1979 Mazda 626 – Second Chances – 193
It was a phone call that West Aucklander Nate Langton never expected to receive. On the other end of the line was his friend and occasional-NZPC contributor Shane Conza: “Bro, check out the 626 listing on Trade Me, it’s your old one.” The car Shane was referring to was Nate’s 1979 Mazda 626 that had been stolen two years earlier from the secure car park at the 4&Rotary Nationals. At the time the 626 was rolling a set of 13-inch Mangel Modgies, cut springs and the factory 2.0-litre piston. The plan was to carry out a rotary transplant, and Nate was daily driving it, while slowly purchasing everything needed for the conversion. Having been missing for two years now, Nate had long given up hope on ever recovering it, so the phone call was a complete surprise. “After finding the link on Trade Me I still wasn’t convinced it was my car. It had been destroyed, but I thought, What the hell; and went and had a look at it anyway,” Nate explains.
Gathering together a few boys for the road trip, they ventured north to Whangarei. What greeted them was a complete mess, but it didn’t take Nate long to recognise the 626: “I sat in the driver’s seat, I’ve never had déjà vu like that before in my life. I looked around the car and noticed a lot of defining features like the welded-in plates I had to do for a WOF, paint peeling, the fact the chassis numbers had been ground off and even noticed the ignition had been popped — it was definitely my car. I told the dude I’d be back soon to purchase it, and off to the police station we went. After an hour convincing the sergeant that it was my car, they went and seized the 62. It was a lengthy six-month process through the courts to get it back and a shitload of work to convince them it was mine. But eventually I got it back — thank god for old pictures!”
Through this process of proving it was Nate’s, the boys figured out that the car was in fact a very rare Montrose edition, one of the first ever 626s produced and one of only five in New Zealand. Hence the very different looking nose cone — you have to look for a silver lining in even the worst situations.
With the 626 back in his possession it resumed its role as Nate’s daily driver for the next two years, until he decided it was time to take it off the road and let the build he had planned to carry out all those years ago finally commence. Taking your daily driver off the road could be construed as a problem to most, but not Nate; if anything he saw it as motivation to get the project finished as soon as possible. Without a car to get around in he’d be stuck at home and in theory a lot more work would get done out back in his shed.
The next 24 months saw plenty of late nights spent in that West Auckland garage transforming the ex-stolen property into a mint street car, with only a few specialized jobs outsourced. First on the list was the panel and paint, and with the help of some good mates (and plenty of alcoholic refreshment) each and every panel was worked back to perfection. Life as a stolen car had been rough on the 626, but after three months of nightly work, it was finally ready for friend Ben Phillips to spray on some Mazda White inside and out, including the flawless engine bay.
It was then off to Ben’s dad Brett, a very talented stitch master and owner of Westgate Auto Upholstery, who went to work on the interior with a combination of black and white vinyl. He also redid the carpet and hood lining keeping a classic look but transforming the once-tired interior.
The last piece to the puzzle was the engine, and for this Nate called upon the expertise of Brendon from WAR (West Auckland Rotary). A Series 5 RX-7 block Nate had purchased back when he first had the car was stripped and a set of Series 6 housings and the best-of-the-best NA high-comp Series 5 rotors replaced the turbo items. Before the block was built, the plates received big bridge ports, the rotors were lightened and a set of Racing Beat 2mm apex seals installed. For headers Nate was after a really deep sound from the 13B, so he went with large-diameter steam-pipe primaries that run all the way to the diff. A talented fabricator, Nate also took care of the engine mounts and custom alloy sump to clear the cross member. Before the engine was dropped into the bay everything was either polished or painted.
With the engine in and the car ready to go it was onto the dyno, but things didn’t go well with a few electrical gremlins stopping the full power figure from being revealed. Those have since been sorted and the 626 also gained all that necessary paperwork to ensure that it’s legal. It was now time to start enjoying the fruits of their labour of the past two years and put some kms on the Bridgestones. And put some ks on they have, travelling over 3500kms in the last year it’s been on the road. If you live in the Auckland area, chances are you will have seen the 626 out and about, as most sunny weekends Nate can be found at car shows, the drags or just out cruising with his mates. It’s not very often that you get a second chance with a car, so it’s great to see Nate faithful to his dream even after the events that took place, and you can be sure he’s making the most of it!
This article is from NZ Performance Car 193. Click here to check it out.
1979 Mazda 626 – Tuning Menu
ENGINE: Mazda 13B 1300cc twin rotary
BLOCK: Full cut bridge-port, Series 5 RX-7 plates, Series 6 housings, Series 5 NA high-comp rotors, 2mm Racing Beat apex seals, enlarged exhaust ports, custom alloy sump
INTAKE: 48mm IDA Webber, custom alloy manifold, K&N filter
EXHAUST: Twin 2.5-inch primaries to diff, three-inch to custom rotary muffler
FUEL: 4070 Carter fuel pump, 3/8 lines, Malpassi regulator
IGNITION: MSD coils, 10mm leads, locked dizzy
COOLING: Fenix alloy radiator, Series 5 RX-7 oil cooler
EXTRA: Fully de-loomed, custom radiator overflow, Gilmer drive
GEARBOX: Series 5 RX-7 five-speed
CLUTCH: Exedy clutch and pressure plate
FLYWHEEL: 10-pound chromoly
STRUTS: (F) Series 3 RX-7 struts, super-low Doby springs, custom alloy camber plates (R) shortened 4WD Monroe shocks, super-low Doby springs
BRAKES: (F) Series 3 RX-7 vented rotors and calipers (R) factory
OTHER: Nolathane bushes throughout
WHEELS: (F) 15×8-inch OM Simmons (R) 15×9-inch OM Simmons
TYRES: (F) 195/40R15 Bridgestone Potenza (R) 205/40R15 Bridgestone Potenza
PAINT: Mazda white sprayed by Ben Phillips
ENHANCEMENTS: Mazda lower door decal
SEATS: (F) Factory reupholstered by Westgate Auto Upholstery
STEERING WHEEL: Momo
INSTRUMENTATION: Auto Meter oil pressure and water temp
ICE: JVC head deck, six-inch components
POWER: 158 kilowatts (212hp) at the wheels (only one coil)
Nate Langton – Driver Profile
Occupation: Marine systems engineer
Build time: Two years
Length of ownership: Eight years
Thanks: Brett Phillips at Westgate Auto Upholstery, Gareth at Autolign, Kris at Repco, Brendon from West Auckland Rotary, huge thanks to Phillip Langton for all his time and patience, Ben Phillips, Tristan Phillip, Gordon Wright, Shane Conza, Sam Longley, Stacey Martinson, Zahn Turner, Joel Hannah at Firestone, and Toyshop RX
Words: Marcus Gibson Photos: Adam Croy