the go over once again and the report actually came back positive – the seals were holding strong, the compression was looking good. Either someone had swapped over my aging 13BT along the line or rebuilt it from the inside out. Regardless of this fresh seal mystery, it meant the new owner had an engine that could hopefully run for another 125,000ks and I was happy in the fact that my first car bought was still going strong.
ANOTHER HAPPY OWNER
Of course after all the work involved (the car owes him $11,000 all up apparently) he’s put it up for sale after only a few months of ownership as he’s off to Japan on a scholarship of some sort. God only know where the first car I ever bought will end up but I’m hoping I can do a follow up article in roughly ten years time and find that it’s still alive somewhere and racing strong.
So…do you know where the first car you ever bought is right now?