Forget David Blaine and Dynamo, Jonny Grunwald’s tuned RX-7 FD needs no cheap tricks or illusions to blow people’s minds, as the rare TCP-Magic kit and 700bhp engine do the job just fine…
Feature from Fast Car. Words: Dan Sherwood. Photos: Dave Cox.
Like the modified car scene, magic is always evolving. From the days of top hat wearing conjurers using their white-tipped wands to materialise scantily-clad women from seemingly empty boxes – or white tigers to sink their teeth into their partner’s neck – over the years magic has changed into something very different. The likes of US-based illusionist David Blaine, or the UK’s very own magic man Dynamo, have taken the art of magic to a place that doesn’t revolve around smoke and mirrors or elaborate stage shows, they’ve taken it back to wowing people close-up, with new and incredible tricks that take inspiration from the legendary magicians of the past, yet place a whole new twist on them. And modifying also continues to evolve. Trends come and go, but the true icons remain, just with a little modern twist, as US-based rotary fan Jonny Grunwald’s tuned RX-7 FD proves.
“I’ve always liked to do things differently,” says the Long Beach-based entrepreneur.
“The fact that the rotary powerplant wasn’t your typical engine, and even that the RX-7 wasn’t your typical car, was what appealed to me in the first place. At the time, I was only just getting into the Japanese tuning scene, and Evos and STIs were the most popular cars out there. But as usual, I wanted to be different from everybody else.”
And Jonny’s unique approach to life has also extended to the way he has tuned his car.
“When it comes to cars, I’ve never been one to worry about following the latest trends or the current Internet hype,” Jonny shrugs. “I built my car the way I wanted it to be, not to appeal to social media.”
Yet, even though he has shunned the fashion for bolt-on arches and over-wide wheels and tyre setups, his mighty Mazda is undoubtedly a neck-snapping head-turner.
“I drew inspiration from the iconic tuning houses of Japan,” Jonny explains. “The way the best Japanese cars are dripping in rare, high-quality brands that are hard to find is what excites me. My experience from visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon motivated me not to cut corners, but push the limits of my car as far as possible. They build complete cars, meaning every aspect of the car is modified or tuned. I wanted to do something similar with the RX-7 and build it in a way that would make even Japan’s top tuners proud.”
And just casting an eye over Jonny’s stunning tuned RX-7 FD, exquisitely-wrapped in 3M Satin Perfect Blue vinyl wrap, it’s clear to see that he’s achieved his goal. From the flawless installation of the rare TCP Magic carbon-fibre wide-body conversion to the purposeful function-over-form fitment of the equally exotic 18in Volk Racing VR21C wheels, this car screams quality, and it’s far from just skin-deep.
“There’s a trend for FD owners to swap out the 13B engine for a 2JZ or LS V8,” Jonny says, “but I was keen to retain the rotary powerplant. I know they have a reputation for being unreliable – in fact I’ve gone through three engines already with this car and am now on my fourth – but I just love them. The response you get and the way they rev to 8,000rpm, the sound and feel are unique and it just calls to me. If your engine is ported and built properly, like this one is, they can rev all the way up to 10,000rpm!”
Jonny’s screaming 13B has been treated to a Lucky 7 Racing half bridge-port with E&J 2mm apex seals along with a GReddy V-mount intercooler and radiator setup to maximise cooling. Custom pipework to and from the intercooler made from carbon-fibre is a neat touch that not only looks cool, but also keeps the intake charge cool too, due to carbon-fibre’s innate heat shielding properties.
Supplying the heady air and fuel mix to the wankel-engine’s chambers is a Turblown 9180 EFR turbocharger and huge 2200cc Injector Dynamics primary and secondary injectors, these combine with a 4in HKS Racing titanium exhaust to produce an immense 700bhp of tyre-torturing twist.
“The way it pulls when the turbo comes on boost is insane!” Jonny grins. “And the sound it makes when you hold each gear until the 10,000rpm redline is truly addictive. Luckily, I’ve uprated the car’s transmission to cope with the extra power.”
Transmitting the mammoth power to the rear Toyo R888 tyres is a Spec Mini twin-plate carbon clutch and lightweight aluminum flywheel. This then forwards the grunt on to a KAAZ Super Q 1.5-way limited-slip differential with 4.44 final drive ratio, which gives Jonny excellent grip levels when he wants it, and effortless tyre-shredding capabilities when he doesn’t.
True to his word of leaving no area untouched, Jonny has also uprated the RX-7’s suspension and braking capabilities in line with the prodigious power output.
“There is a set of Stance three-way coilovers with external reservoirs under the wide arches,” Jonny points out. “They are custom valved and matched to a set of Swift springs to achieve the best handling.”
The car’s braking system has also been treated to the best components that money can buy with a bespoke setup by Brembo Racing Division.
“Brembo factored-in the car’s specific downforce figures, aero numbers, and power-to-weight ratios to build a brake kit that is exactly tailored to the RX-7,” Jonny explains. “The kit they came up with features huge 355mm advanced high-carbon alloy endurance racing discs with four-piston monoblock calipers. Needless to say the stopping power is incredible, yet perfectly balanced.”
And this mix of exotic high-end parts working in perfect harmony to produce a well-rounded result continues in the car’s cockpit too, with lightweight carbon-fibre and luxurious alcantara combining to create a true supercar feel.
