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    Conceived amid the oil crisis of the 1970s, Toyota’s brave vision for a sports car that could sip fuel but still give the driver something to think about was a stroke of genius. Text by Colin Goodwin. Photography by Gus Gregory. Icon: Toyota MR2 Mk1. The original MR2 came about because of the oil crisis of the 1970s. It also happened to be a truly captivating drivers’ car.

    When my Mate Marcus bought a new car, we’d drop everything and go round to his place at the double. It would always be something dramatic, eight-cylindered and American. His high-point was a 1973 Pontiac Trans-Am in Brewster Green. Not just any Trans- Am, but one of only 252 that left the factory fitted with the mighty Super Duty 455 engine. In the early 1980s, it felt unbelievably fast. So when, in the summer of 1985, the jungle drums rang out that Marcus had got a new car, there was the usual excitement. The car? A bloody Toyota. We couldn’t believe it. Turned out he’d bought a new MR2, which I hadn’t even heard of. Just under sixteen-hundred cubic centimetres, four cylinders and horsepower barely worth counting.

    Then, one rainy day, I had a go in this new Toyota. I couldn’t believe the car’s handling and the way the engine revved past 7000rpm. I felt like a committed atheist who had just seen someone walking on the Thames. In the wet, the Trans Am would have kept up for a few yards and then disappeared through a hedge.

    While Pontiac and other American companies were fiddling around with smog-pumps and wondering what on earth to do about the mid-’70s oil crisis, Toyota was thinking about the sort of car it could make that would be fun to drive yet economical. Many layouts were considered and prototypes mulled over until the boss of the testing department, Akio Yoshida, and his colleagues decided that a mid-engine with transverse mounting was the way to go. A prototype codenamed SA-X was built in 1976 but the aforementioned crisis put the mockers on the project until it was revived in 1980. The SA-X was then substantially reworked and a concept called SV-3 built. We’ll be dropping a name or two later, but for now all you need to know is that the prototype was tested at length at Willow Springs raceway by Dan Gurney.

    The SV-3 broke ground at the Tokyo motor show in 1983. Little would change on the journey from concept to production car, with the only obvious differences being new front and rear spoilers that were designed to improve the car’s stability in crosswinds. And a name change, of course, to MR2, for ‘Midship Runabout Two-seater’. In June 1984 the MR2 went on sale in Japan, and sixth months later in the UK. European MR2s were exclusively fitted with Toyota’s 4A-GE engine, which had already been used in the AE86 Corolla – the car that inspired today’s GT86 coupe. The engine displaced 1587cc and was fitted with Denso electronic port fuel injection. Fairly exotic to have fuel injection and a sixteen-valve head (both of which warranted special badging) in the mid-’80s, let alone multipoint injection. Toyota’s T-VIS variable intake system was also fitted and that really was advanced stuff on a small and affordable sports car. Power outputs varied market to market, but UK-spec cars (which didn’t feature a catalytic converter) produced 122bhp. Even a five-speed gearbox was a bit sexy with sports cars such as the Triumph Spitfire and MGB still warm in their graves.

    The mid-engined layout brought with it five steel bulkheads, and this in the days before high-strength steel was put into strategic positions via the wizardry of computer simulation – a combination that today sees body-in-whites shed kilograms with each new generation. All the same, the MR2 weighed 977kg (split 44:56, front to rear), making it a bit of a fatty compared to contemporary hatchbacks but still commendably light bearing in mind its semi-exotic spec.

    MacPherson struts were used at each corner with disc brakes all-round. No power-steering was required in a small and light mid-engined car, of course, so there’s just a simple rack and pinion to do the turning. All this slipped under a very distinctive body – lots of flat surfaces and a wedge profile. I challenge you to look from bumper to bumper at the Mk1 MR2 and find a detail half-inched from a rival manufacturer. It’s not something that can be said of the Mk2, which as we know can be converted into a comedy Ferrari replica.

    The reason Marcus defected from Stars & Stripes to the Rising Sun was that a new job brought with it a car allowance. There was no list of ‘allowed’ machines, but the car had to be new, which, annoyingly, ruled out a 440 Six-Pack Plymouth Superbird (this would have been my young friend’s first choice). So he went for the then-new Toyota MR2 instead. Several years later, in 1987, Jim Harrison was going through the opposite experience. He’d just been made redundant and did the only sensible thing with his redundancy cheque: ‘I bought a sports car,’ he says, standing next to his blue MR2 outside his Essex home. Harrison is a very loyal Toyota customer but not a particularly profitable one from the accountants’ point of view. Not only has he owned his MR2 from new, but five years later he bought a Carina E GTI, which he also still owns.

    And it’s not as if Harrison has spent a fortune at the parts counter buying spares for the MR2, either. ‘It’s had an alternator, a water pump and a cambelt,’ he says. You don’t get away from the tin-worm in a car built in 1987, even if over its 30 years and 120,000 miles it has been lovingly cared for by one owner. Frilly rear arches were replaced some years ago and now look perfect. Harrison warned us that his car isn’t concours but did say that it was totally original. It wouldn’t take much to bring the car up to snuff. Our friend Richard Tipper, the master detailer, could have it looking stunning with a day’s work. What would be far harder would be to find a car that hasn’t been messed about with.

    Harrison’s car is a facelifted Mk1, or an AW11B in MR2- speak. A redesigned air intake, different alloys and the availability of a T-roof are the main differences. I never liked the T-bar version, so it’s nice that this car has only the factory sunroof (which, as I am about to find out, you need on a hot day because there’s no air conditioning).

    It’s 32 years since I last sat in one of these; the Mk2 had arrived by the time I started writing about cars. The passage of time is fascinating. If you go back 32 years from the launch of the MR2, you are in 1952, before the Mini, before the E-type, and the year Lotus was born. Today, we’d probably call the MR2 a modern classic, but I’d never have referred to a Ford Prefect as a modern classic in 1985.

    I remember how the MR2 drove but I remember nothing of its interior. It takes little time to change the ergonomics from the owner’s settings to something I’m comfortable with. The steering is adjustable for height, not reach, but the seat is fully adjustable. The bliss of a simple instrument and control layout. There’s only one stalk and that’s for the indicators, and in Japanese fashion for the time, it is on the right. An extended finger from each hand can easily reach the simple knobs that sit each side of the instrument binnacle and control wipers and lights. They’re a bit Citroën, which is meant as a compliment.

    The engine starts with an immediacy that would have been astonishing to an owner coming in 1985 from a sports car with a pushrod engine, carburettor and choke. Perfectly placed pedals and a footrest in just the right place. There’s a dent in the armrest, just in front of the gearlever.

    ‘Thirty years of enthusiastic shifting, Jim?’

    ‘No, a mechanic dented it with his elbow.’

    The first thing you notice, and it takes as long as the first pothole or bump, is the Toyota’s ride. I don’t know which tyre companies supplied the OEM fitment in the day, but this car rides on 185/60 Continentals and original 14in alloys. Perfectly sized aesthetically, and for the power-to-weight ratio of the car. And, it seems, perfectly matched to the suspension. If you go to the Wikipedia page for the MR2 you will read that the suspension had the magic wand of Roger Becker, Lotus’s legendary engineer, waved over it. I wasn’t so sure about this, so did a bit of detective work. Sadly, Roger Becker died earlier this year. I spoke to his son Matt, who after a career at Lotus is now responsible for the chassis dynamics of all Astons, much to the benefit of its customers. Matt remembers projects with Toyota but can’t recall his father mentioning the original MR2.

    ‘I’d give John Miles a call,’ he suggested. Which I did. Miles, who raced in F1 for Lotus in the late-1960s before working on the firm’s road cars, confirmed that they used an MR2 as a benchmark for the front-drive Elan, but had no recollection of Becker having worked on the Toyota’s suspension. And neither is there any mention of Lotus having done so in Toyota’s records. Supra and Corolla, yes, but not the little mid-engined car. Whatever, the MR2 most definitely has a Lotus feel about it.

    The dampers, bushes and every part of this car’s suspension are original, including the track rod ends. That’s amazing. There is a little bit of vagueness in the steering in a straight line, but it’s negligible. Could be down to tyre pressures or geometry. We tend to wax on about unassisted steering from cars of this era, but many of them were good on the go yet miserable at parking speeds. I owned a 205 GTI at the time and that is a good example. Try a Griffith with manual steering for further proof. The MR2 combines light steering weight with fantastic feel.

    Even mildly sporty family cars today have deeply bolstered seats and I can’t remember the last time I drove a car whose seats didn’t offer enough support in committed corners. The MR2 is easily capable of generating forces that will have you floating out of your chair. The gearshift isn’t as smooth as a modern gearbox’s, either, but it’s precise and, if you guide the lever accurately, fast. The whole car feels in rude health, with a smooth clutch and well-weighted, firm brake pedal.

