The greatest thing about any hobby is variety. The determined reader has endless books to choose from, the whisky connoisseur might spend a lifetime tracing some elusive expression that was distilled 80 years ago and thought lost to history. Meanwhile, motorists and car enthusiasts can either satisfy themselves with the machines plentifully available in their home country, or they can import something a bit more obscure from elsewhere.
Thing is, a surprising number of people have a taste for the obscure, and there’s only a certain amount of variety out there. Head to a meeting of JDM car fanatics in your wildly-specced Nissan Leopard, and you might well end up parking next to another. There’s only really one way to avoid this happening: Build something that nobody has ever thought of.
“Mad” Mike Whiddett can’t stand tyre tread, and spends every waking moment turning it into vapour. Fortunately for us, he’s long mastered a method of doing this in an extremely elegant way, to the extent that the maker of caffiene-packed kids’ motion accelerant Red Bull stepped in with sponsorship money, and has displayed its logo on Whiddett’s whip at drift events all over the world.
Mad Mike rather likes Mazda RX-7s. You could say they made him what he is today, which is to say an icon among those who worship at the alter of driving sideways. Its spirit having risen in the East, the church of Drift has an increasingly devout following, and sees many believers making a pilgrimage to Japan, or at least the Japanese marques on eBay or Craigslist for their tail-wagging wagons. For many, the cheaper the better. Old MX-5s, Supras and welded-diff Lexuses find a new life bouncing off tyre walls on the amateur drift circuit, and prize money gradually unlocks better, more expensive machinery — just like in the computer games that drift culture has paralleled for so long. And, with its exotic rotary engine and race track reputation, the Mazda RX-7 is a holy grail to many.
Whiddet’s Mazda RX-7 is something very special indeed.
Christened MADBUL, what you see here is all FD-generation RX-7 under the skin, but with whole host of beautifully natural-looking modifications on the surface that turn it into something entirely individual. And not just for the sake of doing something different, either. Although MADBUL serves as a terrific ‘signature’ machine for Whiddett, and turns every drifting display he makes into a stand-out performance, it’s also a rolling homage to the history and heritage of the rotary engined car.
That front end design is closely modelled on the Mazda RX-3, otherwise known as Savanna, which name would be passed on to the first two generations of Mazda RX-7. At first glance, my eyes tell me ‘Lancia Fulvia’ when MADBUL is viewed from the front three quarters, and that’s a good thing. Colossal bolt-on fenders draw your eyes towards the rear of the car, but it’s only when you look either side on or from the rear that you notice those FD RX-7 flanks, then the curvecous roofline and generous shoulders, and that darkened full-width rear lamp cluster. Even the sharp edges that frame the headlights fade into a curve by the time they pass over the front wheels, and gel harmoniusly with the soft lines of the rest of Mazda’s masterpiece.
And, all the while, those two bonnet-penetrating air filters remind us that looking pretty is only part of the MADBUL package. Power is also present in abundance, although not provided by the motor you might expect. The 13B rotary mill of your regular RX-7 is gone, replaced by a veeery special 26B of the type usually reserved for Mazda’s sports-racing cars, the 767 and 787B — AKA the first rotary engine ever to win the 24hrs of LeMans outright. A trawl through the spec list on is enough to have tuning freaks convulsing with ecstasy, and the result is a claimed 537hp. At the wheels.
Sufficient to puree Pirellis at the touch of a throttle — or whatever you can do with Nittos that’s neatly alliterative. I’m not usually a fan of showboating, and drifting is pretty much the most flamboyant motorsport ever devised; but I’m rapidly coming around to it. The potent demonstrations put on every year at Goodwood remind me that, once you step beyond parking-lot doofus territory (and everybody has to start somewhere), there’s a massive depth of driving skill and engineering talent out there, crying for recognition. And Mike and the Mazda are as effective an ambassador for the sport as I can imagine.
(Images copyright Chris Haining / Redusernab 2018)