Readers of Turbo will not be at a loss to recognize Kenny Tran; he and his color-changing, B18C-powered Civic snatched the "World's Quickest Uni-Body Honda" title two Novembers ago at the IDRC International Finals in Pomona, Calif., by turning a 9.681-second run at 144.99 mph. Since then, Tran and the crew at his shop, Jotech Motorsports in Garland, Texas, have whittled the car's e.t. down to 9.59 and had the Civic immortalized on the July 2000 cover of Turbo.
As intense as the uni-body competition is however, it's not all about high-compression four-pots and front-wheel drive for Tran these days. Pictured here is his other car and daily driver, a 1995 Toyota Supra. Tran acquired it as a means to extend the reach of his tuning abilities and a way to expand the parts distribution side of his business. According to him, a friend of his had the car, but never drove it, leaving it parked and largely neglected for the better part of two years.
"I wanted it just to see what I could do with it," Tran professed, "and to help promote the shop. We've spent countless hours working this car between our race Civic and customer cars."
Anybody remotely interested in import performance must have, at one time or another, swooned over the Supra. The last of the great forced-induction Japanese supercars, the Supra reigned as Toyota's performance flagship for more than 20 years. Its ultimate incarnation--and the platform that Tran would be working on--harbors a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo powerplant, which was so over-built that making more power was almost as simple as turning a wrench. Even slight modifications in the engine's air-moving capabilities could have the Toyota barfing out more horsepower than most cars know what to do with.
Tran himself has been heartily impressed by the engine's durability. "The 3.0-liter engine is very stout," he related. "I drive this car every day, and every time I drive it, I get on it. It is very, very strong."
So far, the engine retains its stock internals, displacement and ignition system (minus the spark plugs, which are NGK). The only modification to the valvetrain has been the addition of a pair of Unorthodox cam sprockets. More attention was paid to the powerplant's breathing and fuel delivery systems; air enters the system through a polished GReddy intake and exits through a custom downpipe and 3-inch Tanabe Racing Medallion exhaust.
The factory twin turbo system has been cast out in favor of a single turbo assemblage from GReddy. At its heart is a polished GReddy T88 turbocharger, which is linked to a custom GReddy turbo exhaust manifold. Tran elected to go with the GReddy single-turbo route because of its relative cost-effectiveness and ease of installation. He testifies that the single compressor system is subject to slight lag in lower rpm, but the top end more than makes up for it. "Also, the fit and finish on this system is very, very good," Tran offered. Max boost is set at 27 psi, and is controlled by a GReddy Type C wastegate and GReddy PRofec boost control module mounted in the cockpit. The charge air is passed through a GReddy front-mount air to air intercooler via fully polished 2.5-inch plumbing, then routed through the factory Toyota intake manifold and throttle body.
An impressive array of electronic wizardry has been ingested into various nooks and crannies, both inside the engine bay and within the car's cockpit to make sure the air/fuel mixture is properly applied. Engine management is overseen by the factory Supra ECU, which was removed and shipped to XS Engineering for remapping before being re-installed. An SX Fuel Regulator ensures that the correct amount of fuel is supplied at idle and high rpm, while dual factory fuel pumps, an HKS fuel rail and 720cc injectors deliver the juice.
The Supra's cockpit is host to a slew of engine-management and monitoring goodies. Mounted directly below the Alpine stereo head unit is an HKS VPC--nowadays, almost standard equipment on aftermarket-tuned turbo cars--which facilitates significantly greater airflow through the intake manifold and allows in-cockpit fine-tuning of the engine's air/fuel ratio. An HKS Graphic Control Computer (GCC) piggy-backs the VPC and allows even greater adjustment of the air/fuel mixture over the entire rpm range, much like a graphic equalizer for the fuel system.
An array of GReddy gauges allow Tran to keep an eye on the engine's vital signs, including boost pressure and air/fuel ratio in place of the stock air vents. Custom-mounted instruments for fuel pressure, oil pressure and exhaust temperature take the place of the glove compartment on the passenger side. Additionally, an Auto Meter shift light has been installed in the cigarette lighter's space in case Tran forgets when to shift.
Of course, all the horsepower on earth won't do you any good if you can't transfer it to the pavement. Accordingly, the Supra's suspension has been bolstered with Eibach Pro-Kit lowering springs and TRD lower sway bars. Koni shocks provide the new higher rate coils with damping properties. Running gear was swapped out in favor of Racing Hart Type C wheels, with Pirelli P-Zero tires to maintain the Supra's tenuous contact patch. For stopping power to match the car's acceleration, the stock brake assemblies were upgraded with larger slotted rotors, which are gripped by the OE calipers and TRD pads.
With the Supra's power output and mechanical tune-ability in full effect, Tran has enhanced its visual appeal by giving the car a decidedly aggressive makeover with an all-metal wide-body panel conversion and various urethane kit pieces. The wide-body kit was executed by New Concept in Dallas. The custom hood was provided by New Concept as well, and features air scoops that, gasp, are actually functional. The large middle slot is for dissipating excess heat from the engine bay, while the smaller triangular scoops are for introducing cool, fresh air to the intake. The rear wing comes from Rod Millen, the front fascia was provided by WiseSport, and the side skirts and rear apron come from Erebuni. New Concept smoothed these pieces in with the body panels and also applied the paint, 11 coats of candy apple red.
To date, this single turbo Supra has seen the DynoJet dynamometer twice under the supervision of its new owner. It has also made a single run down the quarter mile strip, making the trip in 12.5 seconds at just a shade under 120 mph. That run took place with the twin turbos, boost controller, intake and exhaust. Since transplanting the forced induction system with the single turbo GReddy assembly, Tran claims to have spun the DynoJet rollers at FastTech, also in Garland, to the tune of 650.6hp running 27 psi of boost. Between this car and his Honda racer, Tran has to be one of the busiest guys on the scene. He says he's running out of things to do on the Supra, which either means he's ready to get rid of it or take it to the next level. Whether or not "the next level" entails making this car into a full on drag racer...well, we won't speculate. However you want to slice it, it makes sense to keep an eye on Tran and Jotech, whether it's on the street or at the strip, with front-wheel drive or rear. We certainly will be.