Mark Snellman’s RX-7 Is One Wicked Drag-And-Drive Machine

You’ll see all sorts of vehicles at drag-and-drive events, and Mark Snellman’s ride had most spectators at the 2024 Sick Week event stumped as to what it was. You had to be well-versed in the import world to know that it was a 1993 Mazda RX-7.

“It was an ex-drift car and I got it for under $2,000,” said the Orlando, Florida, resident. “It was running and driving, but had no front end, no interior, and the wiring harnesses were chewed up.”

Still, the Mazda was equipped with its legendary 13b rotary engine and factory twin turbochargers.

“At the time, I had a couple of other third gen RX-7s that were much nicer,” Snellman explained. “This one popped up on Craigslist. I could drive it, autocross, and wheel-to-wheel race it, and I wouldn’t get mad if someone bumped it. I had OEM parts to throw the front end back on, replace the damaged wiring harnesses, and a Power FC, the standard aftermarket plug-and-play ECU to run the car.”


Snellman decided to wrap the car since the paint was terrible. This was done right around the time that wrapping cars really started to become popular. He hired a friend to wrap it and make it look different.

“He was about to order the wrap and said we should do something crazy,” Snellman told us. Michael Bodie of ATC Window Tint covered the coupe in a digital camouflage wrap, and Snellman decided to call it Digicar.

“With 7-18 psi of boost, I had a ton of fun with it. As with all rotary engines, the more boost you throw at them, they need more timing. Eventually, you crack the seals and that’s what happened to the engine that came in the car. It went into the graveyard with my other rotaries,” Snellman says.

The 6.0-liter LS engine was fitted with a previously used cam kit, LS9 head gasket, LS7 lifters, and a Brian Tooley Racing intake manifold. The turbo manifolds are cast stainless units from Armageddon and sold through Summit Racing. VS Racing blow off valves and wastegates manage the boost pressure from the VS Racing 67/81 turbos.

Snellman knew the Digicar was the one to have fun with, but he had another RX-7 that was LS swapped and liked how reliable it was.

“I had a bunch of broken RX-7s and decided to consolidate them all. I was just going to take all of my favorite parts and put them into my favorite chassis. I didn’t need a primo interior car, so I swapped my carbon doors and hatch, and moved the LS swap to this car. Two months later, I broke the factory rearend the moment we put a sticky tire on the rear. That issue was solved by swapping in a 2003 Mustang Cobra IRS and 8.8 rearend,” Snellman states.

With the new LS-swapped RX-7 finished, it was time to start having fun with the car.

“You have to add more power then, so I put a single turbo on it. It was a lot of fun like that. That’s also when we swapped to an auto and started doing more drag-style and half-mile events like Wanna Go Fast. The motor was pushing 1,000 horsepower at the time, and never gave us problems, but we broke so much stuff on the chassis,” Snellman explains.

The interior is all-business with Holley’s Terminator providing the Pro Dash with information. $6 pillows from Walmart improved the seat comfort of the Kirkey race seats. A 10lb fire suppression system was added in case of fire.

Around that time, a friend of Snellman’s who happened to be a Veilside distributor suggested that Snellman outfit his RX-7 with one of his company’s body kits as no one was racing them anymore.

“It was a very popular car in the RX-7 world,” Snellman said of the vivid, widebody RX-7 from the Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift movie. “I couldn’t let that idea go as it was such a cool car. I got a kit and took the car down to the frame to fix everything, but we bit off more than we could chew.” The RX-7 ended up spending the next seven years on jack stands.

Eventually, Snellman and his best friend, Aaron Messmer, decided it was time to get the RX-7 back in fighting shape.

“We started talking about the first Sick Week and drag-and-drive stuff. I feel it is back to the roots of racing where the racers aren’t beating each other up to win,” Snellman states.

Snellman found the 15×14-inch Weld Alum-a star wheels on Facebook Marketplace for the RX-7. The tires kept moving on the rims, he had Macfab bead-lock the wheels to better grip the 325/50/15 MT ET Street R tires.

The Rising Sun

Snellman watched the first two Sick Week events come and go, and then finally got serious about finishing the RX-7.

“I said, ‘Let’s just get it back together and looking nice.’ Parts of the body kit had warped from sitting in the garage for so long in the Florida heat, but we just let them sit outside and then fitted them up. We painted the car in the garage. The 6.0-liter, stock-bottom-end LS engine was updated, and a 25.5 SFI roll cage was installed too,” Snellman says.