    Harrison has no idea what his cherished MR2 is worth because he has no intention of selling it. I had no idea, either, but looking in the classifieds revealed several good-looking Mk1s available for around £4000, although they might not be in as fine fettle as this one. I don’t think that there is a classic car out there that is as good to drive and as entertaining as a Mk1 MR2 for anything like that money. Series 1 Lotus Elises are at least double, and we know the ridiculous prices being asked for Peugeot 205 GTIs. Perhaps the MR2 has an image of being a bit ‘hairdresser’, or excessive customising has tainted the car. Either way, driving Jim Harrison’s example has been a revelation.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Toyota-MR2-Mk1 / #Toyota-MR2 / #Toyota / #Toyota-W10 / #Toyota-MR2-W10 / #1984

    Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1587cc
    Power 122bhp @ 6600rpm DIN
    Torque 105lb ft @ 5000rpm DIN
    Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive
    Front suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs, dampers
    Rear suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs, dampers
    Brakes Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
    Wheels 5.5in x 14in front and rear
    Tyres 185/60 R14 front and rear
    Weight 977kg
    Power-to-weight 127bhp/ton
    0-60mph 8.2sec (claimed)
    Top speed 124mph (claimed)
    Price when new £9295.16 (1985)
    Price now £3000-6000
    Rating: 4+

    ‘Even a five-speed gearbox was a bit sexy with sports cars such as the Triumph Spitfire and MGB still warm in their graves’

    doesn’t have to compromise cohesion’ ‘I challenge you to look from bumper to bumper at a Mk1 MR2 and find a detail half-inched from a rival manufacturer’

    Clockwise from top left: air intakes are emblematic of the MR2’s geometrically rigid design; 1.6-litre twin-cam not pretty but good for 122bhp; interior hits the spot in terms of ergonomics, but the seats can’t match the cornering forces generated; that’s a red line that rewards driver commitment.

    Below: Harrison’s car looks superb in blue, and is equally good to drive; Goodwin reckons an original Mk1 MR2 is something of an underrated bargain.
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    This may have been Sean Clark’s first car in high school, but it’s all grown up now, with a level of refinement fit for a whiskey lounge. Words: Marcus Gibson / Photos: Adam Croy

    BODY-SLAMMED BMW E30 TEST LEARN THE FUNDAMENTALS OF BUILDING A DRIFT CAR / #1987 / #BMW-318i-E30 / #BMW-318i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW / #Toyota-1UZ-FE / #BMW-E30-Toyota-1UZ-FE / #Toyota / #Accuair-i-Level / #BMW-E30-V8 / #V8

    Purchased as his first car in high school, Sean Clark’s E30 is all grown up now with a class that belongs in a whiskey lounge. V8 powered, with Accuair i-Level, one-off Rotiforms, candy paint and a killer interior, this E30 ticks all the boxes.

    As the NZPC team members stood around with our tongues out, drooling over Sean Clark’s #BMW E30 during the photo shoot, in walked the guys from our sister magazine NZ Classic Car, who proceeded to make tongue-in-cheek remarks about how the suspension must be broken and ask where the hell the tyres were. Now, these guys know their way around an E30, but, given that the IS front lip was literally sitting on the ground while its rim lip was touching the guard, we could see how those old boys would be somewhat perplexed by what they saw in front of them. This car is a statement made with no apologies — it was engineered this way, what with its millimetre-perfect fitment and extremely deep candy paint, which grabs and holds your attention long enough to take in all the custom touches that can be found.

    It all began during Sean’s high-school days (actually, four years ago, to be exact), when he came across an E30 already fitted with a Toyota 1UZ-FE 4.0-litre V8. A fan of the German ’80s icon, Sean hadn’t been looking for V8 power, but, when this popped up already cert’d, he saw it as a good base on which to build his dream E30. It was in need of some TLC, but, being a high-school student, he would have to wait until he got his first full-time job before he could sink some coin into the project. In the meantime, though, he was probably only the only kid at his high school rocking a V8 on a daily basis.

    The air-management system runs a set of polished custom hard lines to feed the tank, AccuAir A4, and Air Lift air bags. The system has a wireless remote and can even be controlled by an iPhone app.

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Sean is mainly influenced by mostly European-based E30s, which led to the first of the big modifications, as he told us: “All of my favourite E30s are on air. That was the first major modification I did. Simon from Get Low imported and installed the kit.” Getting the E30 down was a simple bolt-in affair using Air Lift struts with adjustable dampers. Like most of the latest air-ride kits we feature these days, Sean opted for a complete height-management system, in this case, AccuAir. With three preset heights — low, lower, and slammed — it’s a no-brainer over the finicky switch box and separate valve blocks of the past.

    Those kits were loud, high maintenance, and it was a battle to get the height perfect. Having the control that Sean now does is a good thing when the lip of the rim actually sits square on the guard when fully deflated.

    It was around that time that the E30 received its first set of rims, though those BBS Rs were soon replaced with custom fifteen52 Tarmacs, then, more recently, with a set of custom Rotiforms. To say Sean has a thing for wheels would be a gross understatement — but his size preference certainly made it hard. “I get bored of wheels pretty easy, and wanted to go three-piece and have something that would pop against the paint more,” he explained. “I talked to just about every wheel company out there, but the problem is that no one really makes three-piece 16s any more. I ended up getting James from 360 Link to convince Brian from Rotiform to produce these.” We are unsure what James from 360 Link said — perhaps he has a stash of questionable photos of Brian, or maybe Brian thinks all Kiwis are like Jake the Muss; either way, Rotiform obliged and put together this one-off set using BBS lips and gold hardware.

    To further customize them once they landed in New Zealand, the boys at GT Refinishers laid down some candy and gold leaf on the centre caps.

    The boys were also charged with a complete facelift conversion last year. Now, it might be a bolt-on conversion up front, but the rear took a little more commitment, as the team had to graft in the in the rear sheet metal from a later E30 around the boot and tail lights.

    This required a facelift E30 to donate its life to the cause. The tail lights Sean chose are rare BMW Motorsport items imported from Germany, along with the Bosch smiley headlights and an MTech wing. The last job at GT was the reshaping of the rear guards to suit the super-low ride height. It was then on to deciding a colour — a job we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. A four-month internal battle ensued as Sean went back and forth with his decision, eventually landing on custom candy red, sprayed over a silver base coat. “There are 10 coats all up I think, as I kept wanting it darker and darker. I was actually out of the country when he was spraying it so it was a little nerve-racking,” he said.

    But, needless to say, Sean is hyped with how the exterior has turned out, and he has since shifted his focus inwards. First up, he went for a full interior retrim from Midnight Upholstery. Taking cues from the king of refinement, Singer, the front and rear seats were trimmed in a similar fashion to those beautiful Porsches. The front seats are actually Recaro fishnets from an Isuzu Bighorn that Sean scored for $100, and the rear is a not-so-common E30 variant with a centre armrest. As for the rest of the interior, it was kept all class in black — simple yet effective. The finishing touch, a vintage Momo Prototipo wheel.

    Next on his hit list is attacking the engine bay. While the build has never been about all-out power or speed, and with the four litres there’s more than enough juice to decimate the factory equivalent, Sean still feels there is room for refinement, and he’s currently considering his plan of attack — individual throttle bodies (ITBs)? A supercharger? Who knows what he’ll end up with? We guess we will all have to wait and see. But, in the meantime, there is a long hot summer ahead of us, and Sean is ready to make the most of it with one push of the e-Level.

    SEATS: (F) Retrimmed #Recaro LX, (R) retrimmed factory
    STEERING WHEEL: #Momo Prototipo 350mm
    INSTRUMENTATION: AccuAir e-Level
    EXTRA: Custom headliner and carpet, custom boot set-up.

    PAINT: Custom candy red by GT Refinishers
    ENHANCEMENTS: Facelift conversion, IS front lip, IS sideskirts, custom front splitter, MTech 1 wing, German smiley headlights, German MHW tail lights, custom round Condor door handles.

    GEARBOX: Toyota four-speed auto
    DIFF: BMW E30
    The body has recieved a facelift alongside some subtle upgrades such as the IS front lip and #MTech rear wing. Although it was bagged long before the facelift, yet the lip sits perfectly flush on the ground.

