Since the age of 14, Cristian Tyrell has been fending for and finding himself. He lived back and forth between Houston, Texas, and the Portland, Oregon, and skateboarding was his constant, four-wheeled passion until a buddy he skated with pulled up to the skatepark in a modified Honda Civic. "Hell yeah! A dope skater with a dope whip! I wanna be that guy!" That was the point where just being interested in cars turned into something that was going to change the course of his life.
Done with Portland and ready to make Houston home again, Cristian bought a Kia Sephia for $300 and drove it the whole way with nothing more than a backpack stuffed with clothes and his skateboard. He settled in working at Whole Foods Market and found himself looking more in depth at cars.
Cristian picked up an '81 Toyota Corolla and started toying with it—running the streets in a car most people guessed was a Starlet or Charger. "It wasn't until I was at a gas station and this Puerto Rican guy looked at my car and said, 'Hey, nice Corolla. You know what we do in PR with those? We throw rotaries in them.' This is when I got the rotary bug."
Diving deep, he learned all he could about rotaries—known for being smooth and efficient but petrol-thirsty and lacking torque when compared to traditional piston engines. The Corolla was ditched to make way for an '88 Mazda FC RX-7 GXL, and in the one year he owned it, he learned the ins and outs of the naturally aspirated rear-wheeled liftback. Parting ways with the FC after totalling it, he was set on getting another one, but this time, the turbo model. With some luck, he found a gem in a 10th anniversary edition based on the Turbo II model.
It was driven hard until the motor blew, and Cristian attempted to rebuild it but eventually let the experts at Rotary Performance in Garland, Texas, build a Frankenstein out of three different engines he supplied. The result: a built street-ported stage 4 turbocharged 13B that still runs like a champ. "Performance first, aesthetics later." The next order of business was to transform the bumper-missing, plasti-dipped turd into more than a reliable eyesore.
It was during this stage of the build that he got to know the guys behind Final Form USA—a unique Japanese parts distributor and importer based in Houston. With proper guidance and knowledge from these local experts, he outfitted the FC with Volk Racing TE37SL wheels wrapped in Falken RT615K+ tires and also installed a list of Powered by MAX suspension components. Finer details like RE Amemiya bodywork, Car Shop GLOW LED taillights, LED headlights, and a fresh coat of white paint completed the exterior makeover. As a driver who enjoys drifting in his car, he feels at home sitting in the Mazda RX-8 seat with a Nardi rally steering wheel at his reach and an array of gauges in sight inside the cabin.
Since February, Cristian's FC has remained in this beautiful state, but he's set a goal to get more aggressive with a widebody kit and also retune the car to squeeze additional power. Unfortunately, as we all know, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston hard with torrential rain, leading to devastating flooding that also affected Cristian as his apartment was completely underwater and his daily driver was ruined. Miraculously, his RX-7 was somehow spared from disaster.
Staying positive with a great crew throwing nothing but support his way while he rebuilds his home and his life, Cristian still has his eyes set on completing his vision for his car and its final form. "I won't give up now as I have already put too much effort into this car. This is my passion and I mean to see it through." Respect.