The first time I saw this car, it had just been hit by a truck. And yet-- it still grabbed my attention more then most of the cars in the outer parking for Riverside in 2016. Just like the Ford Probe from FEATURE 002, the Mazda MX-6 is a car that-- whenever I stumbled upon one-- I knew would look good if someone took the time to modify it. But it could just be a testament to the chassis, considering that the Probe and the MX6 share a chassis. Something about that size and wheel base invited the designers to make an understated sports coupe with strange, understated, but good-looking body lines. But they often hide between stock suspension, stock wheels, and a ruined coat of factory clear. But Brandon saw the same potential I did, and took on the challenge.
Like most of our feature cars, the MX-6 came from humble beginnings. Brandon would pass it (and it's rotting clear coat) every day at an apartment complex where he was working after school. Eventually, he approached the owner about it. Hopping in and driving the 5-speed that had held up "surprisingly well" over almost 20 years (in 2012) since the cars production-- he knew what he was going to do. $1400 later, his first car was a red (well...pink, because remember the clear coat situation?) sports coupe. So there he was with his new (to him) Mazda coupe. I don't need to remind anyone reading this what driving your first car, that you paid for, felt like. That being said, Brandon had plans for this pink-- I mean, red-- car that none of his friends understood why he bought. Oh, and I keep mentioning the pink part, because none of his friends would let him forget it. This inevitably led him to the first order of business-- paint.
Brandon is the type that-- if he can do it himself, you can be damn sure he will. Paint and bodywork are no different. He dove head first into the endeavor armed with only a 30-minute lesson on body filler, sanding, and painting from a family friend who worked at a shop. Over time, through trial and error-- hours and hours of it-- he eventually finished the body work and primered the car. Oh-- and he was dailying the car throughout the entire bodywork process. Sometimes, the car would leave school with a panel one color and then come back coated with primer. I think we can all agree, that running around with your car "as is" during body work is not an easy feat. But when you have a vision for what you want your car to be, and your working towards that-- very few things can stop you. Ultimately, after all of his hard work, he made the wise decision to get it painted by someone who knew exactly what they were doing. A friend of his at the same shop cut him a deal. Kind of THE deal really-- material costs only. And that's when the building process really started to take off.
After paint, he came to same realization we all eventually do, "Great. Now I can't stop". Next up were MX-6 specific D2 coilovers. Brandon tells me that the decision wasn't hard because D2 is a notable brand, and the MX-6 (unsurprisingly) has very limited aftermarket support. The task of keeping the wheels off the fenders, falls on a set of 18k and 20k Swift springs. Going into the venture entirely unfamiliar with the "wheel game" at the time, he gravitated towards a set of Cosmis Racing XT-005Rs in a 17x9.5 square setup. Now at a +5 offset wheel, coming from a +35 stock wheel, he had some figuring out to do, but ultimately he got the wheels fitted to the impressive setup you see today. That is-- after cutting and raising the shock towers to accommodate for axle clearance. Then began the real challenge-- piecing together a body kit. With a front lip from VIS Racing and MX-6 side skirts from RaceAppeal, the only thing that was left to bother him was the lack of kit for the rear. Ever-resourceful, he opted to make one himself instead; in the form of a one-off custom aluminum diffuser. Here is where you can really see where Brandon's taste in time-attack aero comes in. Not only in the current Battle Aero rear wing, but in the rear diffuser, and a new front splitter that he also fabricated himself. And as far as "aggressive aero" goes-- just look at that rear diffuser. He jokingly calls them "ankle biters". Apt. After those additions, the outside of the car was all but complete-- except for the bulky OEM Mazda mirrors. After some research, he opted for a set of APR Carbon Fiber GT3 mirrors to complete the time-attack look.
After doing all of this, the "shit" that "happens"-- happened. The car got hit while parked in a lot by a truck in reverse-- knocking the driver's headlight and fender out of alignment. But that wasn't the end of it. The REAL hang up came in later in the form of another truck running a stop sign and causing a forced impact. This time, the car was totalled. The accident destroyed the front bumper cover, driver fender, headlight, and hood; not to mention made damage to the core support. Brandon had a choice to make-- abandon the project he'd spent all the blood, sweat, and tears on and move on; or rebuild. Well, when you put this much work into a car, it's a much more simple decision then most think-- REBUILD. He ended up finding another MX-6 to use as a parts car, and entirely rebuilt or replaced the damaged parts of the vehicle-- all on his own. All while completing an amazing feat in this day and age-- remaining silent about the process on social media. So quiet in fact, that I had no idea it even happened until he told me when we got together to shoot this feature.
