Same, Same; But Different: Andrew Ilbegi and John Ubalde’s 1993 Mazda RX-7s

Same, Same; But Different: Andrew Ilbegi and John Ubalde’s 1993 Mazda RX-7s
If you focus on doing things right, sometimes there are no wrong answers

All too often, we find enthusiasts trapped in the cycle of trends. Builds become more of a checklist of modifications rather than an expression of the owner’s true style and tastes. Part of the blame for this phenomenon lies with car show culture where, in some cases, throwing everything at a car accrues more points on the judging sheets. Bolt-on widebodies, flashy lighting, intricate graphic vinyl wraps - nothing is intrinsically wrong with these mods, but they also aren’t the end-all-be-all of show-worthy modifications.

2021 PASMAG Team Hybrid Mazda RX7 John Ubalde Andrew Ilbegi 003

Take a look at the two RX-7s before you. Each of them unique in their own right, and each one with a vastly different approach from the other. The most common feature between the two, other than the platform of course, is the owner’s commitment to clean execution. In red, you have Andrew Ilbegi’s 1993 Mazda RX-7 - a true to form period correct FD RX-7 with all sorts of JDM goodies and a simplistic yet effective styling approach. In the purple chameleon finish, John Ubalde’s 1993 Mazda RX-7, an LS-swapped beast of a machine with a blend of old and new takes on modification.

Both of these builds can easily take home the hardware at shows, and while I’m sure most of our readers will have a preference for one or the other, neither of these builds is “better” than the other. There’s an important lesson there: build what you like. It’s easy for enthusiasts who don’t care about shows and awards to do that, but it goes for show car guys too. If you focus on the end product and the execution of the whole build, there are no wrong answers.

2021 PASMAG Team Hybrid Mazda RX7 John Ubalde Andrew Ilbegi 016

Ilbegi’s RX-7, the red one, was built with a simple goal in mind: a subtle and sleek look. It could have some flashiness to it, but overall he wanted a simple and classy look. When he was growing up and was first interested in cars, he thought he wanted a big GT wing, flashy paint, and a loud exhaust. As he got older, his tastes changed, and his appetite for simple and clean mods took over. With style being his overall goal for this car, he stayed true to the FD’s JDM roots with period-correct modification inside and out. If you know what you’re looking at, it definitely turns heads.

Modifications like the Fortune Auto 500 series coilovers, EXEDY stage 1 clutch, B&M short shifter, and upgraded brake systems go the distance in making Ilbegi’s car a comfortable, well-rounded, and simple street car, but the build still shows off that JDM style and flair with things like the Reinhard double cannonball exhaust, RE-Amemiya body pieces, and the highly decorated interior.

2021 PASMAG Team Hybrid Mazda RX7 John Ubalde Andrew Ilbegi 047

Ubalde’s RX-7, the purple chameleon colored one, is the “beast” in this Beauty and The Beast tale. A built LS-swap with launch control, custom step-lip built Blitz 03s, a Fortune Auto Air Piston Lift System (APLS), and aggressive styling are just some of the modification mainstays of the build. Ubalde still loves the original lines and period-correct goodies, but he knew he wanted to turn things up a notch. With a rotary RX-7 already in his garage, he picked up a clean LS-swapped FD for long distance cruising, high torque, and ease of maintenance.

With the RX-7 in his clutches, the LS was given a full once-over by Hinson Supercars, and they outfitted it with everything from Patriot 706 stage 2 heads and a cam to an LS6 manifold and a Holley Sniper throttle body, with a ton of supporting mods to make power reliably. With a T56 transmission, Hinson Motorsports provides the short shifter, as well as braces for the transmission and differential. Instead of wheels out of the box, Ubalde had a set of Blitz 03 wheels custom built with a step-lip conversion to take them from 17s to 18s, which are 10.5 inches wide in the front, and 11.5 inches wide in the rear, fitting nicely beneath the FEED +20mm fenders front and rear.

2021 PASMAG Team Hybrid Mazda RX7 John Ubalde Andrew Ilbegi 007

For all their differences in engineering and style choices, the two RX-7s still share some similarities. That 1999-spec front bumper is an iconic favorite among FD owners, so we’re not surprised to see it on both of these 1993 models. RE-Amemiya is a popular choice for the platform as well, as you can see here. Again, it’s not about how good your personal concept is - it’s all in the execution. The result of the hard work from both owners is a show-worthy RX-7 that doubles its duties as a reliable, stylish, and fun street car. It just goes to show you there’s more than one way to get it right.

