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MASTER BLASTER

A DECADE OF CRAFTING HAS TRANSFORMED THIS ONCE FORGOTTEN MAZDA INTO A RAW, TYRE-SHREDDING 1300 — SOLID PROOF THAT GOOD THINGS ARE WORTH THE WAIT

Let’s be honest here, no one ever sets out thinking their build will take them the better part of a decade to complete. That’s especially so if you’re in your early 20s, a time when you’re filled with blind optimism and youthful enthusiasm, and you generally won’t have had enough build setbacks to know any better. It would seem that most of these eager buggers reckon that their build will take no longer than two years, no matter how daunting the task that lies ahead. 

That’s the exact goal a much younger Simon Andrews Macleod set himself, but there he was, pulling out of his driveway for the maiden test run of his 1300, some 10 years after rolling the moss-covered and muchneglected Mazda into his workshop for the first time. Sure that trip was eight years behind schedule, but does he care? No! The car is 10 times the vehicle he expected to build, but this is no fluke, as Simon is clearly a car builder with an eye for detail and who is not afraid to take the grinder to anything that doesn’t quite work out the first time around. But more on all that a bit later.

 

The build began when Simon was in his early 20s. Following the completion of his BFMR project, he’d started the search for a chrome-bumper Mazda to work on, and looking at a few failed projects led him to a workmate’s recently acquired shell, an unmolested Mazda 1300 that looked as if the earth was attempting to reclaim it. Undeterred by the project’s scope, Simon set himself the aforementioned two-year goal and started gathering parts. “In my head, I had it lowered on some Modgies with a 13B bridgeport, just nice and clean. 

So, not plain Jane, but something simple that would only take a couple of years to complete,” Simon recalls of the initial plan. But, before any of that could happen, there was a mountain of rust to be removed. “It received brand-new chassis rails, driver and passenger floors, sills, and rear guards. It was quite a bit of work; I ended up making my own rotisserie and bolting the shell onto that so [that] we could work on it easier,” he says — and all that despite the fact that he also shifted to Australia during this time. 

However, while you might think this would have hindered the build, it actually became a blessing, as although only a few of these little Mazdas made it onto New Zealand roads new, they were a common grocery-getter in suburban Australia during the 1970’s, so it’s easier to source parts there. Mind you, that wasn’t always the case, with components like the three-piece bumpers proving a real headache. 

Both countries eventually coughed up parts, but Simon did need to fabricate a new centre for the rear and have it chromed. It wasn’t all junkyard scrounging, though, as some new parts were still on offer at Phil’s Rotarys, Queensland, including panels and door locks, rubber kits, and light lenses. It was fair to say that Simon’s parts stockpile was beginning to grow. 

Each return trip to New Zealand saw minimal clothes packed to allow room for those items, which did get him the odd sideways look when he checked in at the airport with oversized luggage — at one point, Simon even had a bonnet in hand. Three years had passed by this stage, and that original deadline was long forgotten. Then, just as Simon got it to a rustfree state, a Cosmo 20B popped up on Trade Me and all thoughts of a 13B flew straight out the window. 

Wasting no time, the boys jumped Cook Strait and went for a road trip to pick up the triple-rotor, an engine that Simon knew would be naturally-aspirated long before it was in the bay. It was a low kilometre example and in great condition, but running it stock was never the intention, so it was eventually dropped in to Stu Lawton for him to rebuild, using high-compression RX-8 rotors and a bag of his tricks so that 10,000rpm pulls would not result in spun bearings or chattering apex seals. Long before the engine rebuild could happen, though, the chassis underwent a serious amount of work to handle the intended power. 

This began with a diff job that didn’t go to plan: “I got the rear end built by a place that did a good job, but it was a little rushed, and, in hindsight, I should have taken my time and figured out what I actually wanted,” says Simon. “I had just spent all this money, and, man, my car looked really lame — it was really high and on 17x7s; I was just really disappointed. We got it back from the workshop, and a mate who dabbles in suspension and engineering stuff was like, ‘Nah, we have to go low and wide’.” And like that, out came the grinders, binning all the fresh tin work that Simon had just spent a bomb on.

Then, before anything could be welded in place, the wheels needed sorting. While looks were obviously a huge factor, the real reason he chose the Simmons was actually because they’d fit over the FC RX-7 brakes and within the factory body lines, plus — the icing on the cake — you could order any size and dish you wanted for the rear. Naturally, Simon elected the biggest dish on offer, which required the Hilux diff to be shortened again. “I had to tell the guy a little white lie about it being for another car, so he didn’t ask questions,” Simon remembers. 

To achieve a much lower stance, the rear shock towers were raised so that the 18×10.5s would tuck deep within the rear guards — so much so that taking a wheel off now requires removing half the exhaust and the removal of the rear shocks. The rolling body was then dropped to Sheldon at Motorsport Developments, who Simon describes as a perfectionist. Sheldon replaced all the rear panel work, and essentially built a half chassis with new framework from the tunnel back, which ties into the factory rails, the rear four-link, and a much bigger tunnel with built-in driveshaft hoop. 

Sheldon went to great lengths to ensure everything is symmetrical and as clean-looking as possible, with all the suspension hidden under the tubs. Anyone who knows a 1300 will know that they are tiny cars, and once you start adding bigger tunnels and large tubs, the cabin space suddenly shrinks — by so much, in fact, that the Racetech seats needed to be narrowed 30mm each side to squeeze them in. With the chassis work completed, the panels were next on the list, and believe us when we say that this was no easy feat, even with the repro rust-free panels. Luckily, Simon, a painter by trade, had the right mates to lean on at Customs Body Shop before he could get down to laying some colour on the inside and in the smoothed engine bay. 

Of the chosen orange tint, he says, “I had decided on the colour five years ago. It’s a factory Mazda colour, and I stuck with it all this time, which is pretty much unheard of for a painter, as so many new colours come out.” The 1300 was rolled back into the paint shop for a second time once the engine had been wired and fired, as the deadline debut loomed. But this was the moment that Simon had been waiting on for near-on 10 years: all those parts he had been collecting could all now be bolted into place, and, finally, he would get to test drive his creation. After missing the planned debut at the Nationals as a rear bumper wasn’t complete, he now had his eyes fixed firmly on three days of thrashing at REunion.

 A quick 10-minute blast around the street “had me shaking”, and then it was straight to race mode at REunion, though, sadly, the weather did not play ball. Still, with only a run-in tune devoid of about the top 4000rpm it will see once it’s run in, the little 1300 performed faultlessly. “I went out and gave it a good boot — it was actually really good and handled like a little go-kart, so I guess I should have trusted myself a little more, as I have replaced everything, so there is no reason for it to fail,” Simon tells us. 

You’re probably asking when we’ll see the little Mazda hitting the streets in its native Wellington. Well, the truth is, while it was originally being built to earn a WOF, with everything up to cert standard, Simon believes that, with the multitude of events now on offer, from car shows to track days and drag events, it’s unlikely to ever see road use. Cos, once you’ve had a taste of a shrieking 20B at 10,000rpm in a sub-one-ton chassis with no speed limits, will you ever be able to bring yourself to shut it up and stick to the road rules? Yeah, us neither.

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