    DRIVER/OWNER: Sean Clark
    AGE: 20
    LOCATION: Auckland
    OCCUPATION: Estimator
    BUILD TIME: Four years
    THANKS: A huge thanks to GT Refinishers; Get Low Customs; Midnight Upholstery; Rotiform New Zealand; my mate Daniel, for listening to me stress over the smallest of things and helping out

    Discovered in an Isuzu Bighorn bought for $100, the Recaro fishnets have been retrimmed by Midnight upholstery in a Singer style, with bronze rivet vents.
    ENGINE: #Toyota-1UZ-FE , 4000cc, eight-cylinder
    BLOCK: Factory
    HEAD: Factory
    INTAKE: Factory
    EXHAUST: Custom headers, dual 2.5-inch pipes into single muffler
    FUEL: Factory
    IGNITION: Factory
    ECU: Factory
    COOLING: Fenix radiator

    STRUTS: Air Lift Performance air ride, KYB rear shocks, #AccuAir-E-Level , #AccuAir #iLevel
    BRAKES: (F) #Wilwood four-pot calipers, #StopTech rotors, Wilwood pads, braided lines; (R) factory

    WHEELS: (F) 16x8.5-inch #Rotiform three-piece forged CCV, gold hardware; (R) 16x9.5-inch Rotiform three-piece forged CCV, gold hardware
    TYRES: (F) 195/40R16 Falken, (R) 205/40R16 Falken

    Fitting the Lexus into the engine bay required a set of custom headers and has left little room for anything else, which could become a problem if Sean does decide to supercharge down the track.
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    Four years of hard graft, passion and determination have transformed this 1977 Toyota Celica from a rusty wreck into a stunning aired-out retro road rocket. WORDS: Joey Lee. PICS: Robin Trajano.


    / #1977 #Toyota-Celica / #Toyota gets an injection of #VTEC power with an S2000 engine swap.

    The Vongs are no strangers to building jaw-dropping modified cars. Peter and Theresa from Westminster, California USA, have been on this crazy ride before. We encountered them back in 2011 when the now married couple was flaunting an LS1-powered Nissan 240SX around the show circuit. Since then, they’ve been busy focusing their time on building a family along with Peter’s successful online business. Though their attention was directed towards other areas in their lives, cars have always been an important part of it. They tinkered with smaller projects here and there, but this 1977 Toyota Celica has been an ongoing build since their S14 flew the coop.

    ‘After we sold the 240, I promised my wife that I would be done with the car scene for a while.’ Peter says. ‘We were trying to save up for a house and had plans to have a second child, but we ended up adding another member to our growing family instead – a four-wheeled one! I was perusing a local car forum online one day and came across this Celica – I guess you could say it was love at first sight. I’d always wanted to build one of these and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.’

    The Celica that Peter discovered seemed like an ideal base – aside from the dated bright green tone, the motor had already been swapped with a Honda S2000 engine. At first glance, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the car mechanically, and from the photos it looked decent for the price. Peter made plans to drive it around for a couple years, build the Vong family empire, and then tear it down – or so he thought. The Celica ‘looked’ like everything was fine and dandy but it turned-out to be anything but…

    ‘I bought the car off the internet, so it was completely sight unseen. I had photos and videos that the owner sent me, but upon inspecting it in the metal, it was in far worse condition than I thought. It originally came from Oklahoma City so the car was covered in a ton of rust. When I received the car, I noticed that the bright green paint was just a single lightly applied layer. You could still see the original red paint revealing itself along with the exposed rust. It was so bad that the floor pan on the driver’s side was so corroded that it had two holes that were large enough for me to put my feet through while driving!’, Vong explains.

    Attention had to be focused towards the cancer that was eating-up the near-40-year-old coupe. The car ran great with the updated heart but the rest was in dire need of attention. The Vongs looked at the uniqueness and redeeming qualities of the Honda F22C swap as a worthwhile investment so the couple decided to strip the chassis bare and start from scratch.

    The Celica was walnutblasted so the raw shell could have all of its rust repaired. Once the body was refreshed, the Toyota saw life anew wearing a fresh coat of a rare ‘Midnight Purple’ hue originally intended for a Nissan Skyline. The richness of the iridescent paint might normally be the most extravagant part of most people’s builds, but not for the Vongs – they had something much more colourful in mind.

    Before that, however, the exterior needed some aesthetic enhancements. The original metal bumpers have been updated with glassfibre ‘Smiley’ pieces. Giving the face a much edgier look is a TRD chin spoiler. The rear spoiler is likewise a classic TRD piece.

    Moulded over-fenders offer the Celica a wider track, and help to provide the sleek body with some girth.

    Never the family to do things the conventional way, the two elected to utilise modern air suspension technology. Many would scoff at the idea of using bags on a Japanese classic, but more are starting to come around to the concept. It is a show car/cruiser after all, so comfort takes precedence over performance, especially when it comes to dated suspension design. Each corner features an electronically managed air bag over a Bilstein gas shock. An Accuair VU4 four-corner valve unit keeps the plumbing simple, while Addco anti-roll bars and new polyurethane bushes keep the body rigid.

    Since the system is electronic, the Celica can air-up and pancake on top of the tyres at the touch of a button via an Accuair E-Level touch pad. Once it is aired-down, you can get a better grasp of just how beefy, and incredibly lavish, the custom-built BBS RS wheels are. The staggered 16-inch classic mesh wheels are a product of popular wheel customiser, 5One. Each of the faces was carefully stripped before being coated in a custom ‘Black Solar Rain’ finish.

    The barrels and lips are brand new, bumping up the wheels to 10- and 12-inches wide, respectively. Burnt titanium bolts are used to keep the three-piece wheels together and valve stems in Neo Chrome were used to finish it off to perfection. It would seem a little audacious to have something as simple as valve stems in that colour-shifting finish – that is, until you look at the rest of the build and realise that it is heavily-applied throughout.

    Under the hood is where the iridescent chrome is most prevalent. Everything that isn’t essential to basic engine operations has been removed to direct all attention to the Neo Chromed F22C valve cover.

    Sitting adjacent to it is a set of 48mm Jenvey individual throttle bodies, which has horns that have also been treated to the same lavish finish. The engine mounts, oil cap, coil pack cover, and even the radiator cap have been matched in Neo Chrome. If there were a way to Neo Chrome the J’s Racing header and have it be able to sustain the unique coating under high heat, it’s safe to say the Vongs would have done that as well. Mated to the 2.2-litre lump is a matching six-speed manual transmission from Honda that connects to a TRD limited-slip differential from a Zenki AE86.

    Inside the cockpit you will find everything that you’d ever want from a resto-modded Japanese classic. It still retains its nostalgic sensibilities while offering modern creature comforts. A factory digital instrument display from an S2000 has been transplanted into the RA-chassis to complement the engine.

    Surrounding it is a restored dashboard, which is wrapped in black suede. The door panels, headlining, centre console, and other factory interior pieces have also been cloaked in matching suede. Incredibly rare ‘Maziora Edition’ Bride Stradia Venus II seats were sourced by Peter specifically because its chameleon-like tinge matches the Neo Chrome theme. As you’d expect, there are also a number of accessories within the interior that have also gone through the Neo Chroming process, such as the steering wheel, adjoining bolts, pedals and shift knob.

    Contemporary tunes encompass the cockpit area thanks to a custom audio system from Newport Auto Sound that features components from both JL Audio and Kenwood. The final detail which pairs the classic Toyota with modern-day Honda is the seamlessly integrated S2000 push button starter in the dash.

    Even with the enormity of this entire build, Peter and Theresa Vong have never taken their eyes off the prize. Their growing family is still their number one priority. Perhaps that is why this resto-mod creation has spanned the course of four years. Many would have completed this in half the time with the proper resources but the couple chose to take their time. During that period, Peter has grown his own business beyond expectations and the duo also introduced their second daughter to the family. Oh, we should also mention that they also picked up an R35 Nissan GT-R as a daily driver! Things are good for the Vongs. They are a shining example of how car enthusiasts can stay in touch with their hobby while progressing with a positive trajectory in life. If you have the vision, passion, and courage to challenge yourself, life just gets better with time.


