If you’re at all enthusiastic about rotary-powered Mazdas, and in particular FD RX-7s, then odds are you’ve heard about Phil Sohn. That’s because Phil is actually a prominent figure on the American rotary scene, both as the organizer of the favorite annual rotary gathering, the Deals Gap Rotary Rally, and as one of the founders of rotarycarclub.com. Plus, Phil’s famous Montego Blue FD made the cover on this illustrious magazine many years ago, together with his ultra-rare ’91 Mazda Eunos Cosmo.
Just to give you a sense of the depth of Phil’s rotary obsession, he’s owned 15 rotary-powered Mazdas, including 10 FDs, an RX-8, an FC convertible (his first rotary purchase, back in ’99), a ’72 RX-2, plus a ’73 RX-3. Come to come up with it, the RX-3, which he sold to some friend in the rotary community last year, is going to be featured in sister mag Super Street. And although Phil says the RX-7 the thing is here is his last FD build, he does have a silver one getting a complete makeover with rare Mazda and Mazdaspeed parts, that can no doubt be feature-worthy as wellcreated to be his ultimate expression of rotary passion and FD RX-7 styling, Phil recruited the complete best talent in his home state of Alabama, including Goolsby Customs and MPFab. As Phil told us, “I first heard of Jonathan Goolsby and Goolsby Customs back in early 2000. He was well known in Alabama for his unique custom-built cars and his painting skills. I pitched my 20B FD build to Jonathan in 2009 and again at the ’10 SEMA Show. My goal was to make sure the auto would have superior to OEM fit and finish, unlike many of the kitted cars I’ve seen at shows, which often have huge panel gaps etc. After chatting with sponsor Disc Brakes Australia at the ’11 SEMA Show, I landed a spot within their booth for 2012, and at the same time Goolsby won the coveted Best GM Resto-Mod award. With Jonathan winning the GM award, I found myself concerned he may not carry out my project, but he still agreed to take it on the day after getting home from his big SEMA win. Thus I picked up a red FD shell in New Orleans with my buddy John Lewis.”
Phil’s actually been planning this build for quite a long time, having bought the 20B three-rotor engine for doing it back in 2004 when he first met his wife. “Actually, on our second or third date, I asked her to drive with me to meet my engine builder, Luis Canizales, to see the three-rotor for the first time, since his friend had picked it up for meIntegrated Bama
Talking about Luis Canizales, Phil is really as picky a rotorhead while there is on this planet, so for him to say that Luis is probably the best rotary engine builders in the business, you realize the guy need to have a wealth of experience and a serious passion for spinning triangles. In fact, Luis is building rotaries for more than four decades and has even built their own lapping table to true up the sealing surface of the iron sections, plus he cranks over every motor he builds on a custom engine stand he built, just to be sure each freshly assembled rotary is making good compression.
It’s based on a late-model D-series 20B away from a low-mileage Mazda Eunos Cosmo, and Luis equipped it with fresh OE internals, gave it a mild street port, and balanced the rotating assembly to ensure high-rpm happiness. The engine and rolling chassis were then delivered to Walker Morgan at MPFab for installation. “Walker did the fabrication work with the turbo setup and is also one of the smartest people I’ve met, as outlined by Phil. His fabrication skills and his capability to solve space-oriented issues really impressed me. Walker was the one who put together the bottom-mount turbo setup, and by doing so he solved several problems plus created something which no one did before with a, even though it doesn’t take a genius to appreciate the quality of Walker’s work His custom V-mount intercooler setup using a Bell intercooler core is beautiful enough to hold in a modern art gallery, the sheetmetal work and robot-shaming welds combining to offer lesser fabricators and art lovers alike a significant case of TIG envy. And it is really utterly brilliant the way Walker designed the 321SS bottom-mount manifold to help you see the big Turbonetics GT-K turbocharger peeking out with the main air inlet around the RE-Amemiya N1-02 front bumper, surrounded by custom sheetmetal work and mounting brackets that are best identified as metal porn.
Once Walker had completed the custom fab work, the car was torn to a bare shell and delivered to Jonathan at Goolsby Customs to have an equally impressive body and paint transformation. Goolsby customized it by darkening it just a bit, although phil opted for Mercedes-Benz AMG Imola Grey Metallic paint provided by BASF. But before he could work his magic with the spray gun, Jonathan had to first fine-tune the fitment of the RE-Amemiya and Fujita Engineering (FEED) exterior parts for the beyond-perfect aesthetic expected of any SEMA build. The end result is nothing short of spectacular, the gray and black (and carbon) theme giving this 20-year-old Japanese sports vehicle the look of a modern dayPhil’s the sort of guy to give all the credit to his sponsors and build partners, but a lot of the focus to detail you can see throughout his FD are definitely the direct reaction to Phil’s own creativity, in addition to his ownsweat and blood, and tears. He hand-filed the casting marks off the exterior of the 3-rotor intake manifold, for example, before painting it and then filing the paint off the lettering for a machined look. He did an equally detailed paintjob around the transmission and engine, plus he removed, rebushed and sandblasted, and painted every suspension arm around the car, in addition to stripping out any unnecessary wiring, deleting the HVAC system, and simplifying the AC panel and shifter panel, each of which were painted in a satin finish by Goolsby.
