Today it’s commonplace for smaller, low-slung vehicles to get lost in the sea of SUVs and sedan-sized “hot hatches”. Maybe that’s why Ralph decided to paint his FC orange so people don’t merge into him on the highway. “I did it simply because I wanted something a little different”, he insists to me when we caught up for a morning coffee by his Hoskins Auto workshop.
It’s definitely an attention grabber, FC3S. Ralph uses his 25L/100KM 160KW machine as his daily as he commutes to and from place of work, Hoskins Auto. It says European Specialists on the boards, but deep down Ralph loves all things JDM.
Having migrated here from China in the early 2000s, becoming a mechanic was a bit of a foregone conclusion from a young age. He has previous, “my dad was a mechanic, and I did my apprenticeship under him”, Ralph tells me. Toy cars were a staple in his life, Tamiya 1:24 scales and the things that lots of kids today miss out on. So much was the influence of his Land Rover Defender model, that he ended up with one as an adult, 1:1 scale of course…
Ownership of this FC happened through circumstance, Ralph says “I was supposed to do an OEM rebuild for my close friend but he ended up buying another car. There were a few jobs that were unpaid, so I copped this in exchange for the work”. He didn’t like it at first, it didn’t look anything like the machine today, but if he could save an FC from the junkyard, perhaps it would be worth it.
The car ended up sitting at the back of his then-Bankstown workshop for six years, “till the month before we moved to Mortlake, the car was still in pieces”. With a new shop, came an opportunity to get the car up and running.
As with the majority of builds, they start out with simple intentions, “I just wanted to track it and get the car running again”.
He did that, but then the “really shit 90s Mazda interior” decided to fall apart, all at the same time.
Ralph subsequently sourced a brand new interior for his car, scouring the ends of the world for genuine Mazda FC bits, but then the car was no longer the same, “it became a classic car to me”.
With a brand new interior, as anybody with OCD would know, it’s not possible to leave the exterior untouched… a small build suddenly became a project.
“It had to be 90s, with deep dish, super low with a bright colour” Ralph told me of his train of thought when first scheming out the build. Over the course of two years, he used his spare time and after hours to slowly piece together a build that he never intended to create in the first place. What’s documented in the images does not do the details justice.
Those in the know will understand how difficult it is to achieve “proper” fitment in an FC, the dimensions of the guards make it a challenge. Ralph picked up a pair of widebody front guards, and went about fabricating it to the original shape, so much so that unless you’ve got a keen eye, you wouldn’t be able to tell without a comparison to an original body FC. There used to be “JDM-style” vents on the fenders, but he’s moulded them in to keep things clean.
The small custom details to make the car so attractive continued with the rear camber. 17×9 +5 Equips needed camber, and without a ready-made kit to handle -7 degrees, Ralph fabricated a solution for himself. The Equips are actually his favourite addition to the car, “I stripped it to pieces and polished every bolt”. It’s weird, he refurbished the wheels, but won’t dare touch the gutter rash that came when purchased, simply because “it won’t be the anodised 90s Japanese finish anymore. To keep this finish is the hardest part”. Let’s see how long it’ll be before his OCD kicks in and the imperfections get the better of him.
To me, the imperfections of his car make it so much more appealing. The concept of wabi-sabi in Japan is that of acceptance for imperfections and transience, and the gutter rash perfectly embodies this. This completely goes against the philosophy of this build, a restoration of a bygone era and making it a time capsule for the past, the 90s aren’t coming back. So fitting that by removing the gutter rash, Ralph would also remove a piece of the 90s from his wheel…
Putting the car back together, the car is made to be driven, running an OEM ECU and making similar power to factory. I’ve been lucky enough to cruise around in it, the best way to describe it is that you feel really fucking cool. Ralph doesn’t have to worry too much, just drive it and appreciate it for what it is to him, a classic car with his own personal touch.
“I don’t think anyone will make cars like them nowadays.”
The FC gives off a very wholesome feeling. It’s so simple, yet so detailed. Understated, but loud at the same time. Everything is new, however old simultaneously. People would pass this as a weekend/restoration build, yet Ralph drives it everyday. It’s a project he never wanted, but also the creation he loves.
It’s been eight years with the car, only first registered under his name two years ago. “You know, I rejected an 8K R32 GTR when I got this because I didn’t want two projects” Ralph recounts. Fast forward to now, he’s ended up with an R32 GTR project anyway.
Funny how life works!