The term retrofit is defined as the replacing of existing parts, equipment, or systems with updated parts or systems. This 1974 Mazda RX4 is a perfect example of the concept.
My first glimpse of this ride didn’t come at a car show, as is usually the case. No, I actually saw a picture of this car on Facebook – a picture that my friend, June Masermsin, took at Wekfest in Long Beach where it won “Best of Show Overall” and “1st Place” in the Old School class. So, I guess a case could be made that a car show was technically where I saw the car – in a third party, social media-inspired and facilitated manner.
Technicalities aside, I immediately expressed an interest in shooting the ride and, the following week, I received a random text from a buddy of mine (who happens to be a childhood friend of the owner) informing me that the car was available for shooting the same day! How’s that for serendipity? (And, since I started by defining retrofit, wouldn’t it be nice if I kept the trend going by linking you to a definition of serendipity)? However, there was one caveat—I had exactly one hour to shoot the car. So, what was an enterprising photographer to do? Take a look!
Half an hour later, I arrived at Ranz Motorsports in South El Monte, CA and met co-owner Jay Cabral. When Jay explained a brief history of the car, I felt he and his counterpart, Randy Hor, were akin to mad scientists splicing various genes together from seemingly unrelated organisms to create…a radically new organism. However, unlike Dr. Frankenstein, they refused to just slap parts together and call it a day – Ranz Motorsports did it very tastefully and seamlessly.
The car’s profile reminds me of nostalgic hot rods – it’s just not as large and heavy. The RX4 is usually not the first choice in building an early model Mazda. In comparison to the more popular RX3s and R100s, the RX4 is the heaviest.
To find an RX4 this clean, you’d either have to build a time machine or put in a lot of hard work. It’s pretty obvious, since I couldn’t find a Flux Capacitor or an old Delorean anywhere, that the guys at Ranz Motorsports must have put in the hard work. And, believe it or not, they did it in just SIX months!
Where shall I start? Originally fitted for a Toyota MR2, the front lip, from Shine, was molded to fit the front bumper. The hood has been customized by Ranz Motorsports with a scoop found on the Dodge Neon SRT4. The side skirt is from a stock 1997 Honda Accord but it was flipped, then installed. In addition, the rear wing is from a stock 1992 Civic Hatch EG. It was cut, extended, and inverted. Furthermore, the mid-wing was fabricated in-house from metal. To top it all off, the car was sprayed with PPG Lamborghini Arancio Orange.
The circle-actuated doors were installed by Pro-Linear Doors in San Gabriel, CA. Lasers are located inside these “doors” which pop out after pushing a button.
The lasers would, theoretically, “blind” any person bold enough to tailgate this RX4. By the way, if the theoretical tailgater in question were to look down, he or she would notice that the tail lights were adapted from a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 (see picture 2 above). Of course, said theoretical tailgater would be uncommonly knowledgeable to notice such an uncommon detail.
The RX4 received a transplant with a Toyota 2JZ-GE engine as the new heart of the beast. The crew at Ranz Motosports opted for this iconic straight-six rather than the expected rotary for the sake of dependability. They had dismal experiences with rotaries in the past. RotorMavens will want to direct all hate mail to Ranz Motorsports.
The 2JZ-GE was enhanced with Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i) in the Toyota Supra MK IV models after 1997. This engine can most famously be found in the Toyota Supra (as mentioned), the Toyota Soarer/Lexus SC 300, and Toyota Chaser but it also resides within the Toyota Altezza/Lexus IS 300, the Toyota Aristo/Lexus GS 300, and the Toyota Cresta – as well as a few others.
A Cusco oil catch can is one of the items that adorn this engine bay.
At the heart of the forced induction system is a Precision GT35 ball-bearing turbo. This is mated to a Peakboost downpipe. An HKS blow-off valve tops the list of turbo paraphernalia.
Toyota’s Electronic Throttle Control System-intelligent (ETCS-i) optimally controls the throttle valve opening in accordance with the condition of the engine, vehicle, and amount of accelerator pedal effort. It also controls the idle speed control, TRC systems, and cruise control. It was also the center of the controversial “sudden unintentional acceleration” issues.
So, what’s the sum of the automotive arithmetic discussed thus far? Simple – it adds up to approximately 476 WHP when boosting at 16 psi and filling the fuel cell with plain-Jane 91 octane. That’s my kind of calculus – and plenty of power to dig its wheels into the asphalt!