Over a build that includes a ton of extremely desirable and very rare JDM goodies, the unicorn item for you JDM snobs out there has to be the “we’ve never seen one before, we didn’t know it even existed” Defi Super Sport gauge cluster. As Phil told us, “A Japanese rotorhead friend in Kentucky helped me out by translating the wiring diagram for the cluster-thanks, Yuki Sawai! This item has never been sold in the us, and I think an overall of about 400 were made. I believe I had been the first in the united states to acquire one, though I truly do know of a 240SX, a Supra, as well as a Veilside-kitted FD that have since installed one.”
Built in Alabama by some of the finest craftsmen within the South and featuring merely the finest and the majority of sought-after aftermarket parts, Phil Sohn’s last RX-7 build has to be among the finest all-around FDs on the planet. And just like the Barber Motorsports Park backdrop suggests (a location Phil chose because it’s among the finest motorsports venues in the nation and is actually a source of Bama pride), this isn’t simply a SEMA show car. Phil has every intention of driving his boosted 20B beast on the streets and at the racetrack, beginning with the ’14 Deals Gap Rotary Rally.
If you want to see this superstar FD up close and personal, sign up for DGRR so you can chase Phil as well as other amazing brap-brap machines on the Tail from the Dragon.Integrated Bama
1993 mazda rx 7 turbonetics GT K 1050 turbo
1993 mazda rx 7 tial wastegate
1993 mazda rx 7 ganador titanium exhaust
Specs & Details
1993 Mazda RX-7
Engine 2.0L 20B-REW three-rotor
Engine Modifications Shaved bay with satin finish paint by Goolsby Customs, Define Autowork three-rotor engine mounts, Mazdaspeed powerplant frame, complete engine refresh, mild port, and balancing by Luis Canizales; MPFab custom 321SS bottom-mount turbo manifold, custom downpipe, custom V-mount intercooler setup with Bell Intercooler cores and alternator relocation; Mazmart upgraded billet water pump, prototype Xcessive Engineering three-rotor LIM and fuel rails; Injector Dynamics 1000cc injectors, AEM ignition coils, Setrab oil coolers with Mocal thermostat, Tial MVR wastegate and BOV; Turbonetics GT-K 1050 billet wheel turbocharger, Ludwig Motorsport mil-spec engine wiring and engine accessory harnesses; CJ Motorsport fuel pump kit, Radium Auto multi-pump surge tank (2x Walbro E85 pumps), Denso Cosmo in-tank fuel pump, Ganador Titanium cat-back exhaust
Engine Management Haltech PS2000
Drivetrain Exedy Twin carbon clutch kit, carbon-fiber driveshaft
Wheels, Tires & Brakes Rays Engineering Volk TE37SL Black Edition 18×9.5’’ (f) and 18×10.5 (r) wheels and Duralumin lug nuts; Toyo Proxes R888 255/35R18 (f) and 295/30R18 (r) tires, DBA 332mm rotors with custom hats by E&J Auto, Alcon 4-piston calipers (f), RZ calipers (r), Chase Bays manual brake kit with prop valve
Suspension Stance USA Pro III coilovers, Tri-point Engineering adjustable sway bar (f), Widefoot Engineering solid sway bar mounts, Racing Beat sway bar (r), FEED fender braces, Nagisa strut tower to firewall brace, Powerflex bushings, AutoExe underbody bracing, Raceshop rollbar/rear strut tower transmission, bracing and diff brace, AtomicRex manual steering rack
Exterior BASF Glasurit paint in AMG Imola Grey Metallic, paint and body work by Goolsby Customs, RE-Amemiya N1-02 front bumper, N1 carbon undertray, N1 carbon canards, N1 carbon hood, carbon fender mirrors, and carbon diffuser; FEED front fenders, rear fender flares, carbon side skirts, and carbon GT-IIR rear wing; ShineAuto rear carbon lip spoiler, FAL rear hatch window, new front windshield, trim, and door seals; custom vented signal lights, R-Magic HID headlights, custom converted taillights
Interior Defi Super Sport gauge cluster, Bride Exas III seats (f) and fabric-covered JDM seats (r); Raceshop rollbar, Takata Drift III harnesses, Prosport Premium gauges, FEED shift knob and doorsills; Works Bell short hub, QR, and lock; Personal steering wheel, interior conversion from Tan to Black, simplified AC and shifter panel with satin paint by Goolsby Customs
Sponsors Disc Brakes Australia, Exedy Clutch USA, Toyo Tires, Turbonetics Inc., Bell Intercoolers, Xcessive Engineering, Takata, BASF, Carbonetics and Powerflex Tial USA, Stance USA, Assaultech, Full Function Engineering, Ludwig Motorsports, Rays Engineering
Special Thanks My partner for allowing me to pursue this crazy hobby, the Bham area rotary crew for his or her help with this build, Chris Ludwig for amazing wire harnesses and ECU support, Jay Sheah from Evo-R, the crew at Barber Vintage Museum and Mr. Barber for allowing us to shoot at Barber Motorsport Park, and John Lewis, my longtime friend and a fellow rotorhead who helped me transport the vehicle all the way from New Orleans to Birmingham, to Vegas, and to Birmingham.