As featured in PASMAG Issue #166. Click Here to order.

Photography by Christian Dizon (@calicarclique)


ESSENTIALS

Owner: Andrew Ilbegi
Vehicle: 1993 Mazda RX-7
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Engine: Mazda 13B-REW Twin-Rotor

SOCIAL

Facebook: /andrew.ilbegi
Instagram: @ilbegi7

ENGINE

  • GReddy front mount intercooler
  • HKS intakes
  • A’PEXi Power FC management

EXHAUST

  • HKS twin-turbo downpipe
  • Bonez high-flow catalytic converter
  • Reinhard double cannonball exhaust w/ semi-titanium mufflers

DRIVETRAIN

  • B&M short throw shifter
  • EXEDY (Stage 1 clutch w/ heavy duty pressure plate, lightweight flywheel, counterweight)

WHEELS / TIRES / BRAKES

  • Volk Racing TE37SL wheels - 18x9.5 +22 (f), 18x10.5 +22 (r)
  • Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires - 225/40/18 (f), 255/35/18 (r)
  • Project Kics R40 Iconix lug nuts
  • StopTech slotted brake rotors
  • EBC Yellowstuff brake pads
  • J-Auto stainless steel braided brake lines

CHASSIS / SUSPENSION

  • Fortune Auto 500 series coilovers
  • Mazda RX-7 R1 front strut tower bar

EXTERIOR

  • OEM 1999 spec (front bumper, front RX-7 moniker plate, tail lights)
  • Group A Motoring (1999 spec front lip wrapped carbon fiber, 1999 spec rear wing, RE-Amemiya AD9 hood, RE-Amemiya carbon fiber pro diffuser, RE-Amemiya carbon fiber center diverter, RE-Amemiya carbon fiber vortex generators, FEED carbon fiber side skirts)
  • Garage Alpha 1999 spec turn signals
  • Aero Catch hood pins
  • Updated Mazda badges
  • LED exterior lighting
  • 3M 15% window tint

INTERIOR

  • JDM spec (arm rest, passenger foot rest)
  • Banzai Racing Power FC commander holder
  • Aluminum interior door handles
  • Works Bell (short hub, quick-release)
  • Nardi Personal suede steering wheel
  • FEED weighted shift knob
  • Garage Alpha floor mats
  • Sakebomb Garage (fire extinguisher, extinguisher mount, extinguisher quick-release)
  • FlyRX7 52mm triple gauge pod
  • GReddy Profec B Spec 2 boost controller
  • Defi 52mm gauges (boost, temp)
  • AEM 52mm wideband gauge

AUDIO / MOBILE ELECTRONICS

  • Pioneer head unit
  • Rockford Fosgate (speakers, subwoofer)

2021 PASMAG Team Hybrid Mazda RX7 John Ubalde Andrew Ilbegi 013


ESSENTIALS

John Ubalde’s

Vehicle: 1993 Mazda RX-7
Location: Menifee, CA
Engine: Chevrolet LS 5.7L Aluminum V8
Horsepower: 435 whp
Torque: 400 ft-lb
Club: Team Hybrid

SOCIAL

Facebook: /jubalde
Instagram: @jubalde

ENGINE

  • Chevrolet 5.7L LS engine swap
  • Patriot 706 64cc Stage 2 heads
  • Ported and polished
  • 650 lift springs
  • Titanium retainers
  • Patriot Cam 225/229
  • MSD 8.8mm Wires w/ jackets
  • Holley Sniper 92mm Throttle Body
  • LS6 intake manifold
  • Auto Specialties under-drive pulley
  • Walbro 255 Fuel Pump
  • Aeromotive FPR
  • Micron inline fuel filter
  • Battery relocation kit to passenger rear
  • Custom carbon fiber cooling panel
  • AFe filter w/ custom cold air intake piping
  • HOWE custom aluminum radiator
  • Volvo 740 electric radiator fan
  • MSD 2-step launch control
  • HP Tuners tuned ECU

EXHAUST

  • Hinson custom long tube headers
  • Custom 4-inch exhaust piping
  • ReinHard titanium double cannonball exhaust