Rebuilt, repainted, and ultimately reborn-- the build process continued. Unsurprisingly, Brandon took on more custom work. He really liked the trunk lid that came with the Rocket Bunny S14 kit. So much so, that he decided he had to have it for his MX-6. So, after buying one locally, he went to work on modifying it to fit his car. And he didn't stop at transplanting the deck lid, he shaved and molded it to the trunk. It was the first time this was done on an MX-6. Frankly, Brandon holds a lot of "first on an MX-6" titles.
The exterior was sorted out for the time being, so attention turned to the all- stock interior. Everything in the interior was "ratty and worn" so he addressed everything he could. He replaced the factory Mazda seats (fabric tears and all) with a set of Corbeau FX1 racing seats. He completed the setup with 4-point harnesses from Corbeau as well. He replaced the sagging headliner with a newer diamond stitch fabric. The shift boot and shift knob come from InFocus and MPC (respectively), and he dropped some additional weight via a rear seat delete. The Grip Royal steering wheel with paint-matched rim, completes the simple, "to-the-point" interior.
Needless to say at this point, Brandon really likes making custom stuff for the MX-6. So there was just "one more thing" that he locked eyes with and knew he had to have-- Origin Lab front fenders. Obviously, those are not available for a Mazda MX-6 (what else is new?). That's alright though, because like every other time before this-- Brandon didn't care. With the assistance of a friend he trusted enough to help cut up "already hard-to-find" MX-6 fenders, they planned out how to make Origin Lab-style front fenders out of the current stock fenders. Several risky cut-and welds later they turned out as awesome as one could possibly want-- especially considering they were modified at home, in a garage. I, personally, love how the body line of the car flows naturally into the vent. There is no substitute for attention-to-detail.
There isn't too much going on under the hood-- yet. Brandon says he wants to stay with the theme of the car when he does eventually do a swap. The theme in question being "ridiculous/why the hell?". Currently under the hood resides the factory Mazda 2.0L FS-DE inline-four engine making about 130 hp. Not much to speak of now, but Brandon is thinking on a spectrum going from boosting the factory Mazda engine (or otherwise staying with a different Mazda powerplant) to a FWD-oriented Mitsubishi 4G63, all the way to the Toyota 3.5L 2GR-FE (he got the idea while checking the oil on his mom's 2008 Camry-- remember the theme here?) The only current modification to the engine is a 3" exhaust pipe replacing the muffler. What I love about this car is, although (let's face it) it looks like a Mazda S14-- it's FWD. Now, we all hear that guy in the back of our heads now-- "RWD is best". Yeah yeah. But as far as options for an engine swap, Brandon has any number of odd swaps he could transplant into this car due to it's front wheel drive layout. Looking at literally any Honda engine ever (that's not an F-series).
Unfortunately, Brandon's experience of his hometown's car culture has been on a gradual decline. He says that when he first became interested in cars, the Knoxville car "scene" was much more varied and unique then it is now. Things weren't done "for the internet" as much then, as they are now. As widespread as this story seems to become, I think there is a silver lining to be found. Because that is my story too. One observation that I have made, though, since getting "into car culture" is that-- as time goes on, the initial interest and perceived "shiny-ness" of the other cars at meets seem to fade away. As time goes on, you make your own friends, in some cases, your own crew. When this happens, it becomes really easy to focus on only the cars of you and yours. There is nothing wrong with that. But often something beautiful is born from mixing that with paying attention to the other cars at meets and shows-- you find like-minded people also building for themselves only. They get added to the fold, and before you know it, you start to get further inspired in your own build by these people that you're meeting because you're venturing outside your group (and yourself). Never be afraid to have interest in cars outside your "genre" or more specifically, your friends. Building a car is a deeply personal pursuit when done correctly. But inspiration and the search thereof will make you more friends that can help you (and you-- them) in your pursuit to build a car you can be proud of. And all the while, the right friends (people like Brandon) will support you, like his friends did him to build (and even rebuild) exactly the car you want-- with ideas from your own head. He built a FWD, time-attack inspired Mazda MX-6 with his own two hands, without a single regard for what people think about his choices. If you build a well-executed, unique car, exactly to your specifications without worrying about if people will like it or not-- I promise you, people will notice. More importantly for us, we at notfast. will notice. Because that's exactly what we're looking for.
Photos by: Benny Whiles (@bennywhiles)