    THANKS: My wife Theresa, my daughters Emalynn and Mikaela, Linh and Tam at Jer Development/Auto Magic, Steve Pan at 5One Wheels, Lance at Newport Auto

    TECHNICAL SPECIFIFATIONS #1977 #Toyota-Celica / #Honda-F22C

    ENGINE: 2005 2.2-litre, 4-cyl, 16v Honda-F22C engine swap from an #Honda-S2000 , #Jenvey 48mm individual throttle bodies, #Aspec exhaust with titanium tip and 2.5in piping, J’s Racing 4-2-1 exhaust manifold, #AEM fuel rail, RC 650cc fuel injectors, TF Aluminum pulley kit, Koyo radiator, Nuke Performance fuel filter, fuel pressure regulator, vacuum station, Neo Chrome throttle body horns, engine mounts, engine cover, oil cap, coil pack cover, radiator cap, AEM ECU

    TRANSMISSION: Honda F22C six-speed manual gearbox, 4.3 final drive, TRD AE86 Zenki limited-slip differential with TRD solid spacer

    SUSPENSION: Custom air suspension system with two struts and two coils, Accuair VU4 4-corner valve unit, E-Level management system with TouchPad, Bilstein gas dampers, GSP front pillow-ball tension rods, rear lateral link, trailing control arm, lower link, Addco anti-roll bars, polyurethane bushes, OEM Toyota AE86 strut casings, Zenki rear axle bearings

    BRAKES: Custom Wilwood front brakes, OEM Toyota AE86 rear brakes, custom front brake caliper brackets and wheel hubs, StopTech discs

    WHEELS & TYRES: 10x16in (front), 12x16in (rear) BBS RS three-piece split rim wheels by 5One with carbon-fibre BBS caps, burnt titanium bolts and Neo Chrome valve stems, 215/45/16 (front), 225/50/16 (rear) Falken Azenis RT615K tyres, Gorilla wheel nuts

    EXTERIOR: Smiley glassfibre front and rear bumpers, TRD front lip, rear spoiler, custom front centre mesh, moulded over-arches, rear valance, inner headlight covers, smoked corner and tail lights, Hella H4 headlights, AeroTech bonnet catch, APR carbon-fibre side mirrors, Nissan Midnight Purple 3-stage paint

    INTERIOR: Bride Stradia Venus II Maziora Edition seats and seat rails, Wedge Engineering brackets, Takata harnesses, black suede interior (dashboard, door panels, headlining, centre console, rear seats), black carpet and floor mats, Neo Chrome steering wheel and steering wheel bolts, handbrake handle, accelerator pedal, clutch pedal, brake pedal and shift knob, custom steering wheel short hub with Works Bell quick release, OEM Honda S2000 cluster, Auto Meter gauges, Odyssey PC925 battery


    Peter and Theresa Vong’s previous show-stopper was a 1995 Nissan 240sx. Under the bonnet was a 5.7-litre LS1 V8 that made 398bhp with ease. other highlights included air suspension, SSR Vienna Kreis wheels, c-west aero, a Zenki front-end and Recaro seats. and now they have this ridiculous Celica to add to their resume

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    Carrying on with Jaco Swart’s #Mercedes-Benz-W115 build, the Speed and Sound team paid the Hooligan workshop a visit a few weeks back where we found the 6-cylinder purring away on idle. Jaco stepped out of his office, greeted us with a smile and a dyno sheet in the one hand. "Check, here's the power reading we got from MRD, not too bad for a stock 2J motor eh?" quipped Jaco as walked to the car with a swagger. Admittedly, yes, the car looked way better than last time we saw it, and we could see his 20-day project was a huge success.

    Sporting a new set of 19” #RHE replica wheels, and custom lowered springs all round, the old German banger now has a certain suspicious look about it which says "some- thing's-cooking good-looking".

    Jaco grabs the keys and asks "We're going for a drive: care to join us?" No sooner had we agreed too when Herman and Johan opened the heavy doors and jumped in. Herman is the mastermind behind the fabrication work, creating all the magic in the engine bay with his meticulous attention to detail. Johan shared the passion too, helping with the overall build of the car, while Jaco on the other hand poured four-finger-high Brandewyn and Cokes during those late nights in the workshop.

    As the 2J lump roared and hissed through the streets of Pretoria, Jaco hangs his arm out the window and waxes lyrical about SMART Customs who prepared the body and resprayed the car perfectly. It shows as the setting sun gleams off the spotless chassis.

    "The motor is just perfect, and is a true reflection of the capability of a 2JZ motor” says Jaco. “With a stock bottom end, show me another motor that can produce 479hp on the wheels?"

    I guess we can't argue with that: MRD's Johan Minnaar tuned the car for reliability too, and with almost 600Nm to boot, the car is a dream to drive. As I said earlier, the engine's bottom end is standard, with the only major additions being the hefty #Borg-Warner-S366 / #Borg-Warner turbo-charger and all of Herman's shiny bits.

    The management system of choice is Dicktator, and with the fuelling being supplied by 1600cc Bosch fuel injectors, an 044 fuel pump and a modified OEM fuel cell, the engine purrs ever so slightly and roars ever so violently.

    Jaco hesitated a tad when snapper CJ asked him to do a burn out. In a blink of an eye, Herman and Johan were out the car before it even stopped, urging Jaco to gooi it!

    “Look, the driveshafts and diff are still standard, so I'm not too sure if they'll take the punishment?" explains Jaco, oblivious to the fact that Herman had already spilt water on the road to help the burn-out process. With a wry smile, Jaco dumps the clutch and in seconds, the sky is filled with smoke as both Herman and Johan disappear in the haze. It's so undescribingly funny, to watch an unsuspecting 1976 family sedan, perform a mother of a burn out. One can only stand back, point and laugh at the Hooligan #Mercedes-Benz .

    Back at the workshop, the hefty Mercedes stops in front of Kabelo, the other Hooligan member who grabs a lappie and begins wiping the sticky rubber off the fenders and rear bumper. The smile on his face says it all, testament to how an old car - if built right - can be just as appealing as any million-rand supercar.

    TECH SPECS #1976 #Mercedes-Benz-W115-2JZ-GTE

    DRIVER Jaco Swart
    Engine: #2JZ-GTE . / #Toyota / #Toyota-2JZ-GTE / #Toyota-2JZ / #Toyota-JZ /
    Exhaust: Custom turbo manifold.
    Fueling: 1600 injectors, ftf fuel pressure reg, #Bosch-044 pump / #Bosch
    Intake: Custom Intake, 90mm throttles.
    Exterior: Resprayed by #SmartCustoms
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    If you want big power, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Japan’s finest, as this 2JZ-powered E46 #BMW-M3-E46 demonstrates. It looks and feels like a beautifully set up E46 M3 but this Irish racer conceals a host of Oriental charms. Words: Iain Curry / Photos: Paddy McGrath

    “I know every nut and bolt on this car,” said Colm Murray from Cork in Ireland. Now how many of us can honestly say that about the modified cars we own? A few, certainly, but those who build or rebuild modern cars with all their electric complexities are a rare breed today. Trouble is, we’re not quite sure if he’s a BMW modifier or not…

    On the outside, of course he is. Pictured is his #2003 E46 M3. Great stance, nice rims with big brakes and a roll-cage spied through the glass. Underneath, it’s all a bit less German. In fact, it’s practically all Japanese – cue grumbles from the ‘foreign invader’ brigade – but here lies Colm’s expertise and the result is around 600hp and a drift machine of engineering quality rarely seen.

    Key to this build was the Irish VW mechanic doing all the work himself. “It was not a big budget build and, like a lot of the guys who drift here in Ireland, I built and maintain the car myself,” the 32-year-old said. “Drifting is a rough and tumble sport and if I couldn’t fix and maintain the car myself I simply couldn’t afford it. I like to try and use parts that are relatively cheap and available to me, this is why I used the 2JZ engine as it was familiar to me and I knew there are big horsepower gains to be had for small money.”

    Yep, it’s our old friend the 3.0-litre 2JZ Toyota Supra lump that we see cropping up in many BMWs. And whether you agree with a Japanese heart for your BMW or not, it’s a brilliant engine, highly tuneable and extremely tough, allowing for the sort of power gains that can cost frightening sums if you start boosting your Munich motors.

    Would it not have been easier for Colm to just go to work on a Supra or a Skyline, some will be asking? Thing is, Colm’s a true BMW fan, has history with the marque and likes the fact he’s got something different. “I loved the look of an E46 M3, and my goal was to keep it looking stock,” he said. In his younger days he had plenty of E30 BMWs, from 318s to a 325i Sport – an ideal training tool for any budding drifter. “My 325i Sport was the first car I drifted in but the scene got a bit more serious in Ireland so I bought my first Nissan Silvia which is where I learned all my suspension knowledge and fabrication skills,” he said.

    “I was building and drifting numerous Nissans for about ten years so I knew what worked and what parts were reliable.” During this time Colm sampled an E46 M3 and said he liked the feel of it and that if it had more power and less weight it’d be an interesting thing to drive and drift. “I heard about a guy in Dublin racing an E46 M3 and that he had a spare bodyshell,” he explained. “After many phone calls I purchased it, but it wasn’t rolling and was completely stripped. I mean it was just bare metal.”

