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Trenell “Savant” Young is known for a couple of things: first, he’s a world-famous Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter and second, he owns one super-bad Mazda RX-3. But he’s always been a car guy. Although his first automotive memory is of being in a car that was rear ended (which was a “pretty traumatic experience”), his first positive experience involving cars was through his uncles who built cars and raced illegally in South LA. They’d take Young to the street races, and he’d sit in the car, aged about 10, and they’d drag race from light to light.

The scene back then, and the cars, varied tremendously based on the neighborhood. In East LA, there were more lowriders and bombs (late ‘40s and early ‘50s domestics), further west and south there were a lot of mini-trucks sporting Enkeis and two 15” subs, and the American sports car guys who had V8s. But Young got into small imports, like Datsun 510s and Mazdas, which also had a loyal following, as they were relatively inexpensive. His first car however, was a VW Rabbit GTI with a tendency to overheat that one of his uncles gave him.

He didn’t hang on to the Rabbit for long, buying a Honda Civic Si about a year later. The Civic was the first car that he modified, swapping the engine and replacing the headers, cams, and adding a 50-shot of nitrous among other modifications.

Young thought it was quick…

He thought it was quick until he pulled up next to a guy in a built Mazda RX-7 II at a stoplight. Young was beaten easily. Following the race he started looking for a Mazda and gave up on piston motors.

As a natural athlete and competitor, his career in MMA has allowed Young to travel the world and gave him the opportunity to fight in Japan and see cars that he’d only read about. But it didn’t take a trip to Japan for him to find his RX-3, he’s owned that since 1998 although it wasn’t always so nice. For a long time, it was shuffled between friends’ garages and Young parked it wherever he could, as long as it was off the street.

The car has gone through many iterations and Young has spent a lot of time getting the car into its current condition, he’s even had to save it from fire, which led to a purchase offer from a firefighter. And while he didn’t find the car in Japan, it was his journey that led him to invest in the car and finally build it the way he had always envisioned. Some people may take issue with the fact that it’s painted Telesto Grey, a Lamborghini color, or that it sports blacked-out trim, or that the air intake pokes out where a headlight should be. This is not a purist’s car, it isn’t numbers-matching. What it is is Young’s dream and a quick drive around town makes all the hard work worthwhile. A quick drive and also a nod from Jay Leno.

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Podcast Interview by A.J. Gordon / Article Written by Yoav Gilad