A man I used to hang out with once said that a rotary engine was like a pump for turning dead dinosaurs into noise and not much torque. He was half right, I thought, as I lit up the mountain road.
In those days, I was a quality-control engineer for a small mining operation, and part of my job involved taking visits to distant rural neighbourhoods and evaluating them for purchase. The people who lived here, they’d have a bad roll at the roulette table, fall sick, over-leverage their homes, any one of a million things, and sell the family birthright to my employer as a step of last - or sometimes first - resort.
My job was to drive down the hundreds of dirt roads stretching across the state, like the spidered glass in a windshield after you hit a pedestrian, to visit these unfortunates during the worst days of their lives. And for that job, I needed something a little different. A little stranger. It wouldn’t do to turn up in just another corporate-stickered F150, they’d take you for a sucker, size you up as an agent of the corporation. I needed relative anonymity, but in a way that let me get my personality across.
My vessel of choice was a baby shit brown ‘87 RX-7 GXL, dug out of a scrapyard a decade previous and nursed back to health with a combination of my good taste and not knowing how to quit a lost cause. It was lifted three inches on subframe spacers and a further two inches on retrofitted Rancho twin-tube long-throw truck suspension, which gave what was left of the RX7 a menacing, war-torn appearance even before they noticed the piecemeal Grabbers beneath it, the tread lugs alternatingly cut out of the tire to give me that extra little edge on snow and ice. Huge xenon rally lights sat atop a chicken-wire-and-DOM pushbar and drew the eye away from the admittedly-undersized ATV winch bolted to it.
Coming around the last bend before the town, I dropped the long-throw gas pedal to the rapidly vibrating floorpan and was rewarded with the sound of a ball-bearing turbocharger racing to the moon as it force-fed the howling Dorito beneath the all-too-vented hood. The power bulge caught the edge of the morning sun just right, and I found myself blinking my eyes to clear sun blindness. All at once, the town of Sedalia unfolded before me, its main street straight as an arrow past the law offices of the man I was to visit. I could hear the General Grabbers start to howl against broken asphalt as the road surface switched from what the state government generously termed “unimproved” to what the town government generously termed “improved.”
As I pulled up to the town’s sole law office, I couldn’t help but catch a side glimpse in the gravel parking lot. That’s weird, I thought. That couldn’t have been a lifted Miata, could it?
But then I could hear it. Pistons. All around me.