In the Passenger Seat: Yip Feng and His Legendary JDM Icon

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In this episode of In The Passenger Seat, we sit down with Yip Feng (@doyeet0s) and ask him about owning an FC RX-7 and living the JDM dream.

 "Nani? Kansei dorifto?" Ahem.... 

If you're talking about the Mazda RX-7 FC, Ryosuke Takahashi's car from Initial D might have been the first thing that pops up in your mind. 

But real-life iterations are incredibly rare in Singapore with only eight FCs are known to grace our roads. Combine this and the popularity of the anime in recent years and you can see why it has attained legendary status amongst enthusiasts. 

Here, Yip Feng talks about how his interest in cars started, how he acquired his FC and how he maintains this notoriously unreliable car. 

First of all, what's your name, age and what do you do?

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I am Yip Feng, 25 this year and I am finishing my B(A) in Architecture in NUS. I work part-time at Synergy Motorworks on projects and I run a small laser cutting business @cut_sg. I also help owners buy and sell cars on the side. Most recently, I sold a one-owner F430 Spider. 

For the uninitiated, what cars do you currently own and how did you get your hands on them?

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I own a 1989 Mazda RX-7 FC3S. The family car is a 2005 Lexus IS200. I also own a couple of classic cars that will be registered under the classic plate scheme soon. I got my hands on the FC in January this year after the car popped up on sgCarMart.

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I immediately reached out to the owner and put the down payment for it the next day. I bought the IS200 from Axle Motors. The IS200 shares the same chassis as one of the all-time greats, the Toyota Altezza. I've always loved how it drove and looked growing up. 

I met the previous owner and he told me about the history of the car, and I was immediately impressed by how well kept the car was. It was also an incredibly rare car as not many models survived the high COE in the early 2000s. After we sold the family’s Golf GTI, we got it as its replacement.

What about cars that you previously own?

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I used to share a car with my mum, and we co-paid for an Audi A4 Avant. It was previously featured here.

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After my mum and I decided to get separate cars, I bought a really cheap Renault Megane RS250 from a repossession auction and restored it.

What sparked your interest in cars?

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I grew up in the 90s and grew up watching Initial D like so many other kids from my generation. I’ll be the first to admit that I only got into the anime a lot later, and my first exposure to Initial D was actually the live-action movie starring Jay Chou and Edison Chen. 

Ryosuke and Takumi battling it on Mt Akina definitely played a part in my wanting to own a car. In fact, it was such a large part of my childhood. I still remember jamming to Eurobeat while racing in Forza, on the first-generation Xbox console in my uncle’s house. I guess I have to also blame my passion for cars on my uncle. 

He is a huge petrolhead and I remember following him to many car shows back as a kid. He took me out on drives in the many cars he had owned like his 156, Legacy GT, Evo 10 and RS4. 

He was also an avid fan of modifying cars, and I received many of his old car magazines. I’d spend so much time reading through these magazines like Option, Top Gear, Evo and etc. 

It appears you have spent a lot of work on the RX-7 FC. Any regrets or words of advice to others?

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My car has been under restoration for the last 9 months of 2021. Has it been tiring? Yes. Am I broke? Extremely.

However, I don’t regret any of this, obviously. I set out on this restoration journey early this year when I took a gap semester from university after Covid-19 took away my exchange at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. Since I had a semester free, I thought I would tick a box off my bucket list and restore the car with my own hands.

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I have gotten into watching car restoration shows over the last few years, and have always been envious of the people living stateside or in Europe. Barn finds are aplenty and they are cheap as chips. They then go through the whole journey of restoration in their parents’ garage.

I managed to get a taste of it with the help of my good friend Dexter, at Synergy Motorworks, where I eventually ended up working. He rented me his workshop space and shared his expertise to help me go through this restoration journey.

 A word of advice to all? Go fix your car yourself once in a while. If something breaks, look up the part number either with a local stockist or online, watch a YouTube video and then borrow a jack and wrench. It is a truly rewarding experience.

The engine can be notoriously hard to maintain, not to mention that the car guzzles petrol. How do you cope with the many drawbacks of the car?

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A rotary is notorious for its maintenance. After all, my car has spent 90% of its time under my ownership in workshops. The only reason why I can afford to fix it and keep it going is that I do it myself (with help of course).

Thankfully, I’ve had the luxury of time over the last few months. I’d say if you want to keep a rotary in Singapore, be prepared for downtime, or be prepared to make your mechanic really rich.

Contrary to popular belief, my RX7 has had amazing fuel consumption. I must have pumped its tank less than 10 times this year (since I can’t drive the car, I can’t use petrol). I cope with it by annoying my mother and my friends by borrowing their cars when I need to.

Have you done any modifications to your car?

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Is this a trick question? Haha. I’ve unmodified the car heavily since I’ve bought it. It is going back to 95% original as part of the restoration. 

I am, however, running a couple of upgraded parts like a hybrid turbo rebuilt by Turbotechnix, Koyo radiator, ARC intercooler, RE-Amemiya Wheels, AP 5000R brakes, Mazdaspeed front & rear strut bars, KYB Street Superspecial suspension and etc. 

 Any difficulties you had to overcome while driving the RX-7 FC?

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My rear brakes caught on fire once when I installed a wrong brake booster and I got stuck on the side of a highway. But that’s about it. I’ll update you when I actually get to drive it more. 

What is your dream car?

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Too many to choose from. But off the top of my head, it’s the Porsche 997 GT3 RS…. or an R32 GTR….. or a manual 1st gen Gallardo…. or a…… nevermind, you get my drift. Don’t make me choose! 

Would you prefer Continental or JDM cars?

I don’t really care if a car is continental or JDM. Great cars will be great cars. 

What are your thoughts on the car scene in Singapore?

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I think that under the surface and the mainstream where the pop-and-bang tunes are commonplace, there is so much richness to the history and depth of car nuts in Singapore. 

A lot of untold stories are yet to be shared by so many uncles and aunties who once lived in the heyday of the Kallang car park rallies, etc. I hope that new car enthusiasts would spend more time learning about modifying their cars by reading up more and less time throwing the keys to a workshop to ‘bao ka liao’ (do everything).

If you’re new to modifying cars, you should spend more studying the pros and cons of installing a certain car part. Research, trial and error and doing DIY is about 50% of the joy and satisfaction you get from car ownership. 

The other 50% of people neglect so much, is seat time. Spend less time looking at builds and chicks on Instagram and spend that time driving (or fixing your car when you break it)!

Keep up with Yip Feng and his FC's restoration journey over on his Instagram.

This interview has been edited for clarity purposes.

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