MotoIQ Project V8 RX-7

SNEAK PEAK:  Project V8 RX-7
By Jeff Naeyaert

Normally we don't do Project "previews" here on MotoIQ, but normally Mike hasn't ground down 1 of his only 2 typing fingers in a power sanding accident rendering him unable to write and normally the FedEX guy doesn't bring us as exciting stuff as he did last week!  So here it is, an introduction to Project V8 RX-7! 

OK, Coleman's Miatabusa project might very well be MotoIQ's "Most Awesome", but this project promises to be "Most Badass"!  The 17 year old chassis will also be near the oldest, bested only by Project Pathfinder, the most street legal and most fuel efficient believe it or not (apart from the bikes)!  The goal, 400+ California Smog legal hp in arguably one of the best "driver's" cars ever made.

Let the flame wars begin!  Few conversations on the Internet regarding a swap of a V8 into an originally rotary powered vehicle of any variety end without some Rotard* slinging shit.  MotoIQ readers tend to be quite a bit more intelligent than the knuckledraggers on some of those other forums so we expect it to remain civilized here!  Nonetheless, we will address a number of the arguments of the Rotard along the way and support our claims with good ole fashion evidence as best we can.  

*Urban Dictionary defines a Rotard as term used to describe a person who is obsessed with the Wankel design rotary engine, and usually Mazda RX7s in particular, to the point of total stupidity. In the mind of a hardcore rotard, teh RX7 is the finest automobile in modern history, and undoubtedly the best handling car evar. Most rotards will bristle and get quite defensive when confronted with factual issues relating to the fragility of their beloved engine, and will tend to make pointedly idiotic arguments to the contrary.

"The rotard was quite humbled by the depressing task of pulling apex seal shards from his broken turbine impeller, and wondered if by removing them he was upsetting the perfect 50-50 weight distribution of his RX7."

For Project Most Badass, we decided to ditch the fragile and problematic turbo rotary which had just shit the bed at 60,000 miles with failed coolant seals despite being totally stock and immaculately cared for.  We briefly toyed with the idea of dropping in a Nissan SR20DET or a turbo VQ35HR but as we learned more about the Chevy LS series of V8 engines, especially from us working on Dai Yoshihara's LS swapped S13 drift car, the more the idea of dropping the (gasp) Chevy engine in started to make sense.

If you Rotards out there can take a dose of logic, listen up, the LS is not your Grandpa's small block Chevy.  It is not the loose tolerance, 1950's designed heavy lump of iron that you might be prejudiced to think it is.  It is a fully modern, all aluminum, lightweight and highly efficient powerplant that shares only bore centers and overhead valves with its forefathers.  It is a potent package that is more compact and light than you might imagine.

MotoIQ Project V8 RX-7

There are a number of different variations of the LS engine that can be legally swapped into our FD with the least expensive option being a used LS1 engine/drivetrain combo from a junkyard.  We wanted something new and a little more powerful than the 350(ish) horsepower LS1.  For that we turned to GM Performance and their new 6.2L LS3 E-Rod Crate Engine kit.  This is the same engine found in the 2010 Camaro SS with many design improvements that lend to its increased power over the older Gen III LS engines which we'll get into in a future installment.  The best part, GM did something awesome and cut through the red tape with the CARB fascists up in Sacramento, making the kit completely smog legal in all 50 states!  Sure there's ways around smog if you've got the money and shady friends, but there's something to be said about the peace of mind that comes with being socially responsible ;)

So last week we got the call that FedEX had dropped off our E-Rod kit at Technosquare so we scrambled down there to take a few pics and take inventory!

Stay tuned!  In the upcoming installments we'll take an in depth look into the LS3's design and show you why this ain't your father's Small Block, we'll shine more light on its virtues that make it a perfect candidate for our Project, guide you through the installation and in the end, god-willing, take it to the smog referee for CARB certification!