Snellman drove the RX-7 from his home in Orlando, to the start of the event at Orlando Speed World in nearby Bithlo, Florida. Because of the widebody kit, the car was placed in the Unlimited class. Snellman made six passes on check-in day to get his NHRA license and clocked a best run of 9.2 seconds.

On the first day of the event, Snellman spun the tires on his very first pass. “I let off the gas and it surged and bent our throttle body blade,” Snellman recalled. “The first night we had to stay late to get the second pass in. It was idling at like 4,000 rpm. We limped it to my house, took it apart, and hammered the throttle body blade flat.”

With a 4L80 transmission and 3.08 rear gears, the RX-7 had no issues on the cruise to Bradenton Motorsports Park. The late start meant Snellman and Messmer didn’t arrive at the track until 5am.

“We booked no hotels, had a tent on the trailer, and planned to hit the truck stops to take showers. We were too tired to unpack the tent, so we tightened the five points and fell asleep in the car,” Snellman says.

Day two went better, and Snellman clocked an 8.558 at 167.07 mph. But what he thought was a mis-shift on his part turned out to be a tuning error that caused transmission damage during the run. This problem flared up as they left the track for Gainesville. Rollins Automotive in Gainesville offered a lift to repair the transmission, so Snellman and Messmer limped the Mazda there and worked until 3am. Morning came and no one had new clutches in stock, but they were able to procure a set.

“We had to take apart someone else’s running car to get their used clutches for our car!” The duo arrived at Gainesville, but didn’t have time to swap the fuel out, so Snellman collected an easy 13.79 timeslip and then headed to Adel, Georgia, for day four.

“The initial goal was to make it to the fifth day,” Snellman said. “We were learning about the car at every track and tweaked it every single pass.”

Day 4 proved to be their best yet, as Snellman clicked off an 8.012 at 176.07 on his first pass.“I was so happy to get so close to a seven-second pass and was looking forward to going back to Orlando.”

“The trailer we used we borrowed from a friend, and it was homebuilt by his father,” Snellman said. “Next year we will build a purpose-built trailer.”

As with most drag-and-drive competitors, Snellman planned to throw everything at on the final day of the event. Unfortunately, he messed up some settings in the Holley EFI system and the engine wouldn’t rev with the transbrake on.“I raced back into line and went back to old settings,” Snellman explained. “We were running on very little sleep the whole week so that played a part in the issue.”

On his next run, the old tuneup proved to be a little too much for the track surface and he spun off the hit. “I stayed in it, but lifted the head at the 1,000 ft mark. I turned in a 9.264 at 169.19. We probably could have tossed another head gasket on it and got another run, but the car was telling us no.”

Snellman’s RX-7 ended up placing 4th in the Unlimited class with a 9.835 average at 152.46 mph, and he and Messmer are already planning on upgrades for next year’s Sick Week.

“We need to add an interior and they need to add an exception to the widebody so we can get into one of the street car classes. We’ll probably switch to half-inch head studs and aftermarket cast heads. We want to keep the power level where we are at and need the thicker deck surface aftermarket heads provide,” Snellman explains.

“We were rushing to get it done. We were cleaning up the tune on the dyno and made 1,200 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and started slipping the tire. It made 1,300 lb-ft of torque. Based on trap speed and weight, it is around 1,400 horsepower. We need to polish it, test and tune for more data, and maybe chase a low-eight or high seven-second average,” Snellman says.

The outside of the car is going to get some upgrades as well.

“The car has to get rewrapped back to the digi camo, and I want to add a drag wing to the car. The body kit added five inches to each side, so I had a friend at Kings Performance 3D-scan the back of the car and he is working on the drag wing,” Snellman explains.

The changes might keep the spectators guessing as well.

“We were keeping a running tally of people guessing what the car was. It wasn’t until we were leaving Bradenton that someone knew. With less than 10,000 3rd-gen RX-7s in America, it’s probably not surprising many people are unsure of what it is, but we’re pretty sure more people are going to be checking it out in the future,” Snellman says.

Mark Snellman’s RX-7 is different than most drag-and-drive cars you’ll see. That’s what makes the whole drag-n-drive movement so cool, people take what they have and find a way to make it work.

About the author

Steve Baur

A lifelong automotive enthusiast, Steve Baur attended the University of South Florida for journalism and has worked as a technical editor and editor for numerous automotive publications for over 20 years.
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