“The carbon parts in the interior are there to complement the carbon-fibre bodykit,” Jonny highlights. “Some were custom made, like the rear seat delete panel, while others are off the shelf, like the doors skins from Evo-R Motorsports. Being cocooned in carbon, while sitting in the luxury alcantara-trimmed Recaro Profi SPG bucket seats really gives you the feeling of being in something high-end like a Pagani or McLaren.”
But there is one piece of the interior puzzle that Jonny reveres over all the rest, and that’s the Personal racing steering wheel with its blue hand-grips.
“It’s actually a Top Secret steering wheel from tuning legend Smokey Nagata,” laughs Jonny. “It has a great history behind it and has been in the hands of a true JDM icon, so I feel like it is well worthy of a place on my car too.”
Looking over Jonny’s mind-blowing tuned RX-7 FD, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s owned a string of high performance builds before, but in reality, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
“This is the first car I ever owned,” Jonny admits with a smile. “It’s my baby. You could offer me a million dollars for it and I wouldn’t sell it. It’s been through so much with me over the years.”
So, if this is the first car he ever owned, how on earth did Jonny get the skills and knowledge to build such a masterful machine?
“I used to work as a project manager for Los Angeles-based tuning firm Bulletproof Automotive.” Jonny explains. “My first project for the company was the ‘Concept One’ Scion FR-S, (Toyota GT86) in 2014, which traveled across the world to Japan. I then managed every car build from the Concept One until SEMA 2015. Everything from engine specifications to interior, exterior, disassembling the cars, and putting them back together was under my spectrum of responsibilities. It was a great experience being with the company and I was exposed to all the high-end brands that I have grown to admire and respect today.”
Jonny may have acquired his tuning nouse and a bulging contacts book from his time at Bulletproof, but even after leaving the company, his passion for Japanese cars is still just as strong.
“It’s been amazing seeing the scene evolve over the years,” he enthuses. “From when I first got into it 15-20-years ago, when it was all neon lights and Hot Import Nights, to more recent times where the focus has shifted to more extreme engine builds with cars making well into four figures – it’s really insane!”
So whether it’s the current trends doing the rounds on social media, or the exploits of Japan’s top tuners, the key to building a ground-breaking ride is to not simply follow the herd, but to use whatever inspires you to forge your own path to greatness. And that’s exactly what Jonny has done with his tuned RX-7 FD. By building a complete machine and focusing on the details, he needs no smoke and mirrors to gain a reputation as one of the best in the business, as his car does the trick for him.
Tech Spec: Tuned RX-7 FD
Lucky 7 Racing half bridge-port 13B-REW engine with E&J 2mm Apex seals, GReddy V-mount intercooler, V-mount radiator, 19-row dual oil cooler system, custom carbon GReddy compression elbow, custom carbon-fibre intercooler piping, Synapse Engineering blow-off valve, Turblown 9180 EFR turbo, Turblown cast tapered 347SS twin external wastegate manifold, 2x Turbosmart Comp 40mm Gen V wastegates, AEM IGN-1A smart coils, Turbosmart fuel pressure regulator, oil pressure sensor, MSD Super Conductor HT leads, 3x Walbro 450lph fuel pumps, FueledByAI SP1200 surge tank V2, Full Function Engineering idler pulley, Touge Factory pulley kit, LRB Speed cooling plate, HKS Racing 4in titanium racing exhaust, Rywire Mil-Spec engine harness, IR Performance alternator, Pettit Racing starter boost, FFE fuel rails, Injector Dynamics 2,200cc primary and secondary injectors, Adaptronic Modular FD3S S6 M2000 ECU
5-speed manual gearbox, 1.5-way KAAZ Super Q limited-slip differential, 4.44 final drive ratio, GReddy large capacity differential cover, Spec Mini twin-plate carbon clutch, Spec aluminum flywheel, Pettit Racing stainless clutch line
Stance USA XR3 3-way coilovers with external reservoirs, custom valving and custom Swift springs, Racing Beat front and rear anti-roll bars, Carbing front and rear strut bars, custom front camber arms, rear toe arms, rear lateral links, endlinks, Super Pro Diff bushings
Brembo Racing Division XA5T0 four-piston monoblock big brake kit with 355mm advanced high carbon alloy Type V endurance racing rotors, stainless lines, Hawk HP+ rear pads
Wheels & Tyres:
10.5x18in bronze Volk Racing VR21C wheels with 295/30/18 Toyo R888R tyres, Thunderbolt Titanium wheel nuts
TCP Magic Type TT CF kit consisting G-Face front bumper, TT carbon front splitter, front canards, arches, front arch diffusers, side skirts, side step canards, side step diffuser, Craftsquare carbon-fibre mirrors; TCP Magic vented bonnet, Evo-R Demon-i headlights, Car Shop Glow ’99-spec LED combo lights, Battle Aero V3 chassis mount, 1880mm Carbon GT Wing, 3M Satin Perfect Blue vinyl wrap
Top Secret Personal steering wheel, NRG quick release hub, Recaro Profi SPG upholstered in black alcantara with white diamond stitching, Nagisa Auto Low seat rails, Defi Red Racer boost, water, oil temp, EGT gauges, Innovate MTX-L wideband air/fuel gauge, Tommy Kaira Rowen heavy shift knob, B&M short shifter, Evo-R carbon door panels, carbon-fibre HVAC delete panel, shifter console panel, custom carbon interior components, Kirk Racing four-point roll bar painted in Pearl White, Takata Race four-point harnesses, Boss 900B Bluetooth slim amplifier, Odyssey PC925 battery