GM Performance Parts


6.2L LS3 E-Rod kit from GM Performance
Technosquare's Howard Watanabe starts snipping his way into the neatly packaged delivery from GM Performance Parts.


See the rest of the unboxing on pages 2 and 3. 

Page 1 of 3 Next Page
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Tuesday, April 06, 2010 1:44 AM
Oh yes. This is very cool. I am building a V8 RX7 myself and would love to see your take on it. Honestly, what is not to love about this swap... if you think logically. I love a rotary, just not in an RX7! : D
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 2:47 AM
Well fi you're bored after this swap, I'd really like to se an SR20 powered RX-7. Or an RB powered RX. I'm a fan of the LS swap in these cars, but it seems much less bastardly to put in something Japanese. How about the 5.4L Titan engine?
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 5:07 AM
I would have loved to see a turbo VQ35HR dropped in would have been one sweet ride. But this project sounds full of promise aswell and once the HP bug bites you a bit harder this leaves plenty of upgrade options as there are mods that will easily take this motor over 600+hp at the wheels.
b drecksage
b drecksagelink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 5:08 AM
I can't wait to see the final result! I used to own a rx7, the engine gave out and I sold it. Wish i had the cash to put a ls1 in it back in the day.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 5:40 AM
i'm lookin forward to this! that video captures all of my fears with my rx8... and made me laugh coffee out my nose and all over my pants. thanks for that.
Dave Coleman
Dave Colemanlink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 6:24 AM
I see you're gonna make me work to keep my awesomeness crown...
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 7:13 AM
Dave, I think you still have Jeff beat on the Gold Star count, so no need to worry... :)

Just make sure to x-pipe it for that "cultured" sound. A crossover pipe and Flowmaster Super 40s would sound a bit out of place on an FD.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 8:07 AM
Sweet, looking forward to this build. It will finally make an FD affordable.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 10:41 AM
Looks like tons of fun and new parts are always soooo nice. That labeled wiring harness makes me smile. =[

Does GM have a standard diameter for the MAF pipe in their instructions so you have something to work off of?

Scott Helmer
Scott Helmerlink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 10:54 AM
So wait, what did you do with the 13b? Did you get the FD as just a rolling chassis? I would be most interested in some of the internals of the old engine from that car, if only to aid in my own bad ass project that I'm working on for a friend of mine: A turbocharged 13b-powered Spitfire 1500, aka "Project Ro-Spit" :D. Basically we just need some REW rotors and rear sideplate (helps reduce cracking due to change in inspection port location).

Anyway, back to commenting on this actual build: Personally, I applaud your use of such an engine, though I wouldn't have minded seeing the new Ford DOHC 5.0 in there (just for technology's sake, I'm still a GM boy at heart for American muscle). I agree that there's certainly nothing wrong with the pushrod LS engines, especially in an FD. I've heard that the all aluminum GM V8's can actually improve handling in RX-7's, depending on how you mount 'em in there. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if that E-rod motor weighed less than the 13b-REW due to all the piping and twin turbo and whatnot. Besides, instant power > turbo lag, and you'd certainly need lots of the latter to keep up with a well-tuned LS performance crate ;)
Eric Hsu
Eric Hsulink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 12:21 PM
I do not believe that any of you who have commented are rotary purists. I am, but Mike and Jeff already know how I feel about a V8 in a FD. In short: it just isn't right.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 1:09 PM
I'm with Eric, I didnt want to get flamed but if I'm getting flamed along with Eric Hsu, I'll go for that.
Jeff Naeyaert
Jeff Naeyaertlink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 1:22 PM
Ben: the instructions for the intake plumbing say it should be 4" in diameter and have a minimum straight section 6 inches in length. The MAF should be mounted in the middle of that straight section and be at least 10 inches from the throttle body.

Scott: I got $700 for the old rotating assembly! :) As for the engine choice although the DOHC Ford modular engines are nice there's no way one of those would fit in an FD. Thank god for pushrods! The tight packaging is one of the big benefits of the LS motors that make it possible to cram into so many applications.

