By Michael Kitchens
Track cars are ugly beasts. They’re broken in, scarred and exhibit a menacing stance. Drivers know their every nuance and trait while pushing them to the limit.
It’s for these reasons that they’re also the most impressive. Take Edwin Retener’s 1990 Mazda Miata, a custom-fabricated, finely tuned driving machine. It’s no BMW, but it’s definitely something better.
At 27, Ed has built this machine with his bare hands and experience. He honed his skills as a wee lad in the engine bay of his dad’s 1967 Ford Mustang.
“After that, I fell in love with cars … anything with a motor,” Ed says. His first car purchase was 2002 Honda Civic LS. Hondas are often the first introduction to the modification scene thanks to their affordable nature and plentiful aftermarket, a fact that Ed embraced fully.
After high school, Ed quickly joined the Navy and was stationed in the motherland for all things — the Japanese domestic market, or JDM — which introduced him to the burgeoning drifting scene. Forced to sell his R32 Skyline upon returning to the states, Ed purchased a Nissan 240SX, and jumped headlong into modifying it. While visiting several of California’s most notable tracks, he put the 240 through several different engine iterations, including the less popular but always torqued KA-Turbo.
Ed didn’t stop there. After a vacation to Japan, he found a 3-rotor 20B from a Cosmo and went crazy on an FD build.
“It was supposed to be my daily driver,” he says.
By this time, he had amassed a consistent amount of fabrication knowledge and upon returning to Hawaii in 2009, Ed opted to start fresh with his current Miata.
For the uninformed, Miatas are literally the world’s most raced car and is officially known as the best-selling sports car of all time. A staggering 900,000 Miatas have been produced since 1989 and the modern iterations continue to sell well. Ed’s Miata had already been modified from its previous owner, but an over-excited Ed blew the engine on a spirited run one late night.
Sourcing an engine from a fellow Miata and SCCA enthusiast, Avery Tsui, Ed began rebuilding his engine. It’s at this point that he was introduced to SCCA Hawaii by Avery and things really went up a notch. SCCA Hawaii’s Solo is the only event on Oahu where you can race your vehicle on an asphalt surface. It’s essentially a time attack where the courses change for each event. It tests the drivers on a sea of asphalt littered with cones that separate the walk from the talk.
Through SCCA Solo, Ed has improved his driving technique while receiving a veritable education from fellow drivers regarding tuning and setup.
“I learned everything from corner weighting, tire pressures, spring rates to what parts were important and not,” he explains.
SCCA also influenced the build of the car, including the choice tires, suspension goodies and custom fabrication necessary to setup the car to Ed’s preference. Check the mod list for the details, but the end result is an extremely agile racecar that not only looks the part, but plays it as well.
His future plans for the car is a Monster Miata LS1 swap that will provide an incredible amount of horsepower and torque for what is already an incredibly responsive car.
For Ed, he plans on returning to the Mainland to improve his skills at the many SCCA events and tracks available.
“If you think you’re a good driver, take on a random course,” he tells me. “You’ll think again.”