INSTALLATION OF ROTARY EXTREME 1999 JDM STYLE FRONT BUMPER
1999 JDM Style Mazda Front Bumper
I never thought I'd install aftermarket body parts on my car. Simply not my thing.
But I simply couldn't get away from the fact that my car was beginning to look a bit dated.
Mazda had already taken the step to freshen up the design with an overhaul in 1999. New front
bumper, new rear wing, different style wheels, etc. And there was something to be said about
the new front bumper. From an engineering perspective it was a step above the old style.
The larger openings made for better cooling in all regards - oil coolers, radiator, and intercooler
all were fed more air. From an aesethic perspective there was much controversy. Seems as
if most people really liked the new look but the integrated license plate frame was a real
eyesore. I was of the same opinion. I never have used a front license plate on my car, and never
will, and having an unused molded in plate holder stuck right in the middle of the front bumper
simply would not do. So scratch that option. Rats.
Lovely 1999 JDM RX-7 but...OUCH! That license plate frame has to go!
Regarding the engineering issue, some technical justification for wanting a new front bumper is in order.
Mazda indicates that the cooling openings are over 150% larger than the openings in the 1993-1997 bumper. The bigger
the openings the more cooling, the better off you will be in keeping you car running...when run hard...on a track.
The oil cooler openings now essentially expose the entire face of the CWR oil coolers to incoming air.
Also Mazda states that the new front end and lip spoiler when combined with the rear wing greatly improved the
aerodynamics of the car as a whole. I did some quick and dirty calcs on my
1999 rear wing install page which
bears this out.
Note the significantly larger bumper openings especially those for the oil coolers.
Even the horn is now visible! (lower left corner of right oil cooler opening)
THE PLOT THICKENS
For years people moaned and groaned about that license plate frame holder. Some
folks took it upon themselves to buy the OEM '99 bumper and have a body shop shave the
plate frame off the bumper and graft in a cover. This is a time consuming and costly
option. A well known vendor developed a fiberglass version of the '99 bumper without
the license plate frame. VERY nice but still made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is brittle
and very easily damaged and in my opinion not the best idea for a front bumper unless you
plan on frequent repairs. Fast forward to the summer of 2004 and an enterprising gentleman
decided to get the ball rolling and persuaded Rotary Extreme to produce a urethane 1999 style
front bumper with the license plate frame removed. Yippeee! This essentially addressed all my
concerns at least. Made of urethane like the OEM bumper so wouldn't be easily damaged, didn't
have that eyesore of a front license plate frame, was produced in the US, and hopefully would
be affordable. The affordable part was satsified as this proposed product generated such interest
a group buy was orchestrated and the price dropped significantly. It goes without saying
I jumped aboard the ship (as did 4 more of my DC friends) and about 6 months later a huge box
arrived at my house.
The biggest box I've ever received! 4 bumpers and the accessories our locals ordered.
Replacing the front bumper with another part is not a one for one parts swap.
Several other things need to be considered.
The turn signal lenses are different so
replacements must also be purchased. The OEM 1999 lenses are VERY expensive at more than
$400 for the pair. Yikes! AND...they will not plug into the 1993-1995 wiring harness.
An adapter harness has to be bought for about $80 (more expense) or you could splice
in the wires yourself (more work). However, help is on the way.
Makoto Auto Trends sells
knockoff 1999 JDM style lenses for 1/2 the price of the factory lenses
(Part number M-MZ99R7-6839BLX for the smoked version) AND
the wiring plugs directly into the 1993-1995 harness - no adapter or wire splicing needed.
The only difference in appearence is the OEM lights have a smooth inner housing whereas
the knockoffs have an angular inner housing. From 5 feet you can't tell the difference and
if you didn't know there was a difference one would swear they were OEM parts.
And a nice option is the knockoffs are sold with a clear lens, a smoked lens, or clear
lens with a clear housing (vs black). I chose the black housing with the smoked lens.
The next hurdle involves the oil cooler ducting. The 1999 style bumper obviously
has larger oil cooler openings. This renders the existing oil cooler ducts unusable.
Add to this my aftermarket CWR oil coolers
and my nice Carbon Fiber ducts for those are also unusable. Fiddlesticks! Rotary Extreme
has developed a fiberglass duct to fit the 1999 style bumper and which mates to the EOM oil coolers
both drivers and passenger sides. Doesn't really help me much so I have resigned myslef to
fabrication of my own ducts or persuading CWR to do a run of some CF ducts for the '99 bumper.
And the last issue is that of the lip spoiler. I already had the 1999 lip spoiler installed on
my old bumper so no problem for me but consider this as another added expense. They are OEM parts - 2 pieces
that run about $175.
I really don't have much to offer here as I wimped out and had a
body shop install and paint the bumper for me. I can describe some
of the issues faced however. The bumper for the most part is a bolt on
part. Rotary Extreme developed the
injection mold using a new OEM bumper. Installation consistes basically of
removing the old bumper, drilling the approriate holes in the new bumper,
swapping over the aluminum rebar pieces from the old bumper to the new bumper,
and enlarging the openings in the bumper reinforcement to accommodate the
larger turn signal lenses, and then mounting the new bumper. Of course accessories
like the new turn signals, lip spoiler, and undertray are also installed.
Only two areas may provide difficulties. Enlarging the holes in the bumper
reinforcement can be tedious - enlarge holes, put the bumper on, does it fit,
no, remove bumper, enlarge holes some more, mount bumper, does it fit, etc. Or you
can be lazy and just hack of the entire ends of the bumper reinforcement. I instructed
my body shop not to do this. The other issue is with the Aluminum rebar. there are
three pieces, two infornt of the headlight buckets and the large piece that runs along
the leading between the headlights. The pieces are riveted to the bumper. The rivets
must be drilled out and the rebar removed and reinstalled on the new bumper. Easy,
right? Well not so fast. Seems as if the new bumper urethane is tad thicker than the old
OEM bumper. This may or may not leave enough clearence to refit the aluminum rebar to the
new bumper. My body shop was able to refit the rubber seal but not the aluminum rebar.
I might have a go at fitting it myself later but for now the bumper looks good and is
not in any danger of flying off the car so I'll leave well enough alone.
I do have some minor concerns with the fitment which may or may not be specifci to me
alone. The fitment is good but not perfect. I believe this again to be a question of the
thickness of the urethane used on the new bumper. This causes some minor misalignment
around the headlight buckets. Note in the pictures below the drivers side gaps around the headlight
is perfect whereas the passenger side is off by about an 1/8 inch. Not significant but
noticable. Also my painter was not happy with the finish of the bumper. Extensive "wavyness"
around the area where the license plate frame was removed required quite a bit of effort
to fix before painting. He admitted he could have applied paint as it was but he said he would
not have been happy with the result. This may vary from bumper to bumper and I admit some
of the "wavyness" could have been made worse during shipment. Other than these minor concerns
I am very pleased with the result.
THE FINISHED PRODUCT
Paint and finish is as smooth as glass.
It's apparent I need to do something about ducting though.
A bit of droop in front of the headlights
but side seam looks great.
Potential for minor fitment issue. Note perfect
fit on the drivers side and slight misalignment on the passenger side.
(my car has NEVER been in an accident)
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This page last updated February 4, 2005
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