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From MAZDA FUEL Magazine:
The Speed of Sound

Slick sport coupe gradually becoming the beater a songwriter sings about

Above: Maurice Tani and some of the stuff he fits into his RX-7. Below: The Cadillac/ASC El Deora
Over the years it was produced, the El Deora's "designers" took styling cues from every other luxury model of the era.

This feature appeared in the September/October 2008 issue of Mazda FUEL Magazine.

Maurice Tani is a professional graphic designer working for a variety of clients, many in the motorsports world, including our own MAZDASPEED team, by day. By night, he is the songwriter behind the California alt-country band, 77 El Deora. FUEL Magazine recently sat down with Maurice to talk about his music and his car.

FUEL: Where does the band's name come from?

TANI: We get that question a lot. I have an extensive collection of answers to that ranging from fodder for speculation ("deora" is the Irish word for "tears"), to out-and-out lies on the subject (it's the address of a notorious crime scene)but here's the truth.

The el Deora was a rather obscure custom luxury car from the '70s that set the bar, in my humble opinion, for automotive trashiness.

It was a hideous, Frankenstein of a ride based on the Cadillac Eldorado -already an audacious land shark of a vehicle. The after-market manufacturer, ASC, following the classic soda fountain recipe of combining all the flavors into a concoction usually and aptly called a "Suicide", grafted on styling cues from every other luxury model of the era. A Rolls Royce grill. A Lincoln Continental spare tire hump. Opera windows. Double landau bars. So much vinyl that it flowed down off the roof onto the doors. The list went on and on. If it was on something Daddy Warbucks, Uncle Scrooge McDuck or the Monopoly millionaire might drive, it was on the el Deora. Probably doubled.

FUEL: Sounds scary!

TANI: Oh, it was! (Grins) At the time they were being produced, the el Deora occupied an odd niche as both a gold-chain and leisure suit wearing retiree's ride and a production pimpmobile. Either way, this was a car for someone seeking something a little different and over the top.

Examples found on the street today are rare and typically trashed, but it's that patina of experience that makes them so interesting. It took a special breed of person to buy an el Deora brand new, -and just as importantly, a special breed to buy them used in the years since. Any el Deora you see these days probably has some very interesting stories to tell. Those are the stories and characters that populate a lot of my songs....

FUEL: So, what do you drive?

TANI: And that is often the next question I get. Certainly a fair one, considering 77 El Deora’s songs and artwork are peppered with imagery of old beaters, rat rods, low riders and muscle cars.

For general, Bay Area urban warfare I ride a motorcycle, but when I need 4 wheels, I take my 1991 Mazda RX-7; a 2-door, 2-seat sport coupe with a hatch and lots of cargo space.

A recent Tani design project for Mazda and BP announcing the American Le Mans Series racecar

FUEL: What do you like about the RX-7?

TANI: I have a bit of a fetish for devices that are designed specifically for one set of needs. No more than required and no less. There's a concept in motorsport, where lightness and strength are always in opposition. It goes something to the effect that, a perfect racecar is one that falls completely apart as soon as it crosses the finish line in first place. The idea being that a part made to outlast its assigned task is probably too heavy and is actually slowing the car down. I see elegance in that.

It is as if the RX-7 was designed specifically for me, my life and my needs. My wife and I have no kids. Most of the time I'm alone in the car. A two-seater is twice the number of seats I usually need, -and with a single passenger, I can use the car pool lanes. Excellent!

FUEL: The RX-7 isn't usually considered a "gear-hauler"...

TANI: It's a small car and it fits in small places, but it's surprisingly spacious inside. The cargo room is well beyond what one would expect from a true sports car. I can carry 2 guitars, an amp, speaker, and a small PA system back there and still see out the rear window. Many is the time I have left a home improvement center with the hatch tied down over something that the guys on the pick up dock were expecting to load into a small truck.

FUEL: How long have you been a rotary engine guy?

TANI: I've been driving RX-7s for over 20 years. I bought my previous one, a first generation model in the early '80s and drove it until it was rear ended on I-80 one Sunday morning in 1997. I immediately bought the '91 I have now. It was everything I loved about the earlier model but more so, -more cargo room, more features and, oh yes, more power.

RX-7s feature the unique Wankel rotary engine. With essentially only three moving parts, they are a very elegant design. Small, light and powerful. These motors, even in their non-turbocharged form, produce better than 100hp per liter, -and without valves, cam shafts, timing belts, etc.. Beyond oil changes, rotary engines are nearly maintenance-free.

FUEL: Ever think about a new(er) car?

TANI: Well, as much as I love it, I must concede that this car is not going to last forever. The ’91 was the final year of the second generation RX-7, and the 3rd generation model was far more complicated, less spacious and a generally poorer fit for my personal needs. I have no idea what my next car will be. Nothing has come along since that combines this package of size, style, performance and cargo capacity.

While the RX-7 is no el Deora, my car is gradually acquiring its own patina as the paint wears, dings appear, plastic cracks and this once slick, sophisticated sport coupe begins to allude to the fallen aspirations, shattered dreams and bad checks I write about in song. And that's my kind of country.

Hillbilly Noir. Bashy. Original. Intelligent. California Country. Electric. Honky Tonk. Twangy. Oblique Americana.