Retro Race Looks, Three-Rotor Power: A Heroic RX-3

Retro Race Looks, Three-Rotor Power: A Heroic RX-3

Written By: Larry Chen

July 09, 2018

Mazda. Rotary. Beloved. Groundbreaking. With a mere utterance those words conjure up visions of the RX-7, which began production in 1978 and would continue through 2002 in its home market of Japan.

And while the first-generation RX-7 was indeed an important car for Mazda, the SA22C RX-7 was actually a reimagined version of the Mazda Savanna, better known as the RX-3 in export markets.

Soon after its debut in 1971, the RX-3 and its rotary engine quickly made a name for itself, particularly in Japan's touring car competitions, where it did battle with the legendary Hakosuka Skyline GT-R and was the very machine that stopped the GT-R's win streak from hitting 50.

And it’s from those historic Savanna race cars that Brett Stebel's 1974 RX-3 gets much of its inspiration - on the outside at least. And as much as we dig the fat fender flares and vintage livery, those cues are merely the beginning.

All it takes is one look under the hood of the RX-3 to understand Brett's devotion to the rotary engine. Far from factory spec, the car is now powered by the radical triple-rotor Mazda 20B engine. You won't find any turbochargers either. The wiring and whole assembly of the car was done by the rotary heads over at DNA Garage where it is also maintained. The naturally aspirated 20B braaaps up to 390-wheel horsepower and 350 pound feet of torque on pump gas.

Such numbers are all the more impressive when you consider the car weighs just over 2,000 pounds. This kind of power to weight ratio is the stuff most performance cars can only dream of. Aside from the radical engine setup, Brett's old school Mazda has plenty of other upgrades to bring its performance to the modern era. The gearbox is from a turbo RX-7 and the rear end is a stout Ford 8.8 with an Eaton LSD.

The suspension features a custom three-link setup in place of the factory rear leaf springs and the brakes have also been beefed up using more RX-7 stuff from the parts bin. It's all finished off by a cabin that features a pleasing mix of retro and modern bits, with vintage style bucket seats contrasting the modern Racepak dash and of course a custom roll cage to tie everything together both literally and figuratively.

Owner/Driver: Brett Stebel @brettstebel

Car: 1974 Mazda RX-3 Coupe

Engine/Powertrain: 20B three-rotor built by Lucky 7 Racing, S5 NA lightened rotors, balanced and side-clearanced, Semi P-Ports, Defined Autoworks individual throttle bodies, Mazda Race dry sump system, custom header and exhaust

Transmission: S5 Turbo II transmission, custom aluminum driveshaft, Exedy carbon clutch and flywheel, Ford 8.8 rear end with Eaton LSD, 4.10 gears

Exterior: Fiberglass front and rear spoilers, fiberglass trunk and fender flares from New Zealand, Australian market Savanna taillights, custom livery with Lotus Exige British Racing Green and Saffron Yellow

Interior: Autopower full roll cage installed by RAD Industries, Racepak dash, Nardi steering wheel, vintage style bucket seats, Crow racing harnesses

Electronics: Haltech 2500 ECU

Wheels/Tires: Eight-spoke 15x9 wheels, Nexen tires

Suspension/Brakes: Custom three-link setup with leaf spring delete and panhard rod, T3 adjustable suspension, RX-7 brake upgrade with discs all around

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