    Already with a 2JZ Supra engine and transmission in his garage the measuring began. “The install was actually very easy,” he said. “I think I had it fitted in about two hours after making up two engine mounts and a gearbox mount. I didn’t have to modify any part of the bodyshell to fit it.” But before you start thinking these 2JZ engine swaps are fine for everyone, even with Colm’s expertise to get the car as it is today has taken the best part of two years. Only able to work on it during evenings or weekends, and when funds allowed, it has been a real labour of love.

    The all-important suspension followed the engine transplant. “Of course I stuck to what I knew, which was Nissan parts, so I set about mixing bits of #BMW and Nissan parts together and somehow it all works,” Colm explained with a laugh.

    Nissan Silvia suspension has been used up front, including modified coilovers, while out back Nissan 180SX rear coilovers feature with custom top mounts. Rims are Japanese tuning scene Rota Grids in 10x18” dimensions, shod in track rubber. Key to fitting these rims has been converting the E46’s hubs to the full brake and hub assemblies from an R33 Skyline GTR, allowing for a far greater range of relevant wheels. It also means Nissan Skyline brakes are used, featuring four-pot and two-pot calipers behind the rims.

    The underbody work was necessarily substantial, not least to allow fitment of a Nissan R33 Skyline GTR V-Spec differential and driveshafts: ideal hardware to endure the forces at work from top level drift competitions. The Toyota Supra’s six-speed Getrag gearbox also made the leap into the M3’s shell during the build, while an Exedy twin-plate clutch has been fitted for durability. Despite Colm’s M3 being a pure track car without road registration, it could easily pass as a street car with its near-standard looks. A carbon bonnet and bootlid came up for sale from a friend so they were added, and although previously it was wrapped in camouflage style, the Irish drifter is happier with its more stock look of today.

    The stripped cabin gives far more racing hints away. Colm custom-made and fitted the roll-cage himself (“what a pain in the ass that was!”), while a pair of BiMarco Grip race seats with Sparco harnesses hold driver and passenger in place, the pilot getting to grab the all-important hydraulic handbrake. The dash is a delight. It’s been stripped and flocked to prevent sun glare on the windscreen, while behind the gorgeous dished steering wheel is a Haltech Racepak digital display dash. “This was simple to fit because the Haltech is so easy to work with,” Colm said. “I couldn’t run the BMW clocks with the Toyota engine but with the Haltech it’s a dash which could just plug into the ECU.”

    Serious racing machine? Without question. Colm said the car is good for 600hp at present, and hopes to see 700hp with a little more work. Key is his choice of turbo. “I had seen the #Garrett-GTX turbos on other cars and the response and power they create is awesome; it was an easy choice,” Colm said. The work around it is substantial, too, with more custom fabrication needed for the exhaust manifold and full four-inch system, while helping things keep cool (no easy task in a drift car of this magnitude) are an alloy radiator, four-inch front-mount intercooler and 12- row oil cooler. High octane juice comes from the boot-mounted fuel cell using a pair of #Bosch 044 pumps and is fed into the engine via mighty 1000cc injectors.

    All this work has allowed Colm to compete in the #Irish-Drift-Championship , certainly the place a machine like this deserves to be seen, appreciated and enjoyed. It is something of a subtle masterpiece from the outside, hiding one of the most competent and complete Japanese builds underneath. It may not have much #BMW-DNA remaining but it is an incredible modified offering with that hard-to-beat E46 #BMW-M3 body. It’s an engineering marvel carried out by a very talented modifier.

    DATA FILE #BMW-E46 #Toyota-2JZ-GTE / #Toyota / #BMW-M3-CSL

    ENGINE: 3.0-litre straight-six #2JZ-GTE from #Toyota-Supra , #Garrett-GT35-GTX turbo / #Garrett , custom exhaust manifold, custom full four-inch exhaust system, #Tial wastegates, alloy radiator, four-inch front-mount intercooler, 12-row oil cooler, 1000cc fuel injectors, #GReddy intake plenum, custom 90mm throttle body, #Haltech ignition module, #Haltech-Pro2000 ECU.

    TRANSMISSION: Toyota six-speed #Getrag gearbox, Exedy twin-plate clutch, Nissan R33 Skyline GTR V-Spec R200 differential and driveshafts.

    CHASSIS: 10x18” (front and rear) #Rota-Grid alloys with 235/40 Toyo R1R track tyres (front) and 265/35 #Achilles-ATR Sport Drift tyres (rear), #Nissan-Silvia front suspension swap including modified Kei Office coilovers, hubs with custom top mounts and modified steering knuckles for more steering lock, custom lower control arms extended 40mm, Nissan 180SX rear coilovers with custom top mounts, rear subframe modified to take #Nissan differential and driveshafts, custom strengthening of rear subframe mounting points and tied into the rollcage, #Nissan-Skyline front and rear brakes with fourpiston and two-piston calipers respectively.

    EXTERIOR: #Vorsteiner-VRS -style carbon fibre vented bonnet, E46 #BMW-M3-CSL-E46 -style carbon fibre bootlid, rear diffuser.

    INTERIOR: #Haltech-Racepak dash, full custom T45 welded in roll-cage, original dash stripped and flocked, #BiMarco Grip racing seats, Sparco harnesses, hydraulic handbrake, 30-litre Jazz foam-filled fuel cell, twin #Bosch-044 fuel pumps with 2.0-litre swirl pot.

    Just the essentials in here with #BiMarco-Grip seats, #Sparco harnesses, a hydraulic handbrake and a #Haltech-Racepak dash.

    While it’s clearly not standard, exterior is surprisingly subtle for a drift car with #Vorsteiner VRS-style carbon bonnet, CSL-style carbon bootlid and rear diffuser.
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    Amphibious vehicles - #Rinspeed CEO Frank Rinderknecht had dreamt about an underwater ‘flying’ car since seeing The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977. 007’s swimming car was the direct inspiration for the sQuba, a modified Lotus Elise with three battery-powered electric motors and oxygen masks.

    When the aluminium-bodied, watertight Lotus drives into a lake, it floats. With the flick of a switch, power is diverted to two propellers and two water jets to reach a leisurely surface cruising speed of 5.9 kilometres (3.7 miles) per hour. Getting the sQuba to dive requires driver and passenger to open doors and windows to flood the cabin. To travel at the maximum depth of ten metres (33 feet), the driver must use the water jets. On land, the zero-emissions sQuba can rocket from 0-80 kilometres (0-50 miles) per hour in 5.1 seconds, but maxes out at just 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles) per hour when underwater.

    Road speed

    On land, the rear wheels are powered by one of the three electric motors, giving the sQuba pep off the line but a top speed of 120km/h (75mph).

    Jet propulsion

    The sQuba’s conventional rear propellers are supplemented by two #Seabob scooter jets attached to the sides.


    The open cabin makes it easier to both sink the sQuba and swim to safety in an emergency.

    Breathe easy

    The saltwater-resistant interior features slick VDO displays and seat-mounted oxygen supplies.


    The aluminium and fibreglass body weighs a surprising 920kg (2,028lb), so needs lots of foam and waterproofing to keep afloat.

    Zero emissions

    Rinspeed stripped the #Toyota engine from the #Lotus-Elise and replaced it with three electric motors and six rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

    Grille gills

    When the #Rinspeed-sQuba floats on the water’s surface, the driver can open louvres in the grille to direct water flow toward the rear propellers.

    The statistics… #sQuba
    Crew: 2
    Length: 3.7m (12.4ft)
    Width: 1.9m (6.3ft)
    Height: 1.1m (3.6ft)
    Empty weight: 920kg (2,028lb)
    Max land speed: 120km/h (75mph)
    Max underwater speed: 2.9km/h (1.8mph)
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    It was a promising defeat. #F1 #Ferrari-F1

    Enzo’s belief that equally valuable lessons can be learned from defeats and victories is central to Ferrari’s entire history, prompting many moments of brilliance and some thrilling comebacks.

    The Romans used to say that success has many fathers, while defeat is always an orphan. Napoleon clearly shared this notion, so it might be surprising to learn that Enzo Ferrari, a character with a touch of Bonaparte about him (albeit one who evaded his Waterloo), never quite saw things like that.

    To Enzo’s way of thinking, Defeat, always with a capital D, was seen as a starting point. Yes, to quote another of his celebrated sayings, whoever came second in a race was simply the first last, but disappointment should never lead to resignation. Occasionally, Il Commendatore would use a seemingly contradictory term to describe a defeat: “promising”. It demonstrates the intellectual energy of the man. The ability to avoid the self-pity of the defeated. The tenacity of someone who never stops planning, organising, experimenting.