The old adage, which applies equally well to books and people, also seems to apply here; it’s what’s inside that counts. Is this true in the case of this RX4? I’d like to think so. A quick glance at the interior and you easily forget this car is Old School. The interior has been gutted and traded out in exchange for the one found in the IS 300. The whole dashboard, center console, and wiring were transplanted into this beast.
According to Jay, cutting the dash and retrofitting it was one of the toughest challenges in building this car. Timeless classic meets new technology.
The custom enclosure that houses the Alpine amp was fabricated in-house at Ranz. Their logo was laser-etched by Laser Werks in Whittier, CA.
Top Stitch Upholstery, in El Monte, CA, reworked the classic Recaro LS seats, and the rest of the interior, in leather and suede. Well done!
MB Quart speakers are enclosed in a carbon fiber housing made in-house. Three 10-inch JL subwoofers are also found in the car.
A Lexus key for the ignition and a Rotary key for the trunk. Separated by more than three decades and radically different DNA along with disparate approaches to automotive problem-solving, it’s amazing to know that one car can bring them together so seamlessly.
Hüper Optik provided the ceramic tint while STM Solutions, based in Los Angeles, CA, installed the film. Nano-ceramic window film is used for solar control that keeps approximately 60% of the sun’s rays from entering the vehicle; making for a cooler environment in an already “cool” car. This isn’t your typical $100 tint. More like $1000 tint. And, chances are, you just had the same initial reaction I did.
The boost is regulated by a BLITZ SBC boost controller and guided through a custom front-mount intercooler before reaching the throttle body and intake manifold. The cross member and intercooler were fabricated in-house.
The rims are customized by Interad Wheels in Whittier, CA. Essentially, Interad Wheels makes their rims in sizes 19 and 20. Jay and the crew requested a set of 18s to be fabricated. The fronts measure 18×9.5 and the rears measure a whopping 18×11.5! Essentially, the 18s you see on this RX4 are the only ones in existence. How rad is that?! Having one-of-a-kind wheels that no other car on the planet has! These bad boys are wrapped in Falken FK 452s – 215/35R18 in the front and 265/35R18 in the rear.
Sometimes, the only thing that let’s an outsider know that something is far different than its exterior suggests is a small mark or feature of some sort. The Ranz Motorsports logo serves in that capacity for this car.
The front brakes were sourced from a Nissan S14 and the rear from a Lexus IS300. The same goes for the front and rear independent suspension.
A Vibrant exhaust with V-Band clamps and custom piping by Ranz Motorsports was installed for a more aggressive tone and more power.
This emblem is one of the few things remaining that hearken back to the original car.
The old fuel tank was removed in order to accommodate the independent suspension. What took its place was a 5-gallon fuel cell by JAZ. The fuel cell was modified to utilize the factory gas door. In addition, the fuel regulator was customized on the fuel cell.
APR Carbon Fiber mirrors adorn the sides. Interestingly, though the mirrors are made of an ultra-modern material, the shape is very reminiscent of the period correct mirrors of the 70s.
The end product is a result of Ranz Motorsports’ vision and creativity – a hybrid blend of technologies and tastes. Even more than a retrofitted car, what I beheld that day, for one hour, was a chimera. To return to my earlier nod to standardized definitions, a chimera is defined in biology as an organism consisting of at least two genetically different kinds of tissue as a result of mutation, grafting, etc. This surely captures some of the grandeur of what was accomplished by Ranz but, if I were really trying to go for what this car made me feel, I would have to use a more mythological definition: a fabulous beast made up of parts taken from various animals. And a “fabulous beast” she was.
Ranz Motorsports would like to thank: Heavy Hitters Magazine, MFest, STM Solutions (www.stmsolutionsinc.com), Top Stitch Upholstery (www.topstitchupholstery.net), Interad Wheels (www.interadwheels.com), Pro-Linear Doors, Laser Werks, Wekfest (www.wekfest.com) and the family and friends of Ranz Motorsports.
For more information, contact Ranz Motorsports at 626-448-8693.
Sexy Oliver.. <3 the pix
Dont like the rims on this, but the car is a farking beast! Thats how you do it right… other than the wheels of course.
sickest Rx-4 i’ve ever seen. Absolutely gorgeous!
i remember seeing the car at wekfest…soooo clean
Very impressive writing bruddah. It’s actually is up to par with your pictures. Keep it up!
very good and thorough coverage olive see ya in the bay.
