MazdACT Stories: Fonz Campa’s 2006 Series 1 Mazda MPS 6

On the brink of the Easter long weekend in the nation’s capital, team MazdACT has gathered for a pre-meet at the National Dinosaur Museum. Brachiosaurus and Velociraptor models stand silent, inviting interest but ultimately marking the memory of a long extinct species. 

It’s something Mazda turbo enthusiast Fonz Campa knows too well. His snowflake white MPS 6 is from a short-lived breed; the pinnacle of an era where Mazda’s fleet line up was as diverse as a standard city driver to a track ready beast and everything in between. 

“I like it because there’s not many around. I’ve always liked the Mazda 6 MPS because it’s not so common, a lot of people don’t even know it’s all-wheel drive because they’re more familiar with the front-wheel drive 3s. It’s unique.” 

Out on the Barton Highway, he’s escorted to the city by an SP23 and MX5 playing host to Photographer, Tyler Parrott. Some quizzical looks are noted at sets of lights as drivers in their daily midsize SUV’s take note of the white turbo gurgling beside them. Fonz is not letting the 6’s moment in time pass quietly.  

As he points out; he built and tuned it himself. Some fabrication was done by friends, but it was he who cut the designs and had them taped and welded. Notably, everything in the car is custom; an enthusiast would be hard pressed to find another Mazda6 in Australia that resembles the build.  Which delivers us into the extensive discussion of the engine bay… 

“When I first got it, I just did the basic mods, bolt on stuff. I had a tubular manifold, then I had a Cobb access port to allow me to tune it. I also upgraded to a GTX 2867 Garrett and that was good – made about 280 kilowatts” 

A year later he was offered a spare motor from a Queensland MPS owner and after some savings, bought forged pistons and rods and upgraded the head studs and gaskets. With stock injectors limited to about 250 to 280 kilowatts, Fonz added four extra injectors with 1,300 injector dynamics supported by a custom 16W billet inlet manifold. Initially he had an Etune from one of the well-known American Mazda tuners with his new Precision 5558 turbo and would go on to make 379 kilowatts. 

He later decided to learn to tune himself as Cobb allows the access port to be unlocked after completing and passing their EFI course. Tuning the MPS 6 for more power with this access port at the time involved calibrating the OEM direct injection and adding port injection for additional fueling for more power. 

“So, when you’re adding port injection, most people would add a split-second controller. This is a separate box which allows you to blend in the port injection – and it’s a lot more involved and difficult. It’s probably why in Australia most tuning shops don’t want to do it, because they’re not familiar with it. To make power you need to know how to tune both the DI and add the extra port injection with that split-second controller” 

Fonz likes a challenge. The new setup uses a high-mount manifold and 46mm external gate with the 5558 Precision turbo, but now tuned by himself. At the Booster’s dyno comp he would make 470 kilowatts and won the AWD category. This surprised him, as he didn’t really know it was capable of this power at all wheels.  The following year he bought a 6466, which is around three sizes bigger, and went on to make 525 kilowatts and win the AWD category again. 

Fonz would then get the bug to race the car and wanted a better standalone ECU. By this time Powertune Australia had made a plug-and-play kit, now running a MoTeC M150 and still using the Radium surge tank with twin 460-litre Walbro pumps to provide fueling. Surprisingly, the car still retains the stock gearbox, noting it seems to hold up at around 500 kilowatts or 800 newton metres of torque. It’s supported by a dual plate clutch and the transfer case uses upgraded billet caps. The diff is also stock but with an upgraded front mount and rear brace with DSS rear axles. 

The incredible passion invested in this former workhorse is a far cry from the Nissan S15 of Fonz’s prior life. A sale which gave way to home ownership, it was an expanding family and love of turbocharged cars and all-wheel drive that saw the MPS become more affordable than the Mitsubishi EVO or WRX. An all-leather interior sealed the deal and in 2015 a journey started that has only grown since; one that, in a discussion from earlier in the day, he would like his children to enjoy, learn to appreciate and maintain like true enthusiasts. 

Fonz is a humble owner. Accordingly, he makes a shout out to Turbosmart; who recently helped sponsor him with some new parts for his next project. That’s followed by Ross Performance Parts for making and upgrading the harmonic balancer for the MPS and Kelford cams, who also made the new Type C Version 2 camshaft based on the power and midrange he was seeking for his new build. It’s followed by Engineering Motorsport Solutions, who made an upgraded E85 compatible HPFP and finally his family, including his partner for being supportive and mate Dave and his brother Lachlan for helping with fabrication and tuning. Due credit goes to the Mazda MPS Owners Australia Facebook group, which has just clocked up over ten thousand members and to MazdACT for its ongoing support and appreciation. 

As the Photographer calls time on the shoot, we are led to a final question. Should Mazda return the turbo to mainstream production? Fonz thinks so, noting that in America Mazda has produced an all-wheel drive 3. Unfortunately, this model didn’t make it to Australian shores. In a market where the electric car has emerged and hybrids are fast dominating the field, he’d love for Mazda to bring out a sporty hybrid car, especially with the unending speculation over the next-gen RX9. 

“I still like rotaries, but from a reliability and emissions angle it may be a bit hard. But there’s been talks of a straight-six turbocharged Mazda and so if they do that then, yeah, I’d be keen” 

Like the dinosaurs before it, the MPS 6 has a legacy as something that has left its mark on history. Loud and dominating with a presence that has echoed through time, it’s a sight to behold when Fonz Campa is on the road before you, holding steady in the middle lane. It evokes hopes of a resurrection – and one can only hope someone at Mazda feels the same way.

Photographed at Constitution Place and the Parliamentary Triangle by Tyler Parrot of CutbackCBR featuring Fonz Campa. Cinematography and article hosted by Kevin Ha at StreetScene. Words, research and story by Justin Bush of Austography Film Image Inc. for MazdACT Stories, March 2024. 

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