    One of his best-loved maxims, “the finest victory is the next one”, was born from a desire to always accentuate the positive. At Maranello they refused to give up, a characteristic that’s as resolute as ever. Like any other successful company, the history of Ferrari is littered with difficult moments, some dramatic and some even tragic. Despite the disappointments, that glorious story hasn’t been broken; the dream hasn’t been shattered. The record books speak for themselves.

    Take the autumn of 1974. At the peak of a #Formula-1 One season marked by the Scuderia’s renewed competitive edge, with Niki Lauda at the wheel alongside #Clay-Regazzoni , there was an unexpected set-back. On a gloomy afternoon at the Watkins Glen circuit in the US, #Emerson-Fittipaldi won the title for McLaren. It was a stinging blow for the Prancing Horse and came after a decade of frustrating grand prix results.

    The following morning Enzo ordered Mauro Forghieri to start preparing the 312 T: a great car, noted for its revolutionary transverse gearbox. Within 12 months, Lauda celebrated his comeback as World Champion, demonstrating (talking of well-known sayings) that, in the sporting sense at least, revenge isn’t necessarily a dish best served cold. It’s best hot, almost boiling, if there’s a Ferrari involved.

    A defeat at the start of the Swinging Sixties was also promising. Although waiting for the cultural and musical upheaval provided by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, technology buffs in England were well ahead of their times, introducing the rear engine placement on grand prix cars. A lot has been said about the Drake’s apparent nostalgia for the countryside, and how he liked to tell colleagues that the oxen went ahead of the plough in the fields.

    However, his love of rural life (Enzo wrote about seeing something in the spirit of workers in the fields around Modena that suggested they could become mechanics) didn’t stop research and development. Far from it. By 1961, the 156 F1 had moved its oxen to the rear. The car, designed by Carlo Chiti and driven by Phil Hill, scored a bullseye, bringing the world title back to Maranello.

    In other words, the company founded by Enzo in 1947 has in its DNA the knowledge that the motto “try and try again” isn’t just a homage to Galileo, to Descartes and to Dante’s Paradiso (as his muse, Beatrice, could be considered Dante’s literary and romantic Ferrari). Trying and trying again allows you to sublimate the very idea of defeat. Reinterpreted as another stimulus, painful in its immediate outcomes (who likes to lose?), but hugely valuable in terms of what can be learned in the dark hours of disillusionment.

    Staying with F1, it’s perhaps no coincidence that, in more than 60 years of grand prix escapades, Ferrari is the only team never to have taken a break. The Scuderia has always been there, since #1950 . Others (or rather all of them, from #Mercedes to #Renault , #Honda to #BMW , #Ford to #Toyota ) have come and gone, often due to a lack of results. In so doing, Ferrari’s competitors have unwittingly borne witness to the uniqueness of the Maranello manufacturer.

    But how can you then escape from the magnetic intensity of a memory that takes you straight back to the events of 1982? An annus horribilis for the Drake and his people, struck down by irreparable grief for Gilles Villeneuve, killed on the track at Zolder, followed by Didier Pironi’s awful accident, which saw him confined to hospital when he seemed to have the championship in his pocket. Enzo’s response to these defeats, which were about so much more than merely failing to reach a chequered flag ahead of anyone else, was an extraordinary declaration of bravery and valour.

    Forghieri didn’t give up his responsibilities as Technical Director: amid tears and gritted teeth he carried on with the development of the 126C2, a car propelled by a powerful turbo engine. And, at the end of that ill-fated season, thanks also to the contribution of the Frenchman, Patrick Tambay, and the Italian-American, Mario Andretti, the Prancing Horse went on to win the World Constructors Title.

    A strong sense of identity surfaces among the fragments of glory brought back up to now, extending beyond the legacy of the Founder. Because in #2000 , for instance, when #Mika-Häkkinen ’s #McLaren seemed certain to prolong a barren stretch that had already lasted more than 20 years, promising defeats in Austria, Germany, Hungary and Belgium were the launch pads for an astonishing change of fortunes. At Monza and Indianapolis, Suzuka and Malaysia, the legendary Michael Schumacher turned the lessons he’d learned into gold. The German won every race, in a car designed by Rory Byrne. And a new Ferrari chapter began.

    What rivals find hard to understand is the lack of a particular word in Ferrari’s vocabulary: resignation. Because resignation has never found a home at Maranello.

    After a very difficult #2014 season the Scuderia confirmed Enzo Ferrari’s belief that defeats could still have a promising outcome and force the team to try even harder next time. In #2015 , #Ferrari duly returned to the elite group of competitors, thanks to the determination of its drivers, #Sebastian-Vettel (below) and #Kimi-Raikkonen (right).

    A strong identity surfaces among the glory.
    “Bravery and valour have always been key Ferrari attributes”

    Ferrari team work found its greatest reward during what is now known as the “Schumacher era”. The long title chase, which started in 1996, came to fruition in #1999 , bringing five Drivers Titles and six Constructors Titles to #Maranello . Or, to be precise, six Drivers Titles and eight Constructors Titles, considering that Kimi Räikkönen’s (pictured on this page) 2007 title and the 2007 and 2008 Constuctors Titles had their origins in the German driver’s Scuderia heyday.

    In Brief

    Enzo Ferrari used to keep all the car pieces that failed during races in a cupboard he called “the museum of errors”

    The collection was not only an example of his wit, but also evidence of the man’s intuition and firm belief that every single part of a car was an important component. A message that he was always keen to pass on to his team.

    Publicly, Enzo would always blame a car’s malfunction on a cheap element worth just a few Lire, but had a different message for his staff. He insisted on the absolute care of every minute detail, because even something apparently insignificant could determine the outcome of a race.

    Niki Lauda was famous for his rather direct style of talking. His comments were often censored and repackaged before reaching Enzo’s ears thanks to a dedicated team of mediators close to Il Commendatore.

    The Austrian driver arrived at Maranello in #1974 after a difficult season for Ferrari and soon made some caustic remarks about the car during testing. His comments were altered to ensure that Enzo would not take the opinions of a newly appointed driver who had yet to prove his worth in the wrong way.

    Enzo’s mediators were rewarded with the successful #1975 season, when Lauda won the Drivers Title in the #Ferrari-312T .


    Niki Lauda’s 312 T, with its unique shape and transverse gearbox, seen here at Monaco in 1975, brought the Scuderia its first title in 11 years. Bottom left, Patrick Tambay in #1982 , Ferrari’s annus horribilis, dominated by the Scuderia but forever marked by the death of Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi’s accident.

    At Maranello they have always refused to give up.

    The eternal battle – sometimes successful, sometimes difficult – against British rivals has provided the plotline of many chapters in the history of #Ferrari . #Phil-Hill in #1962 , pictured right at #Monaco , and John Surtees in #1965 , pictured below at #Silverstone , were unable to retain the world titles won in the previous years.

    World Champion in #1964 with #John-Surtees , #Enzo-Ferrari is pictured here the following year, when the Scuderia was defeated but never gave up. This attitude paid off when Sebastian Vettel won the Malaysian Grand Prix in March #2015 (opposite).
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    THE JZ36 #BMW-E36 #Toyota engine with BorgWarner S366 single turbocharger

    Sticking a Japanese engine in a #BMW might not appeal to everyone, but an 800hp 1JZ in an E36 is fine with us. Owning a dedicated track car gives mighty scope for some mad tuning, not least slinging an 800hp turbocharged Toyota engine into a humble E36 320i. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: André Neudert.

    Race cars for the road. You’ve heard the phrase enough times, and in essence it makes perfect sense. We like BMWs that have silly performance and incredible handling, and we love every chance we get to sling them around a race track to exploit their full potential. In fact, such fun are they that the idea of spluttering around in a bore box as an everyday driver just doesn’t seem fathomable to we who love cars that have some balls. After all, what we drive is a reflection of ourselves This is all well and good if you can buy a genuine modern race car for the road, and by that we mean the likes of a new or nearly-new M3, M4, M5 or M6 sort of thing.

    For a lot of us in the real world, though, buying a new one just isn’t possible, let alone insuring, fuelling and servicing the thing. So instead we take older BMWs and add those certain enhancements that turn them into truer performance propositions, not least mods that make them more viable track cars. After all, many a new M3 owner will tell you that after a morning’s track work their standard brakes are already cooked but the modified E30 up the pit lane with aftermarket brakes is happily waiting for the afternoon session with no fade reported. So we modify our cars to make them better at the race track and we happily say we have true race cars for the road. But if you’ve lived with such a thing you’ll know it’s not always sunshine and happiness. No, if we’re honest, on a cold winter morning on a potholed bit of wet road we’d sometimes give anything just to be sat in a reliable old Toyota Corolla. having to take speed humps at an angle at 2mph to avoid ripping your bumper off, track-spec brakes that squeak incessantly in traffic until they reach 400ºC, and race seats that may be wonderfully supportive on track but are a pain in the arse, literally, after long trips. And don’t get me started on harnesses that mean you can’t look out at junctions or race tuned engines that take forever to warm up and permanently cut out in any sort of traffic. We’re sure a lot of you are nodding in understanding.