DRIVETRAIN

  • T56 6-speed transmission
  • Hinson Motorsports (T56 short shifter, differential brace, transmission brace, torque arm)
  • Cobra 8.8 differential (3.73 gears)
  • Wilwood clutch cylinder

WHEELS / TIRES / BRAKES

  • Blitz Type 03 wheels - 18x10.5 (f), 18x11.5 (r)
  • BF Goodrich G-Force Comp2 tires - 255/35/18 (f), 275/35/18 (r)
  • Wilwood (BBK 6-piston calipers, cross-drilled and slotted 2-piece rotors, stainless steel braided brake lines, proportioning valve)
  • ABS delete

CHASSIS / SUSPENSION

  • Hinson subframe
  • Fortune Auto (500 series coilovers, Air Piston Lift System)
  • 12K Swift springs
  • VIAIR dual 444c compressors
  • Cusco strut tower bar
  • Adjustable tie-rods
  • HURST Line-loc

EXTERIOR

  • Avery Dennison Roaring Thunder vinyl wrap
  • 1999 spec (JDM front bumper, 3-piece rear adjustable spoiler mounts)
  • Group A Motoring AD9 carbon fiber hood
  • FEED (20mm front fenders, rear fenders)
  • MazdaSpeed carbon fiber front lip
  • LegSport (carbon fiber front canards, carbon fiber side deflectors)
  • ODULA carbon fiber center spoiler
  • Shine Auto carbon fiber side skirt extensions
  • RE-Amemiya (carbon fiber pro rear diffuser, side mirrors)
  • Carbon fiber (rear diffuser vortex generators, wiper cowl, custom front plate)
  • Aero Catch hood pins
  • Griffith Racing rear tow hook
  • Car Shop Glow (V2 LED front turn signals, V1 LED tail lights)
  • EVO-R Knight Sports LED low-profile pop-up headlights

INTERIOR

  • Seibon carbon fiber door panels
  • Carbon fiber (center console, HVAC frame, gauge dash frame, triple gauge pod)
  • ProSport Evolution carbon fiber seats
  • Corbeau (seat rails, seat brackets)
  • Works Bell steering hub adapter
  • NRG quick-tilt system
  • Renown 130R suede steering wheel
  • Weighted neochrome shift knob
  • SakeBomb passenger foot rest
  • Custom aluminum dead pedal

AUDIO / MOBILE ELECTRONICS

  • Alpine (ILX-W650 head unit, MRV-M500 amplifier, SPR-50C Type R speakers, S-W12D2 12-inch subwoofer)
  • Custom trunk molded subwoofer enclosure

PHOTO GALLERY

Related Articles

Walk The Line: Farid Nurmohamed's 2003 Lexus IS300 Walk The Line: Farid Nurmohamed's 2003 Lexus IS300
Farid Nurmohamed’s Lexus IS300 is more than just a pretty face. Back when he lived in Tanzania with his family, Farid Nurmohamed’s father was...
Kyza’s Corvette RX-7 Render + The Real Deal Kyza’s Corvette RX-7 Render + The Real Deal
Khyzyl Saleem worked his magic on a new render concept: a combination of the C5 Corvette and the FD RX-7. Upon seeing it, we dug deeper to find out...
DIY DTM: Tim Lajambe's 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 DIY DTM: Tim Lajambe's 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190
A DTM Tribute Unlike Any Other Before It The Mercedes-Benz 190 - or the W201, as the chassis was internally designated by the German automaker - is...
Bavarian Frankenworks: George Dalmakis' 1973 BMW 2002 Bavarian Frankenworks: George Dalmakis' 1973 BMW 2002
A BMW 2002 in Appearance Only Having previously built a show-stopping E30 M3 EVO with an S54 engine swap, George Dalmakis was no stranger to...
2020 Battle of the Bluegrass: Vaded Mob Steals The Show 2020 Battle of the Bluegrass: Vaded Mob Steals The Show
There were 3 different times where Josh Freeman, Founder of Vaded Mob, thought his Mazda RX-7 wasn’t going to make it down to Louisville, KY for...
Jon Togans Gave His 1994 Mazda RX-7 The Custom Rear Diffuser It Deserves Jon Togans Gave His 1994 Mazda RX-7 The Custom Rear Diffuser It Deserves
Jon recently had his 1994 Mazda RX-7 at Galvez Customs in New Jersey to get a custom rear diffuser fabricated. Originally, he had a Rocket Bunny rear...