Lito Pejoro and the car he drove were slightly older than you might have expected to see at RADwood’s inaugural Las Vegas show, but anyone who took time to talk to the soon-to-be 65-year-old had to appreciate their story.
When I first noticed Pejoro, he was sitting on a folding chair behind what looked like a Mazda RX-7, albeit one with fender-mounted mirrors, a roof rack, both Uber and Lyft stickers, a roll cage and drag racing-style shifter. Oh, and the steering wheel on the right side of the cockpit.
The car also had a rear wing that was broad and deep enough that it might serve as a family picnic table, though at the moment was a resting place for Pejoro’s cell phone.
The car was one of several JDM — Japanese Domestic Market — vehicles that turned out for the RADwood show in a parking lot in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
But instead of the familiar Mazda emblem, this car was badged as a Savanna RX-7. It also was a 1978 model, sold only in Japan a year before the rotary-powered sports cars were exported for U.S. sales.
Pejoro said he bought the car in 1989, when he was living in San Diego. He bought it from a recently retired U.S. military officer who had purchased the car while stationed in Okinawa.
After a while, Lito had given the car to his son, Francis, to drive, and Francis did, until he became too ill from cancer. Francis died in 2009. He was 33.
Lito still hurts from his son’s death, but is carrying out his son’s request to show and to race and to have fun with the car in his memory.
But don’t expect Lito to call Uber or Lyft and have Lito and his RX-7 show up. The stickers are there just for fun, and to draw attention so that Lito can share the stories of the car and his son.