As for the weight a number of guys have weighed both the rotary and LS and the consensus is the LS adds about 60 lbs when you factor in the weight of all the ancillaries on the rotary. We'll have corner weights of the finished product. Whether handling is improved or not is a little more difficult to quantify, however added control of having gobs of torque on demand at any time isn't!
Bob Holmes
Bob Holmeslink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 1:24 PM
I'm usually not a fan of cross-pollination, but the LSx engine has made me rethink my position. If my wife doesn't make me get rid of it, I want to stuff an LSx in place of the blown 6 cylinder in my 528it BMW wagon.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 1:37 PM
Isnt the LSX iron blocked? I would rather have the LS3 for a swap like this one.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 1:39 PM
Eric can feel that way because he is one of the two people I know who can build and tune a reliable rotary.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 1:50 PM
What transmission are you guys going to use? When I checked out the E-rod earlier only the automatic version was being offered. Do they have a Smog compliant package for the T56?
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 1:55 PM
Been waiting for this one for a long time! I'm excited to see this project get off the ground. Ditto what Paul said, the Hitler video made me laugh pretty hard.
Jeff Naeyaert
Jeff Naeyaertlink
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 2:10 PM
Kaane: We're still ironing out the details on the tranny but you're correct the E-Rod as it is now comes setup for an automatic. BUT since the '10 Camaro has the LS3 mated to the tr6060 (replaces the t56) 6 speed you can make that compliant as well--which is the route we'll be taking. GMPP is only starting with the LS3 and the auto combo for the E-Rod crate package. They are going through the process of getting LS7 and the supercharged LSA engines "E-Rod" compliant as well.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 2:37 PM
IMO, the LS is the way to go for the RD. Great handling, lightweight, RWD chassis that can stuff a lot of tire under the fenders. All it was missing was a reliable engine. I have one friend with a FD, and another with a S14, with LS swaps. Amazing performance from both of them!

I researched FD/LS swap quite a bit. It's within a few cheeseburgers on weight and also weight distribution of the original 13b package.

Man... I'm going to have to add a lot of boost to the S2k to keep up :( I still can't fit the same amount of tire on the rear either :(
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 3:05 PM
I have Rotard friends. :( They just dont get why the rotary is just cool and not badassedly awesome like anything with pistons. *sigh*
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 3:41 PM
Mike, I think Horsewidower meant LSx where x=1,2,3,etc, not the iron block LSX.

I'm guessing that people that are against this type of swap enjoy building cars more than driving them. For those that prefer driving over wrenching, I doubt they really care who made the engine when they hit the gas.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 3:44 PM
Thumbs up on this project, btw. It'll be great to see all the details, especially the smog related aspects since you're planning on doing it by the book.
Bob Holmes
Bob Holmeslink
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 7:16 AM
Bingo Evan. The X is a generic for the numeric designations. I would lean towards the aluminum block.

But I'm cheap so I'll have to compare weights v. the stock heavy assed 2.8 6 that comes stock with the wagon.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 8:47 AM
My friends dad in San Jose already dropped an LS1 into an RX-7... :D
Street Surgeon
Street Surgeonlink
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 10:38 AM
This looks like an awesome project. Personally I think the rotary engine is a cute gimmick but 99% of any of them I've ever come in contact with have blown or did shortly thereafter. It's funny because most of the owners (rodatrds) SWEAR by their reliability etc.

Anyways, what's the MSRP on one of those E-Rod crate motor kits anway?
Street Surgeon
Street Surgeonlink
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 10:42 AM
Actually I just found one on Summit... GOOD GOD! 8,342.95
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 1:53 PM
A lot of that price comes from the emissions legal stuff. You could probably find a good used LS1 and a T56 for a song.