    So as much as we love the idea of a true race car for the road – and the wonderful savings of not needing a trailer and a tow car – in an ideal world we’d have our more sensible daily driver and our separate ballsout track weapon. Do you really think Lewis Hamilton drives home from a day’s F1 testing in a slammed race-spec classic? I’m sure he’ll be cosy in the back of an S-Class Mercedes being chauffeured to the mansion while reminding everyone how great he is on Twitter.

    Which brings us to this German E36 320i Coupé. This is Sercan Tunc’s dedicated race car and, thankfully for him, he doesn’t have to put the old 3 Series through an annual checkup to ensure everything is road-legal. Because that’s another drama of your street registered race car for the road: all your mods have to be approved to make them comply to the laws of the land and, really, it’s never that much fun having the Boys in Blue pull you over and question the legality of every expensive upgrade you’ve bestowed on your ride.

    The 26-year-old from Nuremberg didn’t want the hassle of running an extensively tuned E36 as a street car, not least because he enjoys a 3.0-litre E36 M3 as a daily driver, which features only a few select modifications. No, Sercan wanted to go wild on his track E36 and not be restricted by the compromises he’d need to make to keep it street legal. And as he works for a company specialising in building and overhauling engines, his area of expertise meant there were big plans for this once humble #1995 320i. “The car is only for fun, mainly drifting and drag racing,” Sercan said. Now fun isn’t something that can be measured in numbers but we find it often correlates to the horsepower figure. Sercan told us he’s achieved about 800hp with this engine build, and with that amount going through the rears there’s a guarantee of happiness.

    Question is, how has he done it in a car that started life as a Granny-spec E36 that off the production line struggled to reach 60mph in under ten seconds? Well, by going to the dark side, of course, and in this instance that meant ditching a BMW powerplant in favour of a boosted lump from the Japanese. The arguments about foreign engine swaps into BMWs have been done to death and you can enjoy hours of internet forum discussions on the matter if you feel so inclined, but the fact is it’s usually the quickest and cheapest way to plenty of extra power. Sercan sourced a 2.5-litre in-line sixcylinder 1JZ-GTE lump from a third generation Toyota Soarer, mated to the same manufacturer’s R154 five-speed manual transmission. These engines are infinitely tuneable with Japanese modifiers extracting huge power from them, and thus Sercan created what he calls his JZ36.

    To this engine he has strapped a mighty #BorgWarner S366 turbo to help realise that outrageous power figure, and must make for a range of emotions come full throttle during track play. “It comes on full boost at 4500-5000rpm, and I’d say it is easy to drive with the big Toyo R888 tyres on a sunny day,” Sercan said. He glossed over any mention of turbo lag, or quite what a handful this E36 Crashy suspension that rattles your spine, must be on anything like a damp or wet track, but he did describe it as “funny, exciting and scary all at the same time.”

    The expert engine builder has created an impressive under-bonnet setup (the bonnet itself being custom ventilated to allow some of the huge heat to escape), with the truckesque turbo leading to an HKS air filter taking scene-stealing centre stage. A straight-through 3” custom exhaust system helps expel unwanted gases, while Tial has provided a blow-off valve and wastegate with screamer pipe to add to the acoustic excitement when this E36 is on boost. Internal strengthening has been a necessity, with CP pistons, custom connecting rods, BC camshafts, larger intake valves and ARP screws all adding some beef to prevent unwanted meltdowns. On has gone a Tomei head gasket, hardcore GReddy timing belt, ACL Race Series engine bearings and a custom intercooler and oil cooler, while the demand for extra fuel has been met with Denso 850cc injectors and no less than three #Bosch-044 fuel pumps. AEM gear keeps a watchful eye on proceedings, including taking charge of the complex engine management system.

    The transmission has been boosted by a steel flywheel and a custom Stage 4 clutch which Sercan said has held together well, as has the customised E34 M5 driveshaft and custom rear axle with E34 M5 diff. Whatever BMW did back in the 1980s with M5 components must have been truly special, as so many of the high horsepower modified BMWs we feature swear by their drivetrain parts as practically indestructible.

    One thing about being a dedicated track car is a lack of need to add unnecessary adornments. Yet the function over form rule of track and racing cars often brings with it its own beauty, and Sercan’s #E36 is stunning in its simple and pure aggression. There are those most necessary cut-outs for the bonnet, while an air intake cleverly incorporated in the headlight gives a purposeful front end. Beyond that, Sercan’s only exterior enhancements include #BMW-E36 M3 bumpers and side skirts, plus a Hamann rear spoiler. You could argue these may help a bit aerodynamically for track work.

    The cabin certainly doesn’t hide its racing intent. A complete roll-cage has been painted a nicely contrasting yellow, while the driver is snug in a Sparco Pro2000 race seat with the familiar green of Takata harnesses found in so many drift cars. A quick release suede OMP steering wheel allows easy access or escape, while the retained E36 dashboard has been enhanced somewhat with a range of gauges keeping watch over that hard-working Japanese heart up front.

    Sitting on KW coilover suspension and using E39 M5 wheels for a wider footprint to put plenty of that power to road, Sercan’s E36 truly is the sort of race toy we’d love to have at our disposal for uncompromised track fun. The modifier wasn’t constrained by needing to hold back on the mods although amazingly this 800hp 320i still has its original brakes in place (Sercan is still searching for high performance items that fit behind the M5 rims), but that’s the joy of having your very own dedicated track car: keep it fun and play by your own rules.

    The business end really does mean business, with 800hp being developed by the 1JZ.


    ENGINE: 2.5-litre straight-six #Toyota-1JZ-GTE engine transplant from a third generation #Toyota-Soarer with #BorgWarner-S366 single turbocharger, 3” free flow exhaust system including downpipe, Tial 50mm blowoff valve, Tial MV-R 44mm wastegate with screamer pipe, CP pistons, custom connecting rods, BC 272° camshafts, adjustable camshaft wheels, 1mm larger intake valves, 8kg lighter crankshaft, ARP screws for head and crankshaft, Tomei head gasket, GReddy timing belt, ACL Race Series engine bearings, HKS air filter, Samco hoses, custom intercooler, oil cooler, #Denso 850cc injectors, Bosch 044 in-tank fuel pump and two #Bosch 044 external fuel pumps with catch tank, AEM fuel pressure controller, AEM boost controller, AEM Universal Exhaust Gas Oxygen Lamda display, AEM two-control unit engine management system.

    TRANSMISSION: #Toyota-R154 five-speed manual, steel flywheel with custom Stage 4 clutch, customised E34 M5 driveshaft, custom rear axle with E34 M5 diff.

    CHASSIS: 8x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) E39 M5 wheels with 225/35 (front) and 285/30 (rear) Nankang and Toyo R888 tyres respectively, KW coilovers, standard E36 320i brakes.

    EXTERIOR: Vented bonnet, E36 M3 bumpers and side skirts, Hamann rear spoiler.

    INTERIOR: Full roll-cage painted yellow, Sparco Pro2000 race seats, Takata harnesses, OMP steering wheel with Sparco snap off hub, centre consolemounted oil pressure and temperature gauges.

    Yellow roll-cage adds a hit of colour, and dominates the stripped-out interior.
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    With the added impact of MEC Design styling. Vogue Auto Design has transformed this SL55 AMG. Tuner car Vogue Auto Design SL55 R230 – white knight. With MEC Design’s axiom one widebody kit plus new alloy wheels and a host of performance upgrades, vogue auto design has turned this SL55 AMG into a mean wide boy roadster. This piece of German engineering mastery was destined for something more.

    20-inch VF1 forged wheels by Vogue Auto Design. SL’s signature side vents much deeper here. Silver mesh much needed for the SL55’s gaping front intakes. Wide bore exhaust pipes sit within an aggressive diffuser. It took the people at #VAD a few weeks to transform the roller, to street warrior.


    When I was a young boy, I read many amazing stories about knights in shining armour. Stories of great battles from times gone by, featuring brave warriors fighting for their right to be free and live in peace. Each story had a main character with a great destiny to fulfil, involving a journey to an unknown land where no other had dared to go before. These individuals are the stuff of legends.