*oliver* typo sorry
Ive never seen Rx4 in my life, i mean I’ve seen rx1,rx2,and rx3 but this is Cleannnn….but then again i would keep the rotary engine under the hood though =( NOT Toy 2jz-ge or even lexuz ignition and gauge cluster.
Great shoot Oliver… Love the colors and the backdrop!
This build is mad. I love the attention to detail and the willingness to adapt things. A tiny bit of sadness to see an RX-4 so far from factory, but at least it’s in a good way. Great work by Ranz, and a great feature.
This is the best build I’ve seen in a long time and a breath of fresh air to the sea of beaters that are always at shows. Big ups to Ranz Motorsports for a job well done! Sick and changing the game!
I had no idea just how much work had gone into this, thanks for the write up.
Very cool car. Not necessarily how I’d build an old Mazda, but I dig the work and fab skills involved. Long live the classics!
i dont think its still considered as an RX 4, well i really dont care this whip is hot! Very nice pics n a nice article Mr. O!
Awesome RX-4 mods. Great insight.
Shame about the engine…..
OLIVER!! Sickness. I love the car and the coverage. Rock on brotha!
You made that interior look butter!
This is a ILL build and a game changer. I also saw this car at JCCS along with their S2000 powered Celica. Great pics and coverage guys and i’d like to add one comment. I believe these cars are owned and built by Randy Hor hence the name RANZ Motorsports. Jay Cabral is the shop manager not the co-owner who works for Ranz. Just thought i’d clarify. Good job Randy!
hate the wheels but i like the rest. Although i feel the RX4 was molested and they should be arrested…i actual like it.
Very well written. Pictures look amazing. Keep up the good work
If your going to molester a classic this badly I’m glad its only a RX4 and not something more desirable. In saying that though this thing looks tough as f@%k and I’d rock that sh1t!!
This RX4 is a game changer for sure right here. It’s about time a shop stepped to the plate to bring something fresh to the scene. Ranz Motorsports is about to change it all up and when I saw their article in HH Magazine I already knew for sure they was gonna cause a damn ruckus. Hat tips to the shop that wreckin’ the game!!!!
Gatdayum! This car is a beast! Sickest build I have seen in a long while. I saw this badboy featured in Heavy Hitters and I knew instantly this would grace MotorMavens one day. Great job Randy!!
Orange Dream Machine. Best flavor at Jamba Juice! Oh, and epic RX4 too 😉
Dear god! :thumbsup:
Very nice write-up! Great description of that car. Magazine-quality photos dude!
… loved everything till I saw the engine.
Sick photos Oliver!!! Top notch feature… this is one of the best I’ve seen on the MotorMavens website!
More articles like that please! Photos = two thumbs up. Article = two thumbs up! Keep up the good work guys!
love this to death.. fantastic photos too. good to see that the car is driven as well as shown. quality write-up!
Oliver great job!!!!!! beautiful pictures and a great article!! awesome dude!!!
Awesome car and great pics, but what rear suspension did they use? RX-4’s don’t have independant rear standard.
those wheels need to go. i dont think there is a car on the planet that will match those wheels. the car overall is a monster!
Oliver’s article on the beastly-looking RX4 was vividly covered. Good job!
one damn nice looking car!!. it is a bit of a shame to remove the unique rotary engine heart of this beast and replace it with the status quo piston engineut what a nice and well presented car! well done!
Love the car…. Don’t love the engine…. is it that the art of building a rotary has been lost over the years…. The Japanese and Puertoicans still know how to build them it seems…. Panspeed RX-7 time attack killer, P- SOME SICK SUB 8 sec drag cars with rotaries… Oh well the fabrication on this car is killer…. Love to see old school Japanese cars out of the wrecking yard even if they have “interesting” swaps done. love the site keep up the great work with the sic pics.
The rims on this car are wack. Hoorah for removing the ORIGINAL engine but retaining the Rotary emblem?
Because this guys does not know how to work on rotaries does not mean that they are not dependable.this car is not a Rx4 for those ignorant Rx means rotary experiment. I like the car but it fells like a human that need a heart transplant and the only donor was a pig.
why did you go with orange theres another rx4 around your town thats orange . did you want that paint job after seeing another rx4 orange.
Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this site and I find It cool as hell.