I really like the Gen 4 engines though, there are many cool differences between the LS1 and LS3.
Eric Hsu
Eric Hsulink
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 2:31 PM
I think Rotards all know their beloved little rotary engine is inherently more fragile than a piston engine of equivalent output (unless you own a 2007+ Subaru EJ25).
Thursday, April 08, 2010 6:36 AM
^ exactly why I'm happy my rx8 came with an extended warrantee! I'm not looking forward to that 'uh oh' moment.
Thursday, April 08, 2010 9:02 AM
Rotards, or Wankers. "Not even if you side step the clutch at 9000 RPM." That's pretty funny.
Mark F
Mark Flink
Saturday, April 10, 2010 3:27 PM
Pardon my ignorance, because of smog, is the LS* into anything not a common swap to be undertaken around the country?

I think i can speak for my fellow midwestern members that 350s and LS* into cars are always better than whatever came into the car originally!

Hell, there are chevy powered mustangs around these parts...
Sunday, April 11, 2010 4:00 PM
Why wouldn't you just buy a camero if you were going to swap the engine on a mustang? Unless it was an early model mustang, like 65 - 67. It just sounds like too much work to be doing it on late model cars.
Mark F
Mark Flink
Monday, April 12, 2010 1:38 AM
Do not know. It is a Fox Body. Apparently it is more common than i expected. Even websites dedicated to the swap.

The rational is the same as above, the 350 SBC has more power adders, and is a better engine in their eyes.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 7:02 PM
I can see the benefits of putting in a better engine, but I must agree that the car would loss it's heart and soul afterward. Because when you see a RX7, hearing the rotary engine is inseparable with what originally made that car so cool and unique. Another good example would be an old VW Bug. I have seen people put in a V8 small block in the front of a Bug but it's hearing that small old 4 cylinder boxer engine that makes that old Bug what it is. That sound takes you back in time and brings all the nostalgia of that period. That is something a V8 Bug or V8 RX7 cannot do. V8 transplants for me would fall into the custom category and to me not as cool as vintage cars or vintage modified cars. But if all you cared about was hp, then blast away.
Friday, April 16, 2010 10:46 AM
i always wonder why there is never a running tally of the projects in any of the mags. im a glutton for punishment. i like to know how far i am away from the coolest projects.
Friday, April 30, 2010 9:03 PM
part number 19256487, a new E-ROD LS3 calibrated for manual transmissions. FINALLY!!!

Are you guys going to get the new calibration? I am hearing only difference is the ecu tuning.
Jeff Naeyaert
Jeff Naeyaertlink
Thursday, May 06, 2010 5:32 PM
Yeah, apparently all I have to do is send the ECU back for a reflash...
Monday, October 18, 2010 12:13 AM
Boys and Girls: While I admire those that love and have so much loyalty toward your rotory mills. But after all its a mass production car and really not very special. However, I bet once you put the pedal to the metal you will understand a 2,000lb car with 400+hp and torque is better than sex. This type is old school tech, the infamous "YOU CAN'T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS" is true because many old tricks can not be improve upon... this project just ROCK BIG TIME! I have a 73 Porsche 914 Chalon with a 60's 350 sbc with Edlebrock everything @ 435 HP and I am 55 yrs old ?8^P

Imagine this, most of you guys and gays here are probably 30+ years old; what is you mind set when you try to talk to a teeny kid?
Friday, January 21, 2011 3:57 AM
Any progress? Can you guys make a post about this project on the forums?
Sunday, March 18, 2012 8:04 PM
Does anyone have any information on people putting 5.0L in a 3rd gen rx7 i just need to fine wireing harness and all that stuff i have the motor ad 5 soeed trany
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 1:14 PM
you people seem to forget mazda and ford are tied together it would be better to see a 5.0 in there but a v8 is not that far fetched i have owned 3 of them and the only thing i hate about rx7 is the fact the motors go out and for what it cost to fix it you might as well put something better in its place and there is plenty of room
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