    The hero of this story comes in the form of an R230 SL, which was originally a stock SL55 #AMG with black armour. Black SL55s are rare to come by, but in the eyes of its owner Christopher Mellor, it wasn’t quite special enough.

    Whether you agree or not with the car’s transformation, you must reserve judgement until the full details are revealed.
    Christopher has a taste for all types of rare and legendary cars, and over the years he has acquired a #Porsche #Boxster done up for the track, plus a #Toyota Supra, #Caterham Seven, #Aston-Martin DB7, #Mitsubishi #3000GT , one of only four Lynx Jaguars ever built, and now this SL55 AMG upgraded to 500bhp. His passion is so deep that he will find the rarest examples of cars to add to his collection. “I was going to simply buy a second car, but while searching online I came across #VAD ( #Vogue-Auto-Design) . I spoke to the company and took references on the quality of its work,” Christopher recalls. He was so impressed with what he learned, and after seeing a #MEC-Design bodykit for an #SL55 on VAD’s website (vogueautodesign com), he just had to find a stock model and make his own mark.


    He knew the SL55 was a rare car, and normally he would keep it standard, but after laying eyes on the MEC bodykit, this piece of German engineering mastery was destined for something more profound in his hands. "The MEC bodykit required a base SL55, so I bought a 10-year old one, unseen in Yorkshire, with a high specification and low mileage, always knowing that it would be overhauled and upgraded," Christopher remembers. The major factor in the journey that the SL55 would take was its colour change from black to white - a white knight amongst darker coloured counterparts located around the world.

    The kit you see on this mighty Merc is MEC Design’s Axiom One upgrade, which consists of a custom bonnet, new bumpers front and rear (the latter with a diffuser), side skirts, wheelarch extensions for added visual impact, and a rear spoiler. It took the people at VAD a few weeks to transform the Merc from stock roller to street warrior, including applying the now signature white armour paint.

    Vogue Auto Design carried out a lot of research in the industry when it came to supplying the best bodykits on the market, and after seeing the quality of MEC Design’s work, it made sense to become a UK importer.

    For those of you who are not familiar with MEC Design, it is one of Europe’s leading #Mercedes-Benz tuning companies that specialises in not just bodykits, but also alloy wheels, lowering kits, engine performance enhancements and interior upgrades. It was founded way back in #1999 and created its first widebody kit for an #R129 SL in #2001 . Since then, MEC Design has grown from strength to strength. You can find out more about the company by visiting


    I can see why Christopher opted to have the kit instead of keeping the SL55 stock, as boy does it bring out the beast in this Mercedes-Benz! Take a moment to absorb just how wide and aggressive this car now looks, complete with its facelifted R230 appearance. A set of VAD’s #VF1 forged wheels were bolted on and, at 10 inches wide at the front and 13 inches wide at the rear, they reinforce the incredible stance.


    Not only does the exterior look super aggressive, but the heart of the beast has also gone through a transformation to give it more grunt. VAD entrusted SKG Performance to give the V8 a Kleemann boost kit. This consists of a smaller pulley and ECU remap, including the removal of the speed limiter and an additional programme for the tubular headers - these also made by Kleemann and complemented by new downpipes to help remove exhaust back pressure, allowing the engine to breathe more freely and produce more power. List on #SKG ’s list was a Quaife limited-slip differential to aid traction, handling and braking. Vogue Auto Design then fitted its own stainless steel back box and a Kleemann intercooler pump to help reduce intercooler heat soak and improve recovery time.

    Having grown his business over the years before selling it, Christopher has gifted himself the financial freedom to explore his passion for cars. In the case of this SL55 AMG, he wanted to do something different and take the car to another level in the aesthetic and performance departments. It is safe to say he has achieved his goals, and then some.
    The red interior provides a great contrast to the exterior.

    ECU remap and supercharger pulley upgrade give 500bhp.
    Facelifted looks for this earlier R230 thanks to MEC.
    Thickly bolstered seats with a pulse massage function.
    Soft, perforated leather for the SL’s sumptuous chairs
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    BMW's cheapest fuel-injected car, the #318i #E30 , has a new engine amongst other Improvements made to the 3-Serles for the 1988 model year. But Is this competent and refined medium-sized saloon's £11,000-plus pricing putting too much value on the BMW badge? John Henderson reports models do not have mid- or restyling’s: they ‘evolutionary changes‘, which usually means that improvements on later models find their way to other parts of the range.

    So with the #7-Series #E32 attracting top end sales, it is not surprising that BMW’s best selling range, the 3-Series E30, should benefit from the seven- up technology. So from now on all 3-Series E30 cars get impact resistant bumpers and a new front end housing ellipsoid headlamps. To that you can add less chrome-work, new rear lights, deeper front and rear aprons and different side styling with lower wheelarches.

    All models, except the carburetted #316 E30, get the new Bosch Motronic engine management system, which offers better fuel economy and low speed engine response as well as the ability to run on lead-free fuel without adjustment.
    But the biggest change is in the #1988 BMW 318i, which now has BMW's new four-cylinder #M40 engine, designed specifically for capacities under two litres. With a capacity of 1795cc, instead of the old M10 engine’s 1766cc, it gives the cheapest injection #BMW 10bhp more: 115bhp, developed at 5750rpm. More importantly, torque is improved by 13.3 per cent, from 105lb ft at 4500rpm to 119lb ft at 250rpm less.

    BMW also claim smoother running and reduced maintenance, while the claimed performance is up by 2mph on top speed to 118mph with a 1.6-second improvement on 0-100kph (62mph) to 10.8 seconds. But don’t let that uninspiring sprint time put you off: the improved torque is far more telling on the road.

    BMW reckon there is a 2.4 second improvement on the 50 to 70mph time in fourth (now 10.5 seconds), which is a far better indication of how the car feels on the road. The BMW 318i E30 has remarkably good mid-range response, which makes it feel a lot quicker on the road than the standard benchmark figures would seem to indicate.

    In addition, the new engine shows equally remarkable refinement, staying well down among the background noise when cruising. Even when worked hard it still retains its pleasant sound until well over 6000rpm, never sounding raucous.
    Standard E30 316s and 318is have variable ratio rack and pinion steering to give easier low speed manoeuvrability. Our test car had the optional power steering which, as before, is a little light and lacking in feel and takes getting used to. This combines with the fairly soft rear suspension in making the car feel woolly and less than confidence-inspiring.
    All BMW 3-Series E30 get subtle exterior changes and new lights, but the #BMW-318i also gets a new engine with more power.

    In truth, it is typically BMW in its handling. It tends towards understeer with mid-corner lift-off resulting in a tightening of line at lower speeds or a change to oversteer if you are really pushing it. In spite of this handling softness, ride is quite firm, though not jarring.

    Inside the car, changes have been limited to new scat fabrics. Everything else is as you would expect from BMW, with clear instruments, well positioned switchgear and controllable ventilation. The gearchange is a little notchy when cold but soon eases up. The brakes still suffer from a great deal of redundant pedal travel before delivering the goods.

    And yet the #BMW-318i-E30 seems to lack the essential sparkle4that its more illustrious brethren have to make them appealing driver’s cars. Where you can enthuse about a 325i E30 or even a 320i E30, the 318i is just an efficient saloon car, which also makes you question its price.

    At £11,095 for the two-door we tested - and nearly £500 more for the four-door - the 318i would look very bare without at least some of the extras our car had. These were power steering, heated door mirror, washer nozzles and driver’s door lock, electric front windows, alloy wheels and a manual sliding sunroof, adding £2027 to the car and bringing the price up to £13,122.

    From the Japanese you can have four-valve per cylinder engineering and still save money. #Toyota have the #Camry at £10,749, with most of the BMW’s extras as standard, while Mazda will give you the extremely quick 626 2.0i 16GT for £12,949 complete with the electric goodies and #ABS (though not the BMW’s refinement and ride). #Ford can give you the Sapphire in 2-litre Ghia form for £11,359 while Vauxhall offer considerably more power in the #Cavalier SRi 130 saloon at £10,614. In fact, if you’re thinking of adding the £2000- worth of extras to a 318i, you wouldn’t have to find much more money to get the well-equipped #Vauxhall Carlton 2.0CD at £13,575.

    The opposition wields some hefty competition at this price and all those mentioned are much more roomy, with generally better performance than the BMW. The only thing they don’t have is the BMW cachet which brings with it an undoubted ability to hold resale prices, which should not be forgotten when looking at value for money'.

    Likes: Refinement mid-range performance.
    Dislikes: Soft handling, price.
    Price: £11.095

    Remarkably good mid-range response makes it feel a lot quicker than the standard benchmark figures